Author Note: I couldn't shake the "what if" when I read the last chapter of the series. I needed more, just a bit, to round out their story.

Disclaimer: I don't own, I only borrowed.

Peeta and I sit at the kitchen table, his hands deftly drawing a picture of the golden wire for our book. The wire that Beetee and Wiress were so desperate on keeping close, and for good reason. That wire, wound in an almost endless spiral, was the key to our exit from the arena and into the rebellion.

I watched, captivated, as Peeta's hands move over the paper, filling in the sketch with such realism, I could almost feel the cylinder in my hand. I remember how it felt caked in dried blood and the intensity of making sure it wasn't lost. Peeta takes the crook of his little finger, smudging the colors, blending them softly, almost muting the initial sketch line. He eases his thumb over the blue and grey colors, creating a realistic metallic tone to the cylinder that held the key to everything that happened to us in and since the Quarter Quell.

Peeta wipes his hand over his brows, leaving a faint trace of colors on his skin. Traditionally, we stick to images of our friends. However, with each of Peeta's flashbacks, one thing is clear. There are some things he needs to remember. Some memories he is desperate to repair and remember in full, without the shiny quality that spoke of the lies and distortion administered by the Capital's hijack. The cylinder is one of them.

Earlier in the day, we were outside tending to the evening primrose when an episode hit. I watched helplessly as his hands shook, his nails dug into the flesh of his palm as he slipped away for a moment, fighting against the flashback, completely lost inside his mind. What he doesn't know is how he trembled almost violently as the word, "beach," fell from his lips; spoken is such a whisper, I barely heard it. As he came out of his internal terror, I became aware of two things: It was a memory that they targeted and tried to destroy. Our kiss on the beach during the Quell was his tether to sanity in both the game and when they tortured him. Once the last wave passed, he asked if we could add something small to the book. Then with some hesitancy, he mentioned the metal cylinder, and how it reminds him of our time on the beach. His nails dug into his palms again as his breaths labored, clearly fighting another attack triggered by the single word attached most to the memory. Within seconds, he opened his eyes, and corrected himself.

"It reminds me of kissing you on the beach. I thought I'd lost you months before the Quell, but that kiss told me you never really left me. I think that's why they wanted to tear it from me; so I would believe you had. I never want to forget what it felt in that moment to know you were mine and believe you loved me."

The scratching sound brings me back to the kitchen. I look at Peeta, so devoted to getting the details right; his brow wrinkles from concentration, his eyes make small, darting movements over the paper. He is lost in this world when he sketches and paints. It's really the only time the demons are fully at bay. While the look on his face is intense, there is also a softness, almost as if the Games and events in the Capital never happened.

I reach up to wipe the paint from his forehead. The motion startles him slightly. I retract my hand immediately.

"Sorry," I offer in a soft voice.

Peeta's body relaxes instantly. A faint smile flickers on his lips. "Don't be. Your touch has always calmed me."

I scoff at this. He knows it's the other way around. It's always been his touch that has calmed me.

"You're not the one that can't sleep without me touching you."

"I wouldn't be so sure, Katniss."

I lower my head to look more directly into his eyes. "Have you been sleeping at all?"I ask.

Peeta hesitated briefly. "Only on the nights we spend together. I can't survive the nightmares otherwise, so I don't sleep."

The pain hits me again in my heart. I once again feel like I'm having a heart attack. As only Peeta can, he reaches me so deeply with his words. Survive. I've spent over two years trying to survive. I fought to survive in the arena, to keep Peeta alive. I fought for survival against two presidents who viewed my life only as far as it could get them. I fought against the darkness when they pulled me from the arena, and when they captured Peeta. Yet none of this comes close to what Peeta has had to do to survive, what he still must do.

I'm not sure if he wants to talk about his nightmares, but we've both agreed not to keep things from each other where this is concerned, so I press on. Dr. Aurelius ' suggestion, after all, if we are to ever try to mend the fragile, shattered memories and rid ourselves of evil terrors that haunt us. "Why do we continue to do this to each other and ourselves?"

