I'm so sorry for the long wait! You guys are amazing for still being so interested. On that note, it may help you to read a drabble I wrote on Tumblr for this story before reading this chapter. It may give you a little more insight to how Katniss's feelings are changing and how much she might be accepting it. My Tumblr is the same username as here (dracoisalooker76) and there is a link to it in my profile. To find the drabble, just add /tagged/girls-drabble to the dot com.


Seam

My guard is up. It's like being in the woods and hearing a branch snap.

Peeta Mellark, of all people, has me cornered, demanding answers to questions I don't want to answer. Answers that, in the grand scheme of things, are not important. Peeta, who I always thought was the sweetest boy in the district, is acting just as Gale always says Town boys act with Seam girls – they do whatever they can to get what they want. And Peeta wants answers.

I should never have dragged him into the abandoned house.

"It's none of your business," I hiss. He opens his mouth to refute me, but I cut him off, getting right up in his face and giving him my best scowl. "And besides, that was months ago! Why do you even remember it?"

"I remember everything about you."

The way his face contorts tells me that he didn't mean to say that and suddenly the tables are turned so I have the advantage. Or I would, if my heart wasn't so out of control and I could actually form words. My head feels so full. I'm so confused as to what all of this means. Why is it so imperative to Peeta that he knows why I was crying when I saw him kissing the girl in his yard?

His shoulders sag and he backs up. I could escape if I wanted to now. But Peeta looks so distraught and confused as he grabs his hair in his hands and walks away from me, setting his forehead on the wall across from us.

"Peeta?"

"I'm sorry," he croaks. He bangs his head against the wall, making the shell of the home shiver with him. "I'm sorry."

I shake my head. Yes, his behavior wasn't what I've come to expect out of Peeta – it was vaguely reminiscent of his mother, to be honest – but I also wasn't expecting this complete change of direction. The bravado is down and Peeta, with the heels of his hands pressed into his eyes and his fingers pulling at his blond curls and his entire body shaking, no longer appears like the villainous monster Gale has told me Town boys are like, but instead he looks like Rory or Vick on Reaping Day, upset and frightened and ready to bolt at a moment's notice. He keeps his back to me, his face pressed on the wall, and my next actions come instinctually. I walk toward him and gently touch his lower back, ready to soothe him like I would Prim, but the effect it has on him is something entirely different. He jumps a few feet in the air, startled, and turns to face me, his eyes finding mine.

Suddenly I feel that thing again. The intense beating of my heart that I felt when I saw him kissing his girlfriend. The shiver that runs through me when I realize he caught me looking at him during school. The nervousness that flooded me when he called my name what can't be more than twenty minutes ago now. And I might as well admit to the heat that, even in this frigid weather, is coursing through my veins at his stare.

It has been months since I stumbled upon him in his yard, kissing his key to safety, and in the weeks that followed the weirdest things would happen – dreams and daydreams, sometimes so intense that I woke up confused that he wasn't there beside me. At one point, Prim stopped sleeping in our bed because she said that I was waking her up with my nightmares – the ones where I moaned and rocked and woke up covered in sweat but wearing a smile. They weren't nightmares, not really, not until I would wake up and walk to school and see Peeta and realize that they were just dreams. And that's a good thing because I still don't want anything to do with what these dreams mean. Maybe in another world where Peeta felt the same and I had time for the mess it would cause, I could consider it, but luckily that isn't the case so it's been easy to ignore them.

Peeta takes a deep breath and grabs at the back of neck. "I'm sorry, Katniss," he says, looking down at his feet. "I'm just...confused."

"About what?"

He sighs. "About you."

I take a step back. This time he doesn't follow me. He stays in place and looks like he's trying to come up with something to say to explain what he means. I don't really need to know, it shouldn't matter to me, but I find myself desperate to hear what he has to say. I'm curious as to why he is so intent on talking to me and about this particular moment in our sparse history as well.

"It's just...something changed after that day," he says. "I noticed it and I haven't been able to stop thinking about the fact that maybe..."

