Okay, so half of you probably hate me and rightfully so. Fall Finals, the holidays, and my current semester of coursework had me swamped. On the Bright side I managed to pull of my eight 4.0 in a row, which is a miracle considering I'm taking five classes and a part time internship. This semester is about the same, five classes and one foreign language internship, but I'm kind of a pro at juggling now, so I should be able to update regularly.

This chapter has been written and re-written a billion times, but this is my favorite of all the chapters so far. I know Katniss might me a little different, but I think she would have been more mature in this version of the story (I mean considering the whole not-fearing-impending-doom aspect). You get a little bit of insight into her past, as well as an appearance from our favorite bronze haired bombshell. Yes, Finnick Flipping Odair is in this chapter. FINALLY.

Lastly, I know my ramble is nearing biblical lengths, I got a tumblr! It's not 'themed' to fan fiction. It is strictly my imagination springboard. That being said, you should follow me! I'm kind of a random person, so be warned! Here is the link .com Feel free to pester me if I'm lagging on updates.

"I think Delly and Peeta broke up," Annie tells me before taking a gulp of her coffee. I follow her lead, grimacing at the un-Mellark like concoction that burns my tongue. Trying to act uninterested, act being the key word here, I stare at the menu as I respond. "Were you eavesdropping again?"

"Hey!" she snaps. Still she tucks a chunk of her dark hair behind her ear, revealing a silver starfish earring. I don't need to check her other ear to know it's adorned with a silver seahorse. It's been the same since high school. The set is a token from her home town of San Diego, where she was abruptly scooped up by her Aunt Ingrid Mason. "I swear I can hear everything from my damn apartment! I don't eavesdrop."

It's true, she doesn't. Annie is the sweetest, most innocent person I have ever had the pleasure to have met. I don't really know why she hangs out with me. All things considering, Annie could have turned out pretty bad.

Her parents drowned after their boat sank during a fishing trip to Baja. She was the lone survivor, whisked into a Mexican fishing vessel completely exhausted. She was at the American consulate in Tijuana for three days before Ingrid was contacted. Even by my standards, Annie's life had been hard. Looking at her know I know her parents couldn't be more proud.

"How do you know it was a break up? They fight all the time." What I really mean is that Delly fights all the time, Peeta mostly just sits there, responding calmly once the worse has passed.

"Well that's the thing, Peeta actually fought back this time! That, in combination with Delly's cryptic Face book up dates, pretty much guarantees a break up."

I give her a knowing smile. For not being a gossip she seems really invested in this story. "Is Annie Cresta really interested in the on goings of our small town?" I tease. "I never thought I would see the day."

"Please, I know everything about this town. It's just against my oath to share any of it. This isn't between patients, this is public domain." Of course, Ms. Cresta is the prized therapist of Panem County. She knows everyone's deepest secrets. "Besides, Peeta and I have been close since college."

I already knew that, but I don't delve further into their friendship. Annie changes the subject, ogling at the heaps of waffles that are plated with a healthy helping of strawberries. "I'm glad you came with me, Katniss. I hate going to early morning breakfast alone."

"I'm glad I came too," I reply with a smile. I truly am. My Saturday mornings usually don't end until four in the afternoon, but being out early is actually a nice change. Particularly because of the incessant Peeta-thoughts that have been prodding my head for the last twelve hours. That and I don't get to hang out with Annie as much as I want to. Her hours are funky and I've been prepping for midterms. It's nice to enjoy a pile of waffles with a good friend.

After a delicious, and nearly debilitating meal, I watch Annie ride off in her mint green Vesper. Fall colors are in full swing, so I take a leisurely stroll through the square, peaking at the Halloween displays and scarecrows in the shop windows. I don't have any plans until seven, so I take my time staring into each one.

I missed this. New York was amazing, but I never felt truly at home. It's funny considering I spent nearly have of my life awaiting my departure from Panem. It's only after I left that I realized I belong here. By the time I've made my way around the square, expertly avoiding the bakery on the corner, its ten sharp. I'm about to hop on the next bus, when my name is called from across the street.

