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The characters of The Hunger Games Trilogy do not belong to me.
Thank you once again to my beta, Chelzie, for her hard work!
Part Eight: Twenty-Five Weeks
"Giddy-up, darling," Effie instructed Katniss after closing the door to the examination room. "How's everything going?"
"Oh, you know—Hell on earth," Katniss grumbled as she used the step of the exam table to get onto it. "Our families are driving us crazy, you know. I blame your man—he's the cause of all my stress."
"No," Effie replied. "Hold your arm up." Tightly wrapping a blood pressure cuff around Katniss' upper arm, Effie took the stethoscope from around her neck and placed the diaphragm of it under the cuff. "I believe it was your man who did this to you, proposed to you, and caused all of your stress." She gestured to Katniss' belly with her head. "My man just can't shut his damn mouth."
Katniss smiled slyly at her. "Since when did you start calling Haymitch your man?"
"Since you kicked him in the nuts, and he needed me to prove to him that he was still a man," her doctor responded with a grin. "Now, relax so I can get a reading."
She nodded before taking a deep breath so Effie could take her blood pressure.
Her mind went over the last few days that left both her and Peeta feeling exhausted. He had intended to come to the appointment, but he was wiped out from working at Sae's the night before; a mistake in an order from a frequent customer caused him to work overtime to make an additional four cakes for four different occasions.
He was now dead asleep at his house where she would be meeting him afterwards to update him on her progress.
"145 over 80," Effie informed her with a frown. "It's a little high for my liking, but not exactly abnormal given what you're going through. As we get to the twenty-eighth week, I'll want to see you twice a month, which is normal. If this reading doesn't improve, we'll have to see each other more. As much as I love seeing that sunny face of yours—" she paused, trying to hide her smile at Katniss' deadpanned expression. "We definitely don't want that. Now lay back so we can take a look at this lovely baby."
Effie lowered the lights before she returned to Katniss and seated herself next to the ultrasound machine.
"I understand," Katniss agreed. "Just keep in mind I might strangle someone by twenty-eight weeks, so you'll have to visit me in jail."
"Your situation is not so bad. I mean, your families seem to be getting along," Effie said as she grabbed the bottle of gel next to the machine. "Pull the gown up a bit." Katniss exposed her smooth, blooming belly so that her doctor could apply the gel to use the wand. "According to Haymitch, they're all bosom buddies."
"Yes, they're getting along too well." Katniss laid her head against the pillow behind her. "Our mothers have made it their goal to make sure that Peeta and I are married before we leave. Our fathers spend most of their time playing poker in my dad's hospital room to avoid the discussion. Prim, along with Will and Cal, have supposedly found me the perfect Vera Wang wedding gown—not white, for obvious reasons—to wear once I've dropped all the baby weight."
"That's ludicrous." Effie's eyes remained on the screen as she spoke.
"I know! Getting married right after the baby is born is crazy!"
"No, those three thinking that you're going to fit into a Vera Wang after dropping this little one is," Effie replied. "Sorry, sweetheart. It'll be about six months post-baby —and that's if your metabolism is good—before you'll fit into that gown."
"Being with Haymitch has turned you into a cruel bitch."
"I know you don't mean that," the woman said in a sing-song voice as she continued to look at the screen. "Baby has gained some fat, which is appropriate at this point in the pregnancy." Katniss looked at the screen to see her baby's profile, the little mouth slightly moving and her baby's heartbeat fluttering rapidly. "Once he or she is out, the skin will be smooth. Heart rate is perfect and your child seems highly unaffected by its hormonal mother, who is a smidge away from losing it."
"Haha, Effie," Katniss said. "They've started sending bridal magazines to my apartment. Also, our mothers have told Jenna to start practicing to be my flower girl."
"Oh darn, I was really hoping to get that job!" Effie gave her a light smile and patted her hand.
Katniss huffed as she glared at the woman. "Just print the damn photos, Effie."
