A/N: So I know it's been ages and ages since I updated. It's a long story that I'm sure you all don't care to hear, but hopefully I'm back for a while now. Erm, not else much to say, though there is a bit of sexual connotation here, so don't read if that offends your sensibilities. Also, a quick thanks to all my reviewers: ShootingStar34, fcajoymartin, StarPrincess999, StarofCalamity, eac12897, Kid on FanFiction, Rue Her Death, and Wannabe Imprintee. And to my anonymous reviewers Anni-Maria, sorry I took so long, here it is at last, and Mayleen, thank you for the wonderful review, I'm glad you like Maisy, and I think your English is great! Reviewers, I only continued this story because of all of you!

And since it's been so long, a little recap:

I can't see, I can't think, all I can do is feel Maisy, her small tongue hot and sweet in my mouth. I fist her hair, trying desperately to pull her closer. And when she grinds her hips against mine, I see stars.

I lower my hands, tugging at her hips, urging her to maintain her rhythm. And she does, rubbing against me in time with her kisses. I concentrate solely on the feel of her hips moving against mine, her taut stomach and curves arched against my body, her nails raking over my shoulders, her mouth, so warm, sucking on my lower lip.

Suddenly I feel her hands withdraw from my hair and a sudden rush of cold air as she pulls her body away from me.

"Whoa, hey!" I say, breathlessly, falling forward, my arms suddenly empty.

"Gale, I'm so sorry," Maisy whispers. Then she groans lightly.

"Why?" I ask, shaking my head to clear it. I'm still seeing stars and can barely breath. "That was the most amazing kiss I have ever-"

My vision finally clears and what I see makes my heart stop.

Maisy is lying with her back on the ground, her hands around the hilt of Shard's knife, which is buried up to its base in her stomach.

"I wish things could have been different," she whispers, but then a loud droning overhead drowns out the rest of her words.

Two hovercrafts are descending, one with a ladder hanging out of its belly, and the other with a claw.

"No!" I shout, jumping up in a panic. "No! You can't take her. She's not dead yet!" I wave my hands wildly, begging the hovercrafts to go. My screams burn my throat.

In the distance I hear the cannon go off, and my heart cracks down the middle. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, but I'm frozen and they can't fall. Maisy disappears from my line of sight, and I'm screaming, cursing, thrashing in my head, but my body won't move.

I'm pulled into the hovercraft, and I see a man in a white coat come towards me with a syringe. I feel a sharp pain, and then I'm released from the freezing effects of the ladder.

"She's not dead. You bastard. You bastard!" I yell, my voice raw and slurring. I run into a table of instruments and hear them clattering loudly to the floor. I lurch painfully towards the doctor and grab him by the collar. He looks terrified.

"You bastard," I murmur, but black splotches are spreading along the sides of my vision. I feel woozy and off-balance. I no longer have the strength to hold onto the man, and suddenly I fall to the side, blackness overtaking me.

And here it is at last…

Chapter 14

I feel warm. And hazy. And sore all over. My mind is foggy and blank, and I blink hard, trying to bring the world into focus. An indistinct figure hovers overhead, her long, dark hair hanging over her shoulders as I look up at her.

I start in surprise. "Maisy?" I croak out, my throat scratchy and strange.

"No, it's me," the voice is soft and pleading and sounds as though it's coming from far away.

I swim through the fog blanketing my brain and blink rapidly until the girl swims into focus.

"Katniss?" I question, feeling confused and disoriented. And let down.

"Yeah, it's me," she says with a smile, her fingers lightly running through my hair. "It's over, Gale. You're safe," she whispers, her eyes looking moist.

"Katniss," I say groggily, struggling to sit up, "Where's Maisy? Have you seen her?"

Confusion flickers across her face. And something else—disappointment maybe? But my head is cloudy and pounding and I can't be bothered to figure it out.

"Gale," Katniss says uncertainly, her brow creasing, "She's…well, she's dead, Gale. We all saw it."

I shake my head, still feeling foggy. "No, but are you sure?" I ask, and my head must be clearing because I can hear the way I'm slurring my words. "The cannon, it went off so late."

