Based loosely on Blake Shelton's "Austin." Please read and review!

"Katniss, please!" Peeta begged, his hand making knots in his hair from running it continuously through it.

"What do you want from me, Peeta?" Her voice was quiet, resigned. They had had this fight for the last week and she was tired of it. Nothing he said was going to change her mind.

"I want you to stay. To fight for us." His blue eyes sought out her grey ones and she had to remind herself that he would get over her. That he had to get over her.

"I can't." It was a whisper, but she knew he heard her. "It's better this way."

"Better for whom?" It was an accusation. "Because I sure as hell will be lost without you. And I thought, maybe you had felt the same."

"You'll be fine." Katniss fiddled with the end of her long dark braid. She didn't have the energy to fight anymore. "You'll marry one of the pretty blondes that come into the bakery and have pretty blonde little babies."

Peeta flinched. "Is that why you're going?"

Katniss shouldn't have mentioned babies. Her hand instinctively fell to her empty stomach and his face crumpled.

"Please, Katniss..." Peeta reached for her hand still on her midsection and she swatted him away. "I-I don't need children."

But he did. From the moment she met him, she knew how much Peeta wanted children of his own.

It was a chance encounter that she even met the baker at Mellark's. He was short staffed the day she let Madge convince her to splurge from her diet and try out the new bustling bakery everyone was talking about. Katniss ordered a medium chai tea and a cheese bun. He wrote his cell number on her cup, but not her pretty blonde friend's. Madge was always getting hit on when they went out. She blinked and met his bright blue eyes across the counter.

"You'll go broke if you keep that up." She had nodded towards the sign that read "Free sugar cookie, under 12."

The baker smiled, his whole face lighting up. "It'd be worth it."

When she called him later that week, not wanting to seem too desperate, though if she were honest with herself it had been awhile since any man had paid her attention, she was thrilled he asked her out. They saw each other casually for exactly two dates before Peeta asked Katniss to make it "Facebook Official."

That was two years ago and it had been a perfect courtship. Flowers for no reason, silly date nights to drive-ins and bowling alleys, meeting the parents and feeling like family, and long phone conversations late into the night despite the baker needing to rise early the next morning. When she walked across the stage to get her Master's, Peeta was in the crowd with Katniss' sister Primrose, her husband Rory, and the three youngin's they had popped out right out of high school.

Katniss had guarded her heart against him, but he wormed his way in until, at long last, she said those three words back to him nearly a year into their relationship.

Perfect, that is, until a month ago when Katniss went to the gyno for a UTI infection and ended up with a full work-up that ultimately led to the Earth shattering news: Katniss could never have children of her own.

It shouldn't have been a big deal. Katniss had always said being an aunt to Prim's (now) four children was enough for her. She had sworn to Peeta that she was never going to have children, despite his teasing protests that they'd make some pretty cute ones.

But, somewhere along the way, she had eased up on that conviction. She didn't know how much she wanted children until she was told she couldn't have them. Gone were the images of a blonde little girl in pigtails with grey eyes and a chubby baby boy with dimples and blue eyes like his Daddy and coarse brown hair like hers.

It took her two weeks to get up the courage to tell Peeta. It wasn't like they were getting married or anything. Katniss wasn't ready, though she suspected Peeta was only holding off for her sake. But he had a right to know what a future with her meant.

He tried to hide it. But the look of utter detestation is a hard one to mask.

Katniss called the movers that afternoon and rented a U-Haul. It was better for both of them if they had time apart. She had foolishly gotten comfortable with a man she could never please.

It was a rash decision, but so were most of Katniss' life choices. Like moving to the Capitol for her undergrad botany program, meaning to follow in her father's footsteps. Like changing her major six times before settling on an English program when she failed out of most of her science classes freshman year, but thrived at the reauired English prerequisite. Like deciding to get her Master's in Children's Literature of all things. Like falling for the kind baker who was above her social status and looked nothing like the guys she usually dated.

"You don't have to do this. We can make it work. Go visit Prim for a week, a month, whatever you need. But come back to me." Peeta pleaded. "I'll call you every day. It'll be like you never left."

