Hey everyone! You've been awesome with your reviews, so THANKS! This will be the last chapter of this story...but there is a very possible sequel. I just got done reading Catching Fire a couple days ago, so there's a story in the works for that too (Post-Catching Fire.) I will keep you updated on the progress on that! So let me know what you think about this one. You guys have been great! And please review!


Peeta held me tight as we both felt the temperature drop some more. At some point he pulled my skirt back down over my legs and was tickling my back now with his fingertips instead--the massaging had eased up as he got sleepy again. Still, this was even more pleasant and I felt myself start to get lost in it. His fingers flirted a bit at the bottom edge of my shirt, until I felt his warm hand against the skin of my lower back. It surprised me and I sucked in a quick breath.

"You're warm." I commented, although I couldn't figure out how I even managed to get a word out at all. This was so relaxing I felt myself almost drifting away from him and back into sleep.

Peeta just let out a solitary laugh. "And you're cold." He held me tighter.

Neither of us tried to keep the conversation going but instead just lay there in silence, reveling in keeping each other warm.

His cheek brushed mine lightly and I felt his hand leave my back. I protested by holding him to me even tighter. If we got any closer we'd be sharing the same body parts. Interesting, that. I thought sarcastically to myself.

Instead, I felt Peeta's hand on my leg again, just above my boots, and it was slowly sliding up my leg to my knee, where his hand was moving up under my skirt, just barely--and going back down again. The cool air tickled my skin and did funny things to my senses. This was new, and I knew I liked it.

He whispered into my ear just then, and it tickled. "Is this okay?" He asked me as he continued the movement on my leg.

My stomach fluttered violently, and I only nodded in response, but he understood.

He continued raking his hand up and down my leg very slowly, his fingers dipping into my loose boots to caress the skin there. It wasn't just relaxing, it was--well, I couldn't quite find the words, but I
liked what he was doing to me.

My hand left its place hanging loosely over his side and moved up to the back of his neck to play with his hair. His skin was cool and I stretched my hand fully across in hopes of warming it up. I'm sure my hands were cold but I tried it anyway.

His hand felt like it was moving a bit higher up my leg with each stroke, although very slightly--I'm sure he didn't even realize it, and I felt a chill, which caused me to shiver. I think Peeta took that reaction as a bad one because his hand stopped moving entirely and he pushed back enough that I could see his face. I felt sad at the loss of contact with his warm skin. My hand dropped from his neck and came to rest comfortably on his shoulder.

"Am I making you uncomfortable?" He asked me in a worried tone. He was looking down at me with a pained expression.

His other arm was still under my head but I raised myself up a bit and propped myself up on my elbow. He followed my movement and pulled back a little more, his arm still under me—now wrapping up around my back. I could feel him playing with the loose strands of hair that scattered across my back. I shook my head, and then whispered, "No." I gave him a tiny smile for effect. Right then he bent down to kiss the top of my head and brushed the hair out of my eyes. When he drew back I think he was trying to gauge my expression, because I could see worry in his eyes.

"I don't want you to be uncomfortable. I mean—I know this must freak you out and all."

Yeah he was definitely worried.

But I wanted to take that worry away from him, and that's when I realized just how often he wore that look lately. Anytime I see him it's there, but I've never recognized it for what it was. That look was always there because of me. That was a painful realization to live with.

A million questions floated through my mind just then, and I thought of everything I'd done to deserve the cold shoulder from Peeta. I only had myself to blame, but I didn't want to feel like that anymore. I
missed Peeta desperately and suddenly found it hard to keep ignoring it. This was just stupid. I was stupid. He was looking at me as I tried to sort out my thoughts. I must be making a face because he looks like he's about to go into panic mode.

I played with his hair just above his ear and brushed it back. My fingers lingered there, and then slid casually down to cup his neck. "Can I ask you something?" My heart started pulsing in my ears, and my stomach fluttered, which surprised me at first. Now is not the time to be nervous, I thought.

My breath caught in my throat anyway.

He looked at me seriously. "Of course. You can ask me anything."

