Reposted with full permission. This was originally a one-shot, and there are no current plans to expand it. However, other HG fic will be posted from this account.
From Chapter 18, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Do not read if you have not yet reached this point, it will spoil a plot turn):
We walk down the hallway. Peeta wants to stop by his room to shower off the makeup and meet me in a few minutes, but I won't let him. I'm certain that if a door shuts between us, it will lock and I'll have to spend the night without him. Besides, I have a shower in my room. I refuse to let go of his hand.
We don't say much when we get in my room. I go wash my face and brush out my hair, and Peeta goes in to shower, passing me as I come out and giving me a half-smile. I feel a heaviness tonight that I can't quite shake, knowing that tomorrow will come too fast, and although most of the country may be rooting for us, the people in control of our fates aren't.
He steps out of the bathroom wearing a pink silk robe I've never noticed.
"Everything in my bathroom is cotton or thermal. Rugged man stuff. I should have requested silk." He looks down at the robe. It's stretched tight across his chest and hits him mid-thigh.
"It suits you," I tell him, teasing. I notice for the first time, really, how comfortable he looks with his prosthetic, almost as though he's become stronger, more graceful.
"I think so."
I'm sitting on the bed but stand when he walks toward me, turning before he can pull me into his arms. "Unzip me?" I need help getting out of this gown.
I swear I can hear every tooth on the zipper as he pulls it down my back. Peeta lowers the sleeves from my shoulders, and the dress pools at my feet. I turn to him as he fingers the strap of my slip.
"You look exhausted," he says.
"It doesn't matter. I won't be able to sleep."
He bends to pick his shorts up from the floor and the words are out before I've considered them. "Don't, Peeta."
He straightens, watching me. This is new territory. I always wear pajamas, and he always sleeps in his undershorts.
"You must really like me in pink," he says.
I pull him closer by the belt of the robe and untie it, pushing it off of him and onto the floor where it lands near my dress. And then I look at him. He doesn't hide or fidget. "Katniss, what are you doing?"
What am I doing? I honestly don't know. I just don't want to think too much. So, if this is what happens when I stop thinking about the games and the Capitol and all the things I hate, and let everything else in, fine.
"I'm ... not sleeping," I say.
He sighs and reaches again for his shorts. "I don't want this if it's just 'not sleeping'."
"You know it's more." The truth is it's been more for a long time; I just don't know what to make of it.
"I do. Do you?"
I nod wearily and climb under the covers. He follows and lies down next to me, his hands pushed under the pillow beneath his head, his eyes fixed on me.
I don't want to make him start this because it occurs to me that maybe he's tired of waiting for me to come around. Also, he's naked, and I've made him put everything on the line again. I don't know what I'm feeling — if it's desire or fear or defeat or loneliness — but do know I want him.
I turn, scooting closer and watching the way his entire body freezes as I lean and kiss his collarbone. Finally, he exhales and wraps his arms around me as I kiss up his throat to his lips.
This we know. We've never done this alone before, but our mouths know each other. Somehow, doing it in the dark without an audience makes everything more acute. I feel a pulse of heat from my mouth all the way down between my legs, and it pushes a sigh from me. He groans and pulls me closer.
The kissing itself isn't new, but because it's so real this time it feels new — heavier somehow, almost as if my whole body has to be involved. For the first time I understand that we've been holding back feeling in front of the cameras, not manufacturing it. I want to wrap every part of me around him. He's so unbelievably warm.
When I pull away for air he looks at me, asking with his eyes if I want to stop. My body is committed, but my brain won't shut off. We leave tomorrow. How do I say everything that I want to say when I haven't even let myself process the half of it? Does it even matter? I'm here with him, and I want to be only here. Only with Peeta. I don't want either of us to die tomorrow.
He loosens his arms around me, giving me the option to move away, but I don't move. How could I? Our legs are wrapped together, and still it doesn't feel close enough.
"All right, then," he says when he realizes I've decided. He bends to kiss me and then rolls back, pulling me to his side. I reach up to kiss him, and he breathes my name, setting something off inside me.
