A/N: My Gosh, this is the last chapter :( And yes, there is fluff.

Don't be too surprised by the content of it—it is like one of the normal chapters I write, but at the same time it's not. Even though it takes place one and a half year(!)after chapter nineteen, I wouldn't call it an epilogue, either. It's just close to it. There are also references from previous chapters.

The one-shot is planned, but there's still room for some requests. Judging by what you read here, think of what you would like to see in it and let me know. I'll take a short break before I write anything else, so feel free to decide. When it's written (and published), I'll just re-upload chapter twenty of House Of Chaos, since having an Author's Note as a separate chapter is against this site's rules.

Thank you all so much for your favorites, alerts, reviews/comments, recommendations, questions and advice. They were all very helpful for me to mark this story complete. They also encouraged me to develop thousands of new ideas and fix some of my serious problems. I wouldn't have made it without you!

Yeah, enough with this monster of a note. Go ahead and read the last chapter. Leave me a review if you'd like to tell me your opinion about the story in general. I would gladly welcome as well as appreciate it. Just one last time?=)

Title of the fanfic:House of chaos

Summary:[AU/OCs].What if Peeta and Katniss never were tributes in the Games? What if President Snow was dead? What if two people with a past suddenly decided to reunite? Would the members of the new family coexist or would they live in a house of chaos?

Chapter 20:(XX)

Genre: Romance/ Family

Rated: T.

Disclaimer: I only own the plot and the new names of the characters. Everything else belongs to Suzanne Collins.

Special thanks to (for reviewing):HungerGamesLover1020,FlyAlone,GirlOnFire2012,Lgwater27,MaidenAlice,SWPeetaxKatnissAvatarTLA,TheAfterShock,muzik-luvrr,0Aud0,HGfanficfan,Serpent91,kakitamariko,Guest,PurpleDiamond78 (x3),SkyeAllison,noelyoungbloodmellark,yeeeitscarmen,ZaraTHG,Guest.

By the moment I'm about to step out on the train platform, the icy-cold air blowing softly in my face and whistling unevenly in each one of my ears, the dark wavy strands of hair escaping my relatively loose braid and troubling my somehow blurred vision, I feel as if I might just lose my balance and fall. My stomach is in knots all over again.

This is it. There is no going back now.Better yet, there should be no going back now.

I try to blink, eventually managing to clear the scene in front of me.

I realize I haven't been at the train station much. Every time the supplies for our old home in the Seam arrived from the Capitol or the other Districts, my little sister would gladly come to fetch them. My first time here, after years of unintentionally keeping my distance from this place, was when the Hawthornes left Twelve, a couple of days before the Christmas holidays ended. I distinctively remember missing their first route, for it was very early in the morning. Then, there is also myfirst route. Even though I haven't quite regretted permanently moving to Eight, I can't help the feeling of longing as it creeps its way into my heart and warms it in the most excruciating way possible.

I've literally missed so many things, so many events and changes.

"Hand me the last one?" his voice, followed by the loud whistling of the train, effectively snaps me out of my reverie.

Without a second word, I bent down, taking the last luggage in my arms and place it slowly into his own. I mimic him by hopping down on the ground, right beside him.

"Are you okay?" he asks. Although my attention is not entirely focused on him, I can only picture him eyeing me carefully from where he is standing.

"Sure," I mumble, rushing to button my coat until there is no inch of me left exposed. "Just a bit cold," I add.

"We'll be there soon," he replies, hoping to reassure me. He has no such luck, though, as I can barely control the violent shudder shaking my entire being from head to toe.

He grimaces. "But are you okay?" he insists.

"I don't know," I say truthfully, not very sure of how exactly I am supposed to answer. "Are you?"

He drapes a sack over his shoulder and lifts the suitcase with an almost inaudible pained huff. I take the last rucksack on my back after shooting him a concerned glance.

"We'll see how everything goes, I guess."

At first, I debate with myself, considering which would be a decent reply for him to hear, but soon decide against it, simply nodding in agreement.