"Do what, Katniss?" he asks. He isn't following me. Of course he isn't. I couldn't have been more vague in my question of I tried. I'm not good with words. Doesn't he know he's the one that can create magic with words, not me? I'm only good with my actions.

I fight against backing down, changing the subject, suggest we go check on Haymitch when Peeta's hand gently takes mine in his and he repeats his question.

I could shoot an arrow straight into Coin, take out mutts, and be the face of a rebellion, but I can't tell Peeta what my heart wants. I feel the words choking in my throat. They want to be free, to be heard, but I can't say them.

Peeta can sense this I'm sure. He strokes my hand; the warmth and strength that I always seem to crave touches me, fills me. "Why aren't we sharing a bed every night? Why are we living apart?" I ask before finally being able to look at him.

His brilliant, blue eyes almost lose their luster as thoughts fill his mind. I feel the need to explain. It's not as though people in 12 live together without marriage, but nothing Peeta and I do is common in 12 anymore. We've walked a different path from them as soon as we took the stage at the reaping.

I open my mouth to defend my thought when Peeta's hand gently squeezes mine.


"Peeta, it isn't as though we have to worry about my mother or . . . anyone else being here or at your home to object. And Haymitch . . . I hardly think he cares what our sleeping arrangements are. No one comes over to Victor's Village, so there can't –"

"Katniss," he quietly says again.

"What?"I ask, feeling foolish for speaking. Words were never my strong point. Only his.

Peeta's eyes search the table before returning to mine. "It's not an issue for me to have sleepless nights."

Frustration wells up within me; a cry of pain wants to break free from my throat. Why can't he understand? Why can't he hear what I'm too afraid to tell him? Why won't he take action?


Yes. My actions are his words.

I twist my hand under his so I can intertwine my fingers with his. "Peeta," I whisper, afraid if I say more, I will never speak again. So I do what I've done countless times before. I act.

My lips press against his before he is aware I've moved. I keep our kiss simple, gently. I feel my heart stop when he doesn't respond. I start to pull away when Peeta's hand quickly cups the back of my head, pulling me back to him. His lips touch mine with a pressure that is new for us. It's more than the intense kiss we had at the beach; it's urgent, hungry. As his lips move against mine, his hand moves to my neck where his fingers slip into my hair. Between his lips and his fingers, I am lost. I feel the pull to him as I always have when we kiss, but this time, there is something I've never felt before. The burning in my stomach is there, just as before, but there is a heat licking my skin, igniting me in places I never felt awakened before, places that are screaming for Peeta's touch. I can't get close enough to him. My hand moves from our embrace on the table to his shirt. I clutch his shirt in my fist, twisting it slightly as if this would somehow quench the fire burning in me. Even that is wrong. I need him; I'm starving for more of him, of this.

Without thought or planning, I break from our kiss. "I can't survive without you." I've finally managed to say what I couldn't say before.

I hear Peeta make a noise I've never heard before from him. It's a helpless gasping sound and as soon as I hear it, I immediately let go of the fabric clutching in my hand and pull away. I look at Peeta. He doesn't show signs of slipping into some terror inducing memory, even though his eyes are wide.

Peeta's voice is so quiet; I strain to hear it. "You love me. Real or not real?"

Without hesitation I say, "Real."

He sighs so deeply, it's almost as if with the breath, his letting go of something that was trapped inside him for months, even years. His forehead presses against mine, and I can feel him shake slightly. "You love me," he says. He is absolute in his tone but also there is also disbelief.

"I do. I did. I was too afraid to allow myself to feel it until . . . ." I want to tell him, but there is a part of me that is afraid my words will have a negative effect on him. Still, I know I need to tell him. The walls that the Capital forced me to build for survival come down in the light of what my true survival has always been. Loving Peeta. "I knew it wasn't a part of the Games when I'd lived without you for months. When we kissed in the Quell . . . then when I realized they had you, when I saw you on the propos . . . . Then when they rescued you and you were here, but you weren't really. I felt a pain I've never felt before. I hated them for what they did to you, for how they turned you against me." Suddenly, I feel shame. "I thought I'd lost you forever. The one person who saw me they way I wish I was. But you were gone. The stole the one thing I needed most to . . ."