Instinct — that is all I am now. My hands move in ways I don't consciously decide. Up his sides, across his chest, into his hair. I am making sounds that are at once familiar and also new, like they're coming from someone else. But then I realize they are — Peeta is making them, too: soft pants and shaking exhales. The quietest satisfied grunt when I climb over him.
"Take everything," he says, holding my head to his. "Take anything."
This time when I kiss him, he parts his lips and touches his tongue to my mouth. I let him in, sweeping the tip of my tongue against his and pull back, startled at how it makes my limbs feel, and, to be honest, how it makes me feel between my limbs.
"What?" he asks, smiling.
I shake my head, touching my lips.
"Katniss, you eat raw squirrel meat, and you can't handle my tongue in your mouth?"
"I didn't say it was bad. I can handle it."
"Then come back here." He smiles.
This new kind of kiss makes my head feel light, and I wouldn't be surprised if I suddenly fall off the bed; I have no sense of my bearings. I can feel him slowly rocking against me and I also feel him, really hard, for the first time.
My hands move over his chest and across his stomach. He's regained the muscle he lost at the Games last year, and his chest is so broad, I am almost tempted to measure it with my hands. But his stomach needs to be explored, and so I reach lower, below the covers where I can't see.
There is soft hair there, an invitation. He hisses when I brush up against him with the side of my small finger and grabs my hand, bringing it up to his chest.
"Katniss?" He sing-songs my name. "What are you doing?"
"I thought it would be clear. I'm exploring." I arch an eyebrow at him, and he releases a nervous laugh before he releases my hand.
"Knock yourself out," he says, but his voice shakes slightly.
I reach down and, without much pretense, wrap my hand around him. He groans and throws his arm across his eyes, and I take this as a good sign. But then I'm stuck holding him, not sure what to do. Obviously, there aren't a lot of options, and I don't need to have done this before to get the basic mechanics. But just rubbing over him with a dry hand doesn't seem very sensual.
I reach up, lick my hand, and then return to where it was. He bolts upright when he feels my wet hand moving over him, pushing back the covers and staring. I get a good look at him, too, now and realize that the mechanics of all of this really aren't all that clear to me. I'm pretty sure that he's bigger around than I am wide.
Still, it feels so good touching him like this, and the hardness and the warmth both make me want to feel him everywhere. As if he senses this, he pulls my head closer to him and kisses me. I feel his hand move over my stomach and up to my breast where he cups me over the slip and makes a tight, whimpering sound. I let out an embarrassingly loud moan.
His hand immediately drops from my chest and pulls my own hand off of him.
I am grateful for the dark so he can't see my flush of humiliation. I'm not fooling myself that I was doing anything right, but he could have at least shown me. The first words out of my mouth sound more wounded and less angry, though. "You know I don't know what I'm doing. I was just—"
"Not yet, Katniss," he says, eyes still closed. "I don't want it to be over yet."
"Oh," I say. "Well then, show me how to make it last longer."
"You're doing it right," he says. "I just ... your breasts." He says this as if it should be clear what he means.
He lets go, and I move back to what I was doing. We kiss at the same pace, and his hands move over me again, finally reaching my chest, and he seems to get really worked up.
I am completely lost in the feel of him so close to me and in my hand. "I like this," I say.
This time when he shoves my hand away, I can't take it. He is naked while I remain clothed, and yet somehow I feel exposed. Vulnerable. I stand and mean to leave. There are too many other things I should be thinking about tonight but that I'm trying to ignore. I'm not thinking about what we're going to face tomorrow or if I'll even make it past the Cornucopia. Instead I'm thinking about Peeta and how this new feeling makes me elated and tired. And scared.
And I wonder if he's always felt this way about me. Because if he has, I don't know how he got through any of it with his sanity intact. I couldn't bear to see danger even breathe near him now. I'm afraid I won't be able to stop worrying about him long enough to worry about myself.
It's this realization that keeps me from yanking away from his fist when he grasps my wrist.
"Clearly," I say, still unable to look at him.
