Summary: Happy birthday to Katniss Everdeen! To celebrate, I wrote a little birthday oneshot. Set post-Mockingjay, on Katniss's 20th birthday.
Oneshot. Post-Mockingjay. Part of the Dandelions and Fire Mutts series.
AO3 - FFN
I wake up before the sun rises, just like I always do. It’s the best time to hunt. But this morning, I don’t throw back the sheets and reach for my old leather boots, still molded to my feet after all these years. Really, when you think about it, it’s surprising they still fit. Especially now that I’m 20 years old.
That’s why I don’t move from my bed this morning. Today is my birthday. My 20th birthday at that. Normally I’m not one to make a big deal out of my birthday, but this one is kind of a big deal. Two decades I’ve been alive, and considering I’ve been through two rounds of the Hunger Games and a war, it’s a miracle I’ve made it this far. I think a morning where I lounge around in bed is justified. So I stretch out, then turn on my side and nuzzle up close to Peeta’s body, relishing in the comfort his warmth gives me.
The action wakes him from his sleep. He smiles as he looks over at him, and wraps an arm around me protectively, holding me close. “Happy birthday,” he says.
“Thanks,” I smile back.
He leans in and gives me a tender kiss. “Twenty,” he says after he pulls away. “Kind of a big deal, huh?”
I smile at the way he echoes my own thoughts. “Yeah,” I say. “Who’d have thought we’d make it to twenty?”
“Yeah,” he agrees. “You going hunting?”
“I don’t know.” I give him a suggestive look. “I was thinking I might just stay here.”
To my surprise, Peeta sits up and looks at me in alarm. “No!” he says. “You need to go!”
“Why?” I ask, shooting him a puzzled look. This was not the reaction I was expecting from him, especially when I know he’s closed his baking business for the day. “I thought you’d want to spend the morning together. You know… in bed.”
I see the corners of his mouth twitch; his eyebrow lifts just a little. But he holds his resolve. “You should go hunting,” he insists. But he can from the look on my face tell I’m not convinced. “Just… just go. Take a long time. I have things I need to do here.” He emphasizes the last bit all while looking just a little too innocent.
“Really?” I ask, playing along. “Like what?”
“Oh, just stuff at the bakery.” he says.
“I thought you said you were closing the bakery today.”
“I am,” he admits. “But there was a special order due today. Very important.” He leans in closer and whispers in good-natured conspiration. “Rumor has it that it’s for the Mockingjay’s birthday.”
I roll my eyes and hit him playfully, because he knows how much I dislike still being associated with that title. But I can’t be mad at him, not today when I can tell he has something special planned. “Okay,” I agree as I kick back the sheets and head to the closet to change. “I’ll leave you to your important business.” I pull on my boots and move to leave.
“Wait!” he calls, sitting up suddenly. “You’re forgetting something.”
I pause mid-step and turn back to him, expecting a request for a kiss or something. But all he says is, “your hair.”
Biting back a grin, I plant myself on the edge of the bed and braid my hair. “Happy?” I ask over my shoulder when I’m finished.
“Very,” he nods, looking superior. But when I try again to leave, he grabs my arm and pulls me back for a long kiss. He’s still warm from the bed and the feel of it makes me want to stay here forever. Which I wanted to do in the first place, except he’s the one kicking me out for whatever surprise he has planned. He pulls away with a happy sigh and gives me a contented smile.
“Peeta,” I murmur, lightly touching my lips where the feel of the kiss still lingers.
“Hmm?” He raises his brows.
My mouth twists up into a smirk. “You need to brush your teeth.”
“Hey!” he cries indignantly as I leap off the bed. “You’re not one to talk!”
I laugh as I close the door behind me.
The sun still hasn’t risen by the time I get outside, but already I can tell that it’s going to be a warm day. I’m glad that Peeta reminded me to braid my hair, because it’ll keep it off my neck and help keep me cooler.
It doesn’t take long for me to cross through town and out into the wilderness. The first thing I decide to do is check the snares. It doesn’t take me anywhere near as long to do this as it used to, now that I’m the only one working them, and snares were never my strong point. When I tried resetting some of the old ones Gale set up years ago, I couldn’t figure out how he had them configured, and had to do the best with the limited knowledge I have. Though that did improve some in the training for the Quell.
My stomach sinks a little at the thought of Gale and the Games, just like it always does when I think about those things. I’ve finally gotten used to being out here alone, but every so often I’ll still turn around and expect him to be standing behind me. Grinning at the rabbit that wandered into our snare, or teasing me about the turkey I shot down. I can’t lie--there’s a part of me that wishes he could be here today. It’s the small part of the old Katniss that’s still leftover from before everything that happened that wishes that. The part that just wants her friend back, before a war, a bomb, and a couple of trips to the arena drove them apart. Not that I would trade what I have with Peeta for all that--I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Especially not after having already lost him once.
That isn’t what I miss about Gale, anyway. I realize now that Peeta always had my heart in a way that Gale never did. It’s the friendship I miss. I wonder what he would think of me now, at 20 years old. If there could have been a part of him that wasn’t consumed by jealousy that would have been amused by the irony of me living with a boyfriend; sharing my bed with him. Or even that I have one at all.