"Survive," he says simply.


"I could never have survived without you, Katniss."

I lift my head from his. "You would have."

"No," he says, his eyes begging me to listen. "I never would have survived the Games without you. I never would have survived the hijack if it weren't for you. At first, I fought to survive for you. You were so ingrained in my heart that even though nearly every thought and memory was challenged and hijacked, I still could feel something that refused to succumb to them. I would never hurt you, Katniss. I'm sorry I did."

Again, he has managed to put to words what I never thought possible. Yes, what he said is exactly a part of my fear when I knew the Capital had him. I'm struck at how our fears mirror each other's. We've always been this way. Dancing the same pattern, but never dancing together. Would it all have been more bearable if we had? Or would it have only aided in killing what small spark of hope we struggled to hold on to.

"I love you, Peeta." My words fall quickly, easily, from my lips. The truth in these words lifts me in a way that I've never felt. I feel free. For the first time in my life, I feel free.

He closes his eyes, absorbing my humble offering. "I love you, Katniss. Always."

Always. A single word that tells me, has always told me, what I was to Peeta. Somehow, that one word means so much more than the word love does.

I look at Peeta, the boy who because of life has turned into a man before he was ready. I see the boy with the bread, the tribute, the scarred prison of war and propos weapon. I see the softness in his eyes, but I also can see how weary his is. How tired he has become after our admissions.

"Let's go to bed, Peeta."

We curl up in my bed. With Peeta holding me in his warm, strong arms, I wait until I hear his breathing change, indicating he has fallen asleep. Within minutes, I find sleep, too. Hours pass and when I wake, the room is still dark except for the pale light from the moon casting small shadows on the wall. Peeta's arm is securely around me, but it's different. We're sleeping in a way that we never have before. He presses against me; our bodies touch all the way down to my calves. I can feel him surrounding me, but there is something within me feeling the closeness that needs more. I press back against him, needing to feel more of his natural heat; I'm still not close enough. I push my hips back, thinking maybe if I adjust myself, I'll find what I need butI don't. I move and shift, almost restlessly, in my attempt. I still need more.

Peeta's grasp becomes tighter, his hips pushing toward me as I move. He's searching for that missing something himself. His palm flattens out against my stomach as he pushes his hips again. I close my eyes, loving how he's touching me, but with each movement of his hips, I can feel a new hunger growing. A hunger so deep, I moan as the weight of this hunger consumes me.

Tilting my head back, I can feel Peeta's nose shifting against my hair as his hand moves down enough to slip beneath my undershirt. His hand feels warm against my stomach, and a heat that I only had a glimpse of in the arena hits me full force, almost knocking the wind out of me. I slip my hand under my pillow where Peeta's hand rests. I ease the back of my hand up his palm until our fingers intertwine. I curl my fingers, bringing his into a fist with mine. I hear and feel his breaths increase and I know I need more. My other hand moves on top of his as it lies on my stomach. I raise his hand higher until his thumb touches my chest. On its own, his thumb brushes up the swell of my breast, and his hips push against me harder, and there is no mistaking what I feel pressing against me. My breath hitches and a strangled cry slips over my lips.

Peeta moans in reply, and I know without a doubt that he is awake. His hand cups my breast, kneading it until I am dizzy. My breaths increase, and I move to try to get closer to the hardness pressing against me. Peeta lets go of my hand under the pillow, moving so that he can shift my hair off my neck, and in the process, turn my head slightly toward my shoulder. His lips tease my sensitive skin as the most delicate of kisses rains over my neck and shoulder. His hand leaves my breast, moves down my stomach, over my hip, and down my thigh before it repeats its path.

"Always," he murmurs between kisses, his lips never leaving my neck.

