"I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
my heart)
I am never without it (anywhere I go
you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate
(for you are my fate,my sweet)
I want no world
(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart
(I carry it in my heart)"
― E.E. Cummings

Peeta's touch echoed on her skin. As Katniss sipped the warm spiced milk, her neck burned. While they'd watched the recording of the 50th Quarter Quell, and during their tactical discussion with Haymitch, it tingled. Her skin recalled his lips most acutely as he followed her down the corridor, just seconds earlier.

Besides the flickering of inconsistent moonlight reflecting off trees they pass, her compartment is dark. Once the door slides shut she steps into Peeta, reaching under his arm to turn the lock. Nuzzling her face against his shirt, then lays her cheek on his collarbone, and her arms snake around his back. Immediately, strong arms wrap around her body and warm hands splay across her back, pressing their bodies flush. His lips return to the spot on her neck, where they'd burned earlier.

Katniss feels his heart hammering rapidly in his chest, while her own seems on the verge of bursting through her ribs. Under his soap she smells whatever is uniquely Peeta, something slightly musky, that has no name. Taking comfort in each other, they stand rooted, holding one another, for what seems like hours.

Heat radiates from his skin. Slowly Peeta's lips brush lightly up her neck, then gently press against her temple. Rolling onto her toes, Katniss places a timid kiss on his cheek. Bending, he gently kisses her cheek and jaw, and then withdraws, making eye contact. In the flickering moonlight only the outer rim of his dark blue irises are visible. Glancing to his full soft lips her tongue darts out instinctually to swipe her own. A tremor vibrates through Peetas body.

Cautiously, Peeta lowers and angles his face, pausing for permission. Tilting her chin up Katniss closes the gap, starting chaste, lips barely touching. Soon their lips begin to mold together in unison. Katniss slides her hand up his neck to tangle in his curls and their mouths open to each other.

He moves down her jawline, sucking hot wet kisses on her neck. When he gently scrapes her earlobe with his teeth she releases a breathy moan. Lips on lips, Peeta walks her backward to the bed. Katniss kicks off her heels when the back of her knees hit the edge of the bed. Peeta toes off his shoes, and together they crawl toward the pillows.

Lying on their sides, facing each other, she smiles shyly. He tucks her loose tresses behind her ear; his thumb traces the delicate shell.

"I've missed you," says Katniss.

"I've been here the whole time," says Peeta.

Not wanting to argue semantics, her fingers slip back into his hair. In one thrilling movement Peeta rolls them, his knees nudging hers apart, hips settling against hers. His elbows rest on either side of her head, supporting his upper body.

"Is this okay?" says Peeta.

Nodding, her hands press into his back. Teeth clash in unpracticed eagerness. Peeta brings his mouth down again, laughing, and slowly moves his lips and tongue with hers.

Katniss is lost to sensation. She's only vaguely aware that she's slipped her hands beneath his shirt, roaming across soft skin and the hard plains of his back. Or that she'd hitched her legs up around his hips some time after they'd started to rock against each other. Or that Peeta had shifted his weight to one arm and had slowly pushed her blouse up to her ribs, his fingers stroking the bare skin just below the lacy edge of her bra.

Sitting up on his knees Peeta pulls his shirt off over his head. He settles with his back against the headboard. "Hot," say Peeta. "Still okay?"

"You don't have to keep asking," says Katniss, as she sits up. Shifting, she swings her leg, straddling Peeta's lap. "I'll let you know if I'm not. Are you okay?"

"Yeah!" says Peeta, his voice cracking. Clearing his throat, "Yeah, I'm okay."

Grinning at each other they lean in and touch foreheads. They kiss again with exploring hands. Rocking into each other, his hands are everywhere, her thighs, and her waist, under her breasts, her back. He kneads her flesh, squeezing with strong fingers. Rhythmically, she swirls fingertips across his chest, her thumbnail catching on his nipple.

