I was awake with the sun, an old habit that had never gone away. But that time of day had always been one of my favorites, aside from the sunset, of course. It was the perfect time of the day to think with a refreshed mind, to bring new solutions to old problems, to answer old questions with new insight.

As I looked out the window at the lightening sky outside, I sighed and closed my eyes as a scene flashed behind them. I was suddenly transported to a different place, a different time. A different life. I was sitting on a rooftop, watching contentedly as the sun disappeared behind a horizon of twinkling lights that illuminated the large city below me, the most beautiful display of orange and pink splayed across the clouds overhead. It was a breathtaking sight. A girl's head was lying in my lap as she made a crown of roses. I played idly with her hair. All I felt as I looked down at her was love, a deep, overwhelming sense of love that completely took over me, leaving me completely incapable of speech, something I had always been very good at.

It was only when I opened my eyes that I realized I was smiling despite the pang of longing that pierced my heart. I groaned and shoved the blankets off of me. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat there, my head in my hands as I tried to forget the memory. It wasn't really my memory. Not entirely at least.

These flashes – memories – had been a part of my life for the better part of the last nine years. They began when I was sixteen, still just a boy and trying to find my place in this world. They had started out small, a flash of the sunset here, a glimpse of a pair of grey eyes there. I didn't understand them and they had scared me. But after a while, I started to get used to them, even welcomed them when I realized that the girl I loved was a protagonist in them.

Then one day, I was in the back room of the bakery my family owned, decorating a cake for a wedding the next day, when I felt an incredible pain on my left thigh. I was so shocked I had fallen to my knees, my hands wrapping around my leg. It felt like it was on fire. When I looked down, I was shocked to see a pair of black cargo pants and not the blue jeans I had been wearing. The fabric on my left thigh had been torn clean, as though cut by a knife. The torn fabric darkened as it seeped up the blood flowing profusely out of a deep slice in my skin. Another bolt of pain shot through my leg, pushing an agonized cry from between my lips.

And then, as sudden as it had happened, the pain was gone. I gazed in shock through the tears in my eyes as the cut in my skin and the black pants disappeared, replaced by my jeans. I sat on the floor in shock, disbelief flowing through me, one thought crossing my mind: What just happened?

That night, after I had wrapped myself in my blankets, the flashes came to me in a dream. They showed me a world that was too unbelievable. A world where a sadistic government sent teenagers – children – to an arena to fight to the death, where only one came out as the Victor.

And she was there, at the forefront of all of these flashes, the girl I had been in love with practically my entire life. She was the hero, the face of the rebellion that had finally brought down that government.

"Stay with me."

Always, I thought. I rubbed my eyes with the palms of my hands and looked up. I was shocked to see that I had been sitting there for nearly an hour, if the steady climb of the sun was any indication.

I finally stood up and decided to start the day. I went about my normal morning routine: shower, clothes, breakfast, make sure Uncle Haymitch was still alive (Damn drunk, I thought to myself as I left his house). And then onto the bakery.

The bakery was still the same, ever since it had been rebuilt when the rebellion had ended and I – or, well I guess, my ancestor – came back to this town. It had been handed down through the generations until it had been given to me.

I was the only one left. My parents, my two older brothers, Rye and Pan, had all been killed, caught in a fire that had destroyed the restaurant they were eating at when I was seventeen. I was in the Capitol at the time, visiting with my history class during a school trip over the summer. They were happy and smiling when I left and then I came back and they were gone.

With no family living near who could keep the bakery going (Haymitch was the only one, but everybody knew he wouldn't do it), it was given to me. I kept it running, taking on the jobs of four people. To some, that would have been impossible, but I loved to bake; it had been a passion of mine since I was a kid. The feel of the soft dough beneath my hands was relaxing, soothing.

It was my father who told me about the flashes, the day after I had that mysterious cut in my leg.

I walked into the kitchen, propelled forward by the smell of bacon and eggs. Sitting down, I drowsily filled a cup with orange juice, trying not to spill any; the dream I'd had prevented me from having a sound sleep.

"Peeta?" my father asked.

"Hmm?" I asked.

"Are you ok?"

I nodded and gave him a thumbs-up. "Oh, yeah." I tend to get sarcastic when I'm tired.

Dad sighed and looked out the door of the kitchen, making sure nobody was around to overhear.

"Peeta, I think it's about time I tell you something," he said, a little nervous.

I looked at him as I shoved a strip of bacon into my mouth. "Oh?"

