I finally read the trilogy this past week, and I absolutely fell in love with the relationship between Peeta and Katniss. I've spent the last few days poring over fanfiction like there's no tomorrow, so I know that the "Real or not real?" moment has been done... and done... and done. But I couldn't help myself. Anyway, Peeta and Katniss deserve every minute of happiness they can get, right? If anyone reads this, I hope you enjoy it. -DeeDee

"Peeta," I say one night, turning in the strong arms that have soothed me for what must have been the thousandth time. We are face to face now. His eyes were closed, but he opens them to meet mine in answer. I know that he wasn't asleep. Only minutes ago, he was murmuring comfort in my ear, his breath warm on my neck.

"Better?" he asks. With his fingertips, he tucks some stray hair behind my ear. His fingers linger on my jaw for just a moment. The pleasure of that small touch only strengthens my resolve.

I nod into his shoulder. "Tell me you love me," I say.

I ask this of him often; it has almost become a ritual. And just as he always honors my request, sending a flood of warmth and reassurance through my ragged body and even more ragged mind, I always say nothing in reply. I don't think I understand how to love Peeta. I haven't loved – really loved – many people, and none of those feelings summoned the hunger that Peeta's presence causes more and more often. The hunger that I first felt on the beach in the Quell. The hunger I am feeling now.

"I love you," he replies, just as I knew he would. It seems to be therapy for him as well as for me, driving out the Capitol's poison.

I swallow the lump in my throat. "Will you show me how to love you, Peeta?" I ask. Actions have always been my forte, not words and feelings.

His lips curve into one of his gentle smiles. "If I could have made you love me, Katniss, don't you think I would have tried it long ago?"

"No," I say immediately, abruptly. "You would never do such a thing." Perhaps I sound too forceful, but I am passionate about defending him. He seems to understand this. "Besides… that's not exactly what I meant."

Peeta's brows furrow, but then I see understanding in his eyes. "Katniss?" he says softly.

I lay my hand on his neck, threading my fingers into the hair at his nape, as I search my brain for the old-fashioned expression for what I want to do. What I want to do is have sex with him, but I want to tell him with the right words. Then I remember. "Peeta, I want to make love to you. I want you to show me how."

My eyes have fallen in embarrassment, so I see the movement of his Adam's apple as he swallows. I meet his gaze again. I want to know what he's thinking, and I don't have to wait for long.

He sits up and pulls me up with him. "You can start by taking off my shirt," he says.

Keeping my eyes steady on his, I lift his t-shirt up from the bottom and pull it over his head. "Okay," I say, angry with my shaky voice for betraying my trepidation. He is quiet, studying my face with such love that it makes my chest ache. "Peeta?" I prompt him. "What next?"

"Just… look at my body. Touch me. Do what feels right," he says.

I allow myself to lower my gaze to his bare chest. What I see is beautiful: muscled arms, a strong chest, and a network of scars that testify to everything he – everything that we – have endured. I reach forward and trace one of the scars with my fingers. I almost look at his face to gauge his reaction, but his sharp intake of breath tells me all I need to know. I lean forward and press my lips to his shoulder, trailing my nose up his neck before kissing him. As we kiss, I run my hands down his arms and trace my fingers over his. In a moment of daring, I touch his chest and glide my thumb lightly over one of his nipples. The moan he makes against my mouth is a reward better than any house in the Victor's Village. I want to hear more of that.

"Now what, Peeta?" I whisper, barely separating our lips. If I keep taking this in steps, keep calmly waiting for his instructions along the way, I won't lose my nerve.

"Don't you want me to touch you?" he asks.

"I want to love you," I say. My cheeks are burning. "I want to make you feel good."

He smiles. I don't know how he manages to make every smile sweeter than the last. "Looking at you and touching you would make me feel good," he says. "Didn't it make you feel good to touch me just now?"

"Yes," I admit. "And hearing you." I know that I'm the girl who was on fire, but my face feels much, much too hot.

"Then let me see you, Katniss. Let me touch you." He kisses me softly, touching my bottom lip with his tongue. "Let me hear you." I nod and reach to take off my shirt, but he lays a hand on mine. "Let me do it."

Facing Peeta in the dim light of my bedroom, I am surprised that I don't feel self-conscious at all. Knowing what beauty I find in his scars, I am not ashamed of my own. As well as I know that the sky is blue, I know that Peeta finds me beautiful. He is the only person I care about pleasing. He is the only person I never have to try to please.

I let him see me. He raises his hands to my breasts, and I let him touch me. When his talented, gentle fingers move over my skin, when I press myself into his palms, I let him hear me. "Peeta… oh…" I sigh.

"Yes," he whispers.

As if we're thinking the same thing, we rise up on our knees and press our bodies together as we kiss. The feel of my breasts against his solid chest is heavenly. The pressure of his arousal against me, rather than being scary or uncomfortable, is thrilling. With all the current zipping through my body, I might as well be the lightning tree. I find that I no longer care about the proper way of doing things. I don't care about the methodology. My skin, my limbs, my insides, my entire body craves his. I slide my hands down his back and around his sides to push down his pants. We break apart for a moment to get rid of every scrap of clothing that separates us, and then there is nothing against my skin but Peeta's skin, and my whole body is singing.

My head hits the pillow, and Peeta's mouth is at my ear, kissing the lobe and whispering how he loves me, how he wants me. I begin to reach for the part of him that I feel against my hip, but he stops me.

"You first," he says. He stops my protest with a kiss. "You first," he insists. "That's what I want." His hand is warm as it travels down between my breasts and over my belly and lower still. I feel him tracing me, learning me with his fingertips. "Talk to me," he whispers. "Tell me what feels good."