Peeta groans and slides his hands under her bottom, one palming each cheek, and presses her hips more firmly into his. Taking advantage of the new position, he attacks her neck, sucking and licking along the pulse point.

Feeling smothered by her silk blouse, Katniss leans back and yanks it off. The white bra straps contrasts with her olive skin, her dark nipples visible through the white lace.

Peeta stares.

Flushing, he glances up, "Sorry, I… You're the first girl I've seen without a shirt."

"But, I know you've dated. When we were still in school," says Katniss. "You never…"

"I've never seen another girl," says Peeta. "Just you."

Warmth bubbles in her chest. Leaning forward she kisses his neck, trying to duplicate his technique. Large hands lightly ghost up and down her body, until they come to rest at the sides of her breasts. Returning to his mouth, they kiss languidly.

Hesitant fingers trace around her bra. Emboldened, they lightly dance across the lace until his warm palm gently cups her breast. He kneads the soft flesh and her head lolls back. Sensation begins to overwhelm Katniss, there is a burning deep in her belly, and the back of her thighs tingle. She can't contain her moan when Peeta rubs his thumb over her nipple. Though barely touched, an electric charge shoots through her body.

Bringing up his knees, he shifts her back against his thighs while she slides her feet just behind his hips. Aware the new position exposes her more fully, Katniss shyly crosses her arms over her chest.

Smiling bashfully, Peeta says, "You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." His eyes shine with adoration, "You're perfect."

Eyes downcast, Katniss blushes, and shakes her head, unable to accept the compliments.

"I'm serious," says Peeta. "The smoothness of your skin, the balance of your curves. The reality of your loveliness is greater than anything I could ever dream up. I can die a happy man."

Stiffening at his words she snaps her head up and glares at him. He's broken their unspoken agreement.

"Hey, it's just an expression," says Peeta. "I didn't mean-"

"You do," says Katniss. "You mean it." Shrugging, his expression saddens.

"I'm sorry," says Peeta. "I wasn't thinking. Really, it's just an expression." He squeezes her calves. "Do you want to go to sleep now?"

"Do you?" say Katniss.


Halfway through the doorway to her quarters, Katniss pauses and turns. She raises her eyebrows and crosses her arms. Sighing, Peeta rakes his fingers through his curls.

"You're still mad," says Peeta.

"Mad?" says Katniss. "No. I'm just tired. I want to be alone."

"But," says Peeta. "We talked, downstairs in the training room, at lunch. I mean, I thought… Are you sure? That you want to be alone?"

The training room where Johanna Mason had oiled her bare breasts. The bare breasts that reflected light from Peeta's still-glowing costume in the elevator the night before.

"Yes," says Katniss. "But if you want company I'm sure you could find some on the 7th floor." Turning, she steps into her room, and shuts the door. Peeta hears the lock click. Rubbing the back of his neck, he turns toward his own room, sighing again.

Tugging Peeta past his door, Katniss leads him down the hall. His feet slow while craning his neck to look over his shoulder.

"Katniss," says Peeta. "Hang on. I just need to stop in my room to shower off this make-up and wash my hair. I feel so painted and shellacked."

Met with resistance, she pulls harder, gripping his hand forcefully.

"Katniss...," says Peeta. She shakes her head, then turns to look at him.

"I'm not letting go of your hand. I can't."

Katniss says, over her shoulder, "You can use my shower." Nodding, Peeta silently follows.

The door slides shut after they enter her quarters. Katniss kicks off her heels. After shucking his jacket and dropping it on the back of a chair, Peeta tugs at his bow tie. Kneeling at his feet, Katniss works at unknotting the laces of his shoes with nimble fingers.

"You don't have to do that," says Peeta, peering down at her. Shrugging, she gives him a rare wide smile.

"I know."

Peeta unbuttons his shirt while Katniss pulls one shoe off his foot at a time, and then removes his socks. He drapes his dress shirt over his jacket, then pulls off his undershirt and folds it. Standing, she shyly turns; watching him undress, openly, still seems too intimate.