Whatever he's trying to say, he's having a hard time getting it out. I just continue to stare at him. When he speaks again, it comes out so rushed that I can barely make out what he says. Barely, but I still can.

"I...I just thought that maybe you might like me too."

I take another step back. "You have a girlfriend," I tell him for the second time in what must be the course of ten minutes.

That had been my saving grace through these last months of my slow discovery of what these dreams I was having meant – the fact that Peeta looked so enamored that, even if I admitted to myself that I wouldn't mind kissing someone if that someone was Peeta, it was never a tangible possibility. He would always be unattainable and that is fine by me. I'm not getting married and if the only person I would ever think about being together in that way with was taken then it made it a lot easier for me.

Too is a very strong word. It brings the implication that all of my excuses are rotting like the boards of this house.

He nods his head and bites his lip. He looks conflicted and for a moment I question everything I know about Peeta Mellark. A voice in my head that sounds suspiciously like Gale is telling me that Peeta is from Town and would have no problem having his Townie marriage and a Seam bit on the side. But I know Peeta even though we've barely spoken. I've watched him be kind to everyone, Town and Seam alike, since we were too young to have our names called on Reaping Day. Prim says that there is an exception to every rule and Peeta, in my opinion, is one of the few examples of it.

And I'm not willing to let him ruin that for me.

"So you should respect that," I tell him. And then I do the only thing I can think to do and push by him.

The streets are empty now. Everyone has gone home and while the houses in the Seam are not the warmest places, it's better than being out in the open air. When I walk in, Prim and my mother are tending to a few patients and I make a quick beeline to the bedroom. We have a few very sick people and Darius took pity when he walked around knocking on doors telling everyone they needed to be in the square. When he saw the man all but dying on our kitchen table with a foot as black as coal, he let Prim and my mother stay. He didn't let me, but to be honest I didn't mind leaving.

I wrap myself up in the covers and try to block out the sound of their moans, but the only thing I can think about is what Peeta said.

Peeta Mellark cannot have feelings for me. That is dangerous. How did that even happen anyway? It's not as if we speak on an everyday basis – or really an any day basis. I am bad for him. If that were to get out into the public, I can't even begin to imagine what it would do to him. Mrs. Mellark might actually kill him, hit him over the head with one of their baking trays and bury him in their pigpen.

No. It won't get out. Peeta is comfortable in Town with his girlfriend and his family's bakery. Like Gale always says, the Town boys chase the Seam girls for just that – the chase. And although I don't necessarily believe it, I have to. There is no other choice because the other choice is one that has the potential to ruin Peeta's entire existence. Instead, he can run back to Town, back to his girlfriend, and forget about me.

I shudder to think about how I would have gotten out of that conversation if he weren't attached. He gave me the perfect excuse to leave, but if that wasn't available?

I can't afford to think like that.

...

Winter is always bad for our hunts and this winter is no exception. We never bring in the amount of game that we do in the summer and both my family and the Hawthornes are rationing. At least with the meager pay Gale receives from the mines, he has a little more to spend and when his siblings are hungry, he can take them into the Hob. Greasy Sae's soup isn't the best, but it's better than starving.

Prim is hungry all the time. She knows better than to remind me of it, but her stomach doesn't listen and growls at me when I set a plate with a small chunk of bread in front of her.

The Sunday after the Victory Tour made it's way to District 12, Gale and I walk out to the fence together only to find it electrified. During the Victory Tour, it's always a surprise when they electrify the fence. It's always on when the Victor is in the district, but we never know when the fence will turn on for the rest of her time traveling and unlike the usual electrification of the fence, when the fence turns on during the Victory Tour, similar to how it's on constantly during the Hunger Games, it stays on for days rather than hours.

Gale chucks a rock at the fence post and it clangs in the open air. "Stupid fucking Capitol," he hisses under his breath.

"Gale," I exclaim. He knows better than to talk within the district boundaries.

