A/N: So here it is, the LAST CHAPTER. And while I originally thought this would be relatively brief, just an epilogue to go along with the one in Mockingjay, my gears started turning and I got all kinds of ideas I had to pursue. This chapter is both a happy and sad chapter, and I took a risk (you'll see), so hopefully no one will hate me for it. But I am pleased with how this chapter turned out and with the ending.

Thank you to all of my readers and reviewers. You guys are an amazing group of people who have stuck with me since Young Blood. I'm just so happy that I was able to entertain so many people. And who knows? Maybe I'll revisit some of these times with Katniss and Peeta in the future. It's definitely hard, giving up these characters after I've been writing them for months. Anyway, hope you enjoy! And your feedback is always appreciated.

And one last disclaimer (some authors add one every chapter, but I tend to only add one at the beginning of the story): I own none of these characters/themes/places/songs, etc. They all belong to Suzanne Collins.

It had been Peeta's idea, to take them to the meadow. Katniss had been reluctant at first, part of her unwilling to think of the reason why he might want to visit that place. Four years had passed since they had been there, since Katniss had run off into the night and ended up in the field between the edge of town and the wilderness. And as far as Katniss knew, that was the only time Peeta had ever been there since his return to District Twelve.

So when he brought it up one evening in early spring, Katniss had felt her stomach drop for a moment before she narrowed her eyes and folded her arms across her chest. He hadn't mentioned it as if it were some fun outing, not like hiking into the woods to pick blueberries or strawberries or go for a swim. They had just put Sage to bed, Katniss singing their four-year-old to sleep while Willow prepared for bed on her own. Peeta and Katniss had then peaked into their daughter's room to make sure she was all settled in, her gray eyes heavy-lidded, the soft, contented smile of ever-approaching sleep enveloping her features. They had gone back downstairs, Katniss readying her pack for her hunting trip planned the next day when Peeta mentioned the meadow. He just sat there, perched on a kitchen stool, Katniss raising an eyebrow at his request.

The unspoken question of why stood between them.

Daisy had come up to Katniss then, tongue lolling as she stood expectantly at the back door. Katniss let the dog out one last time that night, waiting by the door to let the retriever back in. Daisy's face had become spotted with white in her advancing age, but at nine, she was still rather spry. Katniss continued to take Daisy hunting, but not every day. Katniss remembered a comment Haymitch had made years ago, after he had bonded with the dog over her training.

"So when are you going to start breeding her and have some puppies running around this place?" Haymitch had asked one afternoon. Daisy was three years old and Katniss and her former mentor were in the backyard playing fetch.

"Puppies…?" Katniss replied, glancing over at Haymitch. "Daisy's never going to have puppies. Peeta had her fixed over a year ago, in the Capitol…"

Haymitch's eyes grew wide for a moment, and a look of confusion passed across his features. Then he narrowed his eyes, the corners of his mouth curving downward into a frown. It was then that Katniss realized Haymitch – who would never admit to loving anyone or anything – loved the dog, and had wanted one of her puppies for his own.

And Katniss hadn't thought anything about it, when Peeta took Daisy with him to the Capitol to have the surgery. She really didn't want to deal with a dog in heat. Several of their neighbors in the Victor's Village owned dogs, and there were plenty of strays across the district, not to mention the pack of feral dogs that roamed the woods. Katniss didn't want to face the prospect of a litter of puppies that no one wanted. More mouths to feed had been her first thought, and her heart clenched to think of Buttercup, now buried in the backyard.

Haymitch had made a noise of disapproval, the pained expression still lingering on his features. Despite the older man's general state of disarray, having something to look after other than himself might do him some good, Katniss thought. He still kept a flock of geese around his house, tiny goslings running after their mothers each spring. And even though he would mutter angrily whenever the geese were mentioned, he could oftentimes be found on his back step tossing corn or ripping off pieces of bread to throw in their direction.

"Haymitch, if you want a puppy, I'm sure Peeta could – " Katniss offered quickly.

"Forget about it," he cut her off, his tone angry. He turned and stomped back off toward his house, Daisy letting out a soft whine at his retreat.

Later that evening, Katniss told Peeta what Haymitch had asked.

"Who'd have ever thought, Haymitch wanting a puppy…?" Peeta chuckled. His blue eyes were pensive, though, and his smile faded quickly.

Katniss turned her gaze to Daisy, sprawled out on the kitchen floor, sound asleep. Something clinched in Katniss's heart, and she wished there were a way she could provide some measure of joy to her former mentor. He had almost died in the games, his stomach gaping open, his attacker killed in an ending that was both unexpected and bloody. He had defied the Capitol, won when they meant for him to lose, all before Katniss or Peeta was even born. And then he'd watched as twenty-three sets of tributes had been sent to their deaths, their only hope for victory a quick and painless death.

