Eleven Years Ago

Katniss sits at the school lunch table and tries to distract her sister.

"Prim, why don't you draw something for me?" Katniss pulls out paper and colored pencils.

"But I'm hungry?" Prim protests.

"I know, Little Duck. But we forgot lunch. Why don't you draw something that we can give to Mama when we get home? It will make her smile."

Since her father passed last month, her mother has been absent most of the time. She physically is there with them, but often Katniss finds her sitting in the old rocker in her room, the one that daddy built right before she was born, wrapped in his robe. When Katniss went to make lunch for them this morning, she discovered the cupboards were almost bare and what food they had in the house had spoiled. She is going to have to figure out how to fix that. Maybe Uncle Haymitch can help. He has been dropping by weekly to make sure everything is all right, but this week Aunt Maysilee was feeling poorly.

Katniss watches her sister color while trying not to think about her hunger. She can hear her stomach growl.

"That's a pretty drawing."

Katniss looks up and sees a blond boy with eyes bluer than Prim's. Peeta Mellark. She has seen him around and even shared classes with him, but for some reason they have never spoken.

"Can I sit?" he asks.

Katniss nods. He digs a sandwich out of his lunchbox. As he eats the first half, he questions Prim about her drawing, praising her. Prim glows.

"Wow, if I eat the other half of my sandwich, I'll never be able to eat my cookie. I'd hate to toss it though. Do you want it?" He looks at Prim.

Katniss hates owing people, but Prim's eyes light up. She doesn't have the heart to stop him from giving Prim the half-sandwich.

As Prim starts eating, Peeta says, "A few of us are playing kickball after school. Do you both want to join? My brother Rye said your friend Gale and his brother Rory are also playing."

She loves kickball. She also sees the hopeful look on his face. "Okay."

"Great! It will be fun."

Peeta reaches in his lunchbox again and pulls out not one but three cookies. Before she can say anything, he hands one to Prim and one to Katniss. "My pops always gives me some to share. Perks of growing up in a bakery. I get to bring the cookies with messed up frosting to school."

The frosting doesn't look very messed up to her. The flower decoration is just a bit off-center. After a moment of indecision about accepting the cookie, she takes a bite.

She sees Peeta watching her. She gives him a shy smile. He grins back.

Present Day

As soon as the door shuts behind them, Katniss says to her mother, "I think I'm going to lie down for a little bit."

Violet gives her a look. She does not take naps. "Okay, sweetie. You shouldn't sleep too long. I'm going to prepare a light supper for in an hour. If you don't come down I'll come get you."

Katniss nods and removes her jacket carefully taking out the letter that she hopes her mother doesn't notice or ask about it. She walks up the stairs to the room she had shared with Prim. She enters and shuts the door before sitting on the bed. The room feels empty without Prim's things. Katniss shakes off her sadness over her sister's departure. She already misses her, but she'll be home in a couple months. Sitting on the bed, she looks down at the cream-colored envelope she is holding. She turns it over and admires the bold script of her name on the front of it. She is afraid to hope about the contents inside. With reverence, she carefully unseals the envelope and slips out the piece of stationary. She begins to read.

Dear K. E.

I can no longer wait in silence. I must tell you that you are the missing piece of my heart, my soul. Over the last two days, I am half agony, half hope. Please tell me that it is not too late for us. That your feelings are not gone. I am still yours. My heart belongs to you. More so now than when you dropped it and nearly broke it four years ago. You are the only person I have ever loved. I have treated you unfairly, judging you. I have resented you. But I have never been inconstant to you. My heart has always been yours and always will be. You are the reason I came back to District 12. You are why I convinced Finnick and Annie to locate the art colony here. It was always so I could come home to you. Can you see this and understand this? I wonder if I had waited to write this letter, if I would have seen you begin to understand my feelings, as I think I've begun to understand where yours lie. My normally steady hands shake as I write. I've seen your smiles, your looks. I've listened to the inflections in your voice. I have come to believe that you feel the same as I do. If you do love me as I love you, please join me at the cabin tonight at seven o'clock. I will be waiting. If you do not come, I will endeavor to finally let you go and I will bother you no further.