It feels as if there are butterflies in my gut and heat rushes to my core. I need so much more of him than kisses. His hand is slipping beneath my underwear and I don't stop him. His hand teases the side of my hip, but it isn't enough. I move away from him and move so I'm lying on my back. Peeta looks at me with eyes that silently ask if he did something wrong. Actions. I must show him with my actions that he has only done everything right. I slip underwear off and remove my shirt, lying naked before him. His eyes register that no, he has done nothing that I didn't want, but instead is doing everything right. He pulls off his shirt, then removes his pajama pants. He looks down at me and through the moonlight filling the room, I can see doubt in his eyes.

"Katniss." His voice is soft and filled with questions.

His eyes are desperately seeking mine for answers. I want to kiss him, to show him through my actions what he is questioning, but I know this time he needs words. I can only think of one thing to say. "Real," I murmur, stroking his cheek.

He sighs and nods, a faint smile plays on his lips. I know he isn't questioning a memory, but it's all I can think of to say. My hand continues to stroke his cheek as he moves on top of me. The feel of him against me, fully and almost completely, is almost too much. My heart is beating wildly and my breaths turn shallow. I need him so desperately it hurts.

He kisses me again; his tongue plays upon my lips before moving over them. I kiss him in return, my hands move over his back, dragging my fingers down over the muscular planes of his back. Peeta moans, breaking our intimate kiss. He kisses over my jaw line, down my neck, and over my shoulder. It's all more than I can bear.

"Peeta, I need more," I confess when he kisses the underside of my jaw.

He lifts his head and looks down at me. He can see in my eyes what I'm asking for and nods. He moves between my legs, lining himself up with me, and seeks my approval before moving any further. I could make a speech about how while neither of us has done this before, I know we're ready and will be fine, but words were never my strong suit. It seems the moment is just as intense for Peeta. For once, he is at a loss of words.

He slips inside me, slowly and full of caution, allowing me to stretch and become accustomed to him. There is a winch of pain, but it passes quickly. I offer a slight nod to let him know I'm okay. Slowly, he begins to move inside me. Small strokes at first, then goes deeper. With each push of his hips to mine, the intensity has mounted and I need more of him. I bend my leg so my heel is near his bottom, allowing him to go deeper. He groans in response. His hips move toward mine, the rise up slightly, filling me completely. My hands move over his back in erratic patterns, at times, my nails digging into his flesh. He kisses me, I kiss his neck. He rocks his hips, I swivel mine. We've fallen into the dance we were always meant to share. His tempo increases and he lifts himself off me. My hands run over his chest, to the nape of his neck, and into his hair. I clutch what little I can in my hand as Peeta's thrusts become faster and harder. The vein on the side of his neck stands out, he clenches his jaw, and closes his eyes. I'm moving my body in time with his, my hips swivel in small circles, and I can feel the heat reaching a point where I fear I may combust.

Peeta's groans and sigh are fueling my body to let the heat explode. When it does, I'm panting and moaning as my body shakes and jerks. Peeta's watching me come undone and his own movements become frantic, strong, and swift. His mouth is open slightly, a rapid gasping sound follows, and the heat envelopes him. His hip thrust forward three times, each time a deep moan sound with the movement. I can feel him twitching inside me and a new heat fills me.

Peeta lies down on top of me and I stroke his back while we both struggle to catch our breath. I drag my fingers lazily over his back as he kisses my neck. A few minutes pass, and he moves off me. I can't bear not feeling is touch, so I move in against his side, draping my arm over his chest, and hook my leg over his. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and with his other hand, he draws a pattern on my arm.

"I love you, Katniss," he whispers.

"I love you, too, Peeta." It feels amazing to finally say it.

We lay together until we both get sleepy. I'm just about to drift off when I hear him.

"I'm going to marry you one day, Katniss Everdeen."

"I accept your proposal, Peeta Mellark," I whisper back.

Peeta laughs softly, then kisses my head and hold me tighter. His arms feel so strong and warm, so safe.

"Always," he says.


End Note: I hope you liked it. Thank you for giving it a go and I'd love to hear what you think! 3