Peeta had given her a set of keys, so Katniss let herself into the house. As she closed the front door, Katniss looked down at the sonogram photos that she held in her hands and smiled. Effie had told her that the texture and color of the baby's hair were now evident at this point. Her obstetrician had a feeling that baby would be a brunette and something inside her leapt at knowing her child might have her dark locks.
In a world surrounded by sunny-headed people besides her father, it was nice to know that there would be a possible third person to join their team.
"So do you think I'd be a summer or winter bride?"
Katniss looked up to find Finnick and Annie sitting in the living room, each flipping through bridal magazines. A stack of more magazines sat on the coffee table in front of them.
She stomped towards them. "Damnit, they've gotten to you, too!"
Annie looked up at her with a confused smile. "Oh, I thought they got sent here by mistake!" She turned to Finnick. "I think you're more of a summer bride."
"According to this quiz, I'm not," Finnick declared before taking the pencil that was tucked behind his ear and erasing his markings in the magazine. "This is a bullshit quiz—" He looked up at Katniss, his eyes bloodshot. "Oh hey, Katniss, didn't know you were here."
"I've been here for at least five minutes—and I was just talking to Annie." She looked over to see the smoke coming from the ashtray on the side table next to him. "Never mind. Put that out, won't you?"
"Of course, little mother," he declared affectionately as he stood up. "I'm going to get rid of this and then make you an avocado smoothie, okay?" Finnick kissed her on the cheek and patted her belly. "By the way, I think you're more of a winter bride."
Katniss rolled her eyes. "Don't start. It had better be an actual avocado smoothie, too!"
He raised his hand in defense. "Okay…okay…" Finnick gave her an unabashed grin. "Peeta is still asleep, I think."
"Thanks." She looked over at Annie, who was perusing InStyle Bride, before turning back to Finnick. "By the way, she looks like more of autumn bride, don't you think?"
"One day, she will be." Finnick looked over at Annie, his eyes steady for a moment before they reverted back to their slightly buzzed state. "I'd better get rid of this offensive thing and get started on that drink for you."
"Thanks." Katniss smiled at him and then turned to Annie. "You can have the magazines."
Annie smiled up at her. "Oh good, now I can make paper dolls!"
Katniss contemplated replying, but instead just nodded in agreement and headed to Peeta's room.
She could hear his snores as she got closer. When she opened the door, Katniss found him shirtless and asleep on his stomach, head turned to side with his mouth hanging open. Looking over at him for a moment from the doorway, she could see the prominent, dark circles under his eyes and his hair was mussed as if he'd been running his hands through it constantly—a sign of stress.
Closing the door softly behind her, she picked up the clothes that he had tossed onto the floor from the night before and put them in the hamper next to his closet. Quietly, she headed to him and sat down on the edge of his mattress next to his prone form. Katniss felt a pang of sympathy for him; it hadn't been an easy week for either of them, but he had extra work added on to his load.
Her hands reached for his hair and Katniss found herself toying with the blond tendrils as she ran her fingers through his scalp. It was still unreal to see how far they had come in only such a short amount of time.
Did it scare her? Yes, definitely.
However, the thought of spending her life running her hand through Peeta's hair didn't. Neither did the thought of holding their baby one day.
"You looked lost in a good thought." Katniss looked down to see Peeta's sleepy smile. "Good morning."
She leaned down to kiss him. "Good afternoon," she corrected as she pulled away. "How did it go?"
"The cakes were done at four and as soon as Sae got there, she shooed me away," he replied hoarsely.
Peeta scooted over on the bed to make room for her and she happily laid down, turning to the side as she did. He did the same so that they could continue their conversation. His hand found her belly and caressed it affectionately.
"Hello, baby," he said to her protruding stomach and then looked up at her. "How's our little one?"
"Gaining fat," she replied and then reached into the pocket of the navy tank dress Johanna had made for her to give him the sonogram photos. "Healthy, thankfully, and totally oblivious to the crazy surrounding him or her."
"You saw the magazines?"
"Who wouldn't see them?" She rubbed her lower back. "Also, Effie recommended that I lie on my side for now because the lack of circulation is what's causing the back pain—we'll have to get a bigger bed now."