Yours Always,

P. M.

With a shaky hand, she wipes the tears from her eyes and feels the wide smile that has spread over her mouth. She lies down on the bed and holds the letter over her heart. She reads it again and starts laughing as she cries. She dreams.

She hears a knock at the door. "Katniss, supper is ready."

"I'll be down in a moment, Mama."

She gets up off her bed and looks in the mirror. She can't seem to calm down. A huge smile is across her face. She radiates. Her mother is going to know something is up. Well there is not much she can do about it. She doesn't really want to.

Katniss joins her mother at the table. Her mother has set out a couple of salads and some cold roast quail. Violet gives her a puzzled look. She realizes that she is practically hopping in her seat.

"I take it you had a good nap."

Katniss responds, "I didn't really sleep."

"That must have been some letter Peeta wrote you?"

Katniss' eyes widen.

"I'm not blind. I saw him hand it to Prim and I saw her give it to you."

No, her mother isn't blind when she is present in the moment. Katniss was used to her mother being locked in her memories and depression. She gives her mother a wide smile and nods. She is grateful her mother is doing so much better, grateful that her mother just accepts her choice of being with Peeta instead of Cato.

"It's good to see you smile," her mother observes. They both go back to eating their supper. Katniss appreciates that her mother isn't pushing her to talk about it. She isn't sure she could verbalize her feelings at this point.

As they clear the table, Katniss says, "Mama I'm going out this evening. I need to get ready." Violet smiles at her daughter before turning to start the dishes.

Once back in her room, Katniss removes her cargo pants and t-shirt. She goes to the closet. She wants to look beautiful. After carefully going through the few dresses she owns, she settles on an empire waist dress with soft cap sleeves. It's muted orange, Peeta's favorite color. She slips the dress over her head and then looks at herself in the mirror. She carefully unbraids her hair and runs a brush through the waves that hit her mid-back. She applies a peachy lip-gloss. She looks at the time and realizes that it's time to go.

She descends the stairs and sees her mother looking at her.

"You look beautiful."

"Thank you, Mama. I'm going out to the cabin. I'm not sure how late I'll be."

"If you decide not to come back until morning be careful."

Katniss turns bright red and mumbles, "Okay." She sees her mother try to stifle a chuckle as she walks out the door and heads toward the lake.

She doesn't have a chance to turn the door handle of the cabin, when the knob slips from her hand. The door is thrown open. Peeta pulls her into a tight embrace. Her head over his heart, she takes in the smell of him. She looks up and sees that he has his eyes closed. He eases his grip and looks down at her.

He whispers, "You came."

She looks up at him and bites her lower lip. She gives him a shy smile and murmurs, "Of course I did."

Their mouths crash together in a tangle of lips and tongues. His hands move lower to her backside. He pulls her even closer. She can feel his growing erection. Suddenly his hands are gone and he takes a step back.

He extends a hand and she takes it. He walks backwards into the cabin and guides her to the bed. When the back of his legs hit the edge, he sits. She stands between his open legs and leans down to kiss his lips softly before pulling pack. She looks into his heavy lidded eyes and crawls on his lap, straddling his waist. They begin kissing again. He tangles his hands in her hair. She grinds against him. Her skirt gets in the way so she reaches down to pull it up and drape it around them, allowing her more contact. He pulls his hands from her hair and slowly brushes them up her thighs under the skirt. They finally grip her ass. He leans back onto the bed and brings her with him. Their lips only occasionally disconnect to nuzzle each other necks, jaws, ear lobes. She feels him pushing on her shoulder. She releases his lower lip and sits up. She bites her lip and looks at him. His hands glide up and down her thighs, gently gripping under the dress. She grasps the skirt of the dress and pulls it up and over her head leaving her in her bra and panties. He reaches between them and rubs her through her dampened panties. Katniss gives a moan. He removes his hand causing her to give a whimper, but he pulls her back down for a kiss. Peeta's hands work the clasp of her bra. She feels its release and they both work to remove the barrier. She gently bites, tugging at his lower lip and releasing it before whispering, "You are entirely overdressed, sir."

