"I'm not going anywhere." I hear Katniss say to me as I continue to come out of the grogginess that I seem to be waking up from. I don't know exactly where I am or what is going on. The last thing I remember is pushing a young boy out of the way before everything was fuzzy. I thought I might have somehow died and gone to heaven, especially when I had a vision of Katniss in a doorway. But it turns out that she was real. She is here. We are together again.
I am about to ask her about what her about what happened to me when the door opens. We both turn and see a doctor with Prim standing beside him. But not just any doctor, it's Aurelius that we had met in 13. That must have not been a dream either hearing those voices.
"Hello, Mr. Mellark," the man begins. "I see we meet again under some different circumstances. Miss Everdeen has been informed me that you have woken up. So glad that you have come back to us."
"What happened?" I ask. "I don't remember much."
"You were brought in with the rest of the wounded," the doctor tells me. "The only information we could get was that you had been found by soldiers, but none were from your squadron or could tell us your name."
I slowly run my hands through my hair which I can feel had been singed in some places. "How long have I been out?"
"A couple of weeks," he informs me. "You had some extensive burns on part of your upper body and left leg. We tried to save it, but the damage was too bad and we had to amputate it." It is only then that I notice that my left side seems a lot lighter than my right. Something is definitely missing.
I look at Katniss who is rubbing circles on my hand trying to calm me. It's the same gesture I always did for her. "It's okay," she whispers. With shaking hands, I slowly pull the sheets away. I see my right leg laying there with a few scars that must be the burns healing. On the left side, is an empty space. My thigh ends in a stump that looks angry with scar tissue. I must look absolutely horrified because the doctor speaks up again.
"I'm so sorry," Aurelius says. "The scars should heal some over time and it will eventually look better. We will be happy to fit you with prosthesis and give you physical therapy until you are used to it."
"Thank you doctor," I tell him somberly. "I know you tried your best."
He nods. "I'll leave you for now and come to check on you later." He turns and leaves. Prim follows but before walking out can't help but to add her own statement.
"I'm so glad you woke up, Peeta. She missed you," nodding her head in Katniss' direction. She leaves as well and I turn my focus again on the beautiful angel before me.
"Well," I say with a huff, "I guess I'm damaged goods now. Still want me?" I am maybe only half joking.
Her grey eyes bore into mine. "Always," Katniss says. "You're alive. I'll take you in any way I can."
I smile, and finally feel awake enough to take her in. I look at her face first, glowing with love in that softer look she can have. I make my way down to see that she is wearing a uniform of some kind. Was she a part of the invasion? It only takes me a few more seconds, though, to see the large bulge coming out of her belly. There can be only one explanation for that. My eyes widen in shock.
"You're….you're….you're pregnant?" I must be asking the most stupid question of all time.
She nods her head happily, placing a hand over her abdomen. "Yes, I am. Very much so."
My mind races. How could this be? The only explanation I can come up with is that Coin must have come up with someone to pair Katniss with and he was able to do what I could not. I'm immediately jealous and hurt. It should have been mine. But, she seems so at ease right now, so happy with her situation. I know Katniss, and she wouldn't be like this if she didn't care about the man she was matched to. I decide to put on a smile to try and show my pleasure at her condition.
"Your husband must be very happy about it." I say as cheerily as I can.
Katniss gives a little scowl at my reaction. "I had hoped so," she says. "But I just told him so I think he might still be processing the information."
Wait a minute. She just told him? I take in a deep breath as the realization hits. She is talking about me. Katniss is saying that I am the father.
"But, that's imposs…I mean, you weren't when we were…" I can't seem to complete any sentences at this moment.
"That last night," she says softly. My mind floats back to the time she is referring to. In the fear of the last negative test and possible separation ahead, I remember back to that night and how desperately we made love.
"Oh my god," I say unbelievingly.
"I know," she agrees. "The fates definitely haven't been kind to us, have they?"
"Not at all," I can't help but say with a chuckle. Oh wow, I am going to be a father. It seems that today is full of surprises. I wonder how much more of this reality I can take. I decide to risk it.
I look straight at the bulge in her stomach. "Can I touch it?"
She looks at me with a little frustration, but then her eyes soften. "Of course you can." I put my arm out towards her and lovingly place my hand on her belly. It feels round and firm. Suddenly, there is a distinct bump inside the palm of my hand. I immediately look up at Katniss.
"Did you feel it?" she asks. I just goofily nod my head.
The emotion of what I feel at this moment is so powerful. I just felt my baby move. I lovingly begin to caress the swollen area. "I love you so much," I say. I can tell that Katniss knows that for this one time I am not talking to her.
"You are going to be amazing father," she tells me. "That's why you have got to do your best to get better, okay?"
"Okay," I say putting my hands up in the air in surrender with a smile. "You're not going to make this easy, are you?"
