I do not claim any ownership to The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Chapter Eight

He was so incredibly nice.

She wasn't a fan of the word but she found it hard trying to find something vague enough to put all of the good qualities he seemed to have an abundance of into one word. If she really wanted to she could write a list that went for miles as to how wonderful Peeta Mellark was.

The week after she agreed to start dating him he sent her a small arrangement of flowers. The note read:

'To cheer your students up about their test.'

He had volunteered himself to take the test himself when she had drawn it up. After receiving a hearty C and a disappointed note on punctuation he had looked as though he were about to weep.

"You're worse than any professor I've ever had."

She shrugged him off and told him he should have asked the school for his money back. Katniss couldn't help the snort of laughter she offered as she said that to him. He grinned.

He was always grinning.

She found he loved to surprise her. Peeta was a common sight at the teacher's longue at lunch time now and Madge was beside herself.

"Marry him." Madge blurted suddenly when Peeta had left them so he could go back to work.

"It's only been three weeks."

"He brings food." Her friend gestured to the container of sugar cookies he had left them. Katniss tugged at her braid.

"And that's enough reason to marry him?" Madge pouted.

"But it's good food!" She shoved one of the cookies into her mouth. "See? Delicious!" Her voice was muffled from the chewing. Then she moaned. "So delicious… and free!"

"Jesus Madge…"

"What are you thinking about?" Peeta placed a plate in front of her. Katniss was sitting in the kitchen of the apartment above the bakery.

"Free food," she said as she took the fork and wound the pasta around it before putting it in her mouth. She sighed. "Good free food."

"Care to elaborate?" She shook her head. He shrugged and placed a kiss to her forehead before going off to prepare his own plate.

He was just so nice.

Katniss had been having a wonderful dream.

She was making French toast and Prim was singing along to a song on the radio. Her sister's smile was bright as she sang each and every note out of key and laughing at the shrillness of her voice. It was a dream mixed with various memories or the many morning Katniss and her sister spent together.

Of course she was upset when someone decided in the middle of this half dream, half memory decided to knock on her door.

She pushed herself from the mattress, stumbling on a pair of shoes and some dirty laundry she hadn't bothered to pick up. If that Peeta had suddenly decided to make morning calls one of his surprises he would soon learn this was not a good idea.

"You're going to become a nuisance-"She stopped, all of her fury dying as she saw who stood in front of her.

Gale offered her a lopsided grin. "Sorry, this is the only time I could drop by." Katniss pressed her lips in to a thing line. He looked tired. His hair was disheveled and the dark circles under his eyes spoke of endless hours spent without sleep. "Are you going to invite me in?"

She nodded mutely, stepping aside. He went passed her and took a moment to examine her living space. He chuckled and shook his head and went to sit on the couch.

"I never took you to be the messy type."

"Things happen." Katniss took to the armchair, bringing her knees up and playing with the bottoms of her pajama pants. She was at a loss. She couldn't begin to think why Gale would show up at her apartment so early in the morning. Come to think of it… "How did you find out where I live?"

"Your mother," he leaned back in to the cushions and pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes. "She may have mentioned a few details as to your whereabouts. Do you know how many adult bookstores have apartments in the back?" She shook her head. "Three. One of the places is much nicer than this, you should look into it if the reason you're here is because it's so close to your preference of literature." He snickered and she narrowed her eyes at him.

"I chose here because I thought it would discourage visitors. As of late I've found this theory to be completely wrong." Katniss sighed and pulled her arms around her legs tighter. "What do you think you're doing here at this time of night Gale?"

"I just came to tell you I think maybe you should go visit your mother for a bit."

"What?" He was looking at her now, the bags under his eyes dark and unmistakable. "You're not serious, you came at-"

"It's not like you to just do as your told huh?" This made her bristle.

"Don't fuck with me Gale, I have to be at work in a few hours and I seriously don't think my students would thank you for putting me in a bad mood." He chuckled and it struck her that the dark sound that resonated from his chest still sounded the same as it had all those years ago.

"Listen, all those rumors going around, about there being an uprising-"

"What?" Gale snapped his mouth shut. He should've known she wouldn't have actively participated in the gossip.

"Katniss… Have you noticed anything different about your walk to and from work?"