"No, I mean stop being defensive. Come here."
I sit back down next to him, altogether unable to deny him even this one small request. To sit by him.
Of course, his real request follows, and it's so sweetly him, so unassuming. How does he say these things so easily as if the words had been perched on his tongue, waiting to fly out?
"Katniss? I don't just want your bare hand. I want all of you bare." Although his clarification makes me relax, he touches the strap of the slip I'm wearing, and I know what he wants. "Take this off?"
I stand up again and begin to take off what remains of my clothes. I only have on the slip and some undergarments. I feel mostly unsentimental about my naked body, but I can tell his feelings are almost the polar opposite. His eyes are wide, not with surprise, but as if he needs to let in as much light as possible to see what I'm doing. I tug the slip over my head and start to toss it aside, but his hand stops me from reaching for my stockings.
"It's silk, not muddied wool, Katniss." He laughs tightly. "Slow down."
"I'm not sexy," I say automatically. "I don't do painted Capitol sex kitten."
"I agree with the latter, not the former. Slow down." He meets my eyes. "Please slow down?"
I don't think it's possible to remove my stockings from the ridiculous garter belt in any way that approximates sexy so I don't try. I bend over, tug them off — ripping one in the process — and drop them to the floor by my bed.
He laughs but wisely doesn't protest. I pause, wearing a bra and the garter over my underwear. I look up at him.
"The garter," he says quietly.
We both watch my hands as I unfasten each front clasp and pull it away from my hips. Briefly, I wish I had put on more weight before now.
"Stop," he says.
I stare at my feet, letting him watch me as long as he wants.
I look up at him. The moon outside catches his left eye, and it seems to glow for a moment.
He asks, "What does it do to you to see me like this?"
I stare at him trying to determine his meaning. He means naked, I think. I fidget slightly, then say, "I like it. I want you."
"More or less than you did before?"
He waits a beat, then says, "Then imagine what this is like for me. I have loved you for twelve years. Please, go slow."
I reach back and unhook my bra, pulling it from my arms. I remember too late to slow down so I kind of dangle it from my hand for a minute before dropping it to the floor. I'm standing in only my underwear, but his eyes are fixated on my chest.
Instinctively, I cross my arms in front of me, and his eyes move up to my face. "You can't be serious," he moans.
"You're the least self-conscious person I know. Move your arms."
"That's not true. Besides, no one has looked at me the way you're looking at me."
"Katniss, everyone looks at you this way, I'm sure."
"No, they don't."
He pauses, watching me.
"They don't, Peeta. No one has seen me naked except the stylists, and they don't care. It's easy to be naked in front of someone who sees me as a series of things to fix."
His voice is softer when he repeats, "Move your arms."
I drop my arms and try to find something to do with my hands while I stand there. It would be so different if we were in the arena and he had to get my clothes off of me for one reason or another. There it would be matter-of-fact, a matter of survival. Here it is more intimate than I had anticipated, and for the first time I wonder how I look to him.
"Are you keeping those on? It's okay if you want to," he says, nodding towards my underpants.
"No, I don't need them to stay on." I want him to do this part because, if I'm honest, this is all so new to me, and this last step feels like the biggest chasm yet.
I step closer, and he slides his hands up my legs. "Chickening out?"
"Testing you," I say.
"If this is the kind of test I'll be up against tomorrow, I think the odds are definitely in my favor."
With this he has broken the single unspoken rule we put in place when we started touching like this: don't mention the Quell.
I step away, and he reaches for me, pulling me back by my thighs.
"I'm sorry," he says.
I don't say anything. I just want his hands to keep touching me like this. I just want him to slow down time with his hands on me.
His fingers shake slightly but he manages to slide my underwear down my legs. I step out of them and feel the silence pulsing in the room. Maybe the sensation is only in my head. I don't think so, though. I swear I can see his pulse in his neck.
"Will you let me?"
It doesn't really matter what he's asking. If he wants it, I'll let him. "Yes."
"Do you know what I'm asking?"
I try to keep from scowling because of course I don't know exactly what he's asking. "Of course I do."