He turns to me with a scowl. "Well, what are we supposed to do now, Catnip? The fence has been on since Friday," he hisses back. "We've got four kids to feed and no food."

"Well, you've at least got your paycheck," I mutter. "I can't pick up my tesserae until tomorrow."

Gale stares at me for a long time, some sort of internal debate clear in his eyes. Ultimately, he decides that whatever he's thinking is okay to say, and opens his mouth.

"What are you gonna do when you can't take that out anymore?" he asks, genuinely curious. "You gonna have Prim take it out?"

"Absolutely not," I bellow. "She's never putting her name in more times than she has to."

"So how are you going to feed her when you turn eighteen if you're not working in the mines?" His tone is surprisingly gentle, not the harsh accusations I'm used to when we delve into this topic of conversation. "You can barely feed her now and when you lose the ability to take out tesserae? Trust me, it makes everything a whole lot harder. What are you gonna do?"

I hadn't thought that far ahead. Futures are not something I generally think about often. I look at my life in a more day-to-day fashion. Prim needs a new coat today. Prim needs food today. Prim needs this today. She might need a new dress in the future but we can deal with that when the time comes.

And, if I'm being honest, I never wanted to think about that reality. My tesserae rations provide us with a lot more than we would have otherwise, especially in the winter when my hunting isn't productive. I can't work in the mines. I can't even think about the mines without feeling my heart start to beat erratically. But when I turn eighteen the Capitol will take the option of tesserae away from me and I'm not sure what we'll do.

I know what Gale's getting at with this conversation. In order to survive, I will have to either marry a miner or find a job, but considering I'm pretty lackluster in all the jobs I can hold that aren't underground, that doesn't leave me with too many options. The only job I could see myself being any good at is having a stand at the Hob and that is not a job I can support Prim on. The vendors at the Hob, if they don't have a spouse in the mines, can barely support themselves.

"I'll figure it out," I tell him. "I've got time."

"Do you though?" he asks. I turn to him, confused and wondering if he remembers that I'm still sixteen. I have a little under a year and a half before my eighteenth birthday. That seems like plenty. "If you're going to get married after you age out of the Reaping, you need a boyfriend and, considering you don't know many boys, that might be an issue."

I don't like the way that Gale steps toward me. I take a step back. I also don't like the way that Gale thinks he knows what's best for me. Maybe he does. Maybe he has a point. But whatever I decide to do is my decision and mine alone.

"I know boys," I sneer.

He raises his eyebrows at me and his lips spread in a patronizing smirk. He crosses his arms. "Oh, really? Let me guess, you mean me and my brothers?" he asks, his voice a teasing sing-song kind of voice that he uses with Rory and Vick when they're being pains. I glare at him.

I do know some boys. Sure, most of them I know through Gale and would never initiate conversation with on my own, but I do know them. I know their names at least. And then there's Peeta. I bite my lip at the memory of our argument in the abandoned house. Too is still a word that's floating around in my head as much as I would rather it disappear.

"Well, I know more boys than just you Hawthornes, if that's what you're getting at."

The smirk falls right off Gale's face and that makes me smile. Two can play this game of making the other feel inferior.

He looks me up and down, his face turning an awful shade of red. I know part of it is from the cold, but some of the coloring must be from some sort of building anger. I can see it on his face. His eyes narrow and his forehead crinkles. And then he leans down so his face is right up in mine, our eyes locked on each other in a heated stare – so close that, if he wasn't so mad, I'd be afraid that his next move would be to kiss me.

"Dicking around the slag heap with Peeta Mellark doesn't count," he hisses, the breath of his words hitting my face, before he turns around and charges off.

My throat closes up and I know I should follow Gale, but I can't move. My mind is racing. How did Gale find out about Peeta? What is he talking about? I've kept Gale and Peeta in two very separate parts of my life. So, if Gale knows something about Peeta even if it is just a rumor, he must have found out from someone else, and I need to know what it is. Because if it's something that is going around the Seam, it needs to be stopped before it passes into Town and ruins everything for an unsuspecting Peeta.