I follow his lead, even though there is really absolutely no need for it. I know my way home more than I know myself. My eyes remain on his profile, studying him closely. I can't be sure whether he is as calm as he appears to be or he just pretends not to be agitated for the sake of both of us.


I have always been the one to destroy our peace, even in the most uncommon and unexpected moments. I would like to believe I am more of a realist, though, there are some times I do acknowledge the fact that my brain works more than any other part of my body, taking control of me. Peeta usually says nothing about it—unless the line is crossed—but I can see it in the way the troubled creases and wrinkles show up on his forehead. His lips form a wry, thoughtful line, while his gaze lingers on anywhere but me before it actually meets my curious—or in the worst case infuriated—one.

He turns his head towards my direction, blinking, expecting me to voice my thoughts. I take a deep breath.

"They don't know we're going. We won't be welcome."

My words make him stop every movement, unconsciously forcing me to copy his actions.

"Don't say that, Katniss."


"—just don't, okay?" The desperation in his tone has me questioning him, wondering whether he has the same fears as me. Under different circumstances, I would be comforted by our common anxieties. Now, however, all I can think of is that both of us need someone—I know I simply can't be it, I never was, never will be—to explain our absence, the most significant reasons of our decision not to stay here, as we should probably have. On the other hand, there is no should andshouldn't anymore, right? My mother had made it clear from the moment she handed Peeta those papers, letting us know they had ended their initially fortunate marriage.

"We will be welcome." At first, it is as if he's attempting to assure himself. "They've been waiting for us, remember?"

I nod hesitantly. "Yes." In fact, they had clarified they've been expecting a visit by the time none of us was left home anymore. I shiver at the idea of how disenchanted as well as discouraged they might be when facing us—me. This is not entirely Peeta's fault.

After I had made it clear I wanted him with me, he started being just too stubborn to leave me deal with anything alone. He refused to be back in Twelve until now, until he made sure we were both ready. What Peeta and I have had for as long as we have been leaving in District Eight is certainly not something to show off, but I can't help feeling a bit pressured. I feel as if there's an urgency to convince my mother the first sacrifice she first made for me after six whole years of remaining passive wasn't for nothing.

"Father says my room is untouched." He frowns. "There's much space. But we have a little problem with the bed. It might be a bit…uh…narrow for us to fit."

I sigh. This is hardly a problem. Stopping in the middle of the street to discuss about a bed which is in a house I might not feel comfortable staying anymore seems more than just absurd to me at the moment. That is until I realize he's doing it to break the ice, diminish our anguish.

"That's okay," I find myself whispering.

"We'll find a way," he agrees. "We did fit in it a couple of years ago, after all. How hard can it be?" It is as if he's muttering to himself. I am particularly close to reminding him of the fact that a couple of years ago we were a tad bit shorter, a tad bit smaller. I huff when I remember the awkward glances we exchanged and the almost inaudible words we spoke the first time we had woken at least twelve inches apart from each other, our legs barely touching.

As I think of my current inability to leave Peeta's side at night, I realize sleeping in the same room as Prim is quite impossible—having something familiar to hold onto while adjusting to the foreign environment, in Eight, had been helpful, even though my dependence on him used to scare me to death. It still worries me sometimes.

He shakes his head in disapproval, urging me to shoot him a questioning glance as I demand access to what is going on inside his brain.

"You're not wearing your gloves." I bite my lip to keep from laughing at him. My bare hands are now quickly turning a reddish color from the cold. Truth to be told, I can't recall being very consistent concerning wearing gloves before.

"They're somewhere inside the suitcase. Forget it."

He eventually takes our things from the ground and reaches with his free, gloved hand for my nearly frozen one. He runs his thumb over the back of my palm as if there is a chance of it warming up, when in reality there truly isn't. I walk closer to him.

"Darryl will be irritated. What will we say to him?"

"That we couldn't make it to his wedding," he replies softly. Just like that.


"—Katniss, please, calm down. You're freaking yourself out. Nothing bad is going to happen. Tyler said he and Prim would be the only ones home in case we decided to visit this year, this morning. Mireille is helping my father with something at the bakery."