"I love you, Katniss," he says. "I really do."
I imagine it wouldn't be as nice to hear me say, I think I might love you, too, so instead I tug his hair and step closer.
I don't know exactly what to expect, but I've spent enough time around The Hob and the conversations there to know where things go and what we're getting into. Except with Peeta it doesn't seem rushed or dirty. It doesn't feel like a matter of convenience or a transaction. I don't know that I've ever had the luxury of wanting something, but I certainly want him now.
He reaches a hand to me, cupping me before pressing two fingers against my wet skin. His hands feel warm and soft, and I want more.
He exhales a curse and shakes his head. He looks up at me, and his eyes look heavy.
"What?" I ask. I feel self-conscious. I'm not sure what my body is supposed to feel like and if it is doing the right things. "What?" I say again.
He shakes his head again and rests his forehead against my ribs. "I never thought I would feel you like this. What if this is the only time?"
I can't fathom that now. Instead, I deflect. "You never know what will be in the arena. You may be pulling some muttation leeches out of my underwear."
He laughs and then groans. "I hope not. You're too perfect here."
"They might think so, too," I say, smiling.
He closes his eyes and runs his fingers over me. He slides one inside, and I gasp.
Peeta bends to kiss me ... there. He stills, leaning into me, and then he opens his mouth, sucks at my flesh and tastes me.
I make a strange garbled sound, digging my fingers into his hair. I'm amazed how powerfully I want more.
"Come up on the bed," he says, scooting back.
I climb in next to him, feeling unsure of what happens now. He pulls me down next to him and leans over me, kissing my lips and letting his hand move down my neck and across my chest.
Although my breasts are small, his hands seem to be unable to stop touching them. His fingertips and palms take turns exploring, and I can tell that he likes it from the noises he is making. For my part, I can barely keep from pulling him on top of me; some instinct deep inside me seems to know what I want and what to do. I don't care that I'm making ridiculous noises and breathing as if I've been running for an hour. My hips twist my body closer to his, and I hear him chuckle quietly, and then open my eyes to find him looking down at me.
"What's funny?" I ask.
"Nothing's funny," he says. "I'm just happy." The word "happy" seems to hang in the space around us, an unexpected visitor.
He looks down at his hand cupping my right breast and then bends to kiss and suck at the flesh.
I moan and grab his hair, distracted. I don't want him to stop doing this, and he doesn't seem to want to either, sucking at one side while touching the other. I never knew this part of my body was so sensitive or so interesting.
While I'm lost in what he is doing with his mouth, he slides his hand down lower, between my legs again. I feel overwhelming relief, needing his hand — or something — there badly.
He hums when he touches me. "Your stylists are thorough."
"Ugh. Yeah." I know what he means. Only the hair on my head was spared wax treatment. "How did you escape it anyhow? Boys don't get waxed?"
He shakes his head. "It feels nice. You don't like it?"
"No. I won't keep it up." I look at his expression as he watches his hand move over my skin. "Don't get too attached."
He laughs, but his eyes tighten, and I know we're both thinking the same thing. Tonight is a one-time deal, anyway, because one of us won't make it out of the arena alive. Instead of saying this, he whispers, "I have a feeling you'll feel nice no matter what."
Peeta slips his fingers to where I feel wet, and I feel him shaking slightly. I pull his head up to mine to kiss him. Whatever he's doing feels incredible. He focuses his attention on his fingers against me, and my mind clears at the silvery, gentle sensation. It promises more, I can feel the ache growing and spreading from between my legs, out through my stomach, and into my chest.
"Am I doing it right?" he asks quietly.
"You certainly aren't hurting me."
I pause, listening to his breathing and I realize this is when I should say more. Peeta deserves so much more. "It feels really good," I tell him, and my face heats. "I like doing this with you."
"Good." He kisses me. "You feel perfect."
After several minutes of his exploration, he looks up at me. "Katniss?"
He closes his eyes for a moment and then opens them when he says, "I want to be inside you."