Peeta grinned. "I'm all for getting a bigger bed."
She pressed her hand against his chest gently and smiled back. "I guess there are some benefits to this."
"I think the baby is a pretty good benefit."
"Tell me that while I'm pushing him or her out of my vagina," she said as she watched him look through the photos. "Effie said that the hair color has developed, as well as the texture of the baby's hair. I think it's going to be a brunette."
Peeta met her eyes and smiled. "For your sake, I hope we have a brunette, too." He tugged on the side braid that she put her hair in that morning.
"Glad you're on my side," she said as she moved closer to the center of the bed towards him. "I'm exhausted."
"By the way, your mother called and said that your Dad has been moved out of the ICU," Peeta informed her as he continued flipping through the sonogram photos. "She wants all of us to go to the hospital tomorrow and help move his things."
"Fine with me." Katniss laid her head on his arm and looked into his clear blue eyes. "Is this really happening?"
"All of this? The baby? This wedding—"
"When that happens is up to us and no one else," Peeta told her firmly. "You're the one who always tells me to not fold under pressure."
"I'm tired," she argued. "Between working with Cinna, helping Johanna with Jenna and going to the hospital—this is all too much, Peeta." Katniss found her eyes watering and she hastily wiped her eyes before giving him a trembling smile. "These hormones are a bitch!"
"Come here." Peeta pulled her as close as her belly would allow. "This is you and me—together. You just have to remember that. They can pull us in different directions, but we just have to hold on tight." He took her hand. "I love you, and that's what this is all about."
Katniss smiled softly and brushed his lips against hers. "Don't forget about our little melon." She put her free hand on her stomach. "It scares me to feel him or her kick, but in a good way, I guess."
"A good way, huh?" Peeta's hand joined hers and he scooted down to place his lips on her belly. "You going to give me a kick, little one? Daddy's here—after baking four three-tiered cakes. But as busy as I am, I'm always going to have time to teach you how to make cookies or bake Mommy's favorite cake." He looked up at her. "What is your favorite cake, by the way?"
"Anything with a lot of fruit in it," she told him. "I like strawberries the most."
"Let me take you down, cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever…"
She smiled listening to his soft voice. "My Dad has that record."
Katniss ran a hand through his hair as he sang against her belly. Her eyelids began to feel heavy and she found herself succumbing to the soothing tone of Peeta's voice vibrating against her as their baby fluttered in her belly.
It didn't feel so scary this time around.
"Looks like you're getting a lot better at this," Katniss said as she walked down the hospital hallway with her father, their arms linked. "Have you been practicing without me?"
"Of course," Gabe responded with a smile. "I have to practice walking so I can get you down that aisle, right? At least that's what your mother and Anna keep telling me."
"Nags," she grumbled and her father chuckled. It was good to hear him laugh—he was progressing more and getting better every day, which hopefully meant that he would be released soon. "Anyway, did I show you the latest sonogram photo?"
"I don't believe so, and you know how I like to know every little detail about my grandbaby," her father replied. "I've even tried bugging Haymitch into telling me the sex, but the man refuses. He insists that it's for my own good—even when I promised him the bottle of my best scotch."
"You're not going to be drinking any of that stuff anyway." Katniss reached into her cardigan pocket and took out the photos. "Here is your copy—Effie said that the hair color and texture are already evident. I think it's going to be a brunette."
"I'm sure of it," her Dad responded.
"How's everything going?" Katniss turned to see Dr. Latier heading toward them with a broad smile. "Looking good, Gabe."
"Thanks, Beetee," Gabe responded as the man caught up with them. "Katniss was just telling me about my grandbaby."
"Any luck on finding out what the baby is?" the doctor asked curiously.
"No, I think I'm going about this all wrong," her father remarked and then met the doctor's eyes. "Do you think Effie would tell you?"
"That's breaching doctor-patient confidentiality," Beetee replied, his eyes laughing. "Maybe I can get a hint out of her, though Dr. Trinket is a stickler for following the rules."
"Just enjoy the waiting part, Dad," Katniss told him. "Let's just hope that we can get someone on our team."