"Gale," Katniss says, stroking my hair gently. It feels strange; we've hardly ever touched before. "Maisy's dead. I saw the casket. They've already sent it to District 12."

"What?" I exhale, collapsing back on the bed. I feel empty, winded. Hollow. "You're sure?" I try again, knowing her answer.

"Yeah," she says, and there's something in her voice that makes me look up. "I'm sure," she says. "I saw it myself."

There's pity in her eyes. It's something I've never seen in her before, and I turn away, the white sheets rustling as I twist onto my side, my back towards Katniss.

"I think you better go, Katniss," I say, my voice even. "I want to go back to sleep."

"Hey," she says uncertainly, hearing the lie in my voice. I imagine feeling the whisper of her hand hovering over my shoulder, like she wants to reach out and touch me but is hesitating.

"I'm tired," I lie again, my voice calm and quiet. In the silence I concentrate on my body, keeping it still. I hold my eyes open, unblinking, feeling them dry out like bone. I hold my shoulders in suspension, completely motionless without being tense. Waiting.

"Ok," Katniss whispers finally. She pauses. "I'm glad you're safe." Her fingers touch my shoulders lightly, fleetingly. "And…I'm sorry. For everything."

With a soft rustle I hear her rise from her chair, hesitate, and then leave the room. The door closes with a soft click.

I continue staring at the wall, not seeing the white expanse, still holding my body immobile, my eyes wide and open.

Then, without blinking, I feel my eyes moisten. I don't gasp or cry out or even breath. I hold my breath and, unmoving, unblinking, feel hot wetness roll down my cheeks, along my chin, and onto the bed. If Katniss were to walk in again, she would think that nothing had changed. My back still faces the door, and I haven't moved. She wouldn't be able to see my face, slick with burning tears. And the fingertips of my hand lying flat on the sheet that are white as I press down desperately, achingly. Willing Maisy back.

The next time I wake up, my head is clear, and my body doesn't hurt. But I feel blank, emptied. Like all my insides have been scooped out, and dry air is whispering back and forth inside me.

I hear a clinking sound to my left and turn to see Haymitch slouched in a chair, his eyes gummy and red, his hair a mess, and his shirt dirty and untucked. He holds a half-empty bottle of clear liquid loosely in his hand and reeks of alcohol and despair. He looks devastated. I don't ask him about Maisy. If I ever had my doubts about her being alive, his face and attitude tell me all I need to know.

For the first time in my life, I understand why Haymitch is always drunk.

"Hey, kid," he mutters, finally feeling my gaze on him. "Ready for your big day?" He takes another long swill from the bottle, sloshing a few drops on his shirt in the process.

"Hm?" I question tiredly, raising an eyebrow.

"Your big debut," he says, taking another swig. "As victor," he adds, his voice bristling with bitterness.

Of course. I have to collect my victor's crown. And watch the highlight reel.

I close my eyes, wishing that this is all some horrible dream, and I will wake up in the Seam, my biggest worry getting to the mines on time.

I open my eyes and see Haymitch's ugly face appraising me through bleary eyes. I'm too tired to even feel angry.

"Yeah, I'm ready," I say evenly. "Which is probably more than you can say."

Haymitch lets out a soft snort. "Yeah, well who really cares?" he sighs. He scrubs a hand through his hair and lumbers to his feet. I take my cue from him and swing my legs off the bed. I stretch my arms out in front of me, and notice for the first time that they are tan and smooth. No burns, no scars, no reminders.

No Maisy.

I shake the thought away quickly, unwilling to think about her with Haymitch in the room.

"How do you feel?" Haymitch asks, holding the door open for me.

I pause to consider his question. How do I feel? All the anger, all the fight is gone. I feel tired and …apathetic mostly. Resigned, like I knew this would happen all along. It's the Hunger Games after all. I shrug.

"Empty," I say.

Haymitch looks at me beadily through his red-rimmed eyes and dirty shock of hair. "Good," he says finally. "Pray it stays that way."