"The bakery? It is New Year's Eve," I say confused once I register the information he has shared about our parents.

He shrugs. "I don't think whatever they're doing is for a customer. It's for the family," he assumes. I don't doubt his reasoning, but I don't examine any further details, either. If I said it's not convenient, I would be definitely lying.

"This year won't be as silent as it was the last one," I point out.

"Last year was just you, me and Madge. Not to mention she had to be with her own family after midnight. Of course it was quiet."

I gnaw the inside of my cheek. "It was nice." My tone is probably more defensive than necessary, but the implication that the silence I enjoyed so much when Peeta and I were left alone seems suddenly unpleasant to him has an odd way of bothering me.

"It was," he reassures me as if reading my thoughts. There is plenty of things we don't agree on, though, I'm not sure I'd like to argue with him about such an insignificant issue right now. What matters is today, tonight.

"We might be lucky and find some carrots under the table," he says suggestively after a while, effectively confusing me. "If the mistletoe it still on it, that is," he adds amused.

Realization quickly dawns on me. The events of the first New Year I had spent in the house of the Mellarks come rushing back to me. I attempt to concentrate on the fact that I should probably stop referring to them as Mellarks even in my mind—I am supposed to be one, after all—but the heat refuses to leave my face after it has crept up my cheeks.

Peeta notices my blush and laughs quietly at his own joke.

"If you weren't holding all those things, I would have punched you."

He feigns surprise as he meets my eyes. "Is that a threat?"

"No." I scowl. "It is a promise."

Prim's happy squeal will never get old. Even at the age of fifteen and a half she has this miraculously remarkable ability of holding me ridiculously close, anchoring herself to me, and squeezing the breath out of my lungs.

She keeps mumbling my name in my braid—we share the same eye level now—while I try to let the desperate laugh finally escape me in response. Instead, the only thing to be heard is a funny, throaty sound.

"I'm sorry! I'm hurting you," she mumbles under her breath, but not before squeezing my middle one more time. Once I am released, the corners of my lips curl upwards, forming a wide smile.

The door is shut behind Peeta and it is as if she realizes he's with me just now. She runs to his side by the time he disposes the suitcase, capturing him in an embrace he couldn't escape even if he wished for it. He is caught off guard, but soon breathes out in relief as his hands are free from any kind of weight he was holding moments ago. Prim gives him a hasty peck on the left cheek, the one she can reach from the moment she looses her arms around him.

"You came," she declares what we all already know. "About time," she grunts playfully. Peeta ruffles the blonde hair on her head as if she's ten all over again. Prim, however, doesn't seem to mind. The top of her head reaches his nose—her looks and sweet smile could easily make her his little sister. She is his little sister.

"I called at least four times a week," I mutter under my breath, wondering whether she has managed to hear me. The phone calls between my mother—sometimes Dorian, too—and I were particularly rare and short, yet existent and adequate.

"It's not the same, Katniss," she answers. She has heard. "The last time I saw you was five months ago," she reminds me.

Five months ago. District Eight. The toasting.

A spark of recognition flashes in Peeta's eyes as well. Prim rolls her eyes, surprising both me and him and makes a little gesture with her one hand towards the opposite direction of the outlet.

"Come on," she encourages. She yells Tyler's name as she walks towards the bottom of the staircase. My heart beats a little faster inside my chest in what I think to be anticipation and a combination of thousands other feelings I can't quite name at the moment.

"Peeta, your room isn't that bad, after all. Everything looks—" I snort, crossing my arms over my chest. "—fine," I spit. "Chess? Seriously?"

"Took you long enough, sis. I have been trying to convince them to do something else for hours," Tyler complains.

"I wasn't gone for so long," I retort. My eyes narrow at Prim and Peeta. "Just so you know chess is boring."

"High five!" Tyler says excitedly, sticking his palm up in the air for me to reach. I have to admit there is no wonder I have missed this carefree, entertaining side of him. My mother's wedding annulment has benefited us in more ways than one. I can only imagine how hard it might have been for him to try and keep everything in our family in line.

"You two are just lousy at chess, that's why you hate it so much," Peeta teases.