Dr. Latier looked at her. "Your team?"
"Team Brunette," she responded and held out her fist which her father bumped in unity. "We're overrun now because of Peeta's family."
"Well, consider me part of your team," Beetee said with a nod.
"Alright, Beetee!" Her father held his fist out to the other man, which they bumped together.
"I believe this is your stop," the doctor informed them as they stopped in front of her father's room. "Gabe, could I talk to Katniss for a moment?"
"Sure." Her father turned to her. "I think I can manage from here."
Katniss nodded but watched her father go in before turning to the doctor. "What can I do for you?"
"Your father was telling me about your plans, as well as everything you've been doing so far. I also happened to come across your MCAT scores and I was impressed."
"It's not too late to apply to our program, you know," the doctor informed her. "We're a fairly new teaching hospital, but I think we run a good program. You'll get a little more time after having the baby—and you'll be near family."
His offer was tempting and Katniss couldn't help but contemplate it. However, Johns Hopkins was what she had been working for. She had a plan, and they always worked for her. But this development was definitely something to consider and talk to Peeta about.
"Give me time," she finally said to him. "It's a lot to process."
Beetee nodded with an easy smile. "Of course, take your time. I'll come in to check in on your father in about an hour. See you soon."
She smiled back before turning and heading into the room.
Inside, Katniss found a circus.
Her father had been given a large private room—she was sure that her mother had something to do with it. Laurel knew many people on the hospital board, since she had been a business consultant years ago. Many of the board members ran businesses in Katniss' hometown and her mother had assisted in helping them open.
She found Rue with her father, who was in his bed, as she took his vital signs. Peeta's father sat in the adjacent chair, flipping through the channels of the television in front of her father's bed. Richard and Gabe were baseball fans and would watch a game if they found one on television. Her mother and Anna were putting covers on Gabe's pillows as they talked. She could also see the stack of bridal magazines in the corner of the room.
In the far corner, Cal, Will, Prim, and Haymitch sat at a round table, caught up in a poker game using candy as their cash.
Katniss felt a brush of lips against her cheek and turned to see Peeta grinning at her. Her arms found their way around his neck and she kissed him quickly in greeting.
"Hey there now," Rue said, smiling at them. "Isn't that how you got into your situation in the first place?"
"No, I think it was too many Lemon Drops that got them into that situation," Prim replied as she looked through her cards.
"Interesting," Rue replied. "I never saw Katniss as being much of a drinker."
"Obviously. Woman can't hold her drinks!"
"Damn, Katniss, you got burned!" Cal called out before blowing her a kiss.
"Oh, fuck off," Peeta responded in defense.
"Peeta, this is a grown-ups room," Haymitch told him with a grin. "Curb yourself, boy!"
"Says the man who is hooking up with our obstetrician..." Peeta smirked as everyone turned their eyes to his godfather.
"Haymitch, I thought this was someone that you were serious about," Anna said disapprovingly.
"Yes, and Effie is a very nice woman," Katniss' mother responded, trying to keep her lips from forming a smile. "What kind of example are you setting for your godson?"
"I-I-I—DAMN YOU, PEETA!" His godfather jumped from his seat and went over to Peeta. "You're supposed to be on my side!"
"Well, you're supposed to defend me when they get on my case!"
Haymitch grumbled before quickly socking Peeta in the arm.
"Don't punch my fiancé!" Katniss punched the man back without a thought.
Haymitch looked between the two incredulously. "You two belong together! You're both insane!" He quickly walked out of the room before any further harassment could occur.
"Thanks for defending me," Peeta told her.
"That's what we do," she replied, her eyes never wandering away from his. "We take care of each other."
Their lips met again—not caring that they were still surrounded by their family.
"Seriously, guys," Will called out. "Get a room!"
Katniss' father was released a week later, much to everyone's relief. It would be a long road to recovery and although her father wouldn't be running the store for a while, he had still made better progress than anyone anticipated. Peeta's parents had taken on the task of helping Katniss' mother with preparing the house for Gabe's return.
