Well here it is, my newest multi-chapter fic. I hope that you all enjoy it. This story started out as a entry in the Write-Me-A-Story Challenge.

I would like to thank my betas Court81981 and kismet4891 for encouraging me in this work.

Always a Blessing

September 1955

"Please Jesus, no," Katniss begged as she looked at the tiny Standard Oil calendar that she kept in her purse to track Prim's doctor appointments. She felt sick in more ways than one. Nine weeks late for her monthly. Her breasts were swollen and sore. It was all but official; she had to be pregnant.

What is Peeta going to say? He leaves for college in a week. What am I going to do?

Oh, my God! My family is will be so ashamed of me!

Am I going to be sent away and have to put it up for adoption? The feeling raised a wave of panic in her, the baby wasn't much more than a frightening idea at the moment, yet she was already attached to it. She thought about Johanna's heartbreaking tale about putting her own baby up for adoption when the father had refused to marry her.

The first few weeks she hadn't worried. She was often late; between her poor eating habits and the stress of helping to support her family, her cycles were often erratic. But at eight weeks late, two weeks longer than ever, she began to worry. Every day that followed she tried to convince herself that it would start any moment, but it didn't, and then this morning she threw up her breakfast as soon as she ate it—she knew then that she was with child. As she retched, she thought, the condom only broke that one time!

Her mother and Prim gave her concerned looks and Katniss dismissed it as a bug going around the factory. They seemed to accept the explanation and wished her a good day at work.

As she walked the two and a half miles to Mellarks' Baking Company, she relived the events that led up to her current state and her unexpected whirlwind romance with the son of company's owner.

After Prim contracted polio, their father lost his job and Katniss quit school weeks into her senior year; she got a job at Mellarks' Baking Company a few months later. Peeta worked there after school. One stormy spring afternoon he stopped her on the street and insisted on driving her home, and that led to him driving her home every day. Then he started taking her to the movies, dinner, and going on long drives.

She didn't want to fall for him, but she was in deep before she knew it. The only reason that she allowed herself to care for him at all was that she thought it would only be a summer fling. She assumed in the fall he would leave and forget all about her. Eventually, he would wind up marrying some girl like Madge Undersee, who would keep an upscale modern house in heels and designer dresses.

They quickly became physical; she had been a late bloomer, yet that didn't stop the intense hunger and want for him that swept her every time that their lips touched. She wanted to give a piece of herself to him that no one else would ever have. Katniss never had plans to marry so saving her virginity was not a huge concern, but getting knocked up was. Peeta knew this and drove two towns over to get condoms. The first time they went all the way it broke. They both felt awful, but convinced each other that it was next to impossible to get pregnant the first time. Why was I so stupid!? It was so selfish of me!

When Katniss got to work she couldn't concentrate. Johanna and Annie covered for her as she kept running to the bathroom since the smell of the pies they were boxing up made her ill. She expected her supervisor, Mr. Cray, to be a jackass and reprimand her. But he'd been lax with Katniss ever since Peeta caught him groping her on the line and threatened to 'fucking kick his ass up around his shoulders and have him fired the next time he caught him feeling up his or any other girl working in the factory.'

Peeta tried all morning to catch Katniss's eye as he made the rounds, but she avoided him. Usually they would flirt and trade glances when they thought no one was looking. But she can't face him today. The news she has will change the course of his life.

She escaped to the rest room at lunchtime while the rest of the workforce went to lunch, knowing that she couldn't handle the smells of cured meat sandwiches and cigarettes. When she exited the tiled room, she found a concerned Peeta waiting outside of the door.

"You look awful. Katniss, what's wrong?"Peeta pled of her, the worry apparent in his voice.

"We can't talk here," she whispered.

He took her by the hand and led her to his father's office and locked the door, shut the blinds, and explained, "My dad and Abernathy are visiting with distributors and will be gone the rest of the day." He leaned on the desk and took both of her hands in his. "You've hardly spoken to me all week and totally ignored me all morning. Please tell me what's wrong. I don't know what the matter is. Is this about me going to Ohio State next week? Please don't be scared…because what I said about nothing changing between us still stands."

I wish that it were that simple! His going away was her biggest fear a few weeks ago, but now everything was different. She had to tell him; he had a right to know—it was his child too. Will he deny me? Tell me that I have to get rid of it? She finally told him in a shaky voice, "Peeta, I'm pregnant."