"Lousy at it and very jealous they can't overpower us," Prim adds, a slight smirk playing on her lips.

"Overpower you?" I repeat in disbelief. She mumbles a soft "hhmhm" and her fingers run over her pawns, the white ones. Peeta always lets her make the first move, just like she wishes. Thus, he takes the black ones.

I consider reminding her I am the one who taught her how to play this useless game in the first place, though, soon decide against it. In reality, the only thing I was good at was following my father's instructions as he showed me how to use a knife, cutting branches from the shortest trees and making pawns of my own. Paints were rather expensive for us to afford, so we'd just mark half of the figures with our crayons for school—I could count even those in the fingers of my one hand. Finally, we also drew our own chessboard on the steps of our home in the Seam, in front of the main entrance.

Tyler speaks again, saving me from my possibly paranoid self.

"We could play another game." Prim and Peeta give him a weird, puzzled look. He stands from the armchair and pulls me close to him. "We'll ask from Katniss to teach us how to scowl. Whoever scowls the best is the winner."

Alright. Maybe I haven't missed this carefree, entertaining side of him so much.

The familiar grimace is on my face before I have the chance to control it. The silence in the room is instantly broken by Prim's giggle. She quickly brings her hand to her mouth to hinder any more unwanted sounds or words from coming out. Moments later, though, she miserably fails. Peeta's need to follow her example is futile as well, when his laugh comes out in a combination of a snort and a cough.

As mean as that will seem to me later, I find myself being surprisingly satisfied by the fact that he chokes. Once the real reason of his misfortune comes to mind, however, I am feeling far from guilty. I offer the best glare I can muster at the moment, and it is directed right at him.

Peeta's sheepish, apologetic smile only doubles Tyler's amusement.

"Oh, man," he mumbles and places his open palm over his forehead, before he shakes his head. "I'm never getting married."

I'm never getting married. Yes. This is what I've been telling myself, too.

Tyler was aware of the fact, yet he and Prim were the only ones Peeta and I dared to invite to District Eight for the toasting, which was another surprise for everyone to hear—even me. Better yet, our siblings were who I only dared to call. Peeta had absolutely no clue about the happening of the ritual—although he had made it clear he wanted, truly wanted, it—until he came back from work, just to find the fireplace lit on a late summer day, Prim and Tyler welcoming him after a year's absence on our part.

Peeta never truly asked this from me. The expression on his face had also betrayed how he never truly expected me to agree, if he ever decided to make this move.

"I hear everything's going okay with Miss Cartwright," Peeta teases, the tension from before nearly forgotten. Miss slightly indecisive Cartwright from what I remember from Peeta's descriptions.

It takes Tyler less than five seconds to find the culprit.

"Primrose," he scolds.

I move to give Tyler a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "You can still save yourself. There's really no going back after you let her creep up on you."

He stares at me, gulping slowly and carefully, mouth agape, as I walk towards the chessboard. Everyone is too absorbed by my words to notice when I grab Peeta's king in my fist and wrap my fingers tightly around it, swearing to myself not to let go unless they change their minds about this game.

"Hey!" he and Prim protest in unison.

"Love you, too," is my response.

"Let's make chocolate cake," Tyler suggests.

"Rightnow?" He nods. "My attempts at making cakes are atrocious," I confess what he must have already learned by now.

He just shrugs. "Peeta and I will help," he reminds me.

"Peeta will help on one condition," he says for himself. The second word he emphasizes—besides his name—is the last word of his sentence. That condition gives me a funny feeling I can't quite place at the moment.

"No cake wars." That's why.

"No cake wars," his brother repeats. "We don't want to traumatize little Peet, do we, Katniss?" he adds with a mischievous smirk.

I blush. Again. Hard.

"Do you need help?" I ask my mother, surprising myself by the formality and coldness of my low voice. Her reaction, however, somehow differs than mine.

She turns her head towards my direction with a smile on her face, her eyes barely meeting mine, before she continues her earlier task in the kitchen. It is almost as if she was expecting such a reaction from me—and maybe she has finally become familiar with the way I function, even though I can't exactly admit I understand it fully.