That's what gets me moving again.

"Gale!" I sprint through the snow. He's not out of the meadow yet, so if I hurry I can reach him while we're still alone and out of hearing range of the others in the Seam. "Gale! Gale, wait! Gale!"

He doesn't stop and I have to sprint until I'm ahead of him. I stop in front of him and block his way but he just walks by me, so I grab his arm and tug. That gets him to stop.

He breathes heavily out of his nose and glares. "What, Katniss?"

"What are you talking about?" I ask.

Gale shakes his head and rolls his eyes. "If you don't want people to know, you should be less obvious about it," he sneers.

"I'm not doing anything though," I mumble. Did someone see me pull him into the abandoned house and get the wrong idea? "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I tried to help you out, Katniss," he tells me. "Why do you think I showed up to hunt with you the Sunday after you got that goddamn apple bread at the bakery? I never wanted you to feel like you had to...to go be some Seam bit to one of the baker's sons. But then," he pauses for a second and shakes his head, "he really got you good, huh? I see the way you look at him when we stop by the bakery. It's not good for you to pine after the guy you sleep with for extra scraps."

I'm still stuck on the apple bread. I think back to when Gale started going on hunts with me again and that was in late summer. Has he really been sitting on this for all this time? No wonder he always tells me that he can go to the bakery himself.

And then I get very angry.

"You think I'm having sex with Peeta Mellark so I can get food!" I shout. "Are you kidding me?"

"What else am I suppose to think?" he shouts back. "You show up at my door with some luxury bread and tell me it's not charity? I grew up in the Seam, Katniss. I know how it works!"

"I did not say something like that." I honestly don't remember this exchange at all. It happened so long ago.

He nods his head. "That day is seared in my brain because I failed you," he exclaims. "I sent Rory out to hunt with you and suddenly you're coming to my door with bread we shouldn't have." He grumbles as he continues. "At least you didn't go to Cray."

"I didn't go to anyone!"

"Bullshit, Katniss," he hisses. "Anyone who knows you at all knows you don't go moon-eyed for anyone, especially not someone you know nothing about. Don't lie to me."

"I'm not! And I'm not moon-eyed!"

"You don't see yourself!" he screams. "You're basically walking on air when we get to the bakery. He must treat you real nice, huh? Does he bring a blanket so you don't get all sooty?"

I didn't think it was possible to be this mad at someone, but at the same time I feel a bubbling inside my chest. My throat is constricted again and it makes it hard to breathe. I don't want to give Gale the satisfaction of seeing my cry, and I know if I don't leave soon that's going to happen. My voice quivers as I talk.

"Peeta's just an acquaintance. I've never had sex. I don't want to because I don't want to have kids. You of all people should know that I wouldn't risk that. Not even for Prim."

And then I push passed him and run out of the meadow.

Gale runs after me, screaming my name, and I know people are watching us. But at the moment I don't care. I just want to get out of here and I go the one place that I know Gale won't follow. I loop through people's yards trying to lose him and hope that he'll think I'm running home to hide in the bedroom. Instead I run along the outskirts of the Seam until I cross over the Town line. I keep running and running until I hit the fence and can't go any farther. I've never been to this part of the fence before since I'd have to walk through Town to get there, but I'm comforted now knowing that Gale won't find me, that no one will find me. Peeta told me once that people in Town think that the fence is always electrified, so no one would come out this close to it unless they had a death wish.

I press my hands over my eyes to try and stop the tears from flowing, but it's no use. Lately, Gale and I have argued and made fun of each other, but it was never very serious. We've known each other long enough to know exactly which buttons to push to make the other really mad. But this is something entirely different. Gale has never made me feel like I wanted to collapse into the dirt and stay there. Yes, we've both had our times when we've said things to intentionally hurt the other, but never like that. Never such a blatant attack. And, as much as I don't want to believe it, I know it has to do with the fact that Peeta is from Town and lives in a bakery and has things handed to him on silver platters. Gale has never liked Townies and he never will. They're right up there on his list of things he hates, third behind the Capitol and the Hunger Games. If he thought I was at the slag heap with any of his buddies, he would have taken it personally because for the last half a year I've declined his theories of the practicality our union, but eventually I think he would have been okay with it.