"I'm moving to Twelve," Katniss shook her head, "I've already found a condo close to Prim's house."

"Then, uh, then I'm coming too." His eyes panicked.

He hadn't realized she'd been serious when she said she was moving back to her cozy hometown-affectionately nicknamed Twelve since no amount of teenage pregnancies could raise the city's mining population above twelve thousand residents. Though, Peeta wasn't actually sure where it was. Katniss' family had always visited the Capitol when he saw them.

"And sell the bakery?" Katniss raised an eyebrow. "That place is your dream."

"You're my dream, Kat."

"Please, Peeta," Katniss had to look away from his intense gaze. "just forget about me. For both our sakes."

The move went smoothly, though Katniss' heart ached. It took two weeks of unanswered phone calls on her part for Katniss to decide to change her phone number. Prim didn't fully understand why her sister broke it off with Peeta, but she trusted Katniss.

In the meantime, she dated random guys to get her mind off of the baker. Anyone to get the blonde haired, blue eyed man of her dreams out of her dreams.

There was Darius, the shy, red-headed librarian that fumbled with returning her library card one afternoon when she took Prim's oldest two daughters to the library's story-reading. They dated for almost a month before he kissed her-a sloppy mess of a kiss, probably his first despite being close to her age. It broke her heart in a different way. Because Darius was like a friend to her, more than a rebound, and it wasn't fair for him. Katniss tried to let him down as gently as she could. It wasn't him, it was her.

Then there was Finnick, the playboy who added her to his usual rotation of feminist side of her was disgusted, but she didn't want a relationship and Finnick was great for that because he didn't either. The sex was phenomenal, but hallow. He was the perfect rebound: emotionally stinted, physically generous, and didn't make her miss him. Though from the back, Katniss sometimes saw the baker's broad shoulders and blonde curls instead of Finnick's. After almost calling him the wrong name twice, earning an amused grin from Finnick, she called it quits with her rebound.

Her final attempt to get over Peeta was Gale Hawthorne, Prim's brother-in-law. He was in town just long enough to be a nice summer fling for Katniss. It was a little over a year after her move to Twelve and the leaves were just beginning to fall when he came back again. The sort-of couple went to the Harvest Festival together, hand-in-hand when they weren't swinging one of Prim's daughters between them. Gale and Katniss had volunteered to watch Iris, Lily, and Chrysi during the Festival so Rory and Prim could enjoy themselves with their newborn son instead of chasing after three toddlers and dealing with an infant at the biggest event Twelve produced.

The thing was, in that moment with Gale and three beautiful little girls related to both of them, she could see herself with him. In another life, if her heart didn't already belong to another, Gale would have been a great life partner.

It was that realization that made her feel foolish for ever thinking she could get over Peeta. She loved him. And if he loved her back, even half as much as he had claimed to, maybe they could make it work. She was stupid to have run from him.

The next morning, after she'd brewed a cup of vanilla biscotti flavored coffee (her current indulgence thanks the the Hawthorne's Kurieg Christmas gift last year), she scrolled through her contacts. Though she had never called him with her new iPhone, she had his number programmed in. Under a different name, of course, in case Prim went snooping.

Deep breaths. The worst that can happen is he says he doesn't want you back, Katniss thought. No, the worst thing would be him telling you he had moved on, married a pretty Capitol woman, and was expecting a child with her. That he had never loved her and was just playing around with a girl like her until he was ready to start his real family. That would be the worst thing he could say, Katniss decided.

She took another deep breath for good measure and press the phone closer to her left ear.




His voice answered, but there wasn't laughter in it. Instead, it was his professional, answering machine voice. "If you're calling about the car, I sold it already but thank you for your interest. If you've got something to sell, you're wasting your time with me..." A small chuckle. "If it's anybody else, wait for the tone and you know what to do."

Peeta cleared his throat on the prerecorded message and Katniss waited for the beep. Two heartbeats passed and his voice was back. "And, uh, P.S. if this is Twelve, I still love you."

