It's when he's gone, that I am at my most vulnerable. I am weak, pathetic, and lonely. Everything I used to look down upon in people I have now become. I depend on him like a pulse. This craving, aching thing in my chest that gapes when he is vacant. I need his warm breath against my ear and his constant nagging about if I took my medicine.

He's become this thing I can't live without, like my lungs melded into his, and my heart became his with a signature of his hand. The way his hands mold my body into shapes, and the way he draws intricate details across my skin, like a blank canvas.

The way he tastes like cool peppermint and sugar after days if baking. How he smells faintly of dough, and warm sugar cookies, with an underlying scent that is distinctly male and masculine.

I hate sunsets. They're orange and bloody and remind me of dead bodies. Peeta loves them; he says my skin reminds him of a sunset all "bronze and dewy". Sometimes I want to punch him.

He always says shit like that, and I think its bullshit and lies. Sometimes when we're in bed together, while I grope at his skin and try to bring him closer, he'll say things that make me just want to shout out "Shut up," but I can't.

He's just too sweet.

We're both broken and handle our destroyed, frayed emotions differently. Peeta with his coddling words and me with my vacant eyes. I wish he would just yell out "Do it like you mean it," but I know he won't.

Which is why tonight, I'm determined to give Peeta what he need. Lovemaking and candle-lit dinners, not my rabbit stew and an empty lay.

Peeta comes in the door, hair gleaming from rain and flour tucked in his jacket to keep it from solidifying. I have an apron on.

I spent all day trying to cook a chicken with cheese recipe my Mom told me over the phone. I started at seven this morning, and went through five chickens. I've never had the cooking gene which is why Peeta is surprised to see I've even attempted it.

"You cooked," he says it as a statement. This smile I haven't seen in awhile breaks across his face and my stomach clenches deep within my body.

"Yeah," I say. "It may taste bad but you know, I wanted to do something for you—"

"I love it," He says walking towards me. "I haven't even tasted it yet, and I love it."

"Peeta," I say blushing and ducking my head. I'm still an eighteen year old girl with a boyfriend. The Games, as much as they've changed me, haven't changed that.

He stands before me, and tugs on my chin. I look up. He's gotten taller and has been lifting more flour for the bakery he now owns. It shows. His muscles are defined under his black t-shirt and I can see the definition of his hipbones under the hem. My stomach is twisting wildly in my body.

"Thank you, Katniss," He whispers. "I know its—" he pauses and his face clenches as if in pain. "I know it's hard for you to — to be around me—"

"Peeta," I stop him before he has an episode. "It's not hard," I say firmly so I can assure him. "You help me, I help you. Take this as repaying you for all you've done."

"You don't have to repay me." He whispers against my skin. His smell envelops me. I wonder if we're going to forget the chicken. "Being around me, it's enough, this is just like a super-bonus," he smiles cheekily. I wrap my arms around his shoulders and feel his muscles flex beneath his t-shirt. His neck is warm where my face lies. He sighs in my ear.

"Katniss," he says. I mumble something out that may be classified as a moan. "Let's eat," he says. I mentally groan, thinking about how much I'd rather forget this rancid chicken and go to the bedroom, but Peeta pulls away. He makes his way to the table where I've set it up with forks and knives that look like they match.

Peeta turns to me and smiles like I've given him the greatest gift. He sits down and after all the effort I've put into today, I feel like it's worth it. That warm look on his face is so worth it, I wish I could cook better just so I could see it over and over again. I sit down across from him and the love he's exuding is so painful and beautiful I'm overwhelmed.

"This is amazing Katniss," he says as he digs into the imaginary meal I call food. "I mean, really, I can't explain it," he struggles, mouth full of food. "But something about walking in here after work and seeing you cook, it's just—" he sighs. "It's just so amazing, I can't find words."

Peeta's always been like this — classic and simple in his ideas of married life. Too bad there's no suburban in the ruins of District 12. I used to consider Victor's Village the crème de la crop, but amongst all the destruction and poverty, it's nothing but an empty façade.

"This is really good, Katniss," he says shoveling food into his mouth. I'm anticipating the after meal activities so much, I haven't touched my food.

"No need to lie Peeta, if it's bad, you can just tell me," I don't want to sound like I'm having an episode, but somehow anger is laced through my words. Peeta carries on like he hasn't noticed. He's developed a strong anesthetic for my words.