She waited for an angry outburst or denial—it never came. Instead Peeta's face became blank for what seemed like an eternity. He sank to one knee and bowed his head then took one of her hands in both of his and kissed her knuckles. Katniss had no clue what he would do…but she never could have imagined what came out of his mouth next.

He looked up at her with a huge smile on his face. "Katniss, I've only ever wanted you for my wife and for you to be the mother of my children. Maybe we've got the order of those things wrong, but that doesn't change how I feel. I love you, and I would be honored if you agreed to be my wife."

She just stood there with her mouth agape. She honestly thought that he would be cursing her at this very moment, calling her a whore or a slut—not proposing to her. She was better prepared for the negative reaction. What he was offering was too wonderful and really, too simple a solution. This can't be real!

His face turned somber as he waited for a reply and then he said mournfully, "I know that you may not feel the same way about me." He paused and caught her eye, sincerely promising, "But I'll be a good husband and I will provide for you and the baby."

It finally began to sink in that Peeta was absolutely serious. He sat her in the office chair and knelt before her so that they were eye level.

"What about college? Your mother is never going to approve of this," she stated and began to shake inexplicably. Here Peeta was telling her everything that any other girl in her position would kill to hear, yet she couldn't allow herself to believe it. He is only doing this for the baby.

"I don't care about college," he asserted, tenderly cupping her face with his hands. "College is Mother's dream, not mine."

"What is your dream?" she found herself asking before she could stop. She had to know about the picture perfect life she'd ruined.

He gave her his most winsome expression and declared, "You, for my wife." He then splayed an open hand to over her lower belly. "And this—ever since that very first day of school I fell in love with you. For twelve years I tried to think of ways to get near you, but I would always chicken out. For years, I seriously thought that you were Hawthorne's girl because you looked so happy whenever you were with him. Then at the start of our senior year, I decided that I would try to win you anyhow. I had it all planned out… I was going to ask you to homecoming and give you my class ring. You would wear it until I could have afforded an engagement ring."

His smile faded. "But then your sister got sick and you dropped out, and my plans were derailed. I wanted to come to you then, but I was a coward. I'm ashamed of myself for it. The only way that I could help you was to sneak you some baked goods along with a few dollars here and there."

Katniss released a breath that she didn't know she had been holding, taken aback by the story she'd heard. When her family had to move to the little house on Seam Street, someone had started to drop off a Mellarks' box filled with baked goods and a little money; sometimes that money was the only way that they ate or could pay rent. They suspected a Good Samaritan from church, but she never could have imagined this. She whispers in awe, "It was you?!" Peeta nodded in confirmation. "Why?"

"Isn't it obvious? Because I love you and I always have." He gave her a small smile. He then became more serious. "Now in Ohio we can't get married without our birth certificates; my mom keeps mine under lock and key and will never give it to me, especially for this. She would try to stop us if she knew. If we just show up married then there is isn't much that she can do. West Virginia is much more lenient, so we could go there and get married with no license or parental permission required since we're over eighteen."

"How do you know all that?" she questioned, absolutely amazed. She had no clue about state marriage laws.

"Ever since the night that we had the accident I've been researching. No, honestly I was asking around before that," he admitted with a little flush in his cheeks. "Even if that hadn't have happened, please believe me when I say that I would still want to marry you now. So please, Katniss Everdeen, will you consent to being my wife? I can't promise that it will be easy at first. But I will do everything that I can to make our lives good."

She was at a loss; she knew that he deserved some glowing response, but she was not capable of that even on a good day, let alone right now. Peeta started to stroke her cheeks with his thumbs; she realized that he was wiping away tears—she was crying and didn't even know it. They were tears of joy—this is more than she could have ever hoped for. He held her gaze and she saw that he was sincere, that he really does love her and he wants this baby. She finally replied in a hoarse whisper, "Yes."

Peeta smiled and kissed her; he wanted to deepen it, she could tell, but she was reluctant. She broke the kiss and apologized, "I'm sorry, I've been throwing up all morning."

They both laughed a little, and he hugged her tight. Peeta explained his plan. He wanted to do the right thing and ask her parents for her hand, but Katniss begged him not to…she didn't want them to know how she's shamed them until she could first tell them that she was married. It has been a hard past few months, and she didn't want to distress them any more than need be.