She remembered the night Haymitch had finally decided to contribute to the book of memories, the look of determination – and sorrow – on his features as he tried to remember each and every one of them. When had he begun to drown his sorrows in alcohol? After the first ones were killed? After the fifth, after the tenth…? When had he realized that despite his best efforts, the odds would always be against them? And yet he continued to defy the Capitol with his drunken antics, his disregard for the games, the tributes. He had lived his own quiet rebellion until Katniss and Peeta came along – one determined to win so that she could return to her sister, the other only hoping that he would stay true to himself, that in the end, he wouldn't be a piece in the Capitol's game.

And Peeta could have easily brought back another puppy from his next trip to the Capitol. Katniss could have said the words and there her husband would be, a few days later, a golden ball of fur wriggling in his arms. But Haymitch would have cursed, probably even refused the animal – not because he didn't want the dog, but because it wouldn't be Daisy's, and the gesture would have been made out of some sense of obligation and pity on Katniss's part. No, their former mentor wouldn't want that at all.

Haymitch didn't bring up the matter again. He still wandered over to Katniss and Peeta's back yard a few times each week, making small talk with Katniss while he threw a stick or a ball or a toy for Daisy to fetch until she wore herself out. He'd offer a piece of candy to Willow – once she was old enough that Katniss didn't have to confiscate the potential choking hazard, that is – and scoop the child up for a hug. And Willow would beam proudly when he praised her skill with her bow, regardless if she hit the target. And when Sage was old enough to totter about, Katniss would let the corners of her mouth twitch up into a smile when she noticed how Haymitch would keep one eye on the toddler at all times.

But soon Sage would no longer be a toddler. He was starting his first year of school in the fall, and Katniss could hardly believe that almost five years had passed since he was born. Whatever force governed the workings of the universe had seen fit to turn the wheel of time faster each year. It was the only way Katniss could account for the way that days and weeks blurred into months and years until she was just shy of her 41st birthday when it felt like only yesterday she had been nineteen and newly married. She knew that every moment with Sage and Willow was precious, that in what seemed like the span of a few heartbeats they had grown from the babies she had nursed at her breast into swift, strong, and smart little beings. She saw it in the way Peeta looked at them, the way he cherished each day that he took off from the bakery. Having two young children, Peeta rarely retreated to the study to paint alone, but would spend the day coloring vivid pictures alongside Sage or naming each flower that Willow plucked from the backyard. There were more stories – real and not real – more playtime and songs and laughter.

And so when Peeta had stated rather matter-of-factly that he wanted to go to the meadow – wanted them all to go to the meadow – and all mirth had drained from his voice and features, Katniss's heart had clenched at the words left unspoken.

It had been a hard year for everyone, each season bringing some measure of sorrow to the District. Last spring, the area had been inundated with heavy rainfall. The creeks and rivers had overflowed, flooding some of the more low-lying areas. Dewey Blackwell and his two children had been swept away early one morning, their lifeless, bloated bodies found some days later. Willow knew the oldest Blackwell boy from school, and she had cried for days after the funeral. Peeta and Katniss had finally sat down with her, opening the book of memories to a blank page, pressing a pen into their daughter's hand. She had looked up at them, somewhat confused at first, but then Peeta nodded toward the empty space and offered her an encouraging smile. Willow's hand was steady as she wrote, describing the boy she had known, the boy who had teased her for her two braids during their first year in school, but who had taken to sitting near her at lunch and offering her quiet smiles in the next. She had often shared her cookies with him, the ones that her father frosted so delicately – flowers for spring, autumn leaves and pumpkins for fall, snowflakes and holly for winter.

Only this spring, she wouldn't be able to share any of the frosted sugar cookies with him.

Katniss helped Willow paste in a picture of the boy – his dark hair combed back, his shirt crisp in the yearly school photo – and wrapped a protective arm around her daughter. Peeta had gone off with Sage, who didn't quite understand why everyone was crying but knew that it meant he had to be the loudest of them all.

It had been ages since Willow had asked for a song at bedtime, but that night Peeta and Katniss both hovered over their daughter, and when Willow called her mother close and begged her softly to sing, Katniss didn't hesitate.

Deep in the meadow, under the willow

A bed of grass, a soft green pillow

Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes

And when again they open, the sun will rise.