"It's good Katniss," he repeats. "Where'd you get the recipe from?"

"My Mother," I say. Peeta nods. "I called her yesterday."

"How is she?" he asks with a curious look.

"Fine," I decide I should try to make conversation. Peeta is all about the verbal foreplay. "District 4 got some remodeling so she opened up that new hospital she wanted."

"That's great," Peeta says affectionately. I see a glimpse of us sans The Games. Happy in our house, with warm meals and afternoons wrapped in each others arms. I'm uncomfortable, and want this to be over, but I know it's what Peeta deserves. I force myself to sit.

We eat in silence. Peeta occasionally offers the compliments, but after I don't reply, he stops giving them. I'm glad, I can't handle the constant praise, it's embarrassing. After Peeta is done with his dinner and my half eaten one, he looks at me over the dinner table.

"Are we going to bed again?" This is the thing with Peeta, he's always afraid I will decide to leave his house and move back into mine, so he constantly asks me this question. I would too, considering my constant mood swings and unreliable emotions.

"Yes," I reply, putting my napkin from my lap to the table. He rises and it's when we're in standing next to one another that I realize how much I rely on his raw masculine power. There's something about the muscles in his neck and the way he grasps my hand in such firm strength that I am awed by the power he keeps hidden inside himself. I am overt with my hunting strengths and make it aware to people so they do not underestimate me. Peeta keeps his enclosed like a phantom limb, and waits until the right moments to show it.

He guides me through his house with simple furniture and modern accents curtsey of my Mother. His bedroom is like the rest of his house, plain and bland until you turn the corner and see the images Peeta has taped to the wall. Eyes, limbs, trees, suns, and me. As much as I protested, Peeta insisted on hanging all his drawings of me on the walls, and all I can see is a reminder of what I am not.

Peeta grabs my waist and holds my hipbones with strength and gentleness as if I would break with too much impact. He puts his lips gently against mine and my legs give way. I fall back on top of his white comforter, the warm down feathers like a cloud on this cold winter evening. He crawls over top of me, his body laying ever so gently over mine, like two puzzle pieces joining together.

I try not to notice the desire building in my stomach and try to focus instead on the way his body reacts when I lick the pulse point on his neck. He moans and puts his lips hungrily back on mine. I want to taste him, so I grab his bottom lip in between my lips and apply pressure. My tongue moves to slowly sooth where I bit and I can't help the animalistic growl that comes from deep within my chest, when I taste his mouth.

It's like an orange day in the fall, with special caramel apples from Peeta's bakery with warm toasted peanuts, and dry leaves surrounding us. Peeta's hands gripped the very top of my waist, just under my breasts as I leaned upward and pressed a kiss to his neck. I took a page out of his book and laid a trail of kisses, parting my lips a little further each time. Finally, I place a hot, open-mouthed kiss on Peeta's pulse point, letting my tongue once again dart out to taste the skin there. It was like his mouth but a little bit tangier, maybe from perspiration, but I didn't care. I gave his jaw the same treatment, kissing and running my tongue lightly over the defined line there.

Peeta finally gripped my face strongly in his hands and pulled me up into a kiss. His tongue reached out and swiped the inside of my mouth and it should have felt intrusive, but it didn't. My lips couldn't move fast enough or hard enough against his.

"You can touch me, Peeta," I moaned against his skin. He groaned and let his hands roam. Peeta supported himself with one arm and kept the other between us, touching me. My stomach, my sides, my back, my breasts, my shoulders, my arms, my legs, my hips. Any part of my he could reach. His lips trailed down to my neck, leaving hot, open-mouthed kisses that made me squirm.

"I need— I need to— get out of my clothes," I made out. As much as I was self-conscious, Peeta made me confident, so I flipped us over and pealed my shirt over my head. Peeta gazed up at me, than grabbed the back of my neck and crushed my chest against his. My hands drifted to the hem of his t-shirt where I slip my hands to feel the taut muscles that lie there. Peeta shakes, and I repeat what I did before with my fingernails over his stomach. We both groan and Peeta presses his hips into me again, but it's not close enough.

There are too many layers. I was in my tights, and him in his pants. I reached my hands between our bodies as we kissed, bringing them to the button of Peeta's pants. He paused.

"Your turn," I told him quietly before he could say anything. Peeta nodded and made to sit back to undo his pants but I stopped his hand. "I want to do it."