Gasping, she startles when his lips press against the back of her neck. Hot, moist breath sends shivers through her body. "Do you need help with the zipper?" says Peeta, lowly. Katniss nods. Flushing, she feels the tick of each tooth as it releases. Withdrawing his hands, the dress slides down to her elbows.

Walking around, he faces her with a questioning look. Unsure if he wants to continue helping, or simply wants to watch, she straightens her arms. The gown slips off her body and pools on the floor around her feet. She steps out of it. Peeta, clad in only a pair of white boxer briefs, plucks it off the floor to drape over the chair.

At the mirror, Katniss begins the arduous task of removing numerous pins from her hair. Smiling, Peeta watches in the mirror, while approaching from behind. Working together, a pile of pins grows on the counter, and her hair falls free, one section at a time.

Running a hand through his hair, setting is on end, Peeta steps back. "That's quite a get up Cinna's put you in."

Katniss blushes, glancing at the barely there scraps of lace that Cinna called lingerie. The bustier is strapless and sheer and totally pointless. The underpants were even more useless, a tiny triangle with strings that actually tied in a bow at each hip. Most ridiculous is the belt with straps that hold up her stockings.

"I really like the color," says Peeta, face flaming. Cinna had told her that he'd designed the pale orange set for their honeymoon.

"I think someone must have told him your favorite color," says Katniss. "Did you want to shower first or…" Not sure how to finish that sentence, she trails off.

"Together?" says Peeta, his blush spreading from his cheeks to his ears.

"Okay," says Katniss, turning. Looking at her feet, she reaches back to release the bra, but Peeta holds out a hand.

"Please," says Peeta. "May I do that?" She nods.

Ignoring the hooks and eyes between her shoulder blades, he lifts her bottom onto the counter and peppers her neck and shoulder with kisses. "I had hoped for more time together today," he says. "I was thinking about you through my whole prep." Nudging them apart, he moves between her thighs and sucks on her neck, just below her ear. Her small palms go to his chest, then slide to his broad shoulders. She sucks in breath through her teeth then drops her jaw as his hands roam from her hips to breasts to thighs.

"I was thinking about last night," says Peeta, in-between kisses. "And what I had planned this morning. I was thinking-" Grabbing his face with her hands she pulls him toward her and stops his mouth with a kiss.

"Shut up," says Katniss. Peeta laughs, then kisses and sucks his way down her body. He nuzzles the back of her knee, making her kick and squeal. He kisses up her inner thigh, along the skin just above her underwear, then down the other thigh. Grinning up at her, he grabs her thighs, draping one over each of his shoulder, and tugs her forward until her bottom is just at the edge of the countertop.

Stomach swooping, she watches as he fiddles with the ribbons that keep her flimsy underwear in place.

Thinking of the hurt she caused, denying her affections, an ache flairs in her chest. She'd wanted to save him the pain he'd feel, reaching the end of the short tether of offered affection. She wanted to save herself from the pain of his hate.

Everything is different now.

She's sure they wouldn't be doing this at home. They'd be preparing for their fake wedding, not grasping at every opportunity to feel alive, before they're thrust back into the arena.

Katniss's focus shifts as one set of ribbons slither apart on either side of her hip. Peering down she notices streaks of shimmery glitter, like trails left by a garden snail, smeared all over her body. Suddenly, all she wants is to scrub away the Capitol version of herself.

"Peeta," says Katniss. Looking up at her face, his expression morphs from teasing to concern, and he swiftly stands and places his large hands on her arms.

"Are you okay?" says Peeta. "What's wrong?"

"I just really want to shower," says Katniss. "Now. Do you mind?"

"Of course not!" says Peeta. "Did you want to be alone?"


After planting the primroses, Peeta sets about giving his house a thorough cleaning. Having been shut up for almost a year, the dust is thick and the cobwebs numerous. He throws open all the windows to clear the stagnant air that smelled faintly of smoke.