Peeta chuckles, "I agree." She slowly unbuttons his shirt trailing kisses down his sternum, then his abdomen stopping at the top of his jeans. She pops the button of his jeans and slowly drags down the zipper. She tugs pulling them over his hips. Before pulling his pants off further, she leans down and softly kisses his hardness through the fabric of his boxer briefs. Peeta groans. She moves her head away. Before she could continue removing his clothes, he sits up, grabs her hand and pulls her beside him on the bed. He shucks his jeans and boxers and removes his shirt.

Peeta leans over her. She is watching him. He palms her left breast for a moment before taking her nipple in his mouth, lathing it with his tongue before gently grazing his teeth over it. He then moves to her right breast.

"Peeta, I need you in me now."

She feels him move away. Looking for him, she sees him sheathing himself with a condom. Katniss shimmies out of her panties and opens herself to him. He settles between her legs and slowly enters her. It is uncomfortable for a moment, but it soon eases. It has been too long. He waits for her to adjust. She reaches up and touches the side of his face. He kisses her deeply and begins to set a steady rhythm. It is not long before the tempo increases. She can feel Peeta start to lose control. She loves that she can do this to him. Katniss feels his hand move between them so he can rub her clit. She falls over the edge, her own spasms bringing him along with her.

Peeta collapses on top of her. He gently kisses the tip of her nose. Then carefully removes himself from her. She watches as he walks to the bathroom. She waits for his return. He lies back down on the bed and pulls her close. She tucks her head under his chin.

He murmurs, "Real or not real?"

To which she answers, "Real."

Katniss wakes from a doze to Peeta gently shaking shoulder. "Let's go watch the sunset."

She gets up and walks to the bathroom to clean up. When she steps out, she sees he has put on his boxer briefs but he is holding out his shirt to her.

"Peeta, I have to wear more than your shirt," she says as she holds her arms akimbo.

He walks up to her and tweaks the tip of her nose. "No, you don't." He takes one her arms and eases it through a sleeve.

"People could be out there. I know it's evening, but what if one of the craftsmen is working late at the colony?" she insists as he eases her other arm through the other sleeve.

As he buttons the shirt up he says, "They aren't because I had Annie and Finnick ask everyone to leave early. We have the lake to ourselves."

"I think you missed a few buttons," she says as she notices he stopped buttoning right below her breasts.

"No, I didn't."

They share a slow kiss. Peeta takes her hand and they walk out the door. They are thankful for the cool breeze that prevented the evening from being uncomfortably balmy. They walk around the lake to their spot. That little spit of land that juts out into the lake. She sees that a blanket has already been laid out on the small patch of grass. They sit on the blanket and Katniss settles herself between Peeta's legs. He wraps his arms around her. She places her hands on top of his. He nuzzles her neck. They sit in silence enjoying the sunset. Both a little afraid of speaking but knowing that words needed to be said.

Katniss thinks about Haymitch's advice the other day. About not being afraid to make the first move. Peeta had done it with his letter, but now it is her turn.

"Peeta, I'm sorry."

"Katniss, no. You don't need to…"

"Yes, I do." She feels a tear escape. He reaches up and gently wipes it away. "I'm so sorry. You need to know that I have never stopped loving you." He kisses the side of her head and remains silent, letting her speak. "I don't regret not marrying you at eighteen." She feels him tense. "I do think that was the right decision at the time. We were too young. I had obligations and you had opportunities. Do you think you would have gone to the Capitol and became the artist you are if we had married?"