Peeta looked like he was going to leap at me, but he stayed where he was. "Then come do it, Katniss."

Peeta's hands immediately went to my hips, one sliding back to grip my backside softly, making me press my hips into him and groan a little. I kissed Peeta for a few more seconds before I pressed my hands into his chest for balance and pushed myself up and wrapped my thighs around his, forcing his body to press against mine, causing me to make a small noise.

Peeta's eyes racked over me, and I felt self-conscious but I pushed it down. I brought my hands to Peeta's pants, my wrists brushing the bulge there and making Peeta groan. I undid the button quickly and the zipper, making my fingers heavier than they needed to be. I didn't know how to touch Peeta, so I didn't want to make a conscious effort to, but he still seemed to like my hands brushing against him like this.

My stomach twisted and my body rushed at the thought of what I was doing. I tried to remind myself that we've done this before, only difference being this time we were going much more slower.

Peeta was wearing something black and soft under his pants, because the back of my hand brushed the fabric when I brought the zipper down. I gathered my nerve and slipped my hands inside his pants sliding them back to his hips, back until I could reach no further because Peeta was lying down.

I wasn't Peeta. I wasn't six-foot-three and two-hundred and thirty pounds of muscle. I couldn't just lift him when I wanted him to move.

"Lift up, Peeta," I told him quietly, looking up to find his eyed watching me so hard it made me want to throw myself back at him. He obeyed me, lifting his hips off the bed. My hands slid back further, back past where I had touched before, and my stomach twisted pleasurably before I pulled the pants down. Peeta's legs were amazing, strong and muscled and I was so aroused that it took all of me to not jump back on top of him.

"Katniss—" Peeta struggled. "I don't— I don't want to be rude—" he says, thrusting his hips against mine. "But can I please get you out of these pants?" His look is so chivalrous, I want to laugh, but it wasn't quite right in this moment. I shimmy out of my black tights and throw them at the wall where all the pictures lie.

Peeta is hard beneath me, and the fact that I make him like this wills me to continue. I grab a hold of his boxers and practically yank them off his body. Peeta blushes for a few moments but recovers quickly, realizing that he can now do what he has wanted for the past however minutes we have been going at this.

He places his hands at my hips and expertly flips us over so he has dominant position. I don't mind. In the bedroom, Peeta can have all the dominance he wants. It's only when I'm hunting when I need to be Alpha. For now, Peeta can have all the power he wants.

The very tip of Peeta pressed inside me and all I felt was immeasurable pleasure surging through my veins. I was so alive, full of something I didn't have a name too, and desperately wanted it to continue.

Peeta was breathing hard through his nose and teeth, his arms braced on either side of me held tense. I realized I was breathing obnoxiously too. Peeta slid in a little further and our breathing got more ragged. I bit back my gasp as the pleasure amounted.

"You okay, Katniss?" Peeta always asks this question when he enters me, like I'll feel violated. Sometimes when I have an episode, I'll shout out that he violates my body every night, but then I just come back apologizing.

"No, no, Peeta, it's okay," I panted, trying to bring him as deep as possible. Peeta nodded and held himself tight above me as I tried to relax my racing heart and heat through my blood. I could feel Peeta inside me, large and hot and stretching and his hips pressed against mine. I could feel how connected we were. It scared me sometimes.

But tonight was for him so I spread my legs wider to accommodate him, and caused his eyes to roll back.

"Tell me," he licked his lips. "Tell me if you want to stop." I didn't say anything because I didn't want him to, but I was still stuck with a strange, unrecognizable panic when I felt Peeta begin to pull back out of me. I closed my ankles around his back, crossing them and keeping him from pulling out any further. He was almost completely out now.

"Don't, Peeta," I pleaded with him, shocked with the desperation in my voice. I had him, I didn't want him to go. I didn't want him to disappear like my childhood, and Prim. "Don't leave."

"Don't worry, Katniss," Peeta said, his voice sexy, and rough with sex. He slid smoothly back into me in one movement that I groaned outwardly. "I'm coming back. I'll never leave you," I oh'd into Peeta's ear and slid my hand down his back.

"You feel so amazing Katniss," Peeta said roughly in my ear. "I- ah," I watched Peeta's face, tense with pleasure, his blue eyes intense as he slowly slid back out of me. I didn't panic, knowing he'd come back.