"Have you…" He paused, took a breath, let it out, and started again. "Have you been having any…flashes?"

I stilled, my hand suspended in midair, on its way to picking up my cup of juice. How did he know? I thought.

"I'll take that as a yes," Dad mumbled, noticing my hand. I put it back on the table and met his eyes, forgetting the juice.

"Ok, let me ask you this: what do you know about reincarnation?" he asked.

I looked at him confusedly, trying to remember. "Isn't that…" I started. "Isn't that where someone died and their spirit went into someone else?"

"In a way, yes, although I wouldn't necessarily describe it like that," he said, giving me a small smile. I blushed slightly. "When someone dies, their spirit either goes to rest forever or they are uhh…recycled. If their spirit is 'recycled,' they, for all intents and purposes, live through another lifetime. They still have the same looks, attitudes, reactions, moods, thoughts, and expectations, but they are in a different time and life. And, more likely than not, they don't remember their past lives at all."

I let that sink in before asking. "What does that have anything to do with me and these flashes then?"

"In very rare occurrences, a reincarnated spirit will start to remember their past lives through flashes, or memories as they are more accurately called. They'll come in all forms: images, smells, feelings, touches."

"That doesn't really answer my question though…" I said, confused. That couldn't possibly be what's happening to me, can it?

Dad sighed. From beside his plate, he picked up something I hadn't noticed before. It looked old, very old, and there was something written on it in perfect handwriting that looked vaguely familiar. He flipped it over and showed it to me.

It was a picture, old if the torn edges and faded colors were any indication. In the picture were a man and woman. They were standing in a meadow surrounded by trees, a chain-link fence just visible on one side. They weren't looking at the camera, however. They were staring into each other's eyes, the love in their eyes obvious through the picture, the smiles they smiled saved only for the other.

Looking closer, I was startled to realize that I knew the woman. Of course I did, I would know that face anywhere…

She was beautiful, with dark hair folded into a braid that fell over her shoulder, beautiful grey eyes that shone with love, and olive-toned skinned, tanned from time spent outside.

"Katniss," I breathed. I barely noticed Dad nodding out of the corner of my eye. Then I looked at the man and felt a jolt.

"Is…is that…" I swallowed, suddenly finding it difficult to talk. "Me?" I finally whispered. I looked at Dad with wide eyes only to see him nodding again. My mouth opened in shock as I stared at the picture again. But there was no mistaking that blond hair, blue eyes, and pale complexion. That man looked exactly like me, just an older version.

"How is this possible?" I asked, hardly daring to believe it.

"Your spirit was reincarnated. He," He pointed at the man in the picture. "Was you in a different lifetime. When he died, his spirit was recycled and you became you." I shook my head as I felt a headache coming on. I was definitely too tired for this. Dad flipped the picture over again and showed me the back. I looked at the handwriting.

"To Peeta, my one and only true love,

You of all people know how bad I am at words (you're the one who's good with words, not me), but I will try my best to tell you how much I love you.

Today is our one year anniversary. It is impossible for me to explain just how much you mean to me. You are my solid light in the dark, my steady ground when I falter, my dandelion in the spring, my pearl in the ocean. I will forever and always keep this year, and every year ahead of us, in my heart as we continue on trying to put everything that has happened behind us.

I give this picture to you to hold onto whenever we are apart. If you feel like we are becoming distant, look at this picture, remember this day, and know that I will always be with you.

I love you more than my own life. I was ready to lie down and die for you when I thought all was lost. It pains me to be away from you, for you are my all and everything. And I will love you forever.

Real, my love,

Katniss

As I read the last lines of the letter, I felt something wet trail down my cheeks. I reached up and realized I was crying. I had a sudden flash of Katniss, the girl I have loved since I heard her voice, smiling shyly at me, handing me this picture, looking brand new, as we lay on a couch, my arms wrapped tightly around her.

When I came back, I noticed a line of writing in the upper-right corner. I brought the picture closer to read it:

Katniss and Peeta, June 18th, 2189.

This picture was taken almost three-hundred-and-fifty-years ago! I thought incredulously. That explains why it looks so old.

"How do you even have this?" I asked, flipping it over to look at the picture again.

"These are my grandfather's great-great-grandparents," Dad explained. I turned my head to stare at him so fast, it cricked. I rubbed it as he continued. "This picture has been passed down for generations. Much like this house and the bakery."

"So, I'm like…what? My own grandson or something?" I asked, trying to get this straight.

"Yes," Dad answered. "Your great-grandfather times five is yourself."