"Ms. Everdeen!" I turn to find Cato and Marvel, another student from my third period class. They are both sporting team hoodies and bloodshot red eyes. The faint smell of weed hits me just as they waltz up. "I didn't know you had a life outside of school!" jokes Cato, a stupid grin on his face.

Marvel on the other hand is shifting nervously from foot to foot, his eyes focusing on everything and nothing all at once. "Ha ha. I've been known to come out of my lair sometimes. What are you two punks doing?"

Marvel looks at the ground as he speaks. "We were gonna buy some donuts."

Munchies. "I see." I remember those days. I was far from a pot head, but I occasionally experimented with it in high school and in college. One of my fondest memories is getting high with Gale and him accidently telling me he kissed Madge. He made me swear not to tell, completely forgetting that our blonde friend was sandwiched between us. It took me forty minutes to stop laughing.

Long ago I decided that I would turn a blind eye to its use among my students. At least unless I thought any of my students were in danger, or if it was affecting their school work. "I'm assuming you guys are heading to Mellark's."

"Hell yeah!" shouts Cato. "Walk with us Ms. E. We head teachers get free donuts on the weekends."

If they do, it's news to me. I consider declining, but I would be lying if I said I didn't want to check on Peeta. "Yeah sure, besides I don't want you getting hit by a cyclist or something."

Marvel's head snaps up. "Huh?"

"Nothing."

When we walk in a sleepy-eyed Peeta is manning the register. His hair is ruffled and fair from combed, but it somehow suits him. He does a double tale when he sees me walk in with two stoned teens.

"Katniss?" he asks after ringing up the last customer. His eyes are strained as if he can't believe I'm there.

"Good morning to you too," I snap, mildly annoyed.

"Sorry, my vision is in a funk. I didn't know if it was you, or if I was just day dreaming. What's up?" he makes his way out from behind the counter and I laugh when I spot the mess of flower on his navy blue apron.

I nod over to Cato and Marvel who are staring at the display in absolute awe. "I was in the neighborhood when I bumped into these two. I thought I would swing by."

Peeta glances at the pair, smiling crookedly. "I just pulled some double fudge brownies out from the oven, if you guys are interested."

Cato looks like he might just burst into tears of joy, forcing me to stifle a giggle. Minutes later, the duo leave with a pile of carbs and smiles plastered onto their faces.

Once we're alone I feel my anxieties kick in. Peeta thankfully wastes no time. "I broke up with Delly."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, after I dropped you off we met up and it just sort of happened." My face has remained stoic the entire tie, but I can't help but feel relieved. I'm about to ask him what happened when another wave of customers come in.

Peeta rushes behind the counter, struggling to keep up with the late risers. "Where's your dad?" I ask between transactions.

Peeta smiles at an elderly woman, accompanied by a pair of twin boys. "He went to visit my brother in Fayetteville, His wife's preggers and a few days away from popping." I watch as he sneaks a few extra cookies into the bag, free of charge. "Mom doesn't want to miss it, so it's just me for a couple of days."

I nod really wanting to return to the Delly incident, but people keep flooding in. We are never going to finish our conversation at this rate, at least not without telling the whole town. A very un-Katniss like idea pops into my head and spills out of my lips before I can think twice. "Do you need a hand?"

Peeta looks shocked, but happy all at once. "Good god yes!" he motions behind the kitchen door. "Could you take the trays of muffins out, the top two in the first oven? There are mitts on the counter."

I let myself into the pristine kitchen, absent mindedly taking an apron off the hooks in the hall.

My noon, Peeta and I are polishing off an unsold slice of crumb cake and coffee. "Thanks Katniss. I can't tell you how much you helped."

"Don't mention it," I wave off, finally getting to what I really wanted to know. "So you and Delly are over. Are you okay?"