"Go faster," I groaned out, threading my fingers through his hair.

Peeta complied, speeding up a bit, his hips finding a rhythm, not as slowly but still nearly as unbearable. Then Peeta shifted a little, bracing his knees on the bed different as he slid back in and he touched that place inside me. Not only that, but the stroke pressed him all the way in, his hips pressing directly into my favorite place that, if things kept up at this place, I was about to come. I gasped his name against him and arched my back hard, my breasts brushing his chest not helping matters. Peeta was already sliding back in and he did it again.

I crushed my mouth to his to try and distract myself. Peeta broke away from the kiss and started his way down my neck, never giving up his rhythm. Then he bit down softly on my neck, pulling my skin past his teeth to caress it with his tongue at the same time he pressed back inside me and I moaned. Peeta sucked the skin of my neck gently for a few moments before he released it, running the flat of his tongue over it as to sooth it.

I was breathing horribly, and Peeta lifted his head to kiss the furrow between my brows as if to release the tension there.

"Are you —" I struggled. "Are you close?"

"I—yeah—I—"he managed to get out. Peeta rocked his hips against mine, and I was grasping at his blond locks, as if to absorb all the gold in them and bring his sent until it settled deep within my body. My back arched high and my body clenched around Peeta, to the point where it was almost painful but I was beyond that. Peeta took his hands from my face and clutched the sheets beside my head, and started thrusting into me, hard. It wasn't rough but it was defiantly hard. Raw, desperate need for release. After five more of these thrusts, Peeta froze above me, sheathed completely inside me and I knew what was happening. Peeta's hips started to thrust again after a second but they were broken, rhythm less.

"Katniss . . ." Peeta moaned. He gave me a passionate, sweaty, open-mouthed kiss as I felt his arms fall and his hair finally fall around him again. I felt Peeta soften inside of me then he slowly slid out, but I didn't feel empty this time. I felt like I was carrying something worth carrying. Which is shocking, considering I find practically nothing worth my time lately besides Peeta.

He rolls over off me, and this is where Peeta grabs me in his arms and coddles me. It's strange that I find this simple caressing a violation of my emotions, after what we've just done, but I can't help it. It's like it's embedded in the very make-up of my genes to stray away from any sort of emotional bonding.

"Are you happy?" This question is new. Peeta gazes down at me and I am wrapped in his warm glow.

"Yes," I respond, not knowing what else to say. So I continue with what I think is what one would say after what we just did. "Was it good for you?"

"Of course," he says with a roll of his eyes. "What kind of question is that Katniss? Of course it was good for me. Just sitting and knitting scarves with you would be enough for me," I laugh deep within my chest and it feels good. These times after I'm with Peeta are when I'm able to laugh. The doctors think I have lost the ability to, but they don't know about my secret medicine on the side: Peeta.

I stretch my legs out as far as they will, and brush my toes against Peeta's calves. His legs are extremely sexy, more than his arms which is a lot to say, coming from me. They're so defined and the hair there is darker than on his head, and something about how I love the way my legs look entwined with his.

His arms settle around me, and I suppress the urge to pull away. Tonight is for Peeta, and as much as I enjoyed and retained that happiness from our activities, I will not run away like I usually do. I will fall asleep with him, and let him see me at my most venerable, as much as I despise it.

Peeta runs his fingers through my hair which must have come undone when I didn't notice it. I try not to purr out in content, because that would be embarrassing.

"Are you spending the night?" Peeta asks me this this every evening, but because I'm so sought out to show him I'm here for him I nod my head.

"Wait, what was that? I can't tell if your nodding or shaking your head," I smile into his chest. My baker.

"I said, yes," I pull myself closer to his body to try and keep this warmth in my chest from leaving. He is surprised, and I am glad, for there is nothing much to be surprised about anymore in our routines.

"I love—" Peeta starts than sighs.

"You can say it Peeta," I whisper.

"What?" He asks incredulous.

"You can say it if you want. I promise—" I swallow. "I promise I won't get mad." I can feel his stare on the top of my head and pray that I didn't trigger some manic episode in him with this sudden wrench in our routines.

"I just—" he chokes. "I love you," His revives something in me and that warmth I thought I was losing, has come back sevenfold.

"Me—" I struggle to get out, looking up at him for help.

"It's okay," Peeta says with a smile. "I know."