You're too sweet for your own good, is what I wanted to say, but didn't. I wanted to ask him if he could ever forgive me, but that didn't sound right. And then I wanted to tell him it's okay if he's mean to me. I deserve it. All in all, I was clearly having a hard time sorting through all the nonsense in my head. It was all so confusing.

"I've missed you, Peeta." I kind of just blurted it out, but I hoped it didn't make me sound completely stupid. My eyes dropped momentarily. I couldn't stand to see that look on his face any longer, so out it came. My gaze slid back up to meet his.

Peeta looked at me with only a slightly stunned expression.

"Well. That's not exactly a question, you know." It almost looked like a smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth. It could just be a trick of the light or the effect of being exhausted but I could swear I saw it.

I shoved him in his chest and he rolled over onto his back, laughing at me.

"You really know how to ruin the moment." I teased. A smile was tugging at the corners of my mouth now, but there was no way I was going to give him the satisfaction of seeing it. He'd only keep the teasing going.

"The moment? We were having a moment?" He looked over at me and tried to sound all innocent but I knew better.

I felt myself blush and I almost turned my eyes away from his gaze when he propped himself up on his elbow as well. Now we were side-by-side again, facing each other.

"I'm sorry. It's just that I didn't expect you to say that. That's all."

"I guess I don't blame you." I said. I looked down and my hair fell into my face some. When I looked back up, Peeta reached out and tucked the stray hair back behind my ear.

I hesitated but I almost couldn't take it anymore. "You know, it's all right for you to be mean to me. I deserve everything you could ever throw at me."

Now he truly looked taken back. "Why would you say that?" he asked with a hint of impatience in his voice.

"It's not that I would like it, but I wouldn't hold it against you if you just let yourself be mad at me—or at least let it show."

He narrowed his eyes at that comment. "I thought we were past that." He stated flatly.

I let out a sigh. "I know. I guess I would feel better if you were mad at me."

"Because you're mad at yourself." He finished for me. "The only thing is I can't figure out why." I could almost hear the clicking of the wheels turning inside his head.

I thought about it for a moment. That pulsing was back in my ears and it was clouding my thinking. I couldn't think of a single thing to say that made sense. "Because I messed things up pretty good." That definitely didn't make the least bit of sense.

"Katniss, we've been over this already. It doesn't matter anymore. Didn't we already decide to just call a truce and put it behind us?" He raised his eyebrows at me.

I thought about the conversation we had earlier in the night—how he told me he'd rather be my friend than lose me altogether. I felt the same way of course, but for some reason I just couldn't shake the feeling that I've disappointed him beyond repair, and now I had to make up for it. Because you care what he thinks, you big idiot. I loved having arguments with myself. I sucked in a breath when I realized it.

Peeta caught the change in my expression and confusion spread across his face. "Is something wrong? Did you hear something?"

"No." I looked at him and quickly moved to a sitting position. I put my hands over my face and tried to block out all the thoughts racing through my head at the moment. Peeta sat up as well and put his hand on my back.

"Are you sure?" he asked me.

"No. I mean, yes." I stammered. Still, I just sat there with my hands covering my face, trying desperately to think. My skin felt hot suddenly. Am I blushing?

Peeta took my shoulders and turned me toward him, then pulled my hands down from my face. I turned away so he couldn't see.

"What's wrong?" he asked in a soft, soothing voice.

I couldn't help but look at him then. That voice always pulls me out of whatever dark corner my mind finds itself in. I looked into his cool eyes—eyes that were full of worry and confusion, and felt my heart rate increase some more. Why is it so hard to breathe? He was still staring back at me, waiting for me to respond. I didn't know what to do, so I did the only thing I could do, and gripped his shirt to pull him toward me for a kiss.