This fight has been building for months. I don't know how I could be so blind to Gale's hidden jealousy, but I have been and I think that's another reason why all of this is so surprising. I know that there is nothing going on with Peeta Mellark and there never will be, but Gale must feel threatened by that. He should know what I think about him and how important he is to me, even if I can't love him the way he wants me to – he is my best friend, my hunting partner.

Gale is mine. I am his. Anything else is unthinkable.

But apparently not to Gale.

"Katniss?"

I wipe my eyes and turn around, surprised to know that I'm not alone. When I see that it's Peeta, I turn back around and face the fence. I don't want to deal with him right now. I just want to be alone.

"What are you doing in Town?" he asks.

"Can you go away? I just want to be alone."

I'm surprised when he nods his head and says, "Of course." He turns around and starts to walk away.

"Wait!" I shout back. He stops and turns. "You're not going to put up a fight about it?"

He looks sheepish and digs the toe of his shoe in the dirt. "I'm really sorry about the other day," he says. "I don't know what came over me. I haven't been feeling like myself and I truly apologize for my behavior. It won't happen again. So, no, I won't put up a fight and I'm sorry that you think I will."

Oh, right. He's thinking of our abandoned house argument whereas I was thinking of what Gale would do if he stumbled upon me like this. I'm still a little angry with Peeta for it, but his apology is something that I can accept.

"Why are you all the way out here?" I ask. "It's freezing outside."

He keeps his distance and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "This is my special spot, winter or not, that I come to when I need to think."

"What are you thinking about?"

He doesn't answer, instead just giving me a tight smile and I know to drop it. It's something that he clearly doesn't want to talk about. So I turn back toward the fence.

"Are you okay?" he asks. "You look upset."

"I don't know."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

His voice is so genuinely sweet and concerned that my mouth almost opens of its own accord, but I'm still not sure that I trust Peeta entirely after what happened at the house, when he told me he liked me when he has a girlfriend that he looks so happy with, so I don't want to tell him about Gale. When Peeta and Gale collide in my world, things like what happened today happen.

I shake my head and keep my eyes focused on the fence. He takes a step closer, probably to look out toward the woods, and I find myself gritting my teeth.

"It's on, so don't touch it," I warn.

He grins back at me. "I know. You taught me how to listen, remember?"

Now that he mentions it, I do vaguely recall the time he found me stuck on the outside of the boundaries and stayed with me the entire time even though he didn't have to. That is the Peeta Mellark I know, the one that he just said he hasn't been feeling like lately. I wonder what's making him feel so different.

We look out into the snowy woods together until we're both shivering and my entire body is numb from sitting in the snow. Peeta sticks out his hand to help me up but I don't take it, instead pushing myself up. I can do things on my own.

But, looking at Peeta, with his bright blue eyes that seem to be reading my heart, I'm reminded of Gale's insinuations. That Town boys are all the same and I was a fool to believe he would actually like me for me rather than just as someone who he could take to the slag heap. I know this isn't Peeta, but after the abandoned house incident, I find my head is spinning with worry that maybe Gale is right and I have put Peeta on some sort of pedestal.

"Can I ask you something?"

He nods his head. "Of course," he says. "I owe you that much."

I narrow my eyes at his use of the word owe. Is he using it to taunt me, get me to remember how much I still owe him? That's enough to set off the anger that has been churning off and on in my veins all day.

"You said at the house that you thought I might like you too," I say, my voice hard and trying not to betray anything he could misconstrue. "What do you mean by too."

"Isn't it obvious?" I glare at him and he holds his hands up. "Okay, I'm sorry. I guess..." He sighs. "It's a long story."

"Make it short or we'll both get frostbite."