"Ok!" I half-shouted, waving my hands at him to stop, shutting my eyes firmly closed. "That's it. My head already hurts, I don't need that."

Dad chuckled. "Sorry, son."

After that, he proceeded to tell me all about the Hunger Games, the cruel invention of the Capitol to control the citizens of Panem after the failure of the Dark Days. He told me how our ancestors – or Katniss and I – helped fuel a rebellion that finally brought down the Capitol, thereby ending the Games forever.


"Thank you for coming," I said cheerily, handing the lady her change. I watched her as she walked out of the door. Just as I was about to look away, my eyes landed on a heavily-coated figure walking in front of the bakery, a sudden feeling of sadness and jealousy weighing down my heart.

I had never really liked Gale Hawthorne, even before he and Katniss had met. He had always been the typical bad-boy who unknowingly caught the hearts of many a girl. He used to be a troublemaker but after his father died in the same explosion that killed Katniss' father, he calmed down a bit. After that, he and Katniss became friends, I assume by the mutual need of just needing a friend to talk to.

Gale was two years older than Katniss and I, so he was already in college when he and Katniss started dating. I had always been jealous of their friendship, because I had always wanted to be close to Katniss, but the pain I felt when they started dating was overwhelming. It hurt to look at her and see her smiling to herself, knowing that it wasn't a smile meant for me. They never got married, but after Katniss' little sister, Prim, died in the same fire that took my family, her mother moved to a different town and Katniss moved in with Gale. It was my understanding that she never wanted to get married as it could lead to children and she didn't think she could handle it if she lost anybody she loved, like she lost her father and sister.

I have loved Katniss since we were five years old, since the first time I heard her sing on the first day of school. All my life, I had felt a connection to her and it wasn't until after my father told me about our past lives that I finally understood why. I knew that Katniss was the one for me, but I had never pushed myself into her life, instead I let her figure it out for herself. I doubt she would have any memories of her past life, since that's very rare to remember your past life, but I knew that we were meant for each other. I knew she would someday realize that, so I waited patiently for that day to come.

Watching Gale walking to work – later in the morning than normal for him; usually he was up with the sun like I was – I realized that something was different with him this morning. He looked worried, his eyebrows were furrowed and there was a stiffness in his gate that was new. My mind immediately went to Katniss and I wondered if she was ok. I shook it off though, figuring that Gale wouldn't have gone to work if there was something wrong with Katniss. I went back to work.

About an hour later, there was a lull in business so I decided to fill the time by cleaning the front windows. Somehow feeling compelled to look out the windows, I did. And my heart stuttered.

Walking past the bakery was the woman of my dreams. She didn't put her hair into a braid today, so her dark hair fell across her shoulders and along her back. She was bundled up in a thick jacket and was walking in the direction of the library.

I watched her as she walked past, wondering what had happened to make her look so…so…happy. That was the only word I could think that described the look on her face. It made her look even more beautiful, if that was even possible. It was like a glow from within had suddenly burst forth and lit up all of her features.

Her eyes looked up and slid over the sign for the bakery and a small smile curled her lips. I was taken aback. Her smile was so rare that it felt like a blessing when she gave it. And she hardly ever smiled since Prim died. And for her to smile by just looking at my bakery was enough for me to believe that that day would finally come.

She walked on as I watched her back, wishing that that day would come sooner.


The first day of spring came crisp and refreshing. I woke up with a new bounce to my steps as I got ready for the day.

Something good is going to happen today, I thought, smiling. I can just feel it.

At that moment, a memory of me standing in a kitchen came to me. I was leaning against the counter, my arms wrapped around Katniss while her arms were wrapped around me. Her head was lying on my chest. Feeling a smile curling my lips, and, in a daze of euphoria, I asked her, "You love me. Real or not real?" She lifted her head off my chest to look me in the eyes, smiling as she replied, "Real." I leaned down to kiss her…

I sigh and shake my head. If only that could happen.

When I got to Haymitch's house, I was shocked to see him sitting – conscious – at his table, his hand wrapped around a bottle of white liquor.

"Good morning, Haymitch," I said cautiously, knowing that he usually keeps a knife on him at all times.

Haymitch grunted and looked at me. "Mornin'," he grumbled.

"You're not usually up at this time," I stated, trying half-heartedly to start a conversation. I sat down at the table across from him, making sure to keep his knife hand in sights.

"I…decided to enlighten myself with the daylight hours," he said, drinking deeply from his bottle.