We walk out the door together, a million things unsaid and nothing left to say.

The stylists poke and prod me, pulling and pushing my face this way and that, exclaiming over my transformation, my dramatic win. I let them do what they want, getting into the bath when I'm told to, getting out when I'm told to, sitting, standing, turning, dressing. If they're expecting me to respond, they quickly learn to keep it to themselves. I don't say a single word.

And then I'm under the stage. I can hear hundreds of voices, excitement and anticipation filtering through the wooden beams that separate me from all of Panem. I just stand there, detached, absentmindedly loosening the forest-green tie looped around the white collar of my shirt. One thought, wispy and crackling, floating through my head like a bone-dry leaf caught in an autumn wind:

Don't think. Don't think. Don't think. Don't think about it now. Don't think about her now, with all the world watching.

And then Haymitch joins me under the stage. He's wearing a clean shirt and his hair is washed, but his breath still reeks of alcohol and his eyes are strangely swollen.

"Show time," he says with a smile like shards of glass.

The platform begins to rise, and a spotlight shines on Haymitch as the trapdoor slides open silently. Waves of cheering roll down to me. Haymitch responds with a grim smile and a wave of his hand, his shoulders still hunched.

I step on the platform next, and the cheers get louder, almost deafening, as I rise up. An impossibly bright light shines in my face, exacerbated by hundreds of flash bulbs flaring and clicking from every direction in the massive sea of dark, indistinguishable faces. Hundreds and hundreds of them, rising all around me on levels and tiers and balconies—five thousand faces, faceless in the dark, cheering, calling, thinking they know me.

"Well, Gale Hawthorne, you made good on your promise. The cousin of Katniss Everdeen pulls through for a dramatic victory!" Caesar Flickerman says, patting my shoulder heartily.

I don't bother answering with more than a nod. I'm a victor. They can't touch me now.

"And to think," Caesar continues, not put off by my lack-luster response, "Another pair of star-crossed lovers from District 12! It seems to run in the family!"

I can't help but snort at that comment. If only Caesar knew about how I loved Katniss before the Games; star-crossed lovers indeed. But then I think of Maisy, and how maybe I could have loved her if given half a chance, and her loss hits me again like a punch in the gut.

"Why, why couldn't the Game makers keep the rule about two winners from one district?" Caesar laments in an overly dramatic mournful tone. The audience laps it up, groaning and wailing in response. If I actually cared I would sneer in response; they're acting like they've lost Maisy, not me. And I know that in a few days they'll have moved on to the next drama in their lives and forget all about her.

"Sorry, Gale," Caesar says, clapping my back in what I'm sure he thinks is a comforting manner. "I guess victory is your consolation prize." The audience switches moods almost immediately, cheering wildly in response.

"But because the entire country is mourning with you, President Snow decided to give you a little something else to celebrate your impressive victory," Caesar is buttering up the audience, waggling his eyebrows as they beg to know the answer to this new mystery. I couldn't care less. I don't need some stupid, inconsequential pity prize. I just want to get out of here.

"Ready, Gale?" Caesar asks, turning me around to face the side of the stage. I shrug. "Ready, Panem?" Caesar asks louder, turning to the audience and holding their gaze until the cries of anticipation crescendo.

"Here it is!" Amid the cheers and musical flourish, another trapdoor opens in the stage. Fake smoke billows out and spotlights criss-cross wildly around the area. A platform is slowly rising, obscured by the smoke and neon lights.

When the smoke clears, the audience's cheers are absolutely deafening. Caesar is shouting into the microphone, trying to be heard over the incredible din. I don't register the noise or Caesar's words. My entire view narrows to the prize the trapdoor has revealed.

It's Maisy.

Or at least, someone who looks a hell of a lot like Maisy. I don't move. I don't gasp. I just stare. It can't be. I remember Maisy's pale form, spread-eagled and dripping thick, red blood, as she was air lifted from the arena. How did the Capitol manage to find someone that looks so much like Maisy?

