A/N: This idea has been rolling around in my head for some time and I finally got around to putting it down! This chapter is just the prologue so I'll be getting more into the story in the next one. Enjoy! =]

I do not own The Hunger Games, only original plots.

I sit at my window, staring out at the dawn breaking over Victor's Village. I sigh heavily knowing today could very well be my last day in District 12. I lean my head against the cool windowpane and close my eyes against the brightening sun. I'm longing more than ever for my old life. I would be in the woods already if it weren't for the Games. If I didn't have to act like I've never done anything wrong. I get up and walk around my room, it seems like I've been doing nothing but pacing the past few days. Saying goodbye seems more final this time. I pass my open closet and stare at my dad's hunting jacket. I reach out and run the material between my fingers and lament my lost time in the woods. My lost time with my best friend. My decision to go is an impulse, and I'm not even sure he'll be there but I need to get out of this house. I have my hunting clothes on and I'm out the door before my mother and Prim even stir.

I quickly make my way to the hole in the fence nearest the Victor's Village, I don't want to be seen going through town this morning. When I cross over into the woods I take what feels like my first full breath since they announced the Quell. I quickly make my way toward Gale's and my meeting spot. When I see his dark figure staring out over the valley I'm flooded with relief.

He turns and sees me, a smile playing on his lips but not quite reaching his eyes. He stands and opens his arms and I don't hesitate before rushing to him. I wrap my arms around him and I'm so glad when he circles his around me too. I look up at him and smile, he returns it and it actually seems genuine this time.

We spend most of the morning hunting and once we've filled both of Gale's packs we take a rest. It feels like the day a year ago that we spent sitting in this rock nook. So much has changed…

He offers me a few berries and I take them without hesitation. I sigh as I roll one between my fingers. "Take care of them if I don't come back, Gale…" My voice is more pained than I expected. We've discussed this before, but it's an all too close inevitability now.

"You know I will, Catnip." I know he's watching me but I don't turn to face him. I feel him tense a little when he says, "You don't plan on coming back, do you?"

I close my eyes and shake my head. "Not this time."

"Because of him?" I turn to look at him and he seems to regret speaking up. He raises a hand. "I don't want to fight, not today. But I want you to be sure it's what you need to do. You'll be leaving a lot of people behind that love you."

I bite my lip and take a moment to think before responding, "I know, Gale… He saved my life. I can't just let him die."

Gale's face falls a little and I know he's trying to hold back his comments. His words are measured when he speaks again. "But you know he's not going to let you do that. There's a chance you'll come home."

I give him a sad smile and shake my head. "This isn't like last time. These people won the games for a reason."

"But you won the games too, Katniss. Don't go in with no hope of ever coming back!" I didn't want to come out here and upset him. I wanted to see my best friend the last day I'm in my District.

"Gale…" I put my hand on his arm. "Let's head back, ok?"

He nods and helps me up. We're quiet as we walk back to the fence and the trip seems to go by faster than usual. It's because this is the last time you'll be here. The day was well spent, Gale's family will have plenty tonight and I was able to say my last goodbyes to Gale.

He walks me to my house in the Village and I give him a brief hug and whisper, "Don't come to the court house tomorrow…"

He looks at me, a sad expression on his face but nods after a moment then whispers, "Ok, Catnip." He turns to leave but when he reaches the last step, he looks back at me and says, "But this isn't goodbye."

I feel a little lighter as I watch him walk away. Gale has not accepted my impending death by any means, but being able to say my own goodbye makes this easier.

My mother and Prim are waiting for me when I enter the house. I spent the better part of the day in the woods and they already have dinner prepared. I smile gently at Prim as she tries to make conversation but I know the whole situation is forced for the both of them.

Once the plates are cleared and cleaned, Prim comes over to me and wraps her arms around my waist. She doesn't say anything, just stands there holding on to this last moment or normalcy. I take a deep breath and look down at her. I bend down and wipe the few tears rolling down her cheeks away and kiss her lightly on the forehead.

I whisper, "Go to bed, Little Duck…"

She nods and gives me another quick hug before heading upstairs to her bedroom. I sigh and walk into the living room. I am ready for tomorrow. I know what will happen and I know that I could be dead by the end of the week. But I can't focus on that right now. I just stand at the big window that looks out at Peeta's house and wonder what he's doing now. Baking… Or painting. I can't help when I smile at the thought and I place my hand against the glass, as if I could reach across the lawn and be able to break through to the boy who I've been missing so much lately.

"Your father would be proud of you, Katniss." My mother's voice brings me out of my thoughts of Peeta and I turn to face her. She's smiling sadly at me, "I'm proud of you. I hope you know that."