She could not say that she had. She also could not say that her walk from work consisted of one broad shouldered blond taking up the majority of her attention. She shook her head again. No.

"Okay… Just- Okay," he leaned back again. He thought for a moment before going on. "There's going to be some stuff happening soon here… In the city. I just really think it would be best if you got out of here for a while, lay low, and stay safe." Katniss furrowed her brow.

"You're not talking about the conspiracy theory Gale?" She huffed. Madge had been going on and on about it the other day. Apparently the riot in Duodenary had sparked her interest in the subject. "I have better things to do with my time than to go hide from a so called "rebellion". Now I appreciate your concern, I guess, but I really have to get some sleep." She stood from her seat and moved towards the door. Gale followed.

"Katniss, really I need you to listen to me-"

"No, Gale. Final exams are here and I need to do important things for my job." She opened the door. "Seriously, leave." He shrugged his shoulders in defeat and made no move to fight her further. Before he left he turned back one last time.

"Just please stay safe."

"I'll do my best," she replied in a tone bordering sarcasm.

The door shook in its frame with the force of her closing it.

"He seemed genuinely concerned."

'Oh, super concerned. He shows up at my door in the middle of the night after how many years?'

"He didn't asked to be shut out Katniss… you did that."

She shook Prim's voice out of her head. The last thing she needed right now was a subconscious guilt tripping her into calling Gale back. Her alarm clock came to life in her bedroom and she gritted her teeth. At least she would not be late today.

The bakery's smell had become such a comfort to her, its warmth always welcoming her in a pleasant blanket of good smells and chattering patrons. Delly smiled at her from the counter this morning, her frizzing blond hair pulled back to keep from the baked goods. Katniss smiled back.

"You're here early," Delly sang as she moved around the counter and pulled Katniss in for a hug. She stiffened slightly but not so much as she used to when she first started coming to the bakery in the mornings to see Peeta. Delly was rather… friendly. It was no wonder why Peeta had her working at the front counter. "You can go on back. It'll be a nice surprise. He gets so antsy when you're late."

Katniss nodded and shrugged off her coat. She crept towards the back, mindful of the creaky floorboards as she snuck up on him. He was kneading dough at a far table. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up and she could make out the flour that went from his sturdy hands working the dough up to his elbows. He kept using his shoulder to try and get his hair out of his eyes.

"You should get a hair-cut." She called out. He whipped his head around squinting at her through his hair, his hands still kneading the dough. Katniss leaned against the wall.

"You're early." He stopped. "Hug?"

"You'll get me dirty." He smirked.

"Maybe that's exactly what I want to do." She blushed.

"I have to be at the school soon." He moved towards her, arms spread out in a way one would if they were trying to catch something. She suddenly realized she had cornered herself. There was a wickedness to his blue eyes she was not liking. "Peeta," she said in warning. "Mellark, if you make me walk all the way back to my-"

The ground shook beneath them. Peeta reached forward steadying Katniss. His expression became hard.

"An earthquake?" She asked, no longer concerned with the flour on her sleeves from where he grabbed her.

"No," he breathed.

Everything was eerily still and then the ground shook again, knocking over the various utensils off of the counter. The sound of breaking glass was everywhere and Katniss felt her knees grow weak. Peeta pulled her closer and put his lips close to her ear.

"Listen, I need for you to stay calm, okay?" His cell phone went off in his pocket and he cursed, ignoring it. Katniss had not heard him curse before. "Something is happening and I need for you to listen carefully, Katniss, do you hear me?"

She was suddenly aware of the fact that Delly had shut the door to the shop and the kitchen. She was no longer smiling as she bolted the door shut and moved to the back window, peering from the side as though hiding from someone who may be looking in.

"Katniss?" His hands were at her cheeks now as the ground shook once more, followed by what sounded like an explosion. His hands smelled like flour. He always smelled like flour. Delly moved away from the window then and opened the back door and there he was again. Gale. There was blood coming from a cut on his forehead.

"Oh thank god," he breathed.

"What's going on?" She finally managed turning back and finally looking at Peeta. His steady gaze calmed her.

"It's started."

"What has?" She croaked, already knowing the answer despite her previous denial.

"The rebellion."