Peeta admits, "I don't know."

"I do regret how I handled it. Rather than speaking honestly and being the partner you deserve, I chose to break it off. What I should have done is talk to you. I should have told you my fears. I should have discussed with you that I knew about your father's friend in the Capitol."

"Rye told me about the conversation you two had about our engagement. It took everything in me to not want to throttle him."

"Peeta, he was just looking out for you. We should have discussed all of this and made decisions together. I now believe that our relationship would have survived waiting a few years and a bit of distance. Instead, I decided I knew what was for the best—which was for you to be free of me."

"Foolish girl. My heart hasn't been free for eleven years." He nuzzles her neck. "But I was a fool too. I was so shocked when you broke it off. So damn hurt. Then I became angry. I chose to run away rather than going back to you and insisting that we talk."

She leans into him and they hold each other enjoying the opportunity to just be. The sun slips over the horizon. Fireflies dance around the lake. For Katniss, the evening is pure magic.

"I love you, Peeta."

She feels him nuzzle her neck again. His tongue and lips tease her where her neck meets her shoulder. She feels his hand slide between her legs. He gently presses and then slides two fingers between her folds, softly stroking her bundle of nerves. Katniss moves against his hands, wiggling her backside against him. His other hand fumbles with the buttons of her shirt and she goes to help. Once she is free of the shirt, he palms her breast, while nibbling on her neck. He continues to tease her clit, moving his fingers in tight circles. He removes his touch for a moment, causing her to protest, before inserting two fingers into her. He pumps those fingers a few times before pressing his thumb to her clit. It's not long before Katniss shudders in pleasure.

She catches her breath then crawls off him. She sits to his side and faces him. She reaches and gently turns his head so she can meet his lips. He crashes into her hungrily. Reaching down she palms him through his boxer briefs.

Peeta groans, "I don't have any condoms out here."

"It's okay. I'm still on the pill."

She helps him remove the last article of clothing. She straddles his lap and takes him inside her. Her arms tangle in his curls and his wrap around her back as they kiss. She begins rocking against him. They take their time. No longer in a hurry. Soon the need builds and Katniss begins grinding a little harder with each movement. They lose their breaths. He moves his hand in between which sets her off. He finds his release.

Afterwards she rests her head on his shoulder. They sit trying to prolong the connection as long as possible. When they do break apart the both cuddle under the stars.

"Katniss, I love you. I still want to marry you."

She lifts her head off his chest and presses a kiss to his lips. "I'll allow it."

Peeta grins and moves away. Katniss looks puzzled. He goes to one corner of the blanket and reaches underneath. Hidden under that corner is a red jewelry box.

He lies down beside her again and pulls her close. Peeta opens the box and pulls out the ring. He slides it on her finger. She looks at it in the moonlight then wraps her left arm around him hugging him. She presses a gentle kiss to his chest. He holds her to him tighter for a moment. They both drift off to sleep.


A/N: Well we are now at the end of our tale. It's been fun to take the characters on this journey. I'd love to hear what you think.

I hope you enjoyed the letter, which is heavily modeled after the letter in Persuasion. One line is a direct quote, "I am half agony, half hope." Several other lines are very similar but have been adjusted for this story. As such, any similarities to the source material, Jane Austen's Persuasion, belong to her.

Now that I've finished For the Best I am focusing on A Dense Mask, which I plan on posting weekly updates starting Mid-July. I also plan to get Unto Dust moving again – I haven't abandoned it. I hope you check those stories out.

Thanks to Pookieh for pre-reading the final chapter.

If you'd like more information about my fanfiction please visit my tumblr: dispatchesfromdistrict7

The characters are the property of the amazing Suzanne Collins and do not belong to me. You probably also have noticed I'll occasionally weave in one of the famous lines from her novels. Those totally belong to Ms. Collins too.