Puffs of fresh spring flow in, disturbing the grey dust. It swirls up into great sooty clouds before dispersing in the air. Realizing the dust is mostly ash, Peeta rushes to the kitchen sink, gagging. He splashes off the sick and rinses his mouth. Squaring his shoulders, he retrieves the vacuum cleaner.

Once the house is in order Peeta showers, and then fixes himself a light lunch of crackers with peanut butter and canned peaches. While creating a grocery list, he mentally prepares for the walk to town.

Hearing the clop-clop of a horse, he looks out the window to see Thom half-carrying Katniss toward her door. Tensing, he fights the instinct to rush to her side and scoop her up in his arms.

She had looked feral this morning. Wild and beautiful and too thin. He was still trying to decipher her strange behavior and the multitude of expressions that had crossed her face when she saw him and the bushes he'd been planting. It had taken every ounce of self-control to remain casual while his body was screaming to shelter her fragile frame in his embrace.

Fist raised to knock, he hesitates, and instead turns the knob. Surprised at the cleanliness, he heads to the living room to find, as usual, Haymitch snoring on the couch. Using his boot, Peeta nudges the leg that's dangling off the side. Haymitch lurches upright, swinging his knife wildly, until he's able to focus on Peeta.

"You're back," says Haymitch. Rubbing his bloodshot eyes he slouches and reaches for a bottle.

"That's what Katniss said," says Peeta.

"Oh ho, you've seen her?" says Haymitch. "And she spoke to you?"

"I was planting flowers around her house and she came out. That's all she said, before she went back inside, and started banging around upstairs. Then I heard the shower. Later she left with her bow, heading toward town."

"Well, shit," says Haymitch, eyebrows raised. "That girl has been sitting in one of them rocking chairs in the kitchen since we got back, barely speaking. Most days she doesn't even realize someone else is there."

"You were supposed to take care of her," says Peeta, with an accusing tone. "She's practically starving."

"Trust me," says Haymitch, "She's filled out a bit since coming home. Sae cooks for her, well, us. Makes sure we eat." Peeta looks over the old man, noting that he barely looks better than Katniss had this morning.

"When was the last time you showered and changed?" say Peeta.

"I don't know, kid," says Haymitch. "A week? A month? Well, well. So she left the house with her bow. Seems like sweetheart isn't the only one who affects people."

A year ago Peeta would have blushed at a comment like that, not really sure of the truth. Now, he knows the depth of their connection.

"I don't know how far she got," says Peeta. "Thom had to bring her back in his cart. I just came by to see how you were and ask if you needed anything from town, but you seem to be set."

"I wouldn't say 'no' to a fresh loaf," says Haymitch, taking a long pull on the white liquor. Peeta smiles while heading for the door.

Once outside, he hear a lamenting wail and his heart clinches. He's inside her house before he's even decided to check on her. Approaching the formal living room cautiously, he hears the sobs slow to hiccups. Peering through the doorway he sees Katniss curled on the floor in a fetal position, shaking, and a sense of deja vu flairs.

Helplessly, he'd watched Katniss curled and shaking on the jungle floor, surrounded by jabberjays, unable to ease her torture. Just as he'd done before, he gathers her in his arms.

Hissing, a streak of furry mustard darts past, disappearing into the hall. Peeta settles on the couch, rocking her, whispering soothing words, stroking her back until she slowly stops shaking. Soon her body relaxes into his chest.

Knowing that she's sunk into a deep sleep by the cadence of her breath, Peeta carries her up to bed. This, too, seems familiar. He'd tucked her in and she'd asked him to stay. She'd taken his hand against her cheek, and he'd whispered back as she'd fallen victim to sleep syrup.

"Always," Peeta mouths.

He smooths hair away from her crown, and lightly kisses her temple. Leaving the window open, to hear when she has a nightmare, he goes to the kitchen. After setting out a saucer of milk for Buttercup he walks toward town. On the road, he meets Greasy Sae on her way to Victor's Village. She grins at him and thumps his shoulder.