"No," she lets me know. "You should go inside." Then, she looks at me one more time. "Is there anything you need me to bring you?" she asks, seeming genuinely intrigued by the answer I'm planning on giving her. Her tone makes me wonder whether she's a mother talking to her daughter or a hostess talking to a visitor who came by for the New Year's Eve.

I shake my head to clear it from any kind of similar thoughts as well as ideas. She wouldn't have done so much for me, if her children didn't mean something—anything, really—to her.

She perceives the small movement of my head as a negative response and nods in comprehension.

"Mom," I mumble after a while. She hums something after the word slips from my lips, apparently waiting for me to go on, but no further phrases come out, regardless my efforts.

Her gaze locks with mine without a warning and my breath seems to be nearly stuck in my throat. There are so many things left unsaid, there must be something Ican say to her, after all.

"T-thank you," I eventually manage to tell her through unusually difficult exhalations.

She smiles again. "You shouldn't worry. You and Peeta are here for only a week. If we don't take care of you now, when will we?"

I realize she believes I thanked her for her earlier offer.

"No, mom." She gives me a quizzical look. "Thank you." I approach her, my steps timid and small, but steady enough and decisive. Determination is what I have been lacking from the very start of the day. "For accepting me—us," I instinctively correct myself and keep going. "For welcoming us here," I repeat.

She opens her mouth, the troubled creases on her forehead evident, as if to protest. I interrupt her possible train of thought, simultaneously preventing her from speaking. Voicing whatever she might have in mind will only make my attempts at expressing myself harder and more complicated than they already are.

For the wedding annulment, nearly two years ago.

"For Peeta," I say instead.

She mimics my actions from before and takes a single step towards me. Closeness would have been a wonder to both of us any other time, but when her hand reaches for me this time, I don't jerk away from her, like I would normally do. Her fingers ghost ever so slightly over the fabric of my sweater, before they drop back down.

"All you needed to do was ask," she assures me gently.

"I couldn't," I profess. "I couldn't do that when I didn't even know what I wanted. Not when I thought permanently moving to Eight with Madge was the best choice I had." I thought?"And it was helpful, mom," I add. "Being away from everything was okay for once."

Saying it those words while facing my mother somehow feels different than speaking through a simple electronic device. It is more personal, harder for the sentences to lose their initial value.

"The first week was okay," I mutter, averting my eyes. I notice her bewilderment before I do so. "The second week was the one Peeta appeared," I explain.

"Hadn't he told you anything beforehand?" She sounds taken aback in one way or another. To say I am as surprised as she is at the moment, might be an understandment. Maybe I wasn't the only one completely unaware of his plans. At least this is what I was in the beginning.

I chuckle. "I had left Madge's number here and he…he remembered. He actually remembered. He called her and she let him stay at her house until we sorted things out and found an apartment. She told me nothing about his phone call. He had asked her not to."

She is listening to me carefully. "It must have been a nice surprise."

It looks like I can't help the scoff. "No."

"No?" she repeats, the word a question for me to reply to.

"When I saw him there I was so…" I pause for a minute, considering the most fitting characterization. "…so angry," I eventually decide to say. I knit my eyebrows together, watching as the dreamy smile falls from her lips.

"I wasn't prepared for it. I thought we had agreed he wouldn't try anything—the divorce might have changed matters for him, but I wasn't affected at all by it. At first," I admit. "I was angry at him for taking the initiative to leave Twelve and irritated at Madge for agreeing to help him without asking me." I shake my head. "But they had every right to act as they wished. Neither Peeta had to get my permission to travel nor Madge had to hear my opinion about who she would host in her house."

"I would have been bothered," she tells me.

I continue without commenting on her reassurance. "Then, I was angry at myself." Which was the worst part."I didn't know what I felt about the situation, about both Peeta and Madge, didn't know what I wanted or what I had to do. It was a perfect mess. All inside my head."

"Peeta helped you," she states matter-of-factly.

"He did," I confirm. "But I yelled at him. It wasn't pretty."