Telling his family was not an option at all; they knew that Mrs. Mellark would be furious when she found out that her youngest had married "that dirty little Indian."It was her favorite name for Katniss because Everdeens were known to be part Shawnee. Peeta didn't want to put his father in the middle. He was certain that he would be allowed to keep his job at the factory, but he didn't know what his father could do for them beyond that.

He assured her that everything would be all right and sent Katniss home from work; nobody would think anything of it because she was obviously sick. She walked home slowly and tried to take her mind off her immediate problems and instead thought about what she ought to pack. She had very few choices; it would have to be her green-printed, cotton summerdress—it was newest thing she had. She also had newish navy pleated hat to take along, and it had a blusher…it would almost be like a veil.

When she arrived home she was thankful that Prim was in school, her dad was at work, and her mother was out. She took some crackers out of the tin and ate them. They seemed to settle in her stomach better than anything else had all day. Despite being beyond tired she decided to pack the one suitcase in the entire house. She didn't need much; they'd only be gone overnight. When her suitcase was packed, she set it outside the first floor bedroom that she and Prim shared. It was all starting to hit her, she was most likely going to be married by this time tomorrow, she wasn't going to live here anymore. Peeta and I are going to be married and I'm having his baby…

She was going to break her family's heart. It's better for them to hear about her elopement than it would be for her child to be a fatherless bastard. Her family loved Peeta and would quickly forgive him. How her future mother-in-law would react was a totally different story. She hated lying, but they had no choice. Katniss penned a letter that she would leave on Prim's pillow in the morning, explaining that she and Peeta were getting married and that they would be back the next morning.

She tried to lie down; she was so tired and she had sometime before Prim and her mother come home. Her nap was fitful and left her more tired than before.

Prim and their mother came home at the same time; her mother came to check on her. "Katniss, honey are you still feeling unwell?"

"Yes, but I've stopped being sick," she replied, knowing how terrible of a liar she was and hoping that her mother believed her. "I'm just exhausted now."

Her mother gave her a sympathetic smile, "Are you sure that's all your troubling you? Are you sure that you're not heartsick too?"

"Why would I be heartsick?" Katniss asked, attempting to seem naive.

"Because Peeta's leaving and he'll be gone for a long time. It will be Thanksgiving before he comes back home."

"Yes," she replied, thankful that her mother hadn't seen right through her.

"Everything will work out the way that it should. Your father and I are talking about getting a phone next month so that you and Peeta can call each other," her mother announced happily. "I'll get you at dinner, rest now."

Her mom's comments made her guilt mount even higher.

The evening was painful; she tried her hardest to act normal. When her father kissed her forehead 'goodnight,' she nearly burst into tears. She helped Prim out of her leg brace and her sister snuggled against her in her sleep and Katniss held her close in their bed for the last time.

The night lasted for what seemed like forever, and she only slept a few minutes at a time and finally morning came. She put on her white Mellarks' uniform dress and the orange cardigan that Peeta had given to her the first time that he'd given her a ride home.

Her mother made her eggs and toast, which she slowly ate. She felt a better than she did the day before and hoped breakfast might stay in her stomach today.

Her father had already left for the day, her mother was doing the dishes when she wished her a pleasant day, and Prim was sitting at the reading a book with her old tomcat in her lap. It was such a peaceful existence that would be shattered later this afternoon. Katniss ran to their bedroom, pretending to have forgotten her purse. She left the letter and exited the house after one last 'goodbye' from her mother and sister, then snuck around the house to got her suit case and swiftly walked to the alley where she and Peeta were to meet.

When she reached the alley she didn't see Peeta. The first half hour or so she didn't worry—she was early. But as the minutes ticked by she started to panic. Maybe he got caught. Maybe he changed his mind. She replayed everything that Peeta had told her, looking for any insincerity. At the time she hadn't analyzed what he'd said but now she did. One sentence stuck out to her: "I know that you may not feel the way about me."

Oh my God, Peeta thinks that I don't love him! While she'd never said the words, she did love him. In fact she loved him so much that it frightened her. She just never allowed herself to admit it; he was going away and she couldn't get too attached. He's not going to come because he doesn't want to marry a stupid, poor, plain girl who doesn't even love him. Her eyes started welling up with tears and she began to sob before she could calm herself down then got even more upset because she was crying. She sat on her suitcase and buried her face in her hands and felt totally helpless for the first time in her life.

"Hey, beautiful, do you need a ride?" A flirtatious familiar voice called out from above her.

