A/N: Thank you all for taking this lovely journey with me. As my first fanfic, I would like to think it went pretty well. However, I am not exactly sure if I'm okay with it or where it has been going (which has been nowhere, really). So this will be the last chapter. But before your hearts break (I know, I'm modest ;P) I want you all to know that this story is not finished. Think of these first 24 chapters as a prequel (I know, a VERY long prequel… but it's just the beginning of Cato and Katniss' journey!). I just really need my story to have a direction and as of now, I have no idea where it's going. So, I need to pause it until I can figure that part out. I love you all so much for reading and reviewing and subscribing to my story! I promise you, I will be working on making the next installment for this story. But for now, I think I'm going to start working on a new fanfic. I need to clear my mind so I can think of something extraordinary for Cato and Katniss! Please bear with me and look out for my next fanfic! And please never forget how much you all mean to me! I will never forget all the kind words I've gotten for this fanfic and I promise that as soon as I have more free time, I will start the second part to this story! Believe me; I love Cato and Katniss as much as you all! I just want to do it right. Please read and enjoy this last chapter! I've tried to make sure it is extra special for you all! Lots of love! 3

Chapter 24

I wake up feeling sticky and hot. I can feel Cato's heavy arm draped over my waist and I smile, thankful to have him lying next to me once more. It's strange how accustomed to him I have become in such a short amount of time.

I mean, it still feels like only yesterday when I wanted to claw his eyes out in the hospital. I remember how I was so upset that he was in the hospital with me that the doctors couldn't even trust me to stay coherent without doing damage to myself or someone else. And now, I find comfort in his arms that I don't think I can ever find again; not in the woods, hunting like I used to; not even in the smiles and pats that Prim gives me as comfort.

I feel safer than I've ever felt in my entire life, and I guess I partially have the Capitol to thank for that. I laugh to myself as I process this ridiculous idea. The Capitol has taken my father, Peeta, Rue, and my entire childhood away, and yet it has brought me Cato.

If someone would have come up to me during training and told me that I would fall head over heels for the monstrosity from District 2, I would have laughed in their face. Now, I don't even like imagining being without him. Hell, I was pretty miserable in District 13 when he was gone. I felt useless. I missed him so much it was almost crippling.

As I ponder all of this, I carefully turn so that I'm facing the still sleeping Cato. He looks so peaceful when he sleeps, and I'm again reminded of how when I first walked into his hospital room my guard dropped, seeing him like this. And even though he was faking sleeping, just seeing him lying down with his eyes closed and no emotion on his face made me want to trust him.

I study his face, following the angle of his perfectly sculpted jaw to his messy, blonde hair. I want to reach up and run my fingers through it, but I know I'll wake him if I do that. So instead, I just look. I watch his eyes flutter underneath their lids, and think of his piercing blue eyes.

Much like Peeta's, they make me weak in the knees. I never admitted it when Peeta was around, but his eyes made me feel like I could actually have a normal life, with love and laughter and happiness. Of course, all of that was shattered because of the games. That and I barely knew him.

But unlike Peeta's eyes, Cato's have that something extra that I just can't place. There's more hurt in his eyes; he's seen more pain and suffering than Peeta. I'm sure most of that has had to do with his upbringing, having had to spend his entire life training to fight 23 other children to the death. He missed out on a real childhood, much like I did. And I can see that in his eyes. He understands me and I understand him.

His lips twitch a little, almost forming a smile. I wonder what he's dreaming about. Deep down, I hope he's dreaming about me. But in all honesty, I'm just glad he's having a good dream instead of a nightmare. I'm happy that my presence does just as much good to him as his does to me. I love that I don't have nightmares when I'm with him. Sure, maybe one day, the novelty of having his big, strong arms around me might fade and the nightmares might return. But at least I know I'll have him to wake up to, to hold me until I calm down.

His eyes flutter open and a grin takes over his closed mouth. "Hey." He almost whispers, our faces so close that I can feel his breath on mine.

"Hey." I smile back, enjoying our closeness.

"How long have you been awake?" He asks, not moving from our position.

"Not too long." I say happily, still taking in his facial structure as we talk.

"You should have woken me." He pulls me in tighter.