He nods. "I do like you. And, yes, I know I have a girlfriend and, yes, I know it's not right. That's why I came out here to think because it's not fair to anyone if I'm feeling something for you and dating Lily." He lets out a breath. "I'm...I can't believe I'm saying this."

"Say it."

"You said the other day that I should respect the fact that I have a girlfriend, that I should respect her. Well, I'm dating Lily because I have to," he says. I frown and his face takes on a look that reminds me of when the time Prim stuffed old cheese in her mouth before spitting it out. "Because, if I don't, I don't know what I'm going to do. If I marry Lily I don't have to worry about finding a job. If I don't...I'll have to work in the mines and hear all about you from Gale and listen to him talk about how cute your kids are."

"Why would you work in the mines?" I ask, ignoring the last bit. Why does everyone think Gale has some sort of monopoly on me? Even everyone down at the Hob thinks so.

Peeta sighs. "Barley is inheriting the bakery and Rye can help him. There's not enough work or money that comes in to support three families."

My heart breaks in that instant. I don't think about the future, but whenever I did I just figured that Peeta would be the baker. His father would retire and I'd trade my squirrels to him at the back door. Now he's telling me that my future isn't anything like I imagined it would be, just like Gale ruined my denial of how I'm going to feed Prim after I'm out of the Reaping.

"What?"

"That's how it works in Town," Peeta tells me. "Firstborn gets the business unless they marry someone with a better one so Barley gets it."

"So you have to marry her," I tell him. Isn't this a similar situation to what Gale was describing to me. In order for Peeta to survive, he has to marry this girl, just like how it's practical for me to marry someone so I can continue to provide for Prim, my mother, and myself. "Makes sense."

"I don't love her," he says. "I try to tell her that I do and I can't. I can fake the physical stuff. I can fake everything else, but I can't fake my feelings. She's nice and maybe in another universe I could love her, but my heart already belongs to someone else."

He doesn't have to explain that sentence. I'm oblivious to a lot of stuff concerning Town and Peeta, but I know he's talking about me.

"And I came here to think about how I'm going to break it off with her."

"What? No!" I shout.

"Yes."

I shake my head and walk up to him, staring at him with what I hope is an intimidating glare. "You can't do that. Working in the mines is dangerous! You could get killed!" I hiss. "You are so much better off marrying someone you don't love and living here than moving to the Seam!"

"Katniss, you don't get it," he mutters.

"Of course I get it!" I tell him. "There's no job in Town that could kill you."

He glares at me. "Maybe not physically kill me, but entering a loveless marriage might drive me to touch the fence," he says. "I've tried it before, but it was off. When I think about my future, a little part of me dies inside."

I don't know what to say. I don't know if there's anything I can say. The thought of Peeta in the mines terrifies me, but the thought of him being so unhappy that he thinks about touching the fence terrifies me even more, probably because I know it's something he has tried already. I feel like I need to grab him and pull him away from the fence, protect him from the danger. But there's not place within these barbs that is safe.

"I'm sick and tired of being a piece in their games," he says when I don't talk. He points his hands toward the center of Town and when he speaks he almost sounds defeated. "That's all it is there. Games. Parents exchanging kids to keep their status. It's sick and I don't want to be a part of it. I'd rather work in the mines and live by myself for the rest of my life with no friends, no wife, and no kids, if it meant I got to choose my own destiny."

This is all too much. After what happened with Gale and now hearing about Peeta's issues, I feel ready to combust. I want to escape out beyond the fence, hide in the woods until all of this bubbles over, but I can't. I am forced to deal with everything that's going on in front of me. Peeta's situation makes me want to take him with me, put him in the house by the lake and keep him there, away from the mines and away from the awfulness of Town. Hide him away in a place I'm confident that he could never get hurt. I don't want to lose the boy with the bread and all of this talk is making me afraid for his safety.

"I don't want to get married." The words fall from my lips without me even realizing it.

Peeta smiles, but it's not quite a happy smile. "Well, as much as this conversation started out about you, that's not the solution I was thinking," he says. "I'd love to marry you if that's what you wanted, but this decision to break up with Lily is about me and about her. I'm not trying to ruin any of your relationships."