I nod, and he looks over my face. He seems on the verge of saying something, and for once I hope he does say something sweet and devoted. Instead, he climbs over me, spreading my legs with one of his.
"I've never done this," I say. I can hear the edge in my voice but have closed my eyes so he can't see it there, too.
I expect him to chuckle or laugh out his response, but he doesn't. He just says, "I know, Katniss."
I remember, and it's all I can do to not roll him off of me. "That's right. I'm pure."
He pulls back slightly. It's strange having the distance creep in when I can feel him pressing against where I am oversensitive and starving for him.
"Why does being called 'pure' bother you?"
"I'm not pure. I'm usually filthy and shooting something. If either of us is pure, it's you, Bread Boy."
"That isn't what I mean by pure."
With a feeling like a stab to my stomach, I understand. "You've done this with a girl."
He shakes his head. "I've never done this."
I realize he's speaking in semantics. "What is 'this'?"
He smiles. "I hope this is us, about to make love."
"But you've had sex."
I hate it. In this moment, I'd rather feel hunger gnawing at my stomach, making me sharp and angry than this feeling of inadequacy and jealousy eating away at everything vital and alive under my ribs.
Peeta is watching me and leans to kiss me. "It wasn't good for either of us. I tried to see if I could feel this for anyone else. Turns out I can't." This mollifies me somewhat. Until he asks, "Can you?"
Gale's face shifts into my thoughts, and I suck in a breath at the mixture of sadness and longing. Is it the same feeling I have when I look at Peeta? No. But I don't know how to answer. I want Peeta. Even so, the thought of doing this with Gale makes my chest twist tightly.
"Don't answer that," he says. I realize the silence had stretched on. It had probably felt endless to him.
"I want you," I tell him. "I'm not good at expressing the rest. What does it matter, anyway?"
His voice filters through my memory, asking me so many weeks ago if I had only kissed Gale that one time. I remember Peeta's expression: guarded, not wanting to pressure me. But hopeful, his longing cracking through.
I pull him toward me, trying to tell him with my kiss that I can't bear the thought of anything happening to him. But that isn't what he wants, either. He wants me to be unable to bear the thought of doing this with anyone but him.
"I told you, I've never done this before. I've never done anything before." I swallow, thinking I need to do better than this. I need to give him more. "I've never been with anyone; you know that."
He nods against my lips and seems to relax against me. "It matters," he says, answering my question that feels hours old, "because I couldn't stop thinking about you when I had sex before."
"I thought about you. I wished it was you." He sounds guilty, and I am sure he is feeling bad for his silent betrayal with this girl. "I guess I couldn't imagine doing that with anyone else." He says "that" as if it was an entirely different activity with the other girls than what he is about to do with me, and I realize that to him, it was. I can't help but smile against his mouth.
"Well, I'm not thinking of anyone else right now. I'm only thinking about you."
He laughs and shakes his head. "You really are terrible at reassurance, Katniss. Can't you do better?"
"Probably not," I admit.
"It helps that you're carrying my baby," he says, and the tenor of his voice when he jokes tells me that he has moved on from whatever brief conflict pulled him under.
But it still isn't enough for me to move on. Somehow I'm tired of being unable to stop and think about what else I feel other than fear, panic, hatred, and hunger long enough to sort through what Peeta is offering. If I have one night left, why not take it to sort this out?
"It's more than never having done anything with anyone. It's also that I've never wanted to do this before, Peeta. I could have if I wanted to, but I didn't. And I do now, with you."
"Okay," he says and then kisses me softly. I can tell that he feels better.
He reaches between us, and then I can feel him pressing at my entrance. He seems to hesitate, watching my mouth to see if it will open to say something, ask him to stop.
"Just do it," I say. "It won't kill me."
He laughs and kisses me, and the heaviness is gone now, and in its place is only the need I have for him to be inside me and the quiet echo of his laugh in the room.
He pushes into me.
"This is so intense for me," he says into my hair.
"Katniss, you don't understand."
"I do. At least, I think I'm starting to."