"About time you've come back," she says. Informing her of how he'd left Katniss, she cackles and her eyes twinkle, "So you've taken her to bed? About time you did that, too." Blushing deeply, Peeta hurries away.

"Come for breakfast tomorrow," calls Sae to his retreating back.

Katniss studies herself in the mirror. Her scars seem to be fading nicely, the fancy burn cream from the Capitol is working better than she'd hoped. She'd cut her hair so it was all one length, removing the singed bits, back in the spring. Now the raven locks brush her shoulders.

Sitting with her back against the headboard, she stretches out her legs in front of her, crossing them at the ankle. Tonight, she'd donned a simple cotton nightgown, from Cinna.

The fine white lawn is dotted with tiny embroidered yellow blooms and pale green stems. A pale green ribbon ties between her breasts, modestly cinching the neckline. The nights have been hot and the t-shirt and sleep shorts she normally wears is suffocating. She reasons she might sleep better wearing the light shift. Tugging the hem, she runs her hands down her front, smoothing the wrinkles.

Katniss retrieves a book from the nightstand, thumbing to where she had left off. The novel, Persuasion, was from before the Dark Days. Effie had found a whole collection of what she called "classic" books in antique shops in the Capitol. Katniss appreciates the gift, with so many idle hours to be filled. TV was not much of an option; often she'd seen something disturbing that caused an anxiety attack. Fidgeting, finds that she can't focus, and must return to the top of the page, repeatedly.

Peeta exits the bathroom, rubbing a towel over his wet hair, wearing just his sleep shorts. He pauses at the mirror, applying his own cream to his burns.

The first week after returning, he had woken Katniss from her nightmares each night, having heard her through the window. One night, Katniss woke alone screaming. Panicking, she ran to Peeta's house, tripping through the dark. She found him trapped in his own nightmare, moaning softly. Instantly, she was combing back his damp curls with her fingers, whispering soothing words. Eventually, he calmed without waking, and pulled her tight against his chest.

She snuck into bed with him the next night, and the next, and so on. After Greasy Sae stopped cooking for them they started eating breakfast and dinner at his house. More of her things seemed to wander over. Peeta never said a word, but with a smile stretching from ear to ear, emptied a few drawers and cleared a space in his closet.

"What took you so long?" says Katniss. Peeta laughs.

"I fell asleep," he says. "I woke when the bath water turned cold."

"Peeta!" she says. "You could have drowned!" He makes eye contact in the mirror, humor fading slightly.

"No," he says. "I'd wake up, before that happened." Taking in her appearance his smile widens again. "That's pretty," he says, rubbing the cream into his chest, moving his fingertips in small circles.

"Better than orange lace?" says Katniss, immediately regretting the words. He snaps his eyes back to hers. Turning, he rakes his hair back off his forehead, thinking.

"Real or not real," says Peeta. "I went to your room with you. After the tribute interviews."

"Real," says Katniss, staring down at the opened book.

"Real or not real," he says, pausing. "I unzipped your dress."


"Real or not real... Your… underthings were orange?"


"Ah...You allowed me to undress you, and I kissed you." As his statements become bolder while his voice quiets.

"Real," she says, nearly a whisper.

"We showered together."


He continues. Katniss blushes deeper with each question, and starts to feel a familiar burning low in her belly. She looks up when he hesitates. He sits on the edge of the bed, back to her.

"We've never had sex." She shakes her head.

"Not real."

"Wait," he says, twisting. "What? After the shower, I only remember trying to sleep."

"Real," says Katniss. "It was the night before, after the picnic on the roof."

Peeta nods. "I thought that was a fantasy or a dream."

"You told me it was," she says. "But it was also real."

He clasps her small brown hand in his own. Peeta's eyes bore into hers. Unable to withstand the intensity, she looks down.