"I thought about it. But I like watching you when you sleep." My cheeks burn and I listen to how weird that sounds. But I really shouldn't care. I'm just being honest.

"I like watching you sleep too. You look so peaceful." He says, placing a soft kiss on my forehead as I turn to rest my head on his chest. My head rises and falls with his breathing and it relaxes me.

"Being with you makes me feel peaceful." I mumble, enjoying the serene feeling flowing through me. And it's the truth. Whenever he is near me, I'm much calmer. I've been known to have quite a temper, but when I'm around him it's suppressed quite a bit.

We just lie there in each other's arms for what feels like hours. Neither of us moves much, except when Cato has to move me to his other side when his arm falls asleep.

A thought pops into my head, breaking the silence. "How did you find those hot springs? You must have only arrived up at the bunker half a day before me, if that." I look up at him to see a grin forming on his face.

"Castiel told me how to find it. He thought we deserved a night out." I feel the fire flooding my cheeks, wondering if Castiel had any idea of what we did.

I decide right then that I should steer clear of him for a while, for the sake of my dignity. I'd rather not have him think Cato and I are just horny teenagers. Especially when it means so much more than that to the both of us. We do it for the closeness that we get from it; for the way we get to express our love for each other.

"What are you thinking about?" He asks with a sly grin and I realize he's spotted my blushing.

"Nothing really. Just… I wonder if Castiel knew—you know." I sputter, not being able to get the words out. I know I shouldn't have an issue talking about this with him, but I do. It just means so much to me, and we haven't talked about it too much. I like that though, it just makes it feel more special to me.

He chuckles as my cheeks get brighter. "Oh, that? Probably." My eyes go wide and I playfully slap him.

"You aren't supposed to be okay with that! Everyone's going to think we're just horny, irresponsible teenagers." My voice drops a little as I say the last part, remembering that we haven't been using any sort of protection. Maybe I should go talk to my mom about that, although I'm sure she'll be disappointed in me.

"No one is going to think that, Katniss. For one, we've been through way too much to be considered anything less than adults. And if anyone thinks otherwise, they should take a walk in our shoes. We've had to endure more than most of the adults here have, so I'm pretty sure they'll forgive us for being in love. And as for the irresponsible part, we're covered for at least another few months or so." I look up at him confused and he explains. "Back in District 2, all of us kids had to focus everything on training. Training even came before schooling. So did relationships. And it got hard, having to spend almost all day every day with the same group of people. And so, before I was even old enough to train, a bunch of the older kids kept sneaking relationships behind our trainers' backs. That is, until a few of them got pregnant. Thee trainers never even thought of that as a possibility. So they made a rule: as soon as everyone turned 14, we were forced to take these pills. They're somewhat of a birth control, I guess. And they're supposed to last a year. I took mine a few months before the games."

"Oh." I say flatly. I honestly hadn't even been thinking about protection until now. Which is crazy, since I swore off having children long ago. I look down as I say this last part, as I'm a little ashamed of myself. "I hadn't even thought about that."

"I didn't either. But then after a couple of times, I remembered. I meant to tell you, but you always end up distracting me." He teases a smile out of me and I hug him closer, glad that he can make my guilt go away with such ease.

His stomach chooses that moment to grumble, and I realize we've slept through breakfast and probably lunch as well. I laugh at him and realize I'm actually quite hungry as well. I try to roll away from him to get out of bed but he holds me there.

"I love you Katniss Everdeen. You know that, right?" He nuzzles my hair and I turn my face to look up at him.

"Yes, I do. And I love you." I say back. I try to get out of his grasp again but he doesn't budge. "We have to eat sometime, you know." I say to him sternly.

He groans but doesn't release his hold on me. "I know. I just want to lie like this forever." And he plants a kiss on my forehead as he loosens his grip. We both get dressed quickly and lace our fingers together as we walk down to the cafeteria.

We're greeted by a smiling Greasy Sae, who is busy piling up the food on our plates. "Good evening, you two. I was beginning to wonder if the rumors about you being back were true."

I blush and look away as I grab my plate. Cato, on the other hand, gives Greasy Sae one of his heart melting smiles. "Oh, Sae! I knew I wouldn't be able to stay away from you for very long." I look up to see her rolling her eyes at him, her cheeks turning pink.