It feels like he is pushing into me for a long time and then I know that he is all the way inside. It pinches. It feels too full. I'm not a stranger to pain, but I never ask for it. This I've asked for, and it makes me more aware of the edges, the intensity.
"Damn it," I hiss. "It hurts."
"I'm sorry," he says. "Let's stop." He means it. He starts moving away from me.
I grab him with both arms and both legs. "No."
I can feel the vibrations of his heartbeat through his chest pushing into mine. I feel like I have two hearts, and maybe I do. Maybe that is what happened somewhere along the line, on a train or carried in the wind between our two houses. Our hearts made a deal to belong to each other before our minds knew what to make of it all. Maybe we always knew that only one of us could ever really make it, and our hearts are just waiting to find out which body gets to keep them.
He is warm and slick with sweat over me, hovering, waiting. Waiting for me? I realize I'm holding my breath and I exhale against his neck, kissing and tasting the salty dampness there. Part of me is terrified that he's sweating because of me, losing hydration this way. Still, I don't want him to stop.
"I'm okay," I say. It feels too good with him inside me and over me. His mouth is on my neck and against my ear, and the intimate sounds we are making are so new to me. I feel lost and overwhelmed and need him to move to soothe the pressure of feeling this stretched.
He says my name and pulls back, slips forward. He says my name again as he starts to move. It still isn't comfortable yet, but I can imagine how it could be. That it will be. I realize that I want him to have been with me like this more than he was with anyone else, even if we're up all night. I want to be his and him to be mine before I die. I want to have what everyone believed we have had all this time.
My name becomes a chant and slips out between his frantic kisses up my neck. I clutch at him, mesmerized by the transformation in calm, composed Peeta to this hungry body moving over me, making these sounds, seemingly unable to find one place he wants to kiss long enough to stay there before he is eager for somewhere else. My neck. My jaw. My mouth. My ears. I find that I want him just the same.
I hold his head, stopping his movement as he is sweeping across my chin to the other side of my neck and I kiss him, releasing a breath that comes out shaking, a moan, a gasp in reverse.
I want to tell him something, anything about what this feels like, how lost I feel and how I don't want it to stop. But it's a language I don't have and so instead I just say his name.
His back muscles begin to shake under my hands, and he curses quietly before moving faster and harder. He is panting and clutching at the sheets by my head and then he slows and stops moving.
The gentle hum of the air through the room fills the space, and I realize we were being loud. Probably very loud. I run my hands down his back, spreading the moisture from the sweat, trying to memorize the lines and dips of his muscles.
Out of the silence, he says, "I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry? Isn't that the point?"
He laughs. "I had hoped to make you finish first."
I think I know what he means. "It felt really good after the first couple of minutes. Maybe I did?"
He pulls back and looks at me. "Ha, ha."
I am embarrassed because I realize that I'm not getting it. "What?"
His eyes move over my face, and he registers that I'm serious. "Katniss, you've never had an orgasm?"
"When would I have had an orgasm? I've never done this before," I say, hearing my voice crack. It feels strange to talk so openly about something I'd never really thought about until tonight. I know the basics but am starting to suspect there is a whole world of information that I simply don't have.
"You've never done it yourself?"
He means touch myself, I think. "Again, when would I do that?"
He seems to consider this and then shrugs. "Well, I want to make you have one." He guides my hand between us. "Find what feels good with your hand. Then do it against my body."
"I'm not sure how I feel about how well you know how to do this." I attempt teasing, but my voice sounds a little reedy, jealous and tight.
He looks down at me and scowls slightly. I can tell he doesn't like the insinuation that he's experienced, but I don't know why. He certainly has done more before tonight than I have. "I'm just using common sense," he says. "I've never made a girl orgasm before."
I can't think of anything to say. I blink and try to break eye contact, but I can't seem to do that, either.
"I told you I tried to see if I could feel this for someone else," he says. "I can't. I know I can't." He bends to kiss me, and it is so sweet — how can I possibly give him up tomorrow? "I want you to remember this. I want you to really feel how much you mean to me. We'll stay up all night finding the right spot if we have to."