"Nope," she says knowingly. She crawls up into the bed and lays there with me. We talk and tell stories for a long time. Katniss tells me of everything that happened to her in Thirteen and how she was brought to the Capitol to assassinate Snow, and the rioting that occurred instead. I describe how I almost was made to marry again, but couldn't do it and went into the forces. I talk of the training, Paylor's help, and the invasion. It's difficult to speak of the last part, because the feelings are so fresh.
"I just hope I never have to do anything like that ever again," I end.
"It's over now," she tells me. "Why don't you get some sleep? You've had a lot happen for one day."
I lie down on the bed and pull the covers up. Katniss goes over to the small fold up bed they had brought in for her. I know it can't be comfortable for her, and I want to go over and tell her that I will take it and she can have the real bed. But I also know that she would never allow it. I decide it's a battle I am not willing to fight tonight, so I close my eyes and let the sleep overcome me.
My dreams find myself back in the streets of the Capitol. I am armed and ready, heading once more to the Presidential Palace. I look around, trying to find something or someone. Finally, I see her in the distance. Katniss, trying to get her bow and arrow ready to aim around her stomach where the baby is. I smile, until I also hear the alarming sounds in the air. It's the bombs and from the direction of the noise it is coming from the direction where she is. I run, trying to reach her in time before disaster happens.
Just as I am about to get to Katniss, I wake up, sitting straight in my bed. I am drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. Before I am aware of my surroundings I feel a smaller body come next to mine and soft hands begin running through my hair. A kiss is placed on my forehead.
"It's okay, Peeta. It was just a nightmare," she whispers into my ear. The consistent feel of her calming words helps to bring down my rapid heartbeat. A few minutes later I find that I am in a sense back to normal.
"Thank you," I tell her and kiss her lightly on the lips.
"You're welcome," she answers. "You've done the same for me, remember?" I do and sleepily put my arms around Katniss and we fall asleep together in the bed. I can't help but think that this is the way it should be.
The next morning, the work begins in earnest. Dr. Aurelius checks out the scar and tissue on my stump and taking measurements tells me it will take a couple of days for my new leg to be made. In the meantime, I start physical therapy where they have me doing some work to make what is left of my left leg stronger. Katniss stands beside me through it all. The trainer is a tough taskmaster, but I struggle through. At one point, though, I am ready to give it up on the third day when he wants twenty more pushes from me. I decide to revolt.
"I'll give you a kiss for each one you do." Katniss tempts me. Well then, if that is going to be my reward…
I do one push and then stop to smile and look directly at her. She giggles and gives me a peck on the cheek. "You're going to have to do better than that if I keep going!" I tell her. I do another push right after that. This time gets me another peck, but this time on the lips.
"That's better." I sigh.
"Keep going buddy and see how much better it can get." She is absolutely terrible as she wiggles her eyebrows at me. But, I've gone too far to stop now. I quickly manage the rest and when done, turn to Katniss for my reward. And boy, what a reward it is as I receive a long and lingering open mouthed kiss.
"Good job." she tells me. As promised, my new prosthetic finally arrives and they attach it to my stump. I thought it would feel funny, but the material they have made it out of almost feels and looks like my natural leg would.I try walking on it, and although I am a little wobbly, it is fantastic to be able to move again.
"You will need a couple of weeks to train properly with it, but hopefully by then we can let you go home," the doctor states. "The scar tissue has healed nicely, so as long as you get it checked every few months for infection, you should be just fine."
I nod, and continue to work on perfecting my walk. Katniss continues to watch as I work with walkers, parallel bars, and canes to get it just right. She doesn't leave my side and we continue to sleep together. Having her near me dulls the nightmares.
It's when Aurelius evaluates me and says that in two days he'll give me a final check and discharge me that we actually decide to talk about the future.
"What do you want to do when we leave?" I ask her. We are sitting on the balcony outside of my hospital room.
She looks up into the sky and sighs. "I want to go home, to District 12."
"There's not much left there." I argue. "Where would we stay?"
"I was thinking," she begins. "I want to find out if my father's place by the lake was harmed. I was wondering if it could have been far enough away that it could have escaped damage. If so, we can stay there."
It sounds logical and perfect for our plans. Katniss then turns the question on me. "What do you want when we get home?"
This is the opportunity I was hoping for. I hold her hands in mine, gazing into the grey orbs. "I want to marry you," I tell her.
She just breathes for a few moments, then answers, "Yes." I place my arm around her waist, and bring her in for a kiss. Breathless, we lay there and just stare at each other silently, just basking in the happiness we feel.
The two days pass quickly, and Dr. Aurelius looks me over the final morning and smiles. "You've done really well. It's healed remarkably. I wish you all the best." He leaves the discharge papers on top of the dresser.