I nod. "I know, mom…"

She moves toward me and places her hand against my cheek when she reaches my spot in the room. She shakes her head. "I never thought I would be saying goodbye to you again." I know she wants to say more, but she doesn't let the negative thoughts of the Capitol escape. The look that passes between us says more than enough. She stares at me for a little while then her eyes flicker toward the window I had been staring out. She smiles at me. "Go see him, sweetie."

I raise an eyebrow. "What?"

She continues to smile when she says, "I know you want to see him, so go. I understand… I've been in this place before, but this could be your last real chance to say goodbye to him without everyone around. Don't waste it."

I shake my head. "He doesn't want to see me…" The words come out in a whisper I didn't realize how sad they would sound out of my head.

She doesn't say anything, just shakes her head and goes upstairs. I watch her walk away then turn back to the window. The lights in Peeta's house are still on and I'm suddenly wondering if maybe he would want to see me. I've been missing him so much more than I want to admit. Yes, he's been around for training but he's just been working Haymitch and me until we're all exhausted.

I take in a breath when I see Peeta pass through his living room and pause at the window. He looks across at my house and smiles sadly. I'm not sure he even saw me. I head toward the stairs and my foot is barely on the bottom one when I turn and leave the house. I'm across the lawn and on Peeta's porch before I realize it. I take in a breath and knock, hoping he'll actually answer.

I hear his footfalls come toward the door and smile slightly. Confusion and something else, maybe relief, is in Peeta's eyes when he opens the door.

He looks at me for a moment before saying, "Is something wrong?"

I shake my head and look down at my feet. I have no idea how I look right now, but I suppose it's pretty drained after spending the day saying goodbyes. I can't make myself look back at him, I don't want to see the Peeta that has been present lately… I don't want to see the Peeta trying to get me ready for this arena. I want to see the Peeta that wraps his arms around me at night to keep the nightmares away - The Peeta that kisses my forehead and smiles when he sees me. Now that he's in front of me, I have no idea what to say. This moment is what I've been thinking of the entire day and I can't even open my mouth.

"Do you want to come in? I'll make tea."

I force my head up and quietly say, "Thank you."

When I step inside, I seem to remember the real reason I wanted to come here so badly. He moves into the kitchen and I follow after a few minutes. I take a breath and say, "Peeta…"

He turns to look at me. "Are you sure everything's ok, Katniss?"

I shake my head and move quickly toward him. I wrap my arms around his waist, pulling my body close to his. He doesn't hesitate before circling his arms around me, holding on tight. The feeling of his body against mine provides instant comfort. Peeta is always warm and always makes me think of bread baking. I whisper against his chest, "I just needed to see you."

He lets out a breath and pulls back so he can see my face. He brushes a few strands of hair behind my ear and lets his fingers trail down my jaw. His eyes are bright, but I know him well enough to see the sadness he's trying so hard to hide. We both know what this night is.

I close my eyes, lean forward and press my lips to his. He takes a moment to respond but when he does, he adds an intense need that I've been feeling build up between us for weeks. I grip the back of his shirt and pull myself closer to him. When I run my tongue across his lips, he opens his mouth to allow entrance. The soft moan that escapes him causes a jolt to go through my stomach. Our tongues explore in a gentle dance, something we haven't shared in private. I loosen my hold on his shirt and allow my fingers to softly travel under it and trail slowly across his skin.

He breaks the kiss and shakes his head. "Katniss…" There's something of a warning in his voice, as if he's telling me that continuing will take this somewhere I may not want to go.

I smile softly and bring my hand up to trace his jawline. He closes his eyes at my touch and I say, "This could be our last night here, Peeta…" His eyes open and lock with mine.

He shakes his head. "Don't say that, Katniss. You don't know…"

I sigh. "There isn't much chance we'll both come out of this arena…"

He frowns. "I know, but… Tomorrow you'll think differently… And you'll regret coming to see me…"

I'm smiling slightly as I answer, "I want to do this, Peeta. I want you."

He just stares at me for a few minutes then brings our lips back together. I don't know how long we stand there, locked in a passionate embrace, but my breathing is heavy when we break away and Peeta rests his forehead against mine. We look into each other's eyes for a few minutes then I nod, giving him the permission he needs to go forward. He leans down and hooks his arm under my legs, lifting me from the ground. I wrap my arms around his neck to steady myself and I take in his smell. He's been baking… Before I realize, we're on the second floor. Peeta puts me down at the top of the stairs and wraps his arms around my waist again then brings his mouth down on mine.