When I hesitate he pushes my hand to move against my body. I remember that he is still inside me when he starts to get bigger again. I close my eyes because I'm feeling things that I never knew before, and this all starts to feel so overwhelming on a night when we really should be sleeping.
He kisses me, probably to distract me, and when I feel his tongue again, the ache I felt before starts to grow. He sighs and moves a little over me, and I just let my hand do whatever my body seems to want it to do. Beneath the slight tenderness I feel from having sex the first time, it starts to feel good. I can hear him responding to me, and he starts moving in earnest because he is hard again now.
Eventually he takes my hand and moves it away and over my head. His fingers slip between mine.
I remember what he said, about wanting me to do that against his body and I start to move with him. It only takes a moment for us to seem to find a rhythm together. The sound he makes when we start moving in tandem is a bit of a choking sound, and I realize that he is trying to say my name.
"Peeta," I say. "I think it's different this time."
The feeling builds. It isn't a simple climb in sensation. What I feel seems to multiply with what I felt before, layering, and only making me want to go faster, press up against him harder. He responds to everything I do, and when I say his name again he cries out.
"Say it again."
"Peeta," I say. "Something is happening... I..."
I am not afraid of this type of explosion. I know that I want it; I can feel my body preparing to do something that will change how I view it forever.
He bends and buries his face in my neck. His body seems to be intent on hitting the same spot over and over, grinding in small circles.
"Again," he asks quietly, muffled by my neck.
"Peeta?" This time it's more a question because something has shifted.
And then I realize the first time he climaxed when I said his name.
I feel actual pain in my chest. He thinks I'm going home without him. He wants me to remember this night with him because he thinks this is but one night out of thousands I will be touched like this, just by someone else. Someone not named Peeta.
I feel the hot salt of tears sliding down my throat.
"Katniss, please say it again."
"You know I'm not making it out of there."
He freezes over me, and his voice cracks when he says, "Stop. Don't do that."
"I'm giving myself to you and only you," I say. "I'll say your name as many times as you want. I won't ever say anyone else's name like this."
"I said stop it, Katniss."
I feel anger rising in my chest, squashing down the hopelessness and the fear and the hurt. "Stop what?"
"I can't live without you," he whispers. "The nightmares of the arena would be the least of my sadness."
I hate that I can't articulate these things like he can. My anger bubbles over. "What did we just do?" I ask. "What are we doing right now?"
"What are we doing?" I am shouting now.
"Having sex," he says.
I must look murderous because he adds softly, understanding, "Making love."
"So what makes you think it isn't the same for me? What makes you think I want to go anywhere without you?"
I can tell he doesn't want to do this now but really, he started it. "You have Prim. Your mom. Madge." He hesitates. "Gale."
I can feel my tears because they're burning my eyes and threatening to fall. "My heart won't be able to hold anything when it's broken. Every other feeling will leak out. I'll be hollow."
"Please try," he urges.
"I can't, Peeta. This. What we're doing tonight? After this I'll be broken if you're gone. I know I will."
"You'll move on." He sounds dead when he says this. He's inside me, how can he even think it?
I push at his chest. Grabbing the hair at his temples, I wrestle him under me with my legs. I feel savage and angry. I hate this world and our circumstances. I hate him for showing me this side of love and making me want it for more than just a night.
He blinks when a tear falls from my eye onto his eyelid. Suddenly he is propped up on an elbow, pulling me down to him with his other hand at the back of my head. I am angry and rough and sobbing into his mouth but he doesn't stop kissing me.
Somehow he shifts me back, and I can feel him slide into me again. I am sore, and my legs feel like they've been spread for days, but I want him so much I can't seem to think about what else I should be doing. I only know that I would be a fool to waste any moment of this night.
His hips are driving up, and I'm sliding over him, and it feels so good, but I can't find that place from before, where I felt like I was on the verge of falling into something searing and perfect. It doesn't matter. For a while we are pulling hair and biting. Taking it out on each other in the only way that we want to at this point. He must feel the urgency, too. He isn't quiet; calm Peeta is gone, and in his place is this wild man underneath me who is intent on making me say his name over and over. Who is intent on keeping me alive starting tomorrow, but breaking my heart tonight.