Suddenly, Prim pokes her head in the room curiously. "Mom? Katniss? Aren't you coming?"

"Of course," my mother answers.

"You should see Luke," she says with a grin, flashing her teeth. "He's gotten quite attached to Peeta's shirt."

"That should be interesting," I point out.

"Nah," she retorts. "Peeta looks like he's enjoying his time with his nephew." She snorts. "Of course he is. He doesn't have hair." She gestures at her blonde braid with a grimace.

"Oh come on, Prim. Luke is five and a half months old. He's just a baby."

"You only need to hold him to change your mind. You won't be calling him just a baby after that," she insists.

I roll my eyes, folding my arms over my chest. My eyes fall back on our mother. "Mom?" I call. "Darryl and Ingrid stayed in Twelve the whole time."


"Peeta and I weren't here for their wedding," I remind her. "I couldn't come. I couldn't make it so early. I just don't want Peeta to feel guilty because of his decision to be with me. It's his brother and he could have been present and—"

She makes a shushing sound, interrupting my monologue. "Darryl and Ingrid both understood your need for privacy," she says.

"You think?"

"I know it, Katniss. However, I do believe you should talk to them about it personally." Her eyes fall on Prim who's watching our exchange suspiciously. "Come on," she urges, then. "Let's go."

Only when the previously empty spot beside Peeta is occupied by me, do I fully comprehend my sister's words.

His sweater is now replaced by a dark olive-colored shirt (he had been wearing those a lot after a meaningless conversation including information about my favorite color—green always reminds me of the woods my father introduced to me, the woods I met Gale, the woods that ensured me the unique feeling of freedom), while the creases on the fabric don't easily go unnoticed. Seeing Luke as he literally tries to rip Peeta's clothes off him with his tiny fists is a funny sight. At some point, Peeta gets the chance to realize he needs to take care of his shirt's fifth button, his eyes searching mine for help—I infer mostly out of habit. He spots the glass of water in my hands and exhales deeply, before Ingrid extends both of her arms forward, silently offering to take her son.

Peeta shakes his head with a smile on his face as he straightens his clothes. I take a sip of my water, just big enough to quench my newfound thirst. It's not long—only a matter of seconds—before I choke.

"This never ends," Dorian jokes, making a small gesture towards the baby—I assume he's referring to his boys—and lets out a brief laugh. He turns to me, making me feel a strange urge to sink a little further in the couch. Darryl arches an eyebrow, while Tyler crosses his arms with an annoyed huff.

His next words are my undoing.

"My Katniss knows how much I want a granddaughter."

It's a miracle the water in my mouth isn't spilled all over my lap, even though it still goes down the wrong way. Peeta rushes to lean forward, taking the glass from my hands, his hand softly tapping my back until the coughing stops and my ragged breathing finally calms down.

"You okay?" he asks. I slowly nod, looking at him through glassy eyes, not completely trusting myself with words at the moment. He looks at Dorian. "Dad. Please."

Tyler decides to fill in the gaps for his father.

"Katniss has to be alive to give you your granddaughter," he interprets. "Please, don't kill her," he adds in mock seriousness. His immaturity does not cease to exist—not even at the age of twenty one. I have almost no time to prepare a glare for him. To my utter surprise, Peeta beats me to it.

His father already knows we're not officially married. There was nothing other than the toasting—the idea of a granddaughter is simply insane.

"Um…there are three hours left," Prim announces as she takes a look at the clock, in an attempt to break the tension. I follow her gaze, just to realize there are indeed only three hours left until the New Year comes.

Darryl sighs. I watch his son moving, struggling and kicking in his mother's embrace. I wonder if the child sleeps at all.

Once he pulls the duvet from around me, lifting it ever so slightly as he climbs into his bed, he earns an odd noise of protest.

"I'm cold," I whine.

He gives me a wry smile. "Then, c'mere." He snakes an arm around my waist and drags me closer. My nose wrinkles.


"Who's going to turn the lights off, you genius?"

He sticks his bottom lip out a little further than his upper one and I eventually realize he's trying to pout. I press my thumb against it.