I grab onto Cato's elbow with my free hand and yank him away before he has Greasy Sae full on swooning over him. I spot Briar sitting alone at a table in the far corner of the room and head for her. When we sit down, she smiles up at us.

"I thought you guys were going to sleep all day." As she glances at the clock on the wall, she snorts a little. "I guess you almost did." She goes back to her food as we begin to dig into ours.

The food here hits the spot, and I am once again thankful to be out of District 13. I enjoy the food, savoring each little bite.

"Where's Ryker? And Prim?" Cato asks Briar, curiously.

"They're in the hospital visiting Mom. We've been taking shifts all day." Cato's face lights up at the mention of his mother.

"How is she doing?" He begins eating his food quicker, and I know he wants to hurry up so we can go see her. I pick up the pace of my eating as well.

"She's doing alright. She's been asleep mostly. But Mrs. Everdeen said that was normal." She shrugs, getting back to her food. I notice she's rushing through her meal as well.

We finish the rest of our food in silence, only minutes later. As we head for the infirmary, Cato picks up the pace. Briar has long legs, so she has no problem keeping up with him. But I'm almost running next to him.

We reach Marigold's room quickly and find Ryker and Prim sitting on a couch in the far corner of the room. Marigold is sleeping on the bed, and I smile. She looks so peaceful, like her pain is finally gone. Prim nods to us when we come in, and Cato and I take the seats next to the bed.

Cato grabs his mother's hand with his free hand and pulls it up to his mouth. He places a gentle kiss on it and she stirs.

"Cato." Her voice is a little grainy, but she smiles at him. "I'm glad you're back. How's your father?" Concern floods her face as she remembers her unwell husband.

"He's doing fine, Mom. Try not to worry about him right now. Just focus on healing, okay?" Cato looks at her sternly and I have to hold back a laugh. He seems to have taken over the parenting role for the moment. She squeezes his hand before dropping it to turn and look at her other children.

"Briar, Ryker. I told you two to go out and enjoy the day. You shouldn't be cooped up in this room with me." She's now speaking quite sternly to them and Cato grins at her.

"But Mom, we wanted to make sure you weren't lonely." Ryker whines at her as he walks over to her bed. She places her hand on his.

"Go outside. That's an order." She looks past him to stare at Briar and they both nod. "I have your brother to keep me company for a little while." She turns and smiles at Cato. "I want to hear all about District 13."

Cato sighs, and I stand up. I want to give them some time alone. Plus, I should really go visit Madge. Cato gives me a strange look and I just smile at him. "I'm going to go check on Madge. I'll find you later." He nods as he squeezes my hand, and then turns back to his mother. Marigold smiles up at me, as if thanking me for giving them a minute alone.

I make my way down the hallway and to Madge's room. I hear talking behind the door, and almost turn around to leave. But then it opens and I'm standing face to face with Gale.

"Hey. I was just coming to check on Madge. I'm sorry about yesterday." I give him a guilty smile and he grins back.

"It's okay, Catnip. I know you had to go find your boy toy." I glare at him playfully. He leans closer to me and whispers. "Madge is doing really well. They're thinking about letting her out soon." And with that, he walks away.

I slide into the room before the door shuts and see that Madge is not strapped down.

"Katniss! I was worried when you didn't come by to visit the last few days." My guilt rises to my face, but Madge stops me before I can apologize. "It's okay, Gale explained everything. That Coin is a witch!" She laughs and I can't help but laugh with her.

I sit on her bed and make myself comfortable. Madge and I have never been the type of friends who talked about boys, but then again, I was never really the type of girl who had anything to say about boys. Things have changed, I smile to myself.

"So, what's with you and Gale?" I waggle my eyebrows at her and she narrows her eyes at me.

"What do you mean?" She looks away as I make eye contact with her, and I know she's hiding something.

"I know Gale, probably better than I know myself. He's not really the kind of person who visits people he hardly knows." Madge looks back towards me and her cheeks are turning pink.

"I like him." She almost whispers and I can't help but smile at her.

"He's a good guy." I say, and she smiles. I decide to end that conversation because I know Gale would kill me if I pried too much more. But Madge wants to pry.