I take the lead from here and pull him toward his bedroom, not breaking our kiss. He moves us toward the bed. He lays me down and hovers over me. I run my hands down his waist and pull his shirt up. We both sit up as I pull the material over his head and let it fall to the floor. He grasps at the bottom of my own shirt and I lift my arms to allow him to pull it off. I feel like I should be more nervous, but it doesn't come.

Peeta pulls me to him, wrapping his arms around me and spreading his fingers out across my back. He leans forward, laying me back against the pillows and places heavy kisses against my neck. I let my fingers trail down his sides and find the button of his pants. His breath hitches against my neck when I undo it and start on the zipper.

"Wait, Katniss…" His voice is deeper than I'm used to hearing it and has an unfamiliar tone to it… something close to desperation. I let out a soft breath and when he looks at me, I can see how dark his eyes have gone. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

I place my hand on his cheek and nod. I move my other hand back down to his pants and slowly push them down. We slowly rid the other of the last of our clothing. He pulls me close and I know my face and neck are both flushed but we my eyes find Peeta's again, I can see that his cheeks have gone red too. I bite my bottom lip and trace his jawline slowly.

Peeta gives me a smile as he moves himself above me. I let out a small gasp when we meet and Peeta's eyes widen a bit, but I reassure him by bringing my lips to his. The sensation is completely new to me and feels so different than I ever thought it would. Our movements are slow and meaningful, each touch that passes between us says so much. I gently brush the hair the falls across Peeta's forehead back and smile as his eyes light up.

This moment is more perfect than anything else I've experienced. It feels right and I can almost forget the darkness that is looming over the both of us - I can almost pretend that this isn't the only time we'll be in this moment. Neither of us have been in this place before, but that doesn't seem to matter right now. We take as long as we can, just being as close as possible. We go slow and long kisses pass between us.

Our breathing becomes labored and I grip Peeta, pulling my body even closer to his. The electricity that's been coursing through me seems to reach an impossible point and I can't help but let out a moan as I go over the edge. Soon, I feel Peeta's pace quicken. His movements become more desperate. His muscles tighten and he reaches his breaking point with my name on his lips.

Our eyes meet again and the power of our actions seems to register between us. We don't shy away; instead we stay in this moment, lost in complete bliss and each other.

I smile as Peeta gently brushes stray hairs off my face. He settles beside me and I automatically pull myself against his chest. He smiles down at me and wraps an arm around my waist.

I give him a soft kiss and lay my head in the place above his heart. I've just closed my eyes when he whispers, "I love you."

The words were so quiet, I'm not positive he meant me to really hear them. I don't move for a minute, letting the impact of this wash over me. Yes, I've known Peeta loves me for a while but he's never actually said the words before. Typically, these proclamations make my stomach twist with guilt, but not this time. I look up at him and he just looks into my eyes.

I don't know what to say right now. I sigh softly, "Peeta…"

He shakes his head. "It's ok, Katniss. I just wanted you to know… Before everything happens. If I don't make it…"

I tilt my head and smile at him. I feel like I've known this for some time, but admitting it is a different story. The love I feel for Peeta has always felt tainted by the Capitol, as if actually falling for this boy would mean giving in to their will. But now I feel as though this would have happened with or without the Games to push us together. Peeta has been a mysterious part of my life for so long and I know that I would not be here today if it hadn't been for his kindness. He's always been so sure that he loves me, and now I'm sure about my feelings too.

I bite my lip and smile, feeling suddenly shy and it has nothing to do with our current state of undress. I lace my fingers with Peeta's and whisper, "I love you too." The smile he gives makes me certain I've done the right thing coming here tonight. He doesn't say anything else, just kisses me again then lays his head against the pillow and pulls me close.

I don't remember falling asleep, but when the bright light flooding through the large window in Peeta's room hits my eyes, I jerk awake. I move my head to look at Peeta and realize he's awake too. He gives me a half smile and loosens his grip on my waist. I can't describe the feeling of loss that comes over me when he gets out of bed and starts to get dressed.

I frown as he turns back to me and holds out a hand to help me up. I push myself off his bed and pull my clothes from last night back on then head for the door.


I stop and look back at Peeta. He's in a pair of pajama pants and nothing else, his hair sticking up in every direction. My stomach twists as I think of how wonderful it would be to wake up every morning to this sight, but I know that I'll probably never get to see this again. I sigh. "I'll see you later today, Peeta…" He walks over to me and places a kiss on my forehead. I close my eyes when his lips touch my skin and whisper, "I won't regret this…"

I feel his smile before he pulls back and I can see it. He nods and says in a soft voice, "Neither will I."