Peeta laughs darkly. "I'm trying to feel bad, but I don't. It's been a long time coming."

That's all the answers I need, so I sip my coffee and dust the crumbs off of my jeans. When I look up I see Peeta clearly struggling to form words. "What?"

He shakes his head a few times, but finally gets to it. "We are good right?"

The question seems out of place so I don't really know how to answer. "Why wouldn't we be?"

Peeta shrugs, a faint blush tinting his cheeks. "I don't know. I mean you and Delly are friends and-"

"Oh god, just stop right there, please. I teach high school, I'm not in high school." Peeta laughs at my reaction, but I mean it. I've never been one for drama, and lord knows I've had enough angst to last me a lifetime. "I like being you're friend," I mumble. I try not to wince at the open confession, but it's true. I like spending time with the Sun spot that is Peeta Mellark, and I'm not about to stop.

"I like being your friend too," he adds with a smile. He fixes me with one of those stupid smiles that simultaneously make me want to punch him and hug him.

I settle on changing the subject. "Are you going to the Hawthorne-Undersee party tonight?" My dearest friends are hosting a Pre-Halloween party. Sure the actual holiday is a week and half away, but next weekend Gale is proposing, obviously unknown to Madge. Plus, Halloween lands on a Thursday this year. We working folk won't be able to party it up.

"Yeah, actually. Prim called to remind me this morning."

"Oh so she got to you too. At least you didn't get death threats. She left a very sketchy looking letter on my bed this morning when I told her I didn't want to dress up." What I don't mention are the handmade costumes that my mother has been slaving away on the last few days.

It's one of very few Everdeen traditions. It was accidently established my first year of middle school. That year Hazelle Hawthorne had instated upon buying me a costume for the school dance. My mom had only just returned from St. Ursula's Treatment Center a few months before. She was still trying to piece her life together, so the Hawthorne matriarch took it upon herself to search for a suitable outfit.

Hazelle had dealt with the mining collapse differently from my mother. Instead of letting depression swallow her whole, she took on three different jobs and supplemented her income with an ancient savings account that had been intended for her to return to school one day. When my mom took a swan dive into the deep end, she took us in without hesitation. When she came back, Hazelle welcomed her with supporting arms.

Anyways, we scoured every store trying to find a costume that didn't know my lady bits. Of course, that was nearly impossible. Preteen-teenage costumes are designed to make every girl look like a skank. By the end of our month long search I had made up my mind. I would not go to the dance at all. When Halloween morning rolled around I was surprised to find a beautiful owl costume made form scraps of brown patterned fabric. It even came with a pair of wings that strapped to my arms. Prim's costume was, of course, a nurse. It turns out my mother had been sewing in between shifts at the hospital. The costume was hokey, but incredibly original and I've received one every year since. Even during my time in New York.

Each year, she kept it a secret, of course it's gotten harder and harder considering Prim and I have found all the hiding places. This year, in honor of the party, she allowed us to try them on this morning and I had the maddening desire to wear it out to breakfast with Annie.

In honor of our new found obsession with a certain ABC show, I will be Little Red Riding hood, complete with rich red cloak. Prim will be Cinderella. "Well, I will see you there. Prim's going to kill me if I'm not showered in ready by the time she gets home from work."

"You've better get going then," he says rushing to help me with my coat.

"Seriously dude, your mom is a sewing goddess!" Johanna Mason says for the fifth time. Annie's cousin hasn't aged a bit since the last time I saw her four years ago. Her body is as fit as ever and her hair is still cut in its signature black pixie cut. Her dark eyes are made brighter by her tan skin, the only trait she shares with her cousin.

"Thanks!" squeals Prim, even adding a cheesy curtsy. I can't help, but sway playfully in my dress. The cloak dramatically grazes the ground, but the dress falls right above my knee. Perfect. Prim outdid herself as well, my make-up is flawless and I managed to curl my hair without burning my scalp.

