It takes their little party of four much longer to reach the water's edge than it used to when it was just the two of them.
Of course, if it had been up to six-year-old Rose, they'd have gotten here ages ago.
"Come on!" she whines once they finally arrive, shifting her weight impatiently from foot to foot.
Katniss lays their blanket on the sand for their impromptu picnic, biting the inside of her cheek to try and hide the smile on her face. Her daughter's innocent enthusiasm for swimming reminds Katniss irresistibly of her own childhood trips to this lake with her father.
"Almost ready to go," Peeta calls out to Rose as he kneels in front of little Jack, fidgeting inside his bulky swimming jacket. Jack hates wearing it, but he also can't swim yet. And there's no way they'd let him in that lake without it.
Peeta rummages around in Katniss' bag for the sun cream and begins applying it thickly on Jack's pale, freckled back. Jack has the same flaming red hair and fair complexion that's common in District Ten, and Peeta takes protecting him from the hot summer sun very seriously. Like a sacred moral obligation.
"Okay," Peeta finally says, nodding to himself, as he slowly spins Jack around and examines his handiwork. "You two go on and have fun. Lunch in about twenty minutes."
"Bye-bye Dada!" Jack squeals, waving his chubby little hand at Peeta before toddling off to join his sister by the water's edge.
Peeta stands up and stretches his back, watching as their two children wade into the lake: Rose, fearlessly; and Jack, much more cautiously, his eyes fixed on his sister's retreating form as his little legs make big splashes in the water
"I think she takes after you," Peeta says after a very long moment. Katniss turns her head towards her husband. The late summer sun is behind him and she needs to squint to see his face. "She isn't afraid of anything. I mean, look at her."
Katniss does. Rose – only having learned how to swim last summer herself – is showing off for her younger brother, doing handstands in water nearly as deep as she is tall.
"I wouldn't say I'm not afraid of anything," Katniss says, another smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "But I'll admit she does remind me a bit of… well. Me."
Peeta sits down next to Katniss on the blanket, tucking his legs underneath him and pulling her into his side. She leans her head on his broad shoulder and closes her eyes. He smells a combination of summer, sweat, and sun cream, and she sighs, not certain she's ever been more content than she is in this moment.
Peeta starts talking to her about their weekend plans. Haymitch will be over in a few hours to help them prepare for everything, he reminds her. And Johanna arrives tonight, which is a relief. As much as all of their fellow Victors will always feel like family, their house is perpetually a wreck now that they share it with a six and a three-year-old, and between the two of them they rarely have more than an odd free hour or two now and again.
They'd never be able to host everyone, and their families, for three entire days without help.
"Let's not talk about the weekend just yet," Katniss eventually interrupts, her head still resting on Peeta's shoulder. "It's nice… being here right now. Let's just try and relax a little before the onslaught."
Peeta laughs at her choice of words. "All right," he says. He presses a gentle kiss to the top of her head and sighs.
Katniss opens her eyes and watches as Jack runs towards Rose in the water. She's a strong girl for her age, and with the added buoyancy water provides she's able to pick him up easily. She swings him around and around in the water, both of them shrieking with happiness.
Katniss' life doesn't look anything like what she'd imagined for herself when she was a girl, on those rare instances when she allowed herself to imagine her future. Herself, a wife and mother. Part of a family thrown together through circumstance and bound together, tightly and forever, by love.
She takes Peeta's hand in hers and presses a gentle kiss to the back of it. He squeezes her hand and hums a little, happily.
There is no doubt in her mind that all of this is real. She laughs in spite of herself, her heart full and her mind, at long last, at peace.
a/n: Thank you all so much for reading. :)
If you'd like to find me on tumblr, I'm there as jeeno2.