She lifts her head and saw Peeta smiling down at her with his blue eyes shining. She quickly stood and threw her arms around his neck and sobbed. "I thought that you'd changed your mind."

He hugged her tight and kissed her raven hair as he apologized, "I'm so sorry I'm late. Mother chose this morning to have her coffee out in the rose garden so I couldn't climb out the window until she went inside. I got here as soon as I could." He added, "I wouldn't abandon you, ever."

"I know," she confessed and sniffed her tears away, "I think being pregnant is making me crazy…I never cry and that's all I want to do this morning."

"I think that's pretty normal to cry on your wedding day," he said and kissed her forehead and picked up her suitcase and took her hand. "Come on, we'd better get going. It's going to be a long drive and we're supposed to be sick in bed. I told my dad that I was too sick to go to work and I called into the factory pretending to be your father and said that you were still sick."

He opened the old Chrysler's door for her, just like he always had. They were on their way. Katniss felt strange leaving the Panem city limits, then the county line and soon they were well on their way to leaving Ohio altogether.

Peeta had the forethought to pack refreshment for them; there were some Cokes in a cooler, along with some fruit, and of course, boxes of Mellarks' mini pies, doughnuts, and cookies. He explained, "I thought that we'd better not stop until we make it to West Virginia…it's Friday and if we don't get married today then we'll have to wait until Monday. I don't think that we should be gone that long." Katniss agreed.

"You don't look like you've slept at all," he commented. "Come on." He invited her to sit next to him by patting the space next to him. "Sleep for a while if you can, I'll wake you when we're close."

Katniss thought that it would be a fruitless to try to sleep, but almost the instant that she leaned her head on his shoulder and inhaled his scent—shaving soap, clean cotton, and cinnamon—she felt instantly at ease and sleep came swiftly for the first time in days.

What seemed like a very short while later, Peeta was nudging her. "Katniss, sweetheart, wakeup. We're about to cross the state line."

She sat up and was instantly aware of how sore and stiff she was. With a yawn, she asked, "How long was I asleep?"

"Three hours," he grinned. "It was cute; you snored most of the time." He then pointed at the road ahead of them. "There it is… we're in West Virginia now."

"Wow, this is the first time that I've been out of Ohio."

"Someday, I'll take you all over the country…the world if you like." She could tell by the tone of his voice that he honestly meant it.

They stopped at the first gas station they came to and changed clothes, Katniss into her green dress, Peeta into his blue suit, and they asked for the nearest courthouse. An hour later they filled out paperwork and stood in front of a big-bellied judge who pronounced them to be man and wife with all the enthusiasm of someone reading from a phone book, complete with the clerk of courts and the ancient receptionist as witnesses. Peeta kissed her chastely at the end of the ceremony, disappointing her some.

They found a little diner and had a wedding feast of hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes—a choice that she regretted short while later as they drove over the many hills and curves of the southern Ohio highway. Katniss made him pull over thinking she was going to be sick.

"How do you feel now?" Peeta asked all too patiently a short while later as he soothingly rubbed her back while she was hunched over fighting the wave of nausea.

"I'd be better when my stomach decides if it wants to keep the food in it or not," she grumbled and immediately regretted snapping at her brand-new husband. "I'm sorry…I'm just sick of being sick. I didn't mean to be cross with you."

"I know, it's alright," he dismissed her worries and handed her a bottle of Coke and encouraged her to drink. "I have the easy part. I'm just worried about you. Are you sure that you don't want us to get a hotel room? Really I don't mind, it wouldn't be that much."

"No, we'd better get back to Panem." She cringed at the thought of what her family was thinking at the moment. "We'll need every dime that we have. Besides, I don't want my family to worry about me or yours about you. We're going to have enough to deal with tomorrow." She fought the urge to cry and cursed her new inability to control herself, "They're going to know what I did! I've ruined your life."

He gripped Katniss's shoulders with his large hands and firmly told her, "Hey, no you did not! There were two of us involved and no matter what a baby is always a blessing. Please, Katniss, believe me when I say I want to be the best father I can be to our baby and a good husband to you." There was something about the way he was looking at her—there was love but there was also want. It ignited the same combination in her. She rose on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his.

This was not like the friendly, lackluster kiss that they'd shared at the courthouse. She felt that familiar thing that had gotten them into all this trouble to begin with, that hunger for him that was all consuming.

