Epilogue: 15 Years Later
Fifteen years ago, I asked Katniss to go out with me with a cheese bun in hand. She said she would, then told me to let her finish the bun for she was starving. And I did.
She became my girlfriend for two years afterwards. Then I decided I wanted a change, and put on another proposition to her. I asked her to marry me. She said yes, then asked for her cheese bun. Lucky I've stashed one into my bag, next to that little box which had that sparkler - the thing her Aunt Effie, Gale's family, Johanna, Annie, and Finnick insisted that I get when I asked them for her hand. The ring got pretty much smudged five minutes after it was on, but it didn't matter. We ended up getting it cleaned anyway for the wedding, which happened fifteen months later.
We were the last ones to tie the knot in our friendship group, actually.
Finnick and Annie went first. It was a very easy decision for them, having known that they only wanted each other. The wedding happened the next spring after we left Mockingjay Tech, a year and a bit after they officially got together. Now, they have three kids, a big house on the water here in Sydney metropolitan area, and a dog. Still the perfect couple and the perfect family.
Gale and Johanna followed fairly closely, six months behind. They'd gotten pregnant by accident, and Johanna's uncle Blight threw a fit. He threatened Gale with an axe. Needless to say, they had to hastily put together a wedding to keep everyone alive and out of jail. Not to say it was a decision they regretted, though. Johanna and Gale are still together today, and in fact just had yet another accidental baby, little brother to their two daughters.
By the time Katniss and my time came, our godchildren - our friends' first children - were already toddling around. Katniss Aunt Effie insisted - demanded - that we had them as page boy and flower girl, and thus we did, upon Johanna and Gale and Finn and Annie's consent. It didn't go too well. Their dads ended up carrying them up the aisle for they just kept walking onto the pews. It did stir something in Katniss, though, that she stopped fretting about having kids that night.
Well, it didn't happen straight away for us, for some unknown reasons which actually worked in our favour. Three months after the wedding, Katniss's little educational startup, "LINES", was granted funding by some interested investors. Finnick and I - who were already there as part of it - had fought our best to help her, but still, it was too hectic. It was still crazy even after Annie and Johanna and Gale took a year off their degrees to help, and only stopped being crazy as we started hiring a year and a half later. Willow was born the day LINES moved into its first real office in Sydney CBD, three years after the wedding. Johanna had to snatch Katniss's phone away and hide it. She wouldn't stop conference-calling Finnick and Gale in the office for this work-related stuff, in between her contractions.
Willow's little brother Ryan - Katniss nicknamed him 'Rye' - made his appearance two years later, on the day our little startup went public. By this time, Annie, Johanna, and Gale had all dropped their degrees in order to commit to LINES, and we've occupied three whole floors of this office tower in CBD. I remembered Katniss being really grumpy that day, for they were having this pizza-and-cake-feast in the office to celebrate the happy occasions, whilst she was having this forcep-assisted delivery in the hospital.
That night, I sneaked her some Maccas. And straight away, she was happy again.
Her fast food habit continues, behind the children, of course, until today. Nowadays, whenever little things happen and she gets angry or sad, I'll just have to find the next Maccas or KFC and she'll be happy again. Well, not all of the times. It's not a big problem, though, for we still have the cheese buns.
And it's cheese buns that I'm bringing for our bi-weekly Sunday potluck this time. Nothing else would do it this time. Katniss's mood has been pretty sulky since the morning. Today we'll have to make that announcement she's been delaying forever.
We've got another bun in the oven.
It's not that Katniss's unhappy with that. She's ecstatic. Problem was, she's already gone and made fun of Johanna and Gale when they had their latest accident last year. It's the revenge from Johanna she's not looking forward to. Especially with all the hormones making her super-sensitive for the moment.
"You ready?" I ask her as we stand at Finnick and Annie's front door.
She just shakes her head and huffs. It doesn't look like we have another choice for the time being, though. Willow, who is excited to see the other kids, has pressed the doorbell for us. It will be matters of seconds before this little party started.
"Yo, Guys!" Finnick greets us, as he opens the door. "Do come in! We've been waiting for you."
He then bends down and whispers something to Rye, who perks up and runs into the house right then.
"What are you telling my kid?" Katniss demands, being the fierce Mama Bear she is.
"Nothing dangerous, really," Finnick answers, confident and boisterous as he usually is. "Just the fact that Shell's got this new game they can play together."
Shell - her name is Michelle, but everyone calls her that - is Finnick and Annie's youngest, who's now around Rye's age.
"Is Lex here, Uncle Finn?" Willow asks, polite but hopeful.
"Oh, yes, she is!" Finnick answers. "She's now programming that robot with Dylan and Andy, that looks like so much fun."
Dylan, Finnick and Annie's eldest, and Andy - Andrea - who is Gale and Johanna's first accidental baby, are now thirteen and well-trained in programming. I remember their kindergarten teacher calling their parents in one day, for they'd both started counting at zero instead of one like other kids in true programmer fashion. Annie just smiles at this, and Finnick and Johanna even found it hilarious, but Gale was somewhat disturbed. He made sure his second daughter, Lex - Alexandra - knows the difference between the 'programmers' count' and 'normal people's count'. It didn't work, and we all still got called in by the kindergarten teacher, so all of us decided not to bother afterwards. I think Finnick and I actually high-fived each other when we got called in by Shell and Rye's teacher.
"And where's Noah?" Willow then asks again, this time more shyly.
Noah, who's the same age as Lex and Willow, is Finnick and Annie's middle boy.
"He's busy making this flying circles on his laptop. You should check on what he's doing."
"May I?" Willow then turns to me and Katniss.
"Sure," I answer her. "Go find him."
She dashes in at this, and Katniss smiles this half-glum smile. She told me a few weeks ago that she thought Willow had a crush on Noah.
"She'll grow out of it," Finnick attempts to make her happy again. "They're just kids."
"Look at yourself," Katniss shoots back at him.
We look at each other and laugh at this, for it's kind of funny and there's nothing we can do for the time being.
Finnick steps aside and we walk in. The house's a perfect mixture of pretty things and chaos - of Annie and Finnick, really. The kids are everywhere in the house - on the floor, on the dining table, in the living room. And there's Gale, pacing back and forth in the middle of the room with little Jesse in his arms. Johanna has seemingly put him on baby duty again. A perfect revenge, for he sometimes still doesn't know when to stop working.
"About time, Brainless."
Now, that's Johanna, who's standing in the kitchen. On her side, stands Annie who waves at us excitedly.
"You ready?" I whisper to Katniss.
She still shakes her head.
Oh, well. There's still this whole gathering to convince her, after all.
So... we're here guys. This is it.
I'd like to thank you all for this amazing journey. My readers, followers, favouriters, kudoers, subscribers, bookmarkers - those email notifications and those number of the statistics tab were major motivations for me. All of my reviewers, both from ff and AO3. Your kind words meant a lot to me, and made my days. De-BardatBoston, whose faith in this story encouraged me to keep writing. Ryden20, MTK4FUN, MaidenAlice, and este13, who were so enthusiastic about "Lines". Other people who've reviewed this story at its early stages, and those who've left kind reviews after the last chapter. You guys are all gold.
I don't think I'll venture to the world of modern day AUs again in the near future. I've got a Canon Divergence project, "A Tale of Two Districts", going on, and an AU in Panem project lined up afterwards. There are several modern day AU ideas I'm toying with, but I don't think I'll pursue them anytime soon. When I do, though, I hope that we can all meet again. "Lines" audience, you're an awesome crowd! :)
Stay gold people! And hope you're having a great time there.