"So... when you came to see me, after I was rescued, you weren't just expecting me, but... your lover?"

"Real." Her mouth makes the shape, but no sound comes out. Looking up, she see his face crumple. Pulling his shoulders down, she rests his head on her lap. Like a small boy he curls his knees up, pressing his face against her belly, and slides an arm around her waist. She strokes his shaking shoulders, and runs her fingers through his hair. This isn't the first time she's held him like this, and he's done his share of holding her. They've even held each other, sharing their grief. But not about this.

After a while his shuddering stops and his breathing calms. Katniss rubs the heel of her palm across her eyes to rid them of excess moisture. Peeta turns his head, lashes stuck together, eyes shining azure.

"I'm sorry."

"Peeta, it wasn't your fault."

"No, I know. I'm just sorry that happened to you. I don't really remember it. The doctor said the venom in my system was unusually high when I was brought to 13; said he was surprised my heart didn't give out. Anyway, I- I saw the recording of it. Part of the reintegration therapy, you know. You looked so... happy, right before." She shrugs, eager to not think about it.

"So what else do you remember?" she says.

"Hugging you on the train. Before the Quell." She nods.

"I hadn't touched you in so long, and I couldn't stop thinking about your skin," he says, sniffing. "How you'd allowed me to rest my lips on your neck. I wondered if I'd get to do it again. If you wanted me to."

Katniss blushes again, her heart thumping faster with the memory. "I did."

"I kissed you in your compartment, and you kissed me back," says Peeta.

Katniss clears her throat. "Real," she says.

"I pushed you to the bed," he says, staring up at her.

"Real," she says, voice squeaking. "Sounds like you remember this one correctly. Any other memories?"

"You took off your blouse." Katniss looks away from his adoring expression.


"You let me touch you," he says. Very lightly, he drags the index finger of his free hand across a few inches of the side of her breast, "Here."

A shudder runs through her body, her breast grows taut, and the dark nipple stands erect against the white fabric. Peeta's tongue slides over his lower lip.

"I put my lips there." His fingertip just barely brushes against the dark skin that's slightly visible through the fabric.

"Real," she says, more to the wall, than Peeta.

He sits up next to her, turns her, and then lifts her to his lap. She sinks down, knees on either side of his hips, and feels his erection pressing against her underpants.

"We sat like this."

"Yes," she breathes.

"Then what?" he prompts. "What happens next?"

"We kiss," says Katniss. Peeta nods, nuzzling her neck below the ear, and kisses her chastely on the cheek.

"Like that?" says Peeta.

Strung tighter than a bow, she hums, "Mm."

"What next?" he says.

Katniss rolls forward to place a kiss on his cheek, causing her hips to press into his. Only able to reach his chiseled jawline and neck, she presses her lips lightly against his golden stubble, and then leans back. Heat radiates down her thighs, her bottom tingles, and she feels her pulse throbbing between her legs.

His eyes flutter open, and then slide shut as their lips gently brush. Relearning to move their lips together, their kisses soon deepen, and their hips find a slow rhythm.

Peeta rests his hands on her outer thighs, inching them down to her knees, then up to her hips, just under the hem of her nightgown. Her hand goes to the back of his neck, fingers tangle in the curls at the nape, the other roams from his back to chest, then pausing on his upper arm, clutching his bicep tightly.

Boldly, his hand slides up the side of her body to cup her breast. His warm palm lightly covers her, while his thumb slides back and forth over her nipple. He kisses and sucks her pulse point, and their hips begin rocking against each other with more vigor. The hand on her thigh slides into her underwear and grips her bare cheek, squeezing the firm muscle with strong fingers.

Moaning, Katniss kisses down Peeta's neck. Pressing her lips against each scar on his chest, running her tongue over his nipple, then grazing it with her teeth. Groaning, the unattended breast is cupped. Her head rolls back and she arches up into his palms as he begins to knead and squeeze.