"Let me look at it," I volunteer. "Is it swollen? Maybe you should ask my mother to treat it tomorrow morning."

"Fine, fine, I'll do it," he breathes in defeat and stands on his feet once more, making his way towards the light switch. He's back before I have the chance to have all the covers for myself, even for a little while.

Indulging the silence in the mute darkness isn't for too long—strangely enough, I am the one who breaks it instead of Peeta.

"I thought today would be bad," I mutter, mostly for myself to hear. "It wasn't bad."

"You're a dummy," he whispers. "I don't even know why you were so worried about Darryl. He didn't come in our toasting, either," he reasons.

"This is different. We didn't invite him."

"He didn't invite anyone in his toasting, either. He just wanted us here when we were not ready to come."When I was not ready to come,I correct in my head. He finds my hand and squeezes it as if sensing my uneasiness.

"I talked with my mom. She said we'd better talk to them." I give him a minute to process my words. "I want to. Just to make sure."

"Tomorrow," he promises.

"Tomorrow," I agree.

"You talked with Mireille," he tells me as if he hadn't found out until now. I nod against his shoulder. "You're good with her, then?"

"Sure," I mumble. "We're okay."

"At least your mother wants you," he whimpers in my hair. Shit.

I move backwards until I am sandwiched in between the wall and his body. I prop my weight on my elbows.

"Peeta." I lean toward him, tracing his jaw line with my index finger. "Hey," I call. "Don't even think about it." I can't see his face clearly in the darkness, but my hand can easily locate him. He has turned away from me.

This is undoubtedly neither the first nor the last time I realize our visit to District Six had been an absolutely horrific idea. Associating with the witch was not what I had been planning or wishing for, but she obviously meant something to Peeta. Even though I never imagined she would ask for forgiveness, he somehow was under the impression he could fix everything—or maybe just something—up by making conversation, pouring his heart out to her. What she did in return, however, was nothing but take advantage of his good nature, almost making us doubt why we were in this together in the first place. The truth is that her cruel, insulting comments affected me a lot more than I had originally expected.

It would hurt less, if she was dead, Peeta had said—it was so unlike him, it terrified me. Because she wouldn't say anything to him, she wouldn't destroy the image he had created for her in his mind, she wouldn't push him away and make him hate her, even if he can't really hate. Thus, I didn't object or disagree with him on every statement he would make about her.

His hands feel numb as they travel up my back.

"Sorry I brought it up," he murmurs as I nuzzle his temple. His arms lock tightly around me, knocking the breath out of me.

"Peeta." He whispers something I can't quite catch in my ear. His name is heard one more time, the urgency increased. "Can't breathe."

We both gasp as he releases me, apologizing again.

"Happy New Year," he manages to say in the end.

"Right." I press my palm against my lips, trying to suppress a small yawn. "Happy New Year," I repeat after him.

Three minutes have barely passed before I hear his voice again.

"Are you asleep?" he asks quietly.

"Yes," I reply, keeping my eyes shut.

"You know, I have been thinking…" My muffled groan reaches his ears and he trails off, leaving his sentence unfinished.

"C'mon. Go ahead," I urge, curling a part of his nightshirt in my fist. He won't be calm unless he speaks.

"Maybe being your brother wasn't so awful," he says.

"It wasn't?" My eyes fly open.

"No, I mean it was, but it was nice, too. I think I would never find the courage to talk to you. Mireille and dad catching up was my chance, I guess." He pauses, then continues. "I never considered it a chance, but it still was."

"You wouldn't talk to me? Not even if I asked for a loaf of bread?"

"It depends. Would you have a squirrel?"

"Probably." I chew on my bottom lip.

"I like your squirrels. We'd have a deal."

"Deal." I laugh, burying my face in the crook of his neck.

"Why are you laughing at me?" He digs his fingers in my one side, making my throat elicit an embarrassing squeal in surprise. "Shh…we'll wake them all up." He adds something that sounds like "so ticklish" under his breath and hugs my ribs.

"Peeta," I protest while trying to escape. "I. Cannot. Breathe."

One more push and he'll fall off the bed.