I rolled my eyes. "I doubt that."

"You're right. I waited for you to show up because you always do in the morning," he said, slurring his words.

I quirked an eyebrow. "Oh? And why were you waiting for me?"

He was quiet for a bit, looking everywhere else but at me. I waited somewhat impatiently, ready to leave and get to the bakery. Finally he looked me in the eye.

"It's time," was all he said.

Confusion settled as I stared at him, waiting for him to elaborate. When he didn't, I asked, "Time for what? Don't start talking in riddles, Haymitch, you know how much I hate those."

He shook his head, pointing a finger at me. "Nope. I can't help with this. You just do today like normal." He then took a long pull from his bottle and proceeded to pass out on the table.

I sighed and put my head in my hands. I was having a good day. I stood up and left the house, again thinking, Damn drunk; it seemed it was habit for me to think that at this point.

I made my way to the bakery, my mind wandering to Katniss.

I had hardly seen her in the last few months since I watched her walk to the library. I heard through the grapevine that she and Gale had broken up and Gale moved out. Other than that, I hardly ever heard anything about her. She used to come into the bakery every couple of weeks to get a new loaf of bread but she hasn't stepped in for months.

It was still pretty early by the time I got to the bakery so I set about taking everything out and putting them on display. After everything was out, I went to the door and flipped the sign to Open.

An hour later and business was pretty slow so I went into the back to get caught up on orders. I observed the wall that I taped all of the orders on and debated how long each one would take me. I decided on a cake that needed to be ready for a wedding later this week. I had just taken the pans full of cake out of the oven onto a cooling rack when I heard the bell tinkle in the front room of the bakery. I glanced at the door leading to the front before taking off my oven mitts and apron.

"Can I help you?" I asked as I walked into the front room. Distracted by something outside, I didn't look at them.

"No, I'm just looking. Thank you though," they said. My head whipped around at the sound of her voice.

"Let me know if you need any help," I reply out of habit, not taking my eyes off of her.

I couldn't believe it. She hadn't walked into this place in months and all of a sudden here she was. Her hair was down again, like it had been so many months ago. I longed to run my fingers through it and...

I shook my head, tearing my eyes away from her. I couldn't think about that. I knew her and Gale weren't together, but she didn't know what I knew. I needed to let her find out on her own time, on her own terms. I looked back at her. She was smiling slightly as she looked at a cake decorated with primroses. I started making those when her sister was still alive, hoping that one day Prim would get the chance to try one, but she was gone before she could.

Katniss took one last look at the primrose cake before making her way over to the bread and picking out a cinnamon loaf, her usual purchase.

"I'll have this one," she said, handing me the loaf as she reached the counter. She stared at her hands as I rung up the purchase. I could smell the familiar woodsy smell that clung to her; it engulfed me as I waited for the old cash register to remember the total. When it finally did, I reached for a paper bag and started putting the bread in as I said, "That will be $5.70." Making a quick decision, I gestured to the cookies on display. "And would you like to try one of our chocolate chip cookies today? They're free," I offered.

I watched her as she looked at the cookies, debating. I could almost see the gears turning in her head. I smiled a little.

"Sure," she finally said.

I separated a square sheet of paper from a stack and reached into the display case. I grabbed a cookie, wrapped it up, and handed it to her. As she reached out to grab it, our fingers touched just the tiniest bit. I heard her give a small gasp and I stared in shock as I felt bolts of electricity shoot up my arm. My eyes fluttered up to meet hers.

"Peeta," she breathed out. My heart fluttered as I nodded.

I watched as a range of emotions battled for attention on her face. When a look I can only call love appeared in her eyes, she walked around the corner. Knowing what she wanted, I opened my arms and she wrapped her arms around me as I wrapped mine around her. She looked me in the eye one last time before her eyes fluttered closed. My eyes closed just as her lips touched mine.

No memories came to me, no flashes of anything out of the ordinary. The only thing I was aware of was the feel of her in my arms and the softness of her lips on mine. Feelings I had only dreamed of, and experienced minimally through memories of a different lifetime, cascaded through me as we kissed.

Reluctantly, though in need of air, we pulled away. She laid her head on my chest where it fit perfectly and I laid my cheek on the top of her head, breathing in her scent. I could feel her smiling.

"Stay with me," she whispered.

With those three words, I knew that she knew everything. She knew everything that had happened to the both of us in a life that happened before us. She knew that she was my one and only true love, and I was hers.

So I answered in the only way I knew.

"Always."