"I'm not dating Gale," I tell him. "Definitely not dating Gale. Not now, not ever."

He nods his head, his lips quirking upwards just a tad. "Okay."

"You're really breaking up with her?" I ask, hoping that he has changed his mind.

He nods again. "I have to. If I don't, we'll end up exactly the same as my parents and she doesn't deserve to be tricked. No one does." He groans and runs a hand through his hair. "I'm just mad that I let it go on this long without putting up more of a fight. I guess...I guess what you said about respecting her struck a bigger chord that I thought it would."

I hate that. All I want in the world is for Peeta to live in a nice little apartment over a store in Town and I inadvertently just messed up the only dream I've allowed myself to have. This makes my stomach roll and my lungs stop working. My throat is full of the mucus and snot from crying over Gale, but now the tears I cried for him seem useless. I am not ruining Gale's life at all. Even if we were to never see each other again, he would be fine with his salary and I've taught Rory everything I know. Between the two of them, the Hawthornes will be just fine. But Peeta...

"Don't do it."

He shakes his head. "It'll be fine," he says. "I thought about it on my walk up here. I can still live with my parents until I age out. They won't be happy, but my dad won't kick me out. And then once I'm out I'll move to the Seam and they'll all forget about me. Lily will have plenty of suitors and my family's business is stable since they're the only bakery, right? They don't need me. No one needs me."

I do, I think. I need him to be safe. I need him to be happy. I need to be able to see him smiling and healthy. Peeta is one of the truly good people in this world and it will make me miserable to see him suffer.

"Well," I say, trying to wrap my head around all of this. It's so confusing, I'm not sure I can. "You'll have one friend in the Seam. Prim's friends with everyone."

He laughs and it's the first time that I've seen a genuine smile on his face since he arrived. "What about you?" he asks. "You're not going to be my friend?"

I know he's joking, continuing the one I started, but it makes my breath catch at the implication. I know he has feelings for me and, if he were to move to the Seam, what would stop me from acting on my own? There would no longer be a need to keep him away to protect him. He'd already be where I didn't want him to be in the first place. My heart is beating so hard in my chest at the thought that I need to turn away.

A year and a half is a long time. He might decide he likes a Town girl with a business by then and all of this will be moot. I am hoping that will be the case. It's better to lose him to someone else than lose him to the mines.

"We'll see," I tell him.

We'll cross that bridge if we get there.


Notes

Katniss has come to terms with the fact that she has feelings for Peeta. She's still not crazy about it, but at least she accepts it.

I'm not trying to turn Gale into a bad guy. It's not my intention. I just feel that he and Katniss are, as she says herself, too similar and I translate the fire as them being argumentative and explosive with each other. Katniss implies in this chapter that she has said her own nasty things to Gale in the past, so know it's not just Gale being a bad guy - they are not good matches for each other for a reason and it would be better in the long run for both of them, not just Katniss, if they went separate ways. So please don't come at me saying I'm turning Gale into the villain. That's not the intention and I'm sorry if that's how it comes off.

This covers about a week between Katniss and Peeta's meetings and he did a lot of thinking during that time, as I'm sure you can see. It's not a sudden thing either - he mentions in an early chapter that he would consider moving to the Seam without Katniss because he thinks he doesn't deserve anyone, for example, and he was feeling pretty poorly after their abandoned house incident. There will be more explanation to his change of heart in the next chapter, but because this is Katniss's POV, we can't get it now.

The spot of the fence where Katniss goes and sees Peeta is the same part of the fence that Peeta goes to in Chapter 1 and Chapter 5 (which is the chapter where he touches the fence). It is Peeta's special spot, as referenced before, and not something I chose to do haphazardly. The fence is a symbol I've been using for them throughout, or at least trying to, and it will continue to play a role as we move forward.

I went a little trigger happy with the book quotes. Sorry about that.

Next: Peeta, and hopefully it comes out before the next millenium.