The telephone fell to the counter and Katniss quickly grabbed it so she could end the recording before it picked up the sounds of her kitchen. She had heard him correctly, she didn't need to redial and confirm it. But she couldn't believe what he'd said.

What kind of man would hang on that long? It had been a year since their breakup. Surely he didn't still think she'd call? But, also, she was calling. She had just needed time. So maybe he knew her better than she thought.

"Wow, Katniss," Prim said later that night when Kaniss came over to get in some quality time with her only nephew, three month old Heath Hawthorne. The baby was currently covered by a thin blanket while Prim breastfed. "You reeeeallly screwed this up."

Kathiss rolled her eyes. "You're supposed to be on my side, Prim."

"Sorry," the twenty-two year old, mother of four giggled. "But he had a real job, made good money, and he loved you. Plus, he was hot." Prim said matter-of-factly.

"Who's hot?" Rory asked as he came in the front door with the twins, both dressed in their little ballet tutus, and a toddler in the stroller he pulled behind him. Katniss hadn't heard the key-in-lock, but usually she could hear the girls coming so she startled at his voice.

"Peeta Mellark." Prim responded, not ashamed of the crush. The tip of Katniss' ears burned for her sister. Rory laughed.

"Who's that?" Four year old Lily asked.

"Peeeda?" Her twin Iris scrunched her eyebrows. They were too little to remember their aunt's relationship from a year ago.

"Pee Pee!" Two year old Chrysanthemum, who they all called Chrysi, exclaimed. Rory rolled his eyes and moved to remove the toddler from the stroller to take her to the restroom. Then realized she was trying to say Peeta. He took her out and set her on the couch instead.

"You and Gale call it quits then?" Rory asked, a teasing gleam in his eyes. Though Gale was his brother, he knew Katniss wasn't over Peeta when he set them up in mid-May. Hell, Prim only let Gale see her sister once the elder Hawthorne promised he wasn't ready to settle down with anyone right now.

Katniss nodded, embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Rory. Gale is great! And I actually gave him the number of a friend I think he'd be great with."

"Madge?" Prim piped up, the baby now on her shoulder for burping. When Kaniss nodded, Prim laughed. "You know, I was thinking the same thing when she came down for the 4th."

Prim was right, of course. Even though Katniss and Gale had been dating at the 4th of July, it was undeniable the chemisty between her only Capitol friend she had ever invited to Twelve and the man from her hometown. It was another reason Katniss had started pulling back from Gale.

Rory shook his head playfully. "Nah, my big bro'll be fine. Though I saw the fireworks too."

"So?" Prim turned towards Katniss.

"So what?" She played with the end of her braid absentmindedly, while Iris climbed into her lap.

The dominant twin made big puppy eyes at her aunt and gestured to her own dark braid. Katniss untangled the girl's hair and set to rebraiding a slightly more intricate braid, knowing Lily would want hers done as well.

"So, when are you going to the Capitol?" Prim demanded, as if it were obvious.

"It could just be an old voicemail." Katniss reasoned, switching out the twins in her lap when she finished Iris's braid. "I know mine hasn't been changed in years. I think it still says I'm too busy studying to come to the phone."

"Sounds like Auntie Katniss is making excuses. Yes, it does." Rory said in a singsong voice to the cooing baby Heath his wife handed him. "But you're not scared, are ya, buddy?"

"I'm not scared." Katniss near growled and Lily jumped at the sound.

"Then what are you waiting for? You love him, he loves you." Prim stared her sister down. When did her older sister cower over a boy of all things. Katniss had always been the strongest person Prim knew. "It seems kind of obvious."

"I'll call him again." Katniss conceeded.

"You are terrible at grand gestures, Kat." Prim rolled her eyes. But she was smiling.

She was definitely bad at grand gestures. Hell, Katniss was even bad at little gestures. It took her three days to call him back. She didn't know exactly what she'd say, but she hoped he'd be too busy in the bakery to answer his cell anyways.

