The kids are asleep within an hour; they are exhausted from their first trip outside District 12. Katniss settles on the sofa, sitting restlessly on the edge as I make her a hot drink. "Kuwai is another name for... for Katniss," she explains her son's name, tenatively looking out over the ever-awake city. The lights reflect in her disturbed eyes; I try not to stare. "And Oeno, short for Oenthera Rue... her name means... means..." her voice cuts off as she turns her gaze to mine. I'm caught staring, but something more important is on her mind. I know what Oenothera is - it's the evening primose. It's Prim. But Katniss cannot even say her sister's name in my prescence. That's how I confirm that she still blames me, and that she will never hold my gaze in the same way ever again.

I try not to let my expression show the hurt I feel at this realization, but she knows that's what's on my mind as I pass the mug to her. She curls her nimble fingers around it; a ring flashes. It's slim, silver, with an engravement etched into the surface in cursive I cannot read from this distance. I take the seat opposite her, knowing if I sit behind her, I won't be able to think. She follows my eyeline before I can pull it away, and her gaze shoots to the ring. She strokes it carefully, gingerly, as if it will dissolve at her touch.

"Your children are beautiful," I say, though I would have benefited from clearing my throat beforehand; I'm hoarse. "They look just like you. You and..."

"I married Peeta," she says directly, her unwavering gaze hitting me full force now. It's a charachteristic that has never left her: the honestness, the directness. It seems to surprise her that I'm not married yet myself, though she doesn't say it, I can feel it off her. We're still nearly the same person inside, despite all that's happened. And despite all that's happened, I still want more.

Rocking back slightly in my chair, I gulp and word my next question meticulously. She waits silently, her attention drawn back to the view of the city. The sun is beginning to rise, silhouetting the Nut, it's shape harshly shadowing the horizon. It looks forbiding like it did back then, though it's anything but nowadays. I can tell by her gaze that's she's thinking back and I immediately want to stop her. I want to explain to her what the Nut is now - how would she react? Me, in charge of a Firearms business. Would it open healed wounds? Suddenly I wish I could explain my life to her without the feeling that one word could force her away from me forever. I want to tell her about the investigation I launched, about how I want vengence and answers for Prim's death as much as she does - maybe even more. She lost her sister, and I lost my best friend and entire future. And I lost it because of a mistake to a boy who makes bread.

I want this to be the reunion that could never exist between us. I want her to tell my about her life since we parted. Strangely, I don't feel hatred for her husband. Envy, yes, but I know he is everything she deserves. And right now, he's not present. So I bite the bullet and ask, hoping she doesn't flee like a wild animal. She's here for one reason - she needs help. She hasn't missed me and followed her heart, leaving bread boy behind in the District we all grew up in. She's here because I was the last option she had left - and I need to find out why.

"Where's... Peeta?"

That's enough. Her eyes snap back to mine, laced with pain and anger and regret. I've hit the raw nerve she's exposed to me, but somehow I feel wrong for asking. But she wants to tell me. She needs me to know. She needs my help. Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, the girl no one could stop, the girl who saved our nation, the girl who now needs me, her murderous, estranged friend.

"I think... Gale," she swallows, her eyes flickering back to the ring. The message in her eyes makes me wince. As much as I regret not taking my chances with her, and as much as I regret showing Beetee that bomb, I pray, deep down, that her following words are false. "Gale... I think Peeta could be dead. They took him."

The Hunger Games: Book Four - How it Might Have Been ... Gale.Read this story for FREE!