And the sun did rise again. Some mornings were worse than others, Katniss lying listless on the couch after Peeta left for the bakery and Willow was sent off to school. Sage would stand there and giggle at his mother, looking pitiful and rather ridiculous in a pile of quilts on the sofa. She would reach out a hand to ruffle the soft, golden curls on his head and he would laugh in pure and unblemished joy, then run away, the sound of his feet on the wood drumming like the quickening of her heart. And some days it would take all of her strength, all of her willpower to get up and chase after him and make sure he wasn't into some mischief. She would help him spread out paper and watercolors and pencils on the kitchen table and watch from her perch on a stool as he sketched and painted in the beautifully disastrous manner of a four year-old.

And some days she would take her son into town, his fingers never quite wanting to stay in her grasp. He had to stop and pet every animal, wave to every person he recognized – or didn't recognize – as they made their way through the square.

"He's definitely Peeta's son," folks would tell her, gazing at the toddler who never met a stranger. And Katniss would smile politely, tugging Safe toward the bakery as he waved good-bye. He knew more the townsfolk by name than even she did sometimes.

"Sage Mellark!" She would fuss, her gray eyes meeting his matching gaze. "You can't just run up and pet a dog you don't know…I know Daisy is friendly and all – "

"Momma," he would plead loudly, cutting her off. "I do know him! That's Red, Mr. Leeland's coon dog…" He would explain. Katniss had just shaken her head at him and let out a sigh as they neared the bakery.

"Dadda!" Sage had yelled, catching sight of his father from the entranceway.

Peeta lifted the boy into the air with a laugh, then positioned him at a table near the back, setting down a plate of cookies for a snack. Then he had smiled warmly at Katniss, bending to kiss her in greeting.

"How does our son know Leeland Moss…? Or that he has a coonhound named Red…?" She asked Peeta, her arms folded across her chest, an eyebrow raised in inquiry.

Peeta had just shrugged and let out a soft chuckle as he replied.

"He's a friendly kid, what can I say?" He said, a good-natured grin spreading across his features. "He gets it from me…" He added in a conspiratorial tone.

"That's not all he gets from you…" Katniss replied wryly, grabbing the collar of Peeta's shirt to pull him close for another kiss.

Her children were not the only good things in her life, but for Katniss, Willow and Sage – along with Peeta – were a substantial source of joy. And some days the weight of her past was too much, the nightmares too real, so Katniss would form a list in her head of all the good things she could remember. Willow, who was smart and kind, brave and determined. Sage, with his happy laugh and cheerful nature. Haymitch, who acted surly and standoffish, but who loved her children with a bond that was stronger than any formed by blood. Greasy Sae, proud of her garden, sending Katniss herbs and fruits and vegetables during each season. Sae – the thought of the old woman made Katniss remember a comment Sae had made a few years back.

It was early fall and Willow had just started back to school, so Katniss had gone to visit Sae. Katniss found her and her granddaughter in the garden, the younger woman picking herbs while Sae rested on the bench Peeta had made her. Katniss sat down beside Greasy Sae, while Sage – who was sixteen months old – tottered over to inspect the plants. Katniss kept one eye on her son while Sae spoke, mentioning idle district gossip before asking after Peeta. Katniss felt her lips curl into a smile as she replied with some generic statement on her husband's wellbeing.

"I always knew you two would work things out," Greasy Sae stated matter-of-factly. "Things like that, they just have a way of working…"

Katniss had looked up from where Sage was "helping" Sae's granddaughter by violently ripping out clumps of rosemary, but the old woman was gazing out past the garden as she spoke, as if her memories of that distant time were somewhere out in the infinite sky.

"All you needed was a little nudge," Sae said after a long pause, a hint of laughter in her voice. She did look at Katniss then, a twinkle in her eyes. Katniss exhaled in a huff, but then smiled.

Yes, the good definitely outweighed the bad.

But pain and sorrow still existed in the world, and sometimes they found a way back into Katniss's life.

It was late winter, the threat of one last freeze before the thaw looming overhead. It had been a hard winter for man and animal alike, and more than once Katniss had been chased by a pack of hungry wild dogs. Willow had whined and begged and cried, but Katniss simply refused to let the nine year-old go out to hunt under those circumstances. Katniss even left Daisy at home, so Willow didn't sulk quite so much.

It had been an unsuccessful day in the woods, Katniss coming home empty-handed to a quiet house. Peeta was at the bakery and she had dropped off Sage and a protesting Willow at Marc and Anabel's earlier that morning. She was just shedding her layers when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver, and there was a pause in which she could hear the sound of breathing before anyone spoke.