"So, Gale told me about you and Cato." Now it's her turn to waggle her eyebrows at me. I throw pillow at her and she giggles. "That bad, huh?"

"What exactly did Gale tell you?" I narrow my eyes and she looks away.

"Nothing, really. Just that you two were really close." The way she emphasizes really makes my cheeks burn. She giggles as she sees my embarrassment.

"I love him." I say plainly and she grins, hugging me.

"Thank goodness! I was worried you were going to be an old cat lady! Can I meet him?" This makes me crack up.

"Cat lady? I hate cats! And they really aren't big fans of me either. And yes, I'm sure he'd love to meet you." I laugh as I think about Buttercup and how he hisses at me every time I walk in the door.

"You and Buttercup haven't made nice yet?" She grins at me as I shoot her a dirty look.

"Not in a million years." We laugh for a while before things grow silent. Then I remember something that will make her laugh even harder. "Oh, yeah! Speaking of never in a million years, you'll never guess who's getting cozy together!" And I go on, gossiping about Haymitch and Effie and their strange relationship. Madge had known Effie quite well, as Effie had always stayed in the Mayor's house during her visits to our district. Madge had never been able to stand her, though, and I remember us making fun of her during reruns of the games at lunch.

As we laugh and joke and I fill her in on all the latest drama, I smile to myself. It's strange, speaking like this with her. Neither of us have ever been the girly types who gossip or talk about boys, but this just feels right. It feels like maybe I've finally gotten the chance to be a normal teenage girl. Except, of course, I'll never have that innocence again. Not after killing other children. Not after having Rue die in my arms or watching Peeta die in front of me.

But at least I can enjoy this. I can sit with my friend and just talk.

"Did you hear? They might let me out soon!" Madge exclaims when we finally run out of things to say.

"Gale mentioned it to me! That's great! It will be nice to get to take you outside. You'll love all the amazing sights around here." I become excited, thinking of all the places I can show her.

"I know! I'm so glad to finally get out of here. I think being down here actually made it worse for me. It's been hard." There are tears in her eyes and I pull her in for a hug.

"I know. But you're better now, and that's all that matters." I try to comfort her, but I know she's thinking about her parents, not being stuck down in this room.

She pulls away and smiles, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "Exactly! And I can take a few of your survival classes! I've heard they are quite educational." She laughs at me and I give her a strange look. "Prim came in a few days ago and told me all about one of your co-teachers. I think his name was Finnick? She said she perfected knot tying after having him teach her for a few hours." I laugh, imagining my sister sitting in front of Finnick, pretending not to know how to tie knots. I know for a fact that she can. I shake my head, realizing my sister is quite clever. Too bad someone's going to have to mention to Prim that Finnick already has Annie.

"I can't say I blame her. He's beautiful." I laugh, and the door opens.

"Are you talking about me?" Cato peeks in from the half opened door and Madge giggles. She's about to open her mouth to burst his bubble, but I stop her.

"Of course!" I lie through my teeth as I try not to laugh. This makes Madge laugh even harder. He gives me a suspicious look before turning to Madge.

"I'm Cato, but I guess you've already figured that out." He holds out his hand and she grabs it, still giggling too hard to speak. I turn and glare at her and she quiets.

"Of course. I'm Madge." She manages to spit out.

"So what were you two giggling about? Because I know it can't be about my great looks." He grins cockily as he lowers himself into a chair.

"We were just talking about the class Katniss teaches. As soon as I get out, I'm joining one of them." She grins.

"Really? You don't look like you need any survival tips. I bet you could teach a class yourself!" She blushes and I roll my eyes. But I do understand the effect he has on the opposite sex. It's hard not to blush every time he speaks to you, even though sometimes his compliments make no sense.

"I wouldn't survive a day out there alone. Katniss tried to show me how to make a trap once when a rabbit was eating all the lettuce out of my garden, but my snare was so awful, I couldn't even catch my gardener with it. The snare Katniss set up caught both the rabbit and my gardener." We all laugh and I remember trying to show her. I also remember having to help her get her gardener, Mr. Costwell, out of my snare. I should have had Gale teach her how to make the snares. He's the one who taught me, after all. Snares are not my strong point.