But I’ll never know. Because he’s gone now, and never coming back. He’s busy anyways, if the reports I see on the news are accurate. And I suspect they are.
When I’m done with the snares, I roam the hills, checking the lines for fish, gathering some of the strawberries that have already begun to sprout, and picking off game with my bow as I come across it. By noon, I have a pretty decent haul. It’s more than enough for dinner for Peeta and me, though who knows what he’s got planned already. But we can save it, or sell what we don’t need. I wonder if he’s had enough time? I try to procrastinate longer by double and triple checking the snares and fishing lines, but eventually I run out of things to do. Peeta’s just going to have to be done with whatever it is he’s got planned.
When I finally make it home, I stand at the door for a minute, trying to decide what to do. Should I knock? It’s my own house, so that seems a little silly. I decide to go ahead and open the door myself, though I do so cautiously. “Peeta?” I call out as I enter. There’s no answer. I check the rest of the house, but aside from his breakfast dishes in the sink and the fact that our bed is made, there’s no sign of him anywhere. I’m standing in our room, trying to figure out my next move, when I hear the door open on the first floor, followed by heavy footsteps. Someone is in the house.
Immediately I go downstairs, though I do so cautiously. There’s no particular reason to feel unsafe, but it’s impossible not to feel paranoid after the Games. But my fear is in vain, because it’s Haymitch who is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.
“Kid sent me over to get you,” he says gruffly. “Apparently it’s your birthday.”
“It is,” I say.
“Well, don’t just stand there then. Come on.” He turns and without even checking to see if I’m following, heads back outside. I head after him.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“You’ll see,” he calls over his shoulder.
It turns out we’re going to Peeta’s old house. Well, technically it still is his house, but since we live together now he really only uses it to run his bakery business and for storage. But whatever he has planned for today, apparently he has planned at his house. That explains why he closed the bakery today, and didn’t just leave it to his assistant to run instead.
Just before he opens the door, Haymitch turns towards me. “He worked really hard on this, so try to act like you like it, okay?”
I shoot Haymitch a dirty look, and am just about to give some retort about how I don’t need to be told how to make Peeta happy, when he opens the door, cutting me off before I get a chance to do so. A whiff of something sweet greets me; it’s obvious Peeta’s been baking something to celebrate my birthday. I step into the kitchen, where he stands beaming at me. And next to him stands my mother.
We regard each other in silence for a minute. Then she steps forward, arms stretched out, and embraces me. “Happy birthday, Katniss,” she whispers as she kisses the side of my head.
“I didn’t think you would be here.” My mother has only returned to 12 twice since the end of the war. She’s busy with her new life in 4, and the memories are still too much for her to handle. So to see her here today is something special.
“Peeta picked me up this morning. We’ve been planning it for weeks.” So that’s why Peeta wanted me out of here for a while. He was going to the train station to bring home my mother. And not just her, either. Johanna and Annie, along with Annie’s and Finnick’s toddler son, are both here as well.
“Happy birthday, brainless,” Johanna says as Annie embraces me. I grin at her over Annie’s shoulder.
“Glad you could make it,” I tell her.
“Yeah… you owe me.” I laugh.
The party lasts the rest of the afternoon, and well into the evening. It’s wonderful seeing all our remaining friends gathered here in one room, especially since it’s for a happy occasion for once. But eventually I wander out on the porch, gazing into the warm night stretching out around me. Not long after, a familiar tread comes up from behind, and Peeta wordlessly joins me. He makes no attempt at conversation or anything. All he does is wrap an arm around my shoulders. I rest my head against his shoulder.
“Thank you for the party,” I say.
“I hope you liked it,” he says.
“I do… “ I try to pick my words carefully. “I’m just… sad about those who couldn’t be here.”
Peeta tightens his grip around me. “I know,” he says quietly. “It’s been on my mind, too.”
“Especially since I’m 20 years old,” I continue. “It feels wrong, Peeta. Why should I get to reach 20, and she couldn’t?!”
“I know,” Peeta says again. “But remember what Dr. Aurelius told us? We can’t beat ourselves up for surviving.”
“Besides. We made a vow that we would live our lives well for them. Remember?”
“He’s right, brainless,” Johanna says, coming up beside me. “They died so our lives could be better. It would be rude not to go on for their sakes.”
They both have a point. So, with Peeta’s arm still draped around me, I turn and go back into the party. And I really do enjoy it. Because somewhere out there, maybe Prim and my father, and Finnick, and Rue, Peeta’s family, and all those lost to the Games and the war, are watching from wherever they are. And they would want me to go on. To be happy, even. So I let Peeta feed me his cake, and the special bubbly wine he ordered from the Capitol. And when we bid goodnight to our guests - Haymitch back to his house, my mother, Johanna, Annie and her son staying at Peeta’s - we cross back to our place where Peeta and I do a little celebrating of our own.
“Here’s to another 20,” Peeta whispers to me when we’re done. “May they be more uneventful than the last.”