The night we arrive back he takes his pack back to his house to get fresh clothes. I ready myself for sleep and sit on my bed to wait. I last fifteen minutes before I can't stand it and walk over. He looks up from the pile of laundry he's sorting and rolls his eyes at me when I step into his bedroom.
"Yep," I grin at his annoyance and climb onto his bed. I fall asleep watching him arrange shoes and wondering if when he moves in he'll sort out my messy closet for me.
The next day we take a loaf of fresh bread to Haymitch and he takes it from us with a "well it's about time" before shooing us away so he can watch his goslings hatch.
Sae is more gracious and thanks us for the bread. Her granddaughter waves at Peeta and gives him a hug before spotting a beautiful orange butterfly on the window sill and chasing it outside. Peeta asks after her children and she lets us know they've all called. They're all home safely.
We walk through town and stop at the barren, scorched land where the bakery stood. The ground is scratched where shovels took away the ashes.
"Where did they take them?" he asks quietly.
I show him the meadow. He's in too much pain to cry. I take him home.
He lies with his head in my lap on the sofa and stares. I run my fingers through his hair.
"I wish I'd said goodbye. Before the Quarter Quell. I thought we'd get to see them in the Justice Building. I never said what I wanted to."
"I know," I murmur, stroking the scar by his temple. I had thought the same. "If I could do it again, I'd have thanked him for watching over Prim and my mother. And for you."
He looks up and me. I lean down and kiss him. "I'm glad he got to see your heart when he watched the broadcast. I'm glad everyone got to see it," I whisper.
"I want to put them in the book."
We pull the book out that evening and start to work. He draws pictures and adds details about his brothers, I write about Peeta. I have pages and pages to write.
We finish the book just over a month after I brought him home. I cut holes in the left-hand corners of the stack and we tie them together with baker's twine.
"Do you want to keep Finn on the cover?" I ask.
"No, I have something else."
I move his photo to the page telling the story of Annie and Finnick while Peeta goes up to our closet. I have to wait for minute. No matter how tidy he tries to keep it, my mess invades his space over and over again.
He returns with a small token in his palm.
"My pin." I never thought I'd see it again.
"Haymitch found it when he was cleaning out your old room in the Training Center; where they kept you after Coin and Snow died. He forgot to give it to you on the ride back here. I found it behind his sink yesterday when I was chasing a goose out of his bathtub."
I nearly laugh. "Those damn geese."
"They keep him busy. And mostly sober."
"Mostly." I take the pin from him and turn in over and over in my hand.
"We don't have to use it."
"No, it's perfect," I murmur. I pin the bird through the cover cardboard and fasten it tight.
I put the completed book down on the table and watch it.
"How do you feel?" he asks, sitting next to me on the sofa.
"Like it's really over now," I say. "Like I can let it go." I feel like the weight of the world has released me, even for just a moment.
He takes my hand and kisses my fingers. A thrill runs from my fingers to each of my joints. I look at him thoughtfully.
"What?" he asks.
"Let's go to bed," I say.
We're awkward and nervous, but I feel complete and whole as we lie holding each other after. I smile when I realize I always knew this was how it should be. How I wanted it to be. How it always will be.
He held my hand when I finally had to clean out Prim's room. I mailed the outfits Cinna picked out for her to Posy. I gave pencils and toys and dolls to children who lost parents in the war. I kept the outfit she wore to her first Reaping. I buried it below the primrose bushes.
The letter arrived from District Two about a month letter, thanking me for the clothes and asking after me. I called him.
Gale was surprised that I'd called, but grateful. I was sorry he still blamed himself. I know it was my anger that drove that on.
It was a short conversation, but I felt better when we hung up. He wasn't angry Peeta had moved in, and I felt no longing when we said goodbye. We were at peace.
Peeta hadn't proposed again a year after living with me, so I asked him one night while he was sketching out a katniss flower to be painted on the window of the bakery as soon as the glass went into the new structure. "Oh," he says. "I was…yes?"
"Is that a question?"
"No, I mean of course yes! I just…I had something." He runs upstairs and comes back down with a small box, stamped with the metalworker's logo.
"What is that?" I ask. I reach for it, but he pulls it back teasingly.
"My locket with the mockingjay etching. What Effie gave me was so mangled I couldn't really see keeping it. So I had it melted."
He opens the box. Two thin gold bands. "I know rings are sort of a Capital thing, but…I had really wanted to do something…special."
I stare at them. "Because I'm the mockingjay?"
"No," he frowns and shakes his head. "Because you're mine."
I cry when he puts the ring on my finger. I call my mother. She cries with me. It seems silly to cry when you're happy.
Annie and Johanna plan a visit with Finn when they hear the news. By the time they leave a week later, he's started on why we should have one. Every week I wake up to a list taped to the bathroom mirror with reasons why I'd be a great mother. I tear it up.
We'd been home five years when he finally figures out how to get me. "I just want more of you in the world, Katniss."
"Oh please. The only one there should be more of is you."
He's so eager that night we fall off the bed.
On her fifth birthday I teach our daughter The Valley Song. He watches me with adoration. She gets on a chair in the dining room to sing it over and over again. He moves to stand by me and holds my hand as we watch her. Dark hair. Blue eyes. Us.
That night we conceive our son.
In the end, Peeta learns to accept that I'm not a romantic. He may talk in poetry about love and hearts, but I'll always know he's the one I can't survive without. He's the air I breathe and the reason to wake up. I suppose it's two different languages telling the same story in the end.