Because in her knee-length white dress with a red sash and matching ribbon almost hidden in her abundant curls, this girl looks exactly like Maisy. She even has the same shy tilt of her head and wide eyes.

"And here she is!" Caesar's voice jars into my thoughts. "Maisy Harper pulled from the brink of death by the best Capitol doctors. President Snow's gift to you, Gale, and to you, Panem!"

The cheers and stomping and wild clapping are truly deafening. But I still don't move. I stare at this strange Maisy-like apparition, trying to decide if she is real or if this is all some cruel joke.

The girl shifts nervously, a shy smile playing around her lips. She turns her eyes from the ground and finally looks up at me. God, her eyes are beautiful. And then she smiles. A brilliant, blazing smile that pierces right through me.

And then I know.

Without a second thought, I'm running towards Maisy. In three long strides I reach her and pull her towards me until our bodies are flush against each other, her arms around my waist and my face buried in her hair.

"It's really you. It can't be you," I whisper in her ear, placing a hand on her cheek to pull her closer.

I can feel Maisy smile next to me, and her hands are running gently along my waist.

"It's me. It's me," she murmurs. "Gale, it's me."

My breath hitches in my throat, and everything is suddenly blurry and unreal. Everything except Maisy, our cheeks pressed against one another, her delicate scent and soft curves and beautiful, beautiful hair.

And then I kiss her. A deep and fragile and bittersweet kiss. I press against her, willing her to be real and just, oh please God, alive. She responds with equal desperation, her fingers curling at my waist as I hold her face steady, my fingers splayed along the cool curves of her cheeks. And when she bites down with agonizing tenderness on my lower lip, it feels like longing and disbelief and somehow, inexplicably, like hope.

I pull away because I want to look at her again, make sure she is real. When I open my eyes, she's still there, and panting slightly I rest my forehead against her, drinking in her scent, her smile, her soft breathing. It can't be. It can't be real.

"Well, Gale, what do you think of your prize?" Caesar finally breaks into my thoughts, his hand coming down onto my shoulder and his microphone coming up to my face.

I don't dare turn away from Maisy. "Unbelievable," I breathe out and close my eyes again, breathing Maisy in, as the auditorium erupts into another crashing wave of celebration.

"That's exactly what it is, Panem! Unbelievable!" Caesar has turned back to the crowd, his hand still on my shoulder. "President Snow has shown unbelievable mercy, altering the rules of the Games for the sake of young love!"

The crowd is cheering and stomping wildly, but all I can think is that Maisy is alive. Alive. Gloriously, beautifully alive.

Finally, Caesar manages to pull me away from Maisy so I can receive my Victor's crown. Maisy won't be receiving a crown because she technically didn't win the Games; she only survived because the Capitol medical teams swooped in just in time. Once Caesar has explained this all to me, and to the thousands watching, he leads me to the middle of the stage to receive my crown. I don't take my eyes off Maisy though, watching as she goes over to join Haymitch, giving him a huge smile and hug before sitting next to him.

And then President Snow is climbing the stairs towards me, his face clearly molded and altered by surgeries into this artificially young, plasticized version, his lips unnaturally plump and swollen. I feel strangely outside of myself, and I don't know whether to glare at the man for all of the torture and evil he has perpetrated or to fall on my knees and thank him for showing me a shred of mercy that he has denied every one else. I settle for a deadpan look, and he gives me a knowing half smile, like he can read my conflicted thoughts and finds them funny. And then I remember how he tried to get me killed in order to hurt Katniss, and I manage a sneer.

But instead of looking angry at my sneer, President Snow's face breaks into a huge smile, and it's the most terrifying thing I have ever seen because it's like he knows something that gives him the upper hand, some deadly, cruel secret that means I don't stand a chance.

Then he squeezes my shoulder, in what looks like a friendly gesture, but his nails are digging into my skin painfully. "You're not what I expected," he whispers, leaning in towards my ear. He smells sickly sweet, like old blood. I want to gag and push him away, but his nails are insistent, almost piercing my flesh with their pressure. "You were better than I expected. You were perfect. Much better to me alive than dead." And then he releases me, and I'm ashamed because I can't meet his eyes. All I can do is take in one great lungful of air after another, trying to clear my head and stop the room from spinning.