Sliding behind her back, his hand gently applies pressure, curving her into his face to nuzzle between her breasts. Capturing one end of the ribbon between his teeth, he tugs, until the bow releases. Placing an index finger on her sternum, Peeta looks up. Eyes shut, she takes shallow breaths, her hands rest behind her on his thighs.

"May I touch?" he says.

Biting her lower lip, Katniss eyes the open window. She reaches over to switch off the lamp, then nods. Peeta's finger slides down and hooks over the cinched fabric. Running it back and forth while pulling, he inches it wider, till one strap slips off her shoulder. Smiling, Peeta admires the exposed breast, the size of a small ripe peach. The nipple and areola, flush darkly, and are taut and erect.

"Lovely," he whispers. His mouth descends over the nipple, hot and wet, alternating between swirling and sucking. When the shift puddles at her waist, her other breast is revealed, and his tongue and lips attack. Sensations envelop her, and the burning in her belly seems to have sparked a wildfire that spreads through her limbs.

"Can I... touch?" she says, sliding back onto the bed between Peeta's knees.

"Mm-yeah," Peeta croaks.

Katniss kneels next to him, wiggling out of the night gown, accidently knocking her book to the floor. He scoots down the bed, lifts his hips, then slides his shorts and boxer-briefs down, kicking them off. Moving down to her side, she places her hand on his chest and pillows her head on his arm. Curiously, she looks over his tiny pink nipples on his broad chest, spangled with small golden hairs. Over his rigid belly, her eyes travel down to the dark honeyed fuzz that trails below his navel, to his erection.

Looking quickly back up to Peeta's face, she slides her hand down. His eyes widen slightly. He's velvet soft, yet hard. And hot. She feels his pulse throbbing beneath her fingers. Katniss moves her hand experimentally, and his eyelids flutter. Thinking back to the train, she adjusts her fingers and squeezes more firmly. Moving her hand again, Peeta's eyes roll back into his head.

Rolling on his side to face her, he hitches her top leg over his hip. The new angle is easier on her arm and she moves a little faster, causing him to gasp. Resting his hand on her hip, he looks down at her small hand pumping rapidly. Gently, he strokes her hip and thigh. Dropping his eyes and hand to her other leg, his fingers stroke the delicate skin of her inner thigh.

Tucking a finger under the edge of her underpants, he asks, in a shaky whisper, "Is this okay?" She nods. Over her underwear he lightly stroke her labia, the sensation somewhere between stimulating, soothing, and tickling. His fingers pause at the edge of her underpants before nudging inside.

Resting his palm on her mound, his fingers stroke her again, only now against bare skin and satin curls. Her pace slows, having trouble concentrating. Her hand freezes entirely when a finger slides between her slick lips, exploring. Peeta groans.

"You're so... wet, Katniss," he gasps. Leaning closer, meeting her open mouth with his own, he presses and uses his chest to roll them, causing her knees to fall open. Withdrawing his hand, he tugs down her underpants while she lifts her hips. She moans when he glides over the source of the throbbing. Returning to it, his finger draws tight circles, applying pressure. Her hips begin to rock in response. Leaning heavily on his elbow he dips his head down to suck her nipple, finger moving more rapidly.

Pressure builds and just as Katniss feels like she might combust, a cry slips out and stars burst in front of her eyes. Flying among them, the earth is far behind. Coming down she relaxes her toes, and the rest of her body follows.

"Wow.. that was…" he says, watching her.

As her heart and breath slow she becomes aware of what is causing the periodic twitching against her hip. Wrapping her fingers around and gripping his penis, he gasps. She runs her hand up the shaft to the ridge, then back down to the base. Sliding an arm under her body he palms her cheek while pulling her closer. Lowering her mouth, she flicks her tongue over his tiny erect nipple, grazing it with her teeth.

Suddenly, his body seizes and he lets out a strangled moan. Lifting her head, still stroking, sees pearlescent fluid spurt erratically onto his chest and belly. Panting, Peeta relaxes, and then blindly gropes on the floor with an outstretched arm. Producing his shorts, he cleans himself.