Anna had gone grocery shopping for Katniss' mother when Dr. Latier recommended a diet change for Gabe. Richard, along with Haymitch, created a makeshift work area in the living room so that Katniss' father could still communicate with the store via Skype chat or e-mail without having to go upstairs. Will and Cal handled the internet connection between the two places.
Katniss and Peeta marveled at how their families seemed to find themselves so easily interconnected. Peeta took it with a grain of salt, but Katniss was still suspicious.
The wedding talk had died down since her father's release. She and Peeta went back to their usual routine of work and preparing for the baby. Johanna and Prim dragged her to a yoga class for pregnant women, which she complained about before and after the class.
A few days later, however, she and Peeta realized the benefits of her being flexible.
"So what do you think about lavender?"
Katniss shook herself out of her thoughts and glanced up to see her mother looking at her. "What?"
It had been a week since Gabe's release and her family, along with the Mellarks, held a family dinner at the Everdeen home to celebrate. Her mother sat by her father, who was at the head of the table. Peeta's mother and father sat across from her and Peeta, while her soon-to-be brothers were seated at the end of the table.
"Lavender," her mother repeated. "For the bridesmaids' dresses." Behind Laurel, Prim, who was carrying a bowl of mashed potatoes to the table, met her eyes as she shook her head desperately.
"No," Katniss told her and looked over at Peeta. "I thought we weren't talking about this anymore."
"Come on, Katniss," Anna urged from where she sat across from the couple. "You really can't leave us without being married. We all want to share this with you. Your mother and I have it all handled. In fact, take a look at this!"
She handed Peeta a brochure and he opened it, revealing a beautiful seaside hotel on top of a cliff.
"Really, Mom? A hotel in Malibu?" Peeta closed the brochure and handed it back to her. "That isn't us at all."
"But they have a date available next month!" His mother argued and then turned to Katniss. "Don't you want a great wedding and to have your father walk you down the aisle? We're not asking you to do anything but be there. You two are only making it harder on yourselves."
She felt her eyes burn as every pair of eyes bared down on them. Maybe it was the exhaustion that had taken over, but Katniss let the words fall from her lips.
"Fine," she declared, her voice thick with exasperation. "Do whatever you want—it was going to happen anyway."
Anna nodded in agreement and turned to her mother excitedly. Her father looked over at Richard before meeting her eyes and she looked down quickly, not wanting to see his reaction.
"Can I talk to you?" Katniss turned to see Peeta glaring at her. "Upstairs?"
She peered at him for a moment before nodding. "Sure." They stood up and Peeta threw his napkin onto to his unfinished plate.
She could hear Prim mutter to Will and Cal, "Damn… Peeta's pissed."
Katniss trudged upstairs and she heard Peeta behind her, his heavy, angry stomping against the stairs. They walked down the hallway and she opened the door to her room, closing the door after Peeta entered.
Once the door was shut, he turned to her. "What the hell was that?"
She crossed her arms as she looked over at Peeta. "What the hell was what?"
"You let them take over," Peeta told her. "We're supposed to be in this together so you can't just agree without discussing things with me. A Malibu hotel? Lavender bridesmaids' dresses? Come on! This is all a fucking joke!"
"Excuse me for trying to get them off our backs," she argued. "Do you think this is easy on me, trying to fend them off? And why is this whole thing such a big deal? We're going to get married anyway. Might as well make them happy and just give them the wedding they want because they will never get off our backs about it."
"You really don't get it, do you?" Peeta shouted into the tense air, his eyes full of cold fury. "Goddammit, Katniss!"
"DON'T YELL AT ME!" The prickling sensation of tears hit her eyes. "I'M JUST TRYING TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY!"
"Not everyone." They stared at one another for a moment before Peeta sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Just do whatever you want."
Ripping open the door, Peeta walked out and slammed the door behind him.
The knock on the door drew Katniss' eyes away from her cell phone. She had been trying to convince herself to not call Peeta or check for a new text for the millionth time.
"Come in," she called out and the door opened slowly to reveal her father with his walking cane.