"Everything feels good," I reply. I am too embarrassed to tell him that I don't know what feels good. There are some things I never bothered to do, and learning my own body was one of those things.

Peeta has always been intuitive, and he seems to understand that he's on his own, that this particular arena is unknown to both of us. He begins to move down my body, and I freeze.

"What are you doing?" I ask. I think I know, but I'm afraid it might be true.

He kisses the underside of my breast and then kisses the nipple. It's unimaginably nice. "I want to look at you," he says.

Scars are one thing. This is quite another. I cross my legs, trapping and stilling the hand he already has down there. "No."

He returns to my lips and kisses them. "You trust me," he whispers. "Real or not real?"

"Real," I say. "But-"

"I don't want to make you uncomfortable," he says gently. "I want to learn how to make you feel good. Please." I can't refuse Peeta anything. I unlock my legs and nod. He kisses me again. "If you really don't want me to keep going or if you don't like what I'm doing, you tell me, okay?" I nod again.

He makes his way down slowly with kisses and sweet words. And then there he is, looking at the most private part of me. He opens me a little with his thumbs, and I am so embarrassed, I turn my head into the pillow and squeeze my eyes shut.

But then Peeta touches me in a way that makes me gasp. My eyes fly open as I turn my head to look at him. "Did I hurt you?" he asks at the very moment I beg him not to stop. He smiles and slides his fingertip gently over the nub he has found, then circles it. "This feels good?"

"Good… so good," I sigh. I am lifting my hips to meet his hand, my awkwardness melting away under the heat of what he has found inside me. "Can you press a little har… yes… yes, just like that… oh, Peeta…" I expect to see amusement when I look at his face, but what I see there is awe.

"Let me try something," he says, and the sound of protest at the loss of his fingers has barely left my mouth when he lets his thumb resume what he was doing, while his finger slips inside me. I feel my mouth go slack. "Do you like this?" he asks.

"Mmm" is the only reply I can muster.

Without stopping the magic his hand is working, he kisses his way back up to my mouth. I can't concentrate enough to return his kiss. I grip his shoulder with one hand and the back of his head with the other, holding him to me. It seems like a long time passes. "Sorry," I say. "Is this boring for you?"

"Not even a little bit," he replies. "This is amazing." Our eyes lock, and I know he's telling me the truth. Of course he is. He's Peeta. "You're so warm and soft," he murmurs to me. "I can't wait to be inside you."

It's a little shocking to hear this kind of talk from Peeta. At school we would have called it dirty talk. But in this moment when it's just us, when the words are spoken by Peeta and his hands and mouth are on my skin, they are the most beautiful and loving words I've ever heard. The very opposite of dirty. They make my insides throb with longing for him.

I don't trust myself to reply in kind, knowing how awful I am with words. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could. Putting words together has suddenly become quite impossible. Something wonderful is building inside me, building and building until I don't know what to do with it.

"Let go, Katniss," Peeta says, and when I do, waves of pleasure roll through me.

I hear myself crying out, and when I return to my body, I am trembling in Peeta's arms. He holds my face in both hands and kisses me in a way that makes my toes curl. He is passionate, demanding, insistent. This is a Peeta who belongs only to me.

Just as I belong only to him.

That thought gives me the words to say. I raise my knees to cradle his hips as our eyes meet. "Make me yours," I say. It is both a demand and a plea. I know from the dark fire in his eyes that my words were the right ones. But then he hesitates, and I think I know why. "You don't need to worry. My mother taught me long ago what herbs to take to prevent… to make sure nothing happens."

His gaze never leaves mine as he reaches down to join us. He pushes into me slowly, carefully, and I wince at the discomfort. There is no pain or resistance, and I conclude that that part of me must have been torn away at some point during our many ordeals. I know that in time this will feel good for me. I know by the transported expression on Peeta's face that it feels good for him. That is all I care about.

"Are you okay?" he asks.

"More than okay," I tell him. "You?"

He smiles. "More than okay."

He begins to move in me, his face a mask of focus and restraint, and I move my hips to meet his. I watch him in what can only be called wonder. He is making love to me. I am making love to him.

"Does this feel good for you?" he asks.

"Yes," I say, and it's true. The discomfort is fading into something nice, but even if it weren't, Peeta's pleasure magnifies my own.

"I can't… I won't… I'm going to…" His tone is apologetic.

I understand now why he kept insisting "You first." He knew that our first time wouldn't be great for me, and he wanted me to experience the climax that he's going to get now. Oh, Peeta, I think. As if sharing this with you wouldn't have been enough.

I reach up to touch his cheek and say the words that he said to me. "Let go, Peeta."

He shudders above me, and I feel warmth spreading inside me. When his head falls to rest on my shoulder, I slide my fingers into his thick hair. Lovemaking is an apt term. I feel love as a palpable presence between us and around us. As is usually the case with me, I find my moments of truth in action. Tonight I have found the truth about what I feel.

"I've never been happier than I am right now," I hear myself saying. Did I think it or say it aloud? I must have said it aloud because Peeta lifts his head to look at me.

"You love me," he murmurs almost in disbelief. A shadow of doubt crosses his face. "Real or not real?"

I smile up at him, the boy with the bread, the man who is everything to me now – friend, counselor, lover. "Real," I tell him. I reach for him, drawing him down to kiss me. "Real, real, real," I say between kisses. I whisper it to his lips, in his ear, against his skin. His love has always been my refuge, and now my love will be his.

"Mine," I whisper, tugging him even closer to me. I'll never be a woman of words.

"Always," he replies.