After a while of joking around, Madge begins to yawn. I look up at the clock and realize it's gotten pretty late. "We better head out. I'm sure you're ready to go to bed. I'll come back tomorrow?" She nods and her eyelids droop a little. I give her a hug before getting up, and Cato waves to her as we walk out.

"I can see how you two are friends." He says as he grabs my hand.

"Oh really? What's that supposed to mean?" I look up at him.

He just grins and shakes his head. "Nothing really. I can just see why you get along so well. She's a lot like you, you know?" I nod thoughtfully, never actually thinking Madge and I had much in common. I mean, neither of us had many friends, but that's about where our similarities ended. Or at least I thought they did. She had lived a pretty privileged life, never having to skip meals. But she was never snobby. She never took her father's status for granted either. I think that's why I liked her so much.

I hear heavy, quick footsteps ahead of us and I look up to see Gale running towards us. There's fear in his face and he stops abruptly as he reaches us. He's out of breath, clutching his side.

"Gale, what's wrong?" I can see it in his eyes.

He's still trying to catch his breath, but he answers. "We. Need. To. Evacuate." He says between heavy inhales. I'm about to ask him why, but he's already running for Madge. Cato and I turn and look at each other before Cato shrugs and turns to follow Gale.

Before we reach her room, Gale has already gotten Madge up and out of bed. They meet us in the hallway and Gale has caught his breath back. We can't walk too fast because Madge hasn't gotten much use of her legs in the past few weeks. But Gale still keeps a steady pace.

"The Capitol—Well, District 13 is planning an attack tonight." I shoot him a confused look and he rolls his eyes. "Here. They're attacking us. Tonight." He says it slowly, apparently impatient with my lack of connection.

"Why?" Cato asks next, his grip tightening around my hand.

"Coin. She doesn't want there to be another rebel group." Cato nods, as if accepting this as a perfectly good explanation. His face grows pale as he remembers something. "I have to get my family."

"I already got them. They're in a safe place. We can't go there now, or we could lead our attackers to them." We're now making our way up the spiral hallway, and I notice it's empty. I wonder where everyone is.

But I don't ask. Instead, I just follow, my fingers laced with Cato's turning white as I grip him tighter. We're almost to the entrance of the bunker when the ground begins to shake.

"Shit!" Gale yells, scooping up Madge so that we can run. Cato and I understand, and follow quickly behind him. We run through the cavern, our footsteps echoing. We stop abruptly at the waterfall and Gale sets Madge down. He turns and holds a finger to his lips before disappearing.

My heart is pounding in my chest and I want to follow him, to make sure he's okay. But Cato won't loosen the grip on my hand, so I'm stuck against his side.

Gale comes back and I sigh in relief. He motions for us to follow and we do. We step out into the darkness and my eyes are forced to focus. I turn back and see fire in the woods behind us. That must be where they dropped the first bomb. I realize that they don't actually know where the bunker is.

I stumble over a rock and decide that I need to watch where I'm going. Gale and Madge are ahead of me, and I can see him picking up his speed. He begins running into the woods and Madge trips. Cato lets go of my hand and scoops her up. Gale turns back but Cato motions for him to keep going. I follow behind Cato and as we run, the ground shakes again.

I almost lose my balance, but I catch myself before I fall. I have no idea where we are running, but Gale must. The ground rumbles three more times before we stop. We're in a thick grove of trees, and Gale leans against a tree to rest. Cato puts Mage down, and she looks sheepishly at him as she thanks him. He turns to me and wraps his arms around me. I can't tell where his sweat ends and mine begins, but we lean on each other until we catch our breath.

No one speaks. Madge is stifling a sob, and Gale turns to embrace her. She lets loose, and Gale has to pull her away and try to calm her. I shudder, wondering if this is reminding her of District 12 being bombed and losing her parents.

Cato feels me shudder and pulls me closer. We've all stopped breathing heavily and now I'm antsy.

"Where are we going, Gale?" I whisper, turning towards him. He looks around a few times before motioning for us to follow him again. We do, and the ground begins to rise. We come up to a small opening in the hill and Gale disappears into the darkness, dragging Madge along with him.

I turn to Cato and press my lips against his before allowing myself to be swallowed by the darkness, not letting go of his hand.