I want to ask him, what good is a body without a heart? I know now that whoever dies is the one who keeps the hearts, not the other way around. If I die, I take his. If he dies, he takes mine.
We begin as we should, at pillows, nicely aligned on the bed. But soon we are tangled in blankets at the foot of the bed, and then we are falling onto the floor with a loud thump that has to register somewhere, in some Capitol sensor, but no one arrives to put me back to bed. I wonder for a brief moment if they're recording this, if this will be played on some highlight reel, showing my greatest hits after I'm gone. But I can't hold the thought too long because Peeta settles over me and reaches between us, and then all at once we are moving together like before, and I can tell that I'm close to whatever it is that I'm chasing.
He pushes my hair off my face and holds his hands against my hair and kisses me. His mouth opens, and he sobs once, and then his kisses become small and soft. I know he's telling me he loves me.
He is kissing my ear, my eyelids. Kissing my mouth, tasting me, pressing his sounds inside me so that I can always hear them, even when I'm standing on my plate and he's standing on his and we're supposed to be enemies. And in a sense we will be. We'll both be trying to kill ourselves to keep the other alive.
But right now, we're sweating and frantic, and I can feel my body preparing to detonate. "Peeta, I..." I warn him. I'm afraid I'm going to scream when it hits me.
"Don't stop," he tells me. "Please just don't ever stop."
He grabs the back of my thigh and lifts it over his hip and I fall. Every layer that has built while he's moved on top of me comes washing down across my skin, scalding and cold and electric. I'm clutching at him and gasping for air, and when it finally slips away I'm left completely exhausted.
He raises himself above me, kneeling between my legs, hands planted next to my head. I can't break eye-contact as he starts to fall because he is pouring his heart out and asking me to let him go with a single look.
How can I feel so alive when a part of me is dying?
Although it's hard, I try to relax as he washes me.
He is Peeta, though, so he reads me easily. "Washing your naked body isn't a chore."
I laugh. "I guess not."
"And even if it was..." he waits until I look up at him, "who is keeping score tonight?"
"I'm not," I say quietly. "And you never do."
"With you I don't." He reaches for a button behind me and presses it, sending soft lemon-scented foam over our skin. He seems to have figured out the showers much better than I have. "Although you would make things so much easier if you'd just take everything I want to give you."
"Why?" I ask. "You wouldn't take everything either."
"If it was you? And you were offering? I would. I would be beyond greedy if you really offered me everything."
"But I am offering everything. Everything I can, Peeta."
This is when he registers that we're talking about two different things. A life together, or one life chosen together. He's speaking of fantasies and I'm grounded in reality.
He rinses the last of the suds from his shoulders and reaches to shut off the water. "Let's get some sleep, Katniss."
I press a button near the bed and the covers are straightened, pillows fluffy again. No one walking in now would ever see the walls that crumbled under the covers and spilled onto the floor.
I can see him reaching for his shorts on the floor, but I climb in between the sheets, wearing nothing. I've decided to stay bare as long as possible. When he climbs in beside me I feel only his skin. He is smooth and rough, gentle and hard.
I curl into his chest and inhale, thinking how the lemon smells so different on him, that his scent blends in and holds its own. I'll remember that starting tomorrow. He'll still smell like him, no matter what touches him.
I imagine him covered in mud and sweat. Probably some blood. And I would still want to feel his legs like this, one between mine, the other on top, holding me down against the sheets that are still a little damp from earlier.
I don't know if it's the circumstances that made me choose him tonight but I'm not ready to give him up. I won't be ready when Effie comes tomorrow either. I suspect after what happened tonight, I'll never want to.
"I hate this," I tell him.
I'm glad he knew what I meant. He seems to always know what I mean. And so when I roll onto my back, he knows I want him over me. And when I say his name, he knows I want him inside.
We move together for a while, but he's worn out and I'm sore. Instead, we fall asleep like this, waiting for the Capitol to wake us and tell us it's time to go.