He still tired easily from simple activities and would be going to therapy to get back to his once healthy self. Her eyes filled thinking about the one session of physical therapy that she had viewed. Katniss hated to see her father wheezing from just walking around the room as the physical therapist assisted him.
She remembered when she was a child and he could easily carry her on his shoulders. Katniss could tell that he hated feeling weak as much as she hated seeing it.
Jumping up quickly, Katniss went to him. "Dad, are you okay?"
Gabe gave her a smile as he walked in slowly. "I was about to ask you the same question," he replied. "Help me out, won't you?" She nodded as she took his free arm and they walked to her bed.
Making sure that her father was comfortably seated, Katniss sat next to him and gave him a small smile. "What's up?"
He placed his hand over the one she had rested against her mattress. "Are you okay?"
Katniss met his eyes for a moment, knowing that denying it would be pointless. Her father always knew when she was lying.
She shook her head. "No, course not. I don't understand what Peeta wants. I thought he wanted to get married."
"Of course he does," her father assured her. "There has to be a reason why he's so upset, because he doesn't seem like the kind of man who would easily fold under the pressure."
"Peeta isn't," she told him. "He's wonderful—so I don't understand. Isn't this what we wanted?" Katniss let the tears fall. In front of her father, she could be weak and it felt okay. She could only hope that one day her child would feel open enough to be the same way with her.
Her father looked into her eyes before speaking again, "Katniss, can I ask you a question?" She nodded. "Why do you want to marry Peeta?"
"Because I can be myself around him, and I trust him," she began. "Because he makes me laugh and at the same time, he can drive me crazy—most of the time in a good way." The smile faded but her eyes glowed as she continued. "Because I can be weak around Peeta, and he won't judge me. He'll only let me rest against him." She met her father's eyes. "Because I'm in love with him and I want to spend my life with him, which I never thought was possible."
"Have you told him any of this?" her father asked.
Katniss shook her head and smiled. "Peeta doesn't need me to tell him this," she explained. "He already knows how I feel."
Her father frowned. "No, Katniss. Maybe he doesn't know why you want to marry him," he replied. "Maybe he doesn't know that the real reason you are marrying him is because you love him. You need to tell him that because he's not a mind reader."
"I never said he was—"
"No, but sometimes people need to know that it isn't because 'it will happen anyway', but because they are loved and wanted."
The realization hit her like lightning and she met her father's eyes. "I'm a fucking idiot, aren't I?"
"I wouldn't use those exact words," her father replied carefully. "You've always had a harder time reading people. You have to remove the doctor's mask once you leave work, sweetheart. Don't bring your job into your relationship because after that it infiltrates into other parts of your life." His eyes went to her belly and she found herself caressing the baby bump before meeting his eyes again. She didn't want that for the baby—it was one of her biggest worries. "Don't let that happen, okay?"
She nodded quickly and stood up. "I need to go."
Her father reached into his robe pocket and pulled out a set of keys. "Take my car."
Katniss left her keys at her parents' house, so this time she knocked on the front door. It only took a moment for it to open, and she found herself looking at Thresh, who sighed and widened the door for her to come in.
"Where is he?" she asked as she walked inside.
"In his room, listening to sad boy music," Thresh responded as he closed the door.
"Sad boy music?"
"You know—songs that only use an acoustic guitar, and the musician sounds like he's swallowed rocks to make his voice low and gravelly."
They walked past the living room and she waved to Annie, who was cutting pictures from the wedding magazines that Katniss had given her. Finnick sat on the couch watching her as Cato sat in the recliner sipping on a Corona.
"Hey, Katniss," Annie greeted with a smile. "Come here."
Katniss approached her and looked down at the scattered photos. Some of them were piled into a box next to her while others were scattered on the floor.
"What's going on?" Katniss asked curiously.
"I finally figured it out." Annie rummaged through the box and began arranging the different styles of dresses around. She sorted through the other photos that were lying on the floor before settling on one. "There you go—what do you think?"