We begin to pack the few things we have, holding hands and almost feeling guilty, when there is a knock at the door.
"Who could that be now?" Katniss looks at me and I just shrug. The door opens and in walks Haymitch.
"This can't be good," she mutters under her breath.
"Nice to see you too, sweetheart," his sarcasm is dripping. "Boy," he nods his head towards me. I give a curt nod in return.
"What do you want?" Katniss scowls.
"A council has been set up temporarily to govern Panem until elections can occur," he begins. "One of their first orders of business is to look at each couple that was matched through the programs set up in Thirteen. You are ordered to appear tomorrow at 9:00 in the morning at the council room in the new administration building.
"What are they going to do to us?" I ask.
"I don't know much beyond what I have told you," he says honestly. "Believe me. I have only been given the task of giving the orders to appear. I don't know their plans beyond that other than they are looking closely at each relationship."
"Could they prevent us from trying to marry again?" Katniss is so afraid at the thought of what could happen.
He just shrugs. "Right now, anything is possible." Haymitch leaves us alone then.
Katniss lets out a scream. "Why can't they just leave us alone!" I am glad she said it. I feek exactly the same and want to yell just as loudly at them to let us live our lives. I know that screaming won't change anything, though.
I just shake my head and we once more spend a night not sleeping and holding each other tight so that we can't let go. We both can visualize Coin and her cronies sitting in power now and ruling over all of us to whatever their bidding might be. I am determined that no matter what happens at this council, that I cannot let Katniss go again. I will do everything to fight for us.
All too soon the sun rises, and we get dressed. Not many words are exchanged, but we are never far from each other. Always within range of being able to touch. At ten minutes to nine, we make our way down the transport tube and walk the streets to the building that will house the new leadership of Panem. There is a desk and the two of us give our names. We are led to some chairs outside what they are telling us is the chambers of the temporary council. They tell us to sit until we are called.
We hold hands while we wait. Katniss' is shaking like it did that first day they placed us together. I repeat the gesture I did then, rubbing circles over her hands. Thirty minutes passes and they finally call out. "Peeta Mellark! Katniss Everdeen!"
We both stand up and the guard pushes the door open and allows us in. We enter into a large room. At the end is what looks to be a long table with five people sitting at it. There are two chairs in front. We make our way down the long aisle and as we get close, I am astonished. I was expecting to see Coin, but instead, who I find at the head of the table is someone even more familiar to me.
"Commander Paylor," I salute as we finally arrive before them.
"Soldier Mellark," she begins. "Good to see you are up again. I take it this is Miss Everdeen who you spoke to me of?"
"Yes, ma'am," I answer. Katniss nods her head.
"Thank you both for being here today," she states. "We have asked you here, as we are every couple who was placed together as a part of Alma Coin's repopulation program. We are gathering information from every couple about their experience. From what we learn, we will decide if action needs to be taken again Coin and her associates."
We show that we understand and the woman continues. "I see two papers here regarding your relationship. One is a marriage certificate, and the other is a divorce decree. Is this correct?"
"Yes," we both say.
"Did you choose to be married?" she questions.
"Not at that time," I answer. I explain the announcement of the reaping and how Katniss and I were paired together. We tell her how the program expected each couple to get pregnant as soon as possible, and when it thought that we had failed, they made us divorce.
"You did not willingly choose to divorce?" Paylor inquires.
"No," we both reply boldly. "We were in love and wanted to stay married. They did not give us that choice," Katniss explains how the leadership continually decided our fates.
"Well," the leader says with a small laugh. "I can see that in the end you did not fail in your task, did you?"
We both smile at this, "No, we didn't," I answer. I give her a few small details that fill in the blanks on how we ended up from there to being together now.
"So, am I to understand that given the choice, you wish to be married?" she asks.
"Yes," both of us are nodding fervently. "More than anything." Katniss pleads.
Paylor talks with her companions for a few moments, and then turns back to us. "Then, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't just tear this document up." She takes the divorce decree and rips it up with her hands.
We both stand open mouthed at this development. "So that means?" I say hesitantly.
"It means," the commander says with a knowing smile, "that the only valid document I see is a marriage certificate. In the eyes of the law, that is all that counts."
"We're married?" Katniss states unbelievingly.
Paylor simply nods her head. I take my wife in my arms and hug her tightly to me and giving her a soft kiss. I turn back to the council. "Thank you so much," I tell Paylor
"You're welcome," she replies. "We appreciate your help. Coin will see her due for her actions. Go home and enjoy your life together."
"We will!" With that, I take Katniss by the hand and we walk out of the room. It's almost too good to be true, but when we are finally in the atrium outside, I turn to her.
"Hello wife," I say.
"Hello husband," she answers. We kiss again, this time more passionately until we are breathless. When we finally come up for air, my wife has one more thing to say.
"Come on. Let's go home."