Then he's gone and the audience is cheering and I don't have the time or the presence of mind to figure out what he was talking about.

Caesar ushers me to sit down for the video reel. The lights in the auditorium dim and with a brass fanfare and Capitol insignia, the highlight reel begins.

I wish I could say the highlight reel passed in a blur. That my thoughts focused only on Maisy. Her hair. Her eyes. Her smile. But that would be a lie.

When the video began to play, I couldn't turn away. I refused to give President Snow the satisfaction of knowing how much the Hunger Games affected me. So I stared at the video reel and clenched my jaw so that not a single flicker of emotion would cross my face.

And the video was horrifying, bringing back all of the terrible, bloody moments that I had forgotten or my mind had blocked out. When the cameras panned through images of the fight at the Cornucopia, I felt the panic from that moment rise up reflexively within me, a drip of acid sweat rolling down my back as I watch myself, as if in a dream, scrabbling through the contents of the Cornucopia and slashing out viciously with a knife.

I feel a shiver of horror when I see how close I came to dying when Eye Patch nearly strangled me. I swallow the bile in m y throat when I see Maisy make her first kill. I remember the impossible heaviness and cold ache in my limbs as I see myself attempting to swim through the frozen water, towing Maisy in my wake. I clench my fists, digging deeply into the flesh of my palms, when I see myself kill the platinum-blond twins, refusing to look away. I blush in shame when the video shows me holding a knife to Maisy's throat, her neck lolling languid and swan-like in sleep.

And when Shard kisses Maisy, I see red.

The worst, though, the absolute worst is seeing the end of the Games. When it's just Maisy and me sitting alone in the vast arena, her face terrified of me as I approach her with words of comfort. And then we're kissing, and Maisy is reaching for the knife, and I'm so blinded by the kiss that I don't notice her squeeze her eyes closed, raise the knife, and sink it into her own stomach.

My fingers dig into the sides of my chair, gouging small holes in the wood, as I watch myself desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood and frantically, maniacally waving off the hovercrafts.

And then comes the part of the story I haven't seen. A quick shot of President Snow giving the order. The cannon shoots off as a decoy, and Maisy is pulled into the waiting hovercraft. A team of doctors in crisp white coats speak in clipped, hurried tones, immediately swarming around Maisy and miraculously saving her life. And then a final shot of me, lurching towards the terrified doctor on my hovercraft, fainting, the cries of "she's not dead" still on my lips.

After the video reel is the party. Hundreds of people feasting and dancing and laughing, coming to shake my hand, to congratulate me for my victory, to ask me how I feel about Snow saving Maisy. A blur of food and music and fake smiles. And hard as I try to slip unnoticed through the crowd, to wend my way through the jabbering masses and just find Maisy, I find myself continually pulled into another posed photo, another interview, another pointless conversation.

And then it's finally over and I rush up the stairs, not bothering with the crammed elevators. I burst into our rooms, and it's quiet. It's late as I pad over the soft carpet towards my room. But then I stop, hesitating outside Maisy's door.

I take a deep breath and knock. The door slides open easily, and there is Maisy, standing in the dark in the middle of her room in shorts and a thin tank, clearly about to go to bed.

She doesn't say anything, but she smiles in the semi-darkness, the lights from the celebration outside playing across her features. I take that as an invitation and come into the room.

The silence is strange after the blinding lights and constant chatter of the party. But it's nice. Just the two of us now in the dark and quiet.

"Hey," I say, coming in and sitting on the bed. I'm not sure what to do now that it's just the two of us.

"Hey," Maisy says, and walks towards me slowly, until she's standing in front of me.

"Is it really you?" I say without thinking, and I want to cringe because my voice cracks a little at the end.

Maisy places her cool fingers on my jaw and forces my face upwards until I'm looking into the dark pools of her eyes. "Gale, it's me," she whispers firmly. "I'm not a ghost. I didn't die."

