He brings Katniss through the door, her face set with anger. "It was you! You sent him after me! I thought I was being kidnapped or something!" she yells, throwing her backpack at me.

"I thought you'd been kidnapped!" I shout back, unable to contain my anger. I know I shouldn't raise my voice - the kids are still sleeping - but when I had woken up and found her missing, my heart had shattered inside me again. It had begun to heal, but now...

"Why do you even care, Gale?" she pants lifelessly. She looks somewhat defeated now, as if fighting with me was a waste of energy. As if she'd given up on me years ago, and not cared since. The thought hurts me, deeply.

"I'll head back to the headquarters," Meld says quietly. "I'll keep you updated." He slips out the door of the apartment, followed by Joesy, the man who brought Katniss back. She and I stand in the kitchen, facing each other as the sun begins to rise, streaming orange light through the window behind me. But I don't care about the day ahead, about all we'll have to face. I need her.

"When you showed up on my doorstep that night... I... I couldn't believe it," I breath, looking down. "I finally thought... that I had you back. That you'd come back to me." She meets my eyes. They are softer, but no sympathy shines through. Good. She is still Katniss, hard and strong and compassionless. "Then when I saw the kids, I knew you and Peeta had married. I'd heard stories, but you know how it is, District to District, news can be messed up..."

"Peeta and I married years ago," she says softly. "What you heard was true. But... I didn't want to marry him." My head snaps up. "It took him a long time to convince me. I wasn't myself after the rebellion, after all that happened, and after P-" she cuts off, unable to say her sister's name. "But he stayed with me. And then Oenothera came along... and Kuwai... and... I had a family. Like I said I never would have." She seems sad in herself.

"But you love them..."

"I do, but... I felt like I'd lied. Not to myself, but... to you," she looks up at me again. "I told you I'd never have kids. I'd never put them through what I had been through. But the danger was gone, and I thought they'd be safe. I was so stupid, Gale." She shudders, her voice dissolving into a whisper. "I tried to contact you, but... I couldn't. I couldn't tell you about the kids, about me and Peeta. I figured you were married, with a family of your own. That you didn't want anything to do with me anymore. And deep down, I still blamed you. For... her death."

I reached for her, holding her gently by the arms. I know she can feel the scars on my hands, from setting traps and fighting and working in the mines. I know they take her back, but I have been waiting for this conversation for years. "I didn't kill her, Katniss. I even set up an investigation unit at work for her. Only the best of the workforce are on that team. I had to disable it so they could work on finding Peeta. It almost killed me to do it, but I did it. For you."

She looks up, surprised, but her eyebrows knit together. "Why would you do that for me? Our friendship, whatever it was, it ended years..."

"No," I cut her off. "Katniss, I never stopped caring about you. I never stopped loving you. That's why I never married. There were other girls, but never serious ones. You have my heart. It's a little scarred and broken, but you still have it. And I want you to know, that if Peeta comes back... no, when he comes back, I'll still love you. I'll love you and your kids until I die. I always have."

I never saw Katniss show emotion like she does now. Hundreds of expressions cross her face, dozens of thoughts cross her eyes, but finally, she picks one. I have been waiting for a reaction from her to this speech for so long. I never thought I'd get the one she gives me.

She kisses me.

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