But, like last time, she heard three rings and then his answering machine. "Sorry I can't come to the phone, but I'm trying to win a national baking competition! Don't forget to tune in to see Mellark's Bakery Saturday on 'Baker's Of Panem!'" Laughter in the background, though Katniss couldn't place the voices. "I'll be gone all weekend, but I'll call you back when I get home on Sunday afternoon."

Katniss grinned. He was finally showcasing his talent to more than just the hundred people who frequented the bakery. She was so proud of him. And on national television, too!

There was a brief pause and then the same end of message as before. "And, uh, P.S. if this is Twelve, I still love you."

Katniss left her number and an awkward, "Um, this is Katniss, uh, Everdeen."

The weekend was torture. Of course, she went over to Prim's to watch the competition. Peeta was good, that much she knew, but seeing him in action baking against some of the finest chefs in Panem, well, it filled her with pride.

He should have won. That much was obvious by the crowd reaction. Even the regular co-hosts, energetic Effie Trinket and surly Haymitch Abernathy, seemed baffled when the guest judge Cornelius Snow placed Peeta second. The winner was renowned chef Glimmer Sparkles, who had recently been caught in the tabloids with not one but two judges of a different baking competition. From the look of her limp souffle, it seemed apparent she had rigged this competition as well. It was disgusting.

Peeta seemed to take it well, and did a great job mentioning his bakery in the final interview. He didn't mention that his five layer tiramisu was clearly better. Instead, he thanked them for the opportunity to show what he could do.

Effie was near tears, though that wasn't unusual for the excentric reality star. "Oh, what a gentleman!"

She was a wreck on Sunday. Buttercup, the stupid stray cat Prim had begged Katniss to take when they realized Chrysi was allergic, watched her pace a hole in the floor from the back of the living room couch. Katniss was just glad the mutt wasn't underfoot for once.

Her heart jumped out of her chest when her cell finally rang, close to dinner time. "Derek Sheppard" blanked across the screen. She let it ring twice more before picking up. He didn't get a word in, because Katniss started rambling from the start.

"I'm so sorry, Peeta. I shouldn't have just left like that. It seemed like the right choice, at the time." Katniss said a mile a minute. "I was just scared. And a little stubborn, too. If you're calling about my hea-"

"Katniss..." Her name was a caress coming from his lips. Instinctively, she held the phone closer to her ear. "Come outside."

"Wha-?" Katniss asked, startled by a knock at the door. "Peeta?"

She shooed Buttercup, who had decided now to stretch his legs and take up residence on the rug in front of her pacing area, and answered the door. There was Peeta, looking completely disheveled.

"Is it true?" His voice pleaded, he ran his hand through his hair and the gesture was so familiar it hurt.

"You're here." Katniss replied dumbly. "How, uh, do you know where I live?"

"Don't be mad at Madge," Peeta said quickly. "She was in my bakery this morning, congratulating me on the competition. And she mentioned her new boyfriend's fondness for sourdough and, is it true?"

Katniss flinced. She didn't know Gale and Madge were already "official." It shouldn't have surprised her, given the fact that she gave them permission to date-even encouraged it, but it felt odd her sort of best friend and her former boyfriend were public already.

"Oh, yeah, Gale likes sourdough." Katniss confirmed.

"Not that." Peeta's lips were smiling, but his eyes still looked strained. "Madge said you were their matchmaker. That you couldn't be with Gale since he had eyes for her." Peeta ran a hand through his blonde hair, longer and more unkempt than the last time she had seen him in person. "That you had feelings for someone else..."

"Oh, that." She could feel the tips of her ears burning. She licked her lips nervously, watching as his eyes followed the movement. "I didn't see it until I was with Gale. How much I couldn't get over you, even with someone great. No one could have my heart, because you still have it."

Peeta captured her lips in a startled movement and she smiled at their role reversal: Katniss, the one with the words, and Peeta, the impulsive one.

Peeta broke the kiss for a moment and Katniss let out a whimper. Peeta chuckled, placing a quick, soft kiss on her forehead. "In case you couldn't tell, I still love you, Twelve."