"I was so sure…" I say, looking down, my eyes sliding to Maisy's stomach. The fabric there is so thin. I reach out tentatively and push the material up, revealing a swath of smooth, pale skin.

I let my fingers play over her skin lightly. "There's no scar. They didn't even leave a scar," I say, and I close my eyes, remembering the knife protruding from her stomach, blood flowing red and thick and endless from the wound. I remember the sick, impossible hopelessness that had filled my mouth like bile.

An uncomfortable lump grows at the back of my throat, and I lean forward impulsively, kissing the spot on her hip. That cool, smooth place now whole and untouched.

Maisy gasps as she feels the unexpected heat of my lips on her skin, but she doesn't say anything. Instead she tines her fingers through my hair and draws me close. And we stay like that for a while, it could be hours, her hand stroking my hair and my lips pressed to her skin, breathing her in: her smell, her touch, her taste, her heartbeat, until I finally, finally know that she's real.

There's no point in traveling back and forth from District 12 in such a short time, so we stay in the Capitol for three weeks, just until Katniss and Peeta's wedding. Maisy and I have to go to the obligatory balls and speeches and parties and interviews, but somehow I don't mind. I just let it all wash over me in a blur. All that's real is Maisy. Her laugh that rings through a crowded room. Her eyes meeting mine across a group of rabid Capitol reporters and gossip hounds. Her hand quietly slipped into mine on the elevator up to our rooms.

I can't help it. I touch Maisy as much as I can. I reach for her often: stroking her shoulder when I'm talking to Capitol politicians or playing with one of her curls after eating another massive Capitol feast. And sometimes, when we have a free morning, we just sit with each other in our living room, our limbs tangled together as Maisy reads a book and I whittle away at a piece of wood, the sun warm on our skin. Maisy doesn't seem to mind my constant need to touch her, my need to know that she's actually here and not some wonderful dream or hallucination.

Haymitch gets it as well. He leaves the two of us alone, doesn't tell us to behave or to listen to our prep teams or anything at all really. He did pull me aside, though, that first day when I found out Maisy was alive. And he told me that President Snow only saved her to end the rebellion. I guess Snow realized that a small act of mercy would give the people hope, hope that they too would be given reprieve. Better that than almost-certain death in a rebellion. And so all of the districts have given up rebellion in favor of hope, hope of a mercy that will never come. It's then that I figure out what President Snow meant when he said I was better off alive than dead: he used me, not against Katniss, but against the rebellion.

So I guess that's why Haymitch avoids the two of us. He's happy Maisy lived but angry that the rebellion died, and I guess he can't decide which alternative would be worse. So he doesn't say anything at all.

And me. Well, I'm angry that that rebellion is over. Angry that Snow used me even though I managed to survive the Games. Angry that I should have to choose between Maisy and the rebellion. And angry with myself. Because a small part of me, a guilty, painful part, is glad that Maisy is alive even if the rebellion isn't. Glad that I'm a Victor, with wealth and security and Maisy. And I know it's wrong, but every time I see Maisy's smile or hear her whisper my name in the dark of night, I can't help it, but I don't feel angry anymore.

Because I actually feel happy with Maisy. For the first time in my life I'm not stressed about my family or food or tesserae. I feel full and content and even my memories of the Hunger Games aren't so bad because I know I would never have found Maisy if I hadn't gone through the Games.

Katniss warned me about the nightmares that come with being Victor, but after a long day of interviews and parties and an hour of kissing Maisy at night, I'm so exhausted that I fall straight asleep. And after the one night, a few days before the wedding, when Maisy peeled off her shirt and we didn't stop at just kissing, for every night after that I've been too tired to think about the Hunger Games, leave aside dream about them when I fall asleep, my skin flushed and warm, my arms around Maisy and my lips on her hair.

And before I know it, it's Katniss and Peeta's wedding, and I'm all starched up in a tuxedo and bowtie and Maisy is next to me in a beautiful red dress. We've been pushed to the side, still visible but behind the more important people. Victors and politicians and, of course, Snow himself.