"I was starting to think that you didn't want me…you've hardly kissed me in the last few days," he hoarsely whispered when he broke the kiss to gasp for breath.

"Sorry, I wasn't feeling too romantic," she replied before reclaiming his lips.

"Are you feeling romantic now?" he asked and backed her into the side of the Chrysler and pressed his hardening length against her belly.

"Ahh, Peeta," she moaned when he attacked her neck, which he knew drove her wild. She felt herself getting wet. "Shouldn't we find some place more secluded?"

"You're right," he grinned wickedly,"we don't want to spend our honeymoon in jail, now do we?"

She giggled as they fumbled back into the car; only he could bring out the light-hearted girl in her. Peeta drove down the highway and looked for a secluded pull off in the unfamiliar area. Katniss ran her hand up and down his thigh, touching everywhere but where he wantedher to. He growled with both pleasure and frustration.

Finally they found a gravel road, turned off the headlights, and parked in a driveway of an abandoned farmhouse surrounded by trees. As soon as the vehicle was put in park, they were a tangle of arms and lips. They worked at each other's buttons when Peeta suddenly stopped and bashfully asked, "Katniss, do you think that we could be totally nude this time? You know…we've never actually both been naked."

She'd never thought about it, but it was true: all the times that they'd been parking they'd been so concerned with getting caught that they never felt comfortable taking all their clothes off—or at least Katniss hadn't been. Even though they would be barely visible in the dark, the idea frightened her some, and yet, it was appealing in a forbidden sort of way. No wait, he's my husband now, this is the way it should be. She nodded. "Alright." They got out of the front seat and helped each other out of their clothes. Peeta covered the roomy back seat with a blanket and he laid her down. The mood had settled and they were no longer frantic and lustful. Now they could take the time to savor one another in a way that they'd never been able to before.

They kissed deeply and explored; he trailed down her neck to her tender breasts where he gently nipped and suckled as his fingers traced and teased her slickened sex. Katniss returned the favor and gripped his hardness and stroked it the way he'd shown her to at the beginning of the summer.

"I need you now, Peeta," she whimpered. He obliged, guided himself into her warmth and paused to allow her to adjust to his girth. Thrusting his hips slowly, he waited for her little moans of pleasure before increasing his speed.

She marveled at how much different it felt this time; maybe it was because of the lack of a barrier, or perhaps it was because it was no longer technically fornication but something sacred between a husband and wife. Either way, it was the most intense coupling they had ever shared. He changed the angle of his thrusts and soon the euphoric sensation that she'd only ever reached when he used his fingers before overtook her.

"C'mon, baby let go," he pled in her ear as his peak was also fast approaching.

His words sent her over the edge and an impassioned moan escaped her lips. He came moments later, raggedly calling her name and then collapsed on her. They lay there, panting and holding to each other for a while. Suddenly he lifted himself from her body and asked in alarm, "Do you think I hurt the baby?!"

She sat up and withheld her laughter. "No, its fine. My mother told me that when she explained the birds and bees to me. She was trained as a midwife, so she would know."

He sat against the door, stretched out his legs and pulled her into his lap. Looking at the fogged up windows, she had an impulse to do something that she'd always thought was silly when girls at school did it. She reached over to opposite window then drew a heart and wrote the letters 'K+P' inside it. It was her way of letting him know that she loved him since she couldn't say the actual words.

Peeta chuckled as she settled between his legs, and he studied her work. "Katniss Everdeen, I never took you for that kind of girl."

"Well, maybe Katniss Mellark will be a little different," she challenged.

"I hope the new Mrs. Mellark is not too different from Miss Everdeen," he said earnestly, "because I fell in love with everything about her." He lazily placed one hand on her breast and another on her lower belly, directly over where their child was growing and kissed her forehead. He whispered, "I know that you're not always comfortable with words and I'm fairly sure that you do, but I want to know for sure, you love me real or not real?"

"Real," she sighed and looked up at his smiling face and knew that he was content. She kissed him and prayed that someday soon that she could tell him about how much she admired and adored him. She just couldn't do it presently.

"Sleep now," he urged and pulled the blanket over them. "We're going to have a long day tomorrow. But we can do anything as long as we're together."

Katniss knew that the next day was going to be ugly, but the thought of Peeta being by her side throughout it made the prospect more bearable. She intertwined her fingers with the hand that rested on her belly and reaffirmed, "As long as we're together."

Thank you for reading! Reviews are greatly appreciated.