Katniss looked down at the arrangement of magazine clippings that Annie had created. It was a cream, flutter-sleeved wrap top with a long, silk A-line skirt that ended with a small train on the bottom. The model head that Annie had used was one featuring a girl with Katniss' coloring whose dark hair was arranged in a large, low bun held with a jeweled clip. The look was finished by a bird cage veil that reached below her eyes.
It was simple and pretty, but comfortable. It was her.
"It's perfect, Annie," Katniss breathed in amazement. "Will you save that for me?"
"Of course," the girl responded and looked up at Finnick. "What do you think?"
"You have the eye, baby doll," her boyfriend said affectionately.
"Now let me show you the ideas I have for our wedding."
Finnick's eyes widened. "What?"
"I would love to see that," Cato responded enthusiastically, much to Finnick's chagrin. Thresh also nodded in overenthusiastic agreement from the archway of the living room.
"I'm going to go to Peeta's room," Katniss informed them, though everyone was already engrossed in Finnick and Annie's 'pretend' wedding.
Going into the hallway, she could hear the gentle sounds of an acoustic guitar. He really was listening to sad boy music. She knocked on the door, and after a moment opened it, peeking her head in as she did.
Katniss found him sitting on the bed, a sketchpad in one hand and a pencil in the other. "Hey."
Peeta looked up at her, his eyes pained. "Hi." He placed the sketchpad next to him. "What are you doing here?"
"I came here because I forgot to tell you something," she said as she walked in and closed the door.
She could see him swallow nervously, his Adam's apple bobbing as she approached him. "What?"
"I love you." Katniss sat down next to him. "And you never have to marry me, but you should you know how I feel. I should show you every day." She wiped her suddenly wet eyes. "I'm so sorry, Peeta. I never meant to hurt you. I abandoned you—I abandoned us at a critical moment instead of holding on like you said we should."
Peeta looked down at the carpet for a moment and she felt her heart clench, dreading how he might respond.
Finally, he looked up and took her hand. "I just don't want to lose us in the process," he finally told her. "There are going to be a lot more obstacles hitting us once we get to Johns Hopkins. If we can't deal now, what will we do when we're finally alone with the baby and in a whole new place? We can't fall apart—if we did, then I would fall apart, because you and our child are my whole life now."
"You're right," she agreed softly, tightening her hold on his hand. "It doesn't matter if we get married a month from now, a year from now, or even tomorrow. Or if we ever get married at all. Our family is what is important."
Peeta put an arm around her and kissed the side of her head. "I still want to marry you, you know."
She turned to him, their lips meeting in a soft kiss. "I can't imagine why."
"Maybe it's for the thrill of calling you Mrs. Mellark."
"There's already a Mrs. Mellark." Katniss laid her head on his shoulder.
"But you'll be my Mrs. Mellark." His eyes met hers. "Next month, huh? So are we really going to let this wedding happen?"
Katniss shrugged. "I have no idea." She sighed, feeling somewhat disheartened. "I have no idea about anything anymore."
Peeta was alarmed to hear the heaviness in her voice, and he turned to her, surprised to find tears rolling down her cheeks.
"This is more than the wedding," he said as he watched her somber expression. "There's something else, isn't there? What's going on?"
"Peeta," she started, her voice shaking. "I don't think I want to go to Johns Hopkins anymore."
This chapter begins at twenty-five weeks and ends at thirty weeks.
At this point, the baby's hair color and texture are identifiable, but can still change. I do hope that Katniss and her father get a third on their team, though.
Uterus expansion causes pressure on the veins going to the heart and can also cause dizziness. Katniss is getting a bit uncomfortable as she gets bigger, so they will have to get that bed.
"Strawberry Fields Forever" is sung by The Beatles.
Yes, I know that the mothers are a little enthusiastic, but they do have the best intentions in mind. It's just that dynamic that happens before weddings, magnified due to time constraints.
So what do you think of Katniss' last words?
Thank you for reading; I appreciate your love for the story!
Greetings, feedback and reviews are always welcome on Tumblr, AO3 and FF.
Next: Thirty Weeks– an important decision to be made, and the return of Glimmer and Marvel.
Until then, JLaLa