In the heat and crush of people and the twisting heads trying to get first glimpse and the flashbulbs and cameras, I can barely see Katniss come down the aisle. She could be anyone with her long hair left long and open under the frothy white veil. And it's funny and kind of sad because not long ago I would have killed to be standing at the other end of the aisle, but now I haven't talked to Katniss in over a week and I'm happy right where I am-with another girl in the far corner of the room.

I do get to see Katniss up close though. During the reception Maisy and I fight through the crowds until we finally get close enough for a congratulatory hug. I hardly even recognize Katniss under the smooth veneer of makeup and the long, curled lashes, though she still looks as beautiful as always. There are tears in her eyes as she hugs me fierce and close, and I try not to laugh because I've never seen Katniss cry tears of joy before, especially over someone like Peeta Mellark. But I don't say anything because I know she would be mortified if she knew that I saw her tears, so I just say, "Congratulations, Catnip," and I even manage to shake hands with Peeta because he's Maisy's friend, and Katniss's husband, and we're going to be neighbors soon in Victor's Village.

And in a blur of dancing and eating and avoiding all the reporters, it's over. And Katniss is married and we're alone in my room, my hands tangled in Maisy's hair and my body pressed against her warmth and her curves as she sighs in the dark.

And by morning we're on our way home, the train steadily chugging through the mist and fog, the Capitol disappearing through our rear window.

Maisy and I sit in the train on the way home. I play lazily with one of Maisy's curls while looking out the window, thinking of my family and coming home at last. Maisy doesn't have such fond memories of home, but she just sits quietly, not interrupting my thoughts, reading an article in the newspaper about Katniss and Peeta's wedding.

"Look," I say, and Maisy turns her head. The fence surrounding District 12 is just visible in the distance, growing out of the landscape as we approach. My heart starts to beat a little faster as I think of my family. I wonder if they're alright, if they had enough to eat while I was gone, if the kids have grown.

"Gale," Maisy whispers, and it's the first time I've seen her look scared since the Games.

"What?" I say, my nerves taut.

"What about Katniss?" she asks, biting her lower lip.

"Huh?" I answer, confused because she looks so serious when talking about Katniss.

"Katniss," Maisy says again, putting down the newspaper and taking my hand. "You'll be living right near her in Victor's Village. I know you guys had a thing, or something. I don't know. Do I have to worry about her?" she says, and as she looks into my eyes I realize with a start that she does look worried.

"Maisy," I say, shocked that she had been worried about Katniss this whole time. "You don't have to worry about Katniss. You don't have to worry about anything now."

Maisy doesn't look convinced so I tell her the truth. "I did have a thing for Katniss. I was in love with her for ages, probably for years. It just felt right, the two of us. Anything else was unthinkable. But then she went to her Hunger Games and I went to mine, and the world we knew together was gone. Everything changed. For her and for me. I'm happy with you," I say and I squeeze her hand.

"Ok," Maisy says, and I know she means it because I can see the smile in her eyes. I'm leaning in to kiss her when-

"Time to go!" I turn to the door and see Effie Trinkett standing there, her hands fluttering as she gestures for us to get up. My head whips to the window and see that while Maisy and I were talking, the train had entered District 12. Crowds of people are squeezed onto the platform, cheering and waving signs. I strain my neck, and my heart constricts because I can't see my family in the crowd.

"Gale, come on!" Maisy says and tugs on my hand. I turn to look at her, and I see her smiling her beautiful smile. "Come on," she says again. "We're finally home."

And as Maisy pulls me forward by my hand towards the cheering crowds of District 12, I can't help but smile. I'm finally home.

Fin

A/N: So that's it…finally done! I actually do have a couple epilogue chapters kind of outlined in my head that deal with the aftermath of their relationship and, of course, Katniss-because no one can fall out of love that quickly. I'm not sure if I want to write the epilogue since they don't have much Games action or anything, but if you guys want, I might give it a go. Do tell me what you think of this chapter though. I felt it was a bit anti-climactic, but I would love to hear what you all think!