He was surprised at first. I could feel it in how rigid his body was. But as soon as I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him tighter, he relaxed and gave in to the kiss. I didn't know how I found the courage to just do it, but here I was kissing Peeta with all the strength and curiosity I could find within me, and if I wasn't mistaken, he was kissing me back. This was different than all the thousands of kisses we'd shared before. I felt a fire burning throughout every inch of my body, and desperately clung to Peeta as I rose up onto my knees. I had to be closer to him still. He followed my movement and wrapped us in a tight embrace as we explored this kiss further. Our lips parted at the exact same moment as we allowed the kiss to deepen still. This was the most intense feeling I'd ever experienced, and I hoped it would never end.

Suddenly I was falling backward, and Peeta was following me. No—he was pushing me, and I fell back onto the soft grass with him hovering over me, his lips still connected to mine, and his hands on either side of my head. My hands moved from around his neck to his face as I tried to pull him that much closer. This wasn't enough. I realized then that my knees were in the way and he couldn't come any closer. I parted them and he fell on me, covering me with his warm body. Our kiss deepened some more and his tongue reached far into my mouth. It was heaven, right here in the middle of these cold woods. I repeated the gesture and heard a slight moan escape from the back of his throat.

I was on fire.

My hands travelled down his sides to pull his shirt up. I felt the warm skin under there and felt like exploring. My senses were being taken over by him and I felt extremely dizzy, but his skin was smooth and I could feel the muscles present in his back and sides. This ignited the wild fire within me some more. I am the girl on fire, in the most literal sense. I thought to myself. I smiled against Peeta's mouth, and could hear his breathing pick up. Suddenly, he pulled away and hovered over me again. He was breathing hard and also staring at me with those piercing eyes.

"What has gotten into you?" he panted.

"What do you mean?" I asked as I tried pulling him back down. He wouldn't move. He was still staring, waiting for an answer.

The words slipped from my mouth before I could even stop myself. "I'm in love with you, Peeta." It sounded extremely matter-of-fact coming out of my mouth.

"What?" he asked all confused.

I pulled myself up a bit with a sigh and used my elbows to anchor me up off the ground. "I just realized something."

His eyebrows shot up.

"I've been punishing myself for what happened between us, after the games, because I wanted to feel the pain you were feeling."

"That doesn't make a lot of sense, Katniss."

"I know. And I just realized the reason why I feel like that."

"And why's that?"

"Because I can't stand to see you hurting. I love you too much."

Now he wasn't questioning me. He just looked down at me with a look I couldn't quite decipher. Instead of pushing the matter, I just waited. I wasn't sure how he'd use this bit of information. While I stared into his eyes, I saw them close. My stomach dropped out of my toes in an instant.

"Okay," I started, "maybe that was too much too fast." My voice was barely a whisper and I started to pull myself back up to a full sitting position.

Peeta put his hands on my shoulders and stopped me when I was only inches from his face.

"You don't know how happy I am to hear you say that." He said in a whisper. His expression transformed into a gentle smile, and he leaned back in to kiss me.

This time our kiss wasn't as eager or desperate as before. I was set ablaze once again, and Peeta lowered us back to the ground gently. This time we were softer with each other, letting our caresses feel more loving and patient instead of rushed and wild. It was even more heavenly before. All I wanted to do was kiss him and never let go. All my worries melted away, as did his, and he finally pulled back to look at me. He rolled us onto our sides, so that we were facing each other, and brushed the hair back from my face. He was good at that.

"I love you too, Katniss." He whispered, and then pulled me into him tightly.

I nuzzled my face into his chest and let a smile escape my lips. I kissed his shirt there, and he kissed the top of my head. Sleep overtook us quickly. Tomorrow we would sort through the business with the Capitol and all the trouble they could be brewing at this very moment. But right now all that mattered was the two of us. This new strength would help us get through whatever came our way. I wasn't ever too sure of too many things in my life, being that so many things are given and then taken swiftly away, as evidenced by my father's death years ago—but I knew I could do just about anything as long as I had Peeta beside me. And that truly put calm in my heart.

To be continued...


It has been recently decided that there will be a sequel to this afterall!!! And it is called Abandoned. Keep an eye out for it because the first part of it will be done very soon... PLEASE REVIEW!