Laying her ear over his heart, she throws her arm over and squeezes his ribs, while he lays, boneless.

"Thank you…" says Peeta. Katniss shrugs. Moments before she'd felt satiated, but after watching him literally burst with pleasure, pleasure she gave him, her body hummed with want. Catching her heavily lidded eyes, Peeta grins.

Before Katniss can respond to his smirk, Peeta had executes a wrestling move, resulting with him hovering over her on his elbows, and her thighs spread on either side of his hips.

Kissing and sucking his way down her body, he further kindles her need. Pausing at the ridge of her hip, he looks up.

"Can I kiss you?" he asks, a little shyly.

"Yes! I mean, you have been... everywhere."

"Not everywhere," he says, expression turning cheeky.

Understanding hits once she feels his hot breath against her slick curls. The first swipe of his tongue causes conflicting sensations, feeling both the mad desire to back away and press closer. Unable to contain her moans, she turns her face into her pillow. When he sucks on her clit she nearly screams from the intensity, and finds that she's buried her hands in hair. Fisting the quilt on either side of her hips, she looks down her body and sees that he's watching with a look of fascination. Her back arches and her thighs snap shut against his ears when he sucks again. As the pleasure builds Katniss becomes acutely aware of a deep hollow, almost painful, need to be filled.

"Peeta, Peeta stop," she moans. He does, immediately.

"Did I hurt you?"

"Not hurt… Just kiss me... Ahhhh... No, come up here and kiss me." Almost instantly he's over her, expression concerned, looking back and forth between her eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I just wanted you here," she says, wrapping her arms around his back. "You were too far away." Appearing relieved, he sinks down to his elbows, mouth slanting over hers, lips and tongues moving in sync. Wrapping her leg around, she places her calf over his firm bottom and draws him closer. A tremor runs through his entire body when their hips meet.

Peeta's eyes flutter open and stare into hers, questioning. In response Katniss hitches her other leg up near his ribs and lays it down across his back. Shifting her hips causes his erection to glide between her downy lips.

"Mmmph… ahhh… Katniss," he groans. "What are we doing?"

"Kissing," she says.

"That's… Where is this going, I mean? What- what do you want?" Reaching between them, she grips his penis, and moves it back and forth before positioning the head at her entrance.

"Is this okay?" she whispers, then kisses his eyelids, cheek, then his shuddering mouth, running her hands in soothing strokes over the broad plains of his back. His head hangs with his eyes tightly shut. Warmth swells in her, completely separate from physical desire.

"I love you, Peeta," she tells him softly, eyes pricking, nose burning. His head snaps up, eyes wide.

"I know," he says. "I mean, I've known, for a while. But knowing it, and hearing you say it..."

"We don't have to, if you're not ready?" she says. Tilting his forehead against hers, he sighs.

"What about… preventing-?" he says.

"I had a shot," says Katniss.

He nods, swallowing, adam's apple bobbing.

"Just- just go slow," says Katniss. Maintaining eye contact he gently enters, pressing in small thrusts, until their hips are flush.

"I love you," says Peeta, reverently.

The movements are unhurried, and irregular, as he withdraws and enters. Soon they build a rhythm together, her hips snapping up as his crash down. Leaning over on one elbow, Peeta snakes a hand between their bodies and strokes her, causing her to see stars. His mouth covers her nipple, and when he takes a long pull the stars burst. Peeta joins her, and together they fall back to earth. He buries his face in the crook between her shoulder and neck and starts to laugh.

"I could live right here," says Peeta. "Forever."

"Mmmmph," says Katniss, too overwhelmed for words. Eventually they shift, reverting to their normal sleep positions. Katniss turns and presses her lips to the spot over his beating heart, grateful that each time it stopped, it had the strength to start again.

"You love me," whispers Peeta happily. "Real or not real?" Katniss smiles.