"Katniss…" A male voice said. It wasn't Peeta or Dr. Florian. The voice on the other end was deep and rough and belonged to someone she hadn't spoken to in years.

Gale Hawthorne.

"Katniss," he repeated, almost pleadingly. Her mind reeled, disbelief warring with a thousand different thoughts such that she almost missed what he said next.

"It's mom – it's Hazelle," he said. "She passed away early this morning…" And Katniss wasn't sure if there was static on the line or his voice was breaking.

It took a moment for the reality of his statement to sink in. Hazelle. Hazelle Hawthorne was dead. The woman must have been in her sixties by now, but Katniss could only picture her as she'd seen her last – much younger, healthier, and alive.

"How…?" It was the only thing Katniss could muster. She should have offered him some sympathy, at least, before she went prying, but she hadn't heard from him in years, and now he had called her to tell her that his mother had died…?

"She'd been sick for a while," Gale explained, his voice back to its normal cadence. "She and Posy moved to the Capitol so she could have access to the best doctors. They said it was some form of cancer. They said they tried everything. But they couldn't save her…"

Gale's voice broke again, only this time it took him much longer to regain his composure.

"I'm so sorry…" Katniss offered, still confused as to why he was calling her.

Katniss had only kept in touch with Gale's mother a handful of years after the Hawthornes had come to her wedding. Hazelle had written to Katniss a few times a year, sending news and the occasional photo of her children. But that correspondence had dwindled to once a year, then none at all. But Katniss knew that Hazelle had kept in touch with her mother, to some extent, as Mrs. Everdeen would mention the woman and her family from time to time.

"She asked…she wanted to be buried back in Twelve, because of my father…" Gale explained, speaking the words as if he did not want them to be true.

And then Katniss understood. She understood why he had called, still fresh in his grief over Hazelle's passing. They were all coming – Gale, Rory, Vick, and Posy. Gale had been on the phone all morning, making the arrangements, clearing everything through the mayor. He wanted to make sure his mother had a proper burial – one that his father never had.

The burial that her father never had.

Katniss didn't know how long she had been sitting on the couch after she got off the phone with Gale. It seemed like the phone rang again within a few minutes of his call, but the light was growing dim outside and she knew quite some time must have passed. She didn't remember picking up the phone, but suddenly the headset was at her ear.

"Oh Katniss, Hazelle Hawthorne passed away…" It was her mother, who must have just found out as well.

"I know. Gale called…" Katniss replied, the words sounding hollow.

"Posy called me just now," Mrs. Everdeen explained.

Posy had revealed more details to Katniss's mother of Hazelle's decline in health, the girl having been Hazelle's caretaker for the past few years. Ovarian cancer. That's what did it. Slow and insidious, the tumor had grown until Hazelle started losing weight, felt too fatigued to work, and had unexplained pains in her low abdomen. Mrs. Everdeen, being a healer, knew the prognosis was grim, but in all the letters Hazelle had sent her over the past few years, none had mentioned the deadly disease.

"I'm coming there, for the funeral…" Katniss felt a sense of relief wash over her to know that her mother would be in town for the service.

When Katniss told Peeta later that night, he went quiet for a long while. Peeta had picked up Sage and Willow from Marc and Anabel's on his way home from the bakery. Dinner had been subdued, Willow still pouting over the fact that she hadn't been allowed to go hunting, Sage grumpy at first because he had refused to nap at Anabel's, then nodding off over his plate of food at the kitchen table. Peeta had noticed the change in Katniss's mood and had given her inquiring looks, to which she had softly replied, "later." Once the children were in bed, Katniss and Peeta had retreated to the kitchen to clean up.

Peeta looked surprised at the news, and he didn't respond immediately. His blue eyes wandered in thought, then settled back on hers.

"Oh wow…Hazelle Hawthorne…" He spoke her name as a distant memory. Of course Peeta had been acquainted with Gale's mother, had greeted her warmly when she came to their wedding. But Katniss wondered how much of the pre-hijacking days he remembered.

"Katniss…are you alright?" He asked, stepping toward her and placing his warm hands on her arms. She ducked her head for a moment, then looked up to meet his gaze.

She couldn't help but cry then, the weight of it all hitting her. But Peeta was there, wrapping her up in a tight embrace, stroking her long, dark hair as she cried softly into his shirt.

The service was a small affair, consisting of Gale, Rory and Vick and their wives, and Posy, who was all grown up and could have passed for Katniss's sister. Greasy Sae came, leaning heavily on her granddaughter. Thom and Leevy were there, as well as a few other men who had worked with Gale in the mines all those years ago. Haymitch showed up late, and surprisingly sober. Katniss stood between her mother and Peeta, who had one arm around her waist. She leaned into him, letting the heat from his body warm her on that chilly morning.