"So how's California treating you?" Johanna works PR for an anti-deforestation organization out in Santa Cruz.

"Good actually!" she raises her glass. "Who knew I would find a career in chaining myself to a tree. The pay is decent and I'm happy." I clink my drink against hers and join her in the toast. She's about to ask me something when I spot Finnick Odair making his way into the dining room. He's wearing a pair of bright red swim trunks and nothing else. A life guard, he would.

"Is that Katniss Everdeen? My-my how you've grown." He gives me a charming wink.

I try to resist the urge to scoff, but am saved by James Bond. "Yeah that's her," answers a dapper looking Peeta. His silver suit is perfectly pressed and his blonde hair is pushed back in just the right angle. I feel a lot warmer, especially when he places his hand softly along my lower back. The move is territorial, but the whiskey I've been drinking doesn't seem to mind.

"Nice suit," says Prim, clearly eyeing the blonde next to me. "Blonde bonds are definitely hotter."

Peeta fives her his usual brilliant smile, before glaring back at Finnick. "I thought you were out in California. How did the whole acting thing go?" His tone is almost accusatory and I become aware that it's not entirely over his flirty comment towards me. This goes deeper.

Finnick's eyes sober and his jaw sets. "I'm out of that now. I run a surf camp right across from Johanna's place."

Not noticing the tension, Johanna presses lighting on Peeta's chest. "Finn and I bumped into the farmers market in town. What a coincidence right?"

Peeta nods sternly. "Yeah, big coincidence. I'm going to go grab a drink." As soon as he is out of sight Finnick trails behind him. Sensing an upcoming altercation I follow. The kitchen is mostly dark, filled with purple lights and neon green pumpkin lights. Strategically placed dry ice clouds the floor and cabinets, naturally making it harder for me to spot the two angry looking men, mid conversation.

"Does she know you're back?" hisses Peeta. I've seen him annoyed and frustrated, but never angry. One hand is clinched at his side, while the other is fixed on the counter, also tightly wound.

Finnick looks to be the calmer of the two, but just barely. "Not yet, Madge told me she was coming tonight. Listen Peeta-"

"No you listen, Odair. She was a wreck for months. It took everything I had to get her out of bed for class each morning." Peeta's voice is strained with a mixture of anger and sadness, never a good combination. "She's fine without you. More than fine actually. And you have the balls to use her cousin to get to her? If you think you can just barge in and fuck is all up-"

"I don't think that. And I know she's fine, but I'm not. Leaving Annie was my biggest mistake. I know that now and I'm here to fix it." The desperation is evident in Finnick's voice, but Peeta doesn't seem impressed.

"What's there to fix. She doesn't even want you back. She didn't answer your calls for a reason!"

"That's why I had to come!" Finnick retorts angrily. "I just need to talk to her for a second." Clearly, the bronze haired man is losing his patience. He looks like he is about to strike.

"Well maybe if you weren't such a cowardly prick-"Finnick makes to shove Peeta, but the latter is too quick, jumping out of the way and ready to strike.

I'm almost too late. "Mr. Bond, do you mind taking me on a beer run. I've had a few drinks and..." It's a blatant lie, but it serves its purpose.

Peeta fishes his keys out of his pocket and follows me out the side door. When we're in the car I cut to the chase. "Finnick and Annie, when did that happen?"

He sighs, removing his phone from his pocket. "College, I need to let her know he's here." I wave my own phone in the air.

"I sent her a text five minutes ago." I didn't tell her why. I just told her not to come. I couldn't stand Annie getting hurt if she didn't have to. Peeta gives me a grateful smile before starting the car.

"Tell her we are on our way. She can make her mind up if she wants to see him." We are out of the driveway and halfway down the street before he speaks again. "It started our second year at school."

Okay, so that's it! I hope you liked it and please R&R! Special thanks to monbonlivre who pushed me to post this! I can PROMISE the next chapter by next week!

THANKS!

Cecilia