And each one of Hazelle's children spoke, staring into the gaping hole where her casket lay. Then Posy asked through tears if anyone else would like to speak. Everyone was quiet, their faces red from crying and the cold winter air. And before Katniss could stop herself, the words flowed out in a broken song.

Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise.

At the start of the chorus others joined in, their voices just as broken as hers.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, A moonbeam ray, Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it's morning, they'll wash away.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Gale gave Katniss a long look afterward, gray eyes meeting gray eyes. Ever so slightly, he tilted his chin down and then back up, as if nodding to say "thank you." Then they all took a turn scooping up a handful of dirt and tossing it into the grave, the sound of it hitting the wooden casket marring the sacred solemnity of the service.

Later that night, Thom and Leevy had everyone over for dinner. Katniss was glad she didn't have that responsibility, cooking for a dozen people, not to mention the children. Katniss and Peeta had spared Willow and Sage the service – one funeral was enough for that year – but brought them to dinner. Gale actually managed a smile when he saw the two.

"They're great, Katniss. They really are…" Gale said, watching as Willow and Sage followed Tommy around like two little ducklings.

And Katniss didn't mention the irony, the fact that Gale was the one who had said, all those years ago, that he wanted to get married, to have a family. Yet here he was, in his early forties and single as far as she could tell. Katniss had been the one to think she would never get married, never bring children into such a cruel world.

Oh how the tables had turned.

"You let your hair grow out..." Gale mentioned at some point that evening. Katniss had left her hair unbraided that day, the long locks falling to her hips. It was warmer that way.

"Yeah," Katniss replied, feeling herself break into a smile when she caught sight of Peeta across the room. "Yeah, I did..."

And Gale looked from Katniss to where her gaze was fixed on her husband, then back to the slight curve of her lips, the way her features softened when she looked at Peeta. Long ago, it had been Gale who had that effect on her.

"I'm happy for you, Katniss." Gale said, his voice earnest. "I really am..."

They left the next day, all the Hawthornes and their spouses heading back to the districts in which they lived. Katniss didn't go to the station to see them off, but her mother did, coming back down the lane to the Victor's Village with her mouth set in a hard line, her eyes red as if she had been crying.

Katniss and Peeta added Hazelle's page to the book of memories that night, Mrs. Everdeen contributing as well.

It had been a hard year, and so when Peeta told Katniss that he wanted them all to go to the meadow, she fooled herself at first into thinking that she didn't know why. But the reason was unmistakable – Peeta wanted to visit the place where his family was buried.

So on a warm day that spring, Katniss and Peeta and their two children set out for the meadow. Daisy walked along beside them tongue lolling, happy to be out of doors. It was a short walk to that place, to the clearing that once designated the boundary of District Twelve – a line that Katniss had crossed time and time again.

She took Peeta's hand in her own when they arrived, letting Willow and Sage frolic in the tall grasses and wildflowers with Daisy. They didn't know – couldn't know – that they were playing atop a mass grave. But the questions had already started, and Katniss and Peeta had done their best to answer them without revealing too much. Willow knew the book of memories, but didn't fully understand it. And Katniss knew there would be a time and place for all of that, when Willow and Sage were older.

As Katniss watched her children play, happy and healthy and completely unaware of the sorrow that was buried there, the words to the song repeated in her head.

Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Peeta was crying, so she tightened her hold on his hand. He looked at her then, the pain in his blue eyes almost too much to bear. And she wondered how he got on all these years without succumbing to his grief. How he dealt with it – perhaps it was through working long hours in the bakery, sketching and drawing and painting, spending time with Katniss and their two children. Perhaps he too had a list of all the good things in his life and recounted them one by one when his heart started to ache. She'd never had to ask because he had always been strong enough for the both of them.

She offered him a kindhearted smile and squeezed his hand again.

"They're here…" She said, almost as a whisper. To think of all who lost their lives now resting eternally in that meadow, covered in a bed of flowers, it was almost comforting. Almost.

"No," Peeta replied, and Katniss looked up at him, confused for a moment. "No, they're here," he continued, raising the hand that wasn't in hers to cover his heart.

And so she turned toward him then, closing her eyes against the blinding sun as she moved in for a kiss. His lips were warm and the kiss tasted of salt. And Katniss knew that whatever they faced in the future, they would face it together, their souls inextricably linked. Their strength one in the same.

The End.