Disclaimer: Characters and setting are not mine.
Note: This story is lemony, please read at your discretion.


Alight


I don't rush through my shower. I know it is the last one I'll ever take, so I try to enjoy it. The hot, citrus scented foam that sprays over me, the flowery shampoo and soap that I use to wash myself. I don't know where I'll be twenty-four hours from now. I could be cold, dirty, or even dead.

My stomach lurches at this thought and I feel glad I didn't eat much at dinner. I have resigned myself to the fact that I am going to die in the Quarter Quell, but that doesn't mean I like thinking about it. Since I found out about the Quell, I've tried to focus only on my hope to help Peeta win. It feels better to think of him, and my desire to keep safe and alive, than to consider what will become of me. I don't want to think of going somewhere without him, or of the fact that I'll never see Peeta or Prim, my mother or Gale, ever again. Maybe I'll see my father and Rue. Maybe they'll be wherever I'm going.

Or maybe I'm not going anywhere. Perhaps death is the end of existence. Someone will kill me and that will be it. My body will be lifeless and my mind, my self, whatever it is that makes me me, will vanish.

I tell myself it doesn't matter. Of course those who love me will miss me, but there is nothing to be done. Even if I wanted to win the Quell, I doubt it would be possible. I bet the gamemakers have already been ordered to ensure my death. And if I did survive, I'm sure Snow would make my life miserable. Perhaps he would see to it that Prim is chosen for the Games next year. And Peeta would be gone…

I feel a shaking in my chest at these thoughts, and have to remind myself that they are not real. Prim is alive. Peeta is alive and just outside the bathroom door. He's waiting for me, waiting to hold me.

I stand under the powerful jet spray for a few more seconds, then shut it off and step out of the shower. I go over to the hair drying machine and place my hands on it. My hair is instantly dried and detangled, so it falls in a glossy sheet around me. I then take a plush white towel off the nearby shelf and proceed to dry my face, my shoulders, my torso, and then run the towel down each leg before repeating my actions in reverse. I realize that this is the last time I'll ever do this, too. I won't have this body for very much longer.

I step over to the large bathroom mirror and use my moist towel to wipe the fog off the glass so that I can see my whole naked body in it. Ever since Peeta and I won the Games, I've never had to go to bed hungry. I'm still lean with firm, taut legs and arms, but am just a bit rounder than I used to be. My hips curve a little more, my skin isn't sucked up against my bones. I notice for the first time that my breasts have gotten fuller. I'm sure anyone in the Capitol would still say that they could be vastly improved by surgical alteration, but I think they look nice.

And why does that matter? Asks a nagging, cruel voice within me, Why would it matter what I look like?

I sigh and look down at my body, the body I'm going to lose soon. It's been sufficient: it doesn't tire easily, it can climb trees and move quickly and quietly. I run my hands along my hips, then up over my stomach and past my ribs. I wait a beat and then continue, sliding them along the curves of my breasts and over my nipples. My stomach tenses and I can't resist running my fingertips back down, then up and down again. It feels good and the nubs begin to harden. I feel a tug between my legs and, without thinking, start to slide a hand down over my stomach.

That is when I'm startled by three soft knocks on the bathroom door. I gasp softly and my hands flinch away from my body. The door is locked from the inside, and I know Peeta would not barge in without my permission, but I still feel embarrassed and as if I've been caught.

"Katniss?" Peeta's voice calls. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I say. "I'll be right out."

"All right."

Was he worried about me? Did he think I may have fallen in the shower or something like that? Or does he want to hold me so much that he can't bear waiting? More likely, the latter. I realize that I feel the same way about him, so I hastily pull on a pair of underwear and a silky nightgown, then leave the bathroom.

Peeta's sitting on the bed with his feet on the floor, leaning back on his hands. He's already in his sleeping clothes. I watch his eyes quickly flit from my mostly bare legs up to my nightgown, before they raise to meet mine. He smiles and sits up straight, reaching out for me. I approach him, sliding both of my hands into his. Warmth radiates from where our skin touches. I can feel it spreading through me, to the places I was so conscious of moments ago in the bathroom.

He doesn't look at my body again, just keeps his eyes on my face. But it feels intimate somehow. I know he loves me and he…well, he must know I care for him. We've become so close since the victory tour, since we decided to be friends. He's one of my favorite people in the world. Granted, that isn't saying much, as I have not let myself get close to many people, but still…

I don't want to think about this right now. I don't want to think about exactly how much Peeta means to me because I'm going to lose him. I'm going to lose everyone.

"You don't look very tired," he says softly, tilting his head to the side.

I close my eyes for a couple of seconds and then they seem to spring open on their own. "I guess I'm not."

"Do you want to talk, or…" Peeta lets his voice trail off when he sees me shake my head.

"We should rest, at least," I say. "Even if I won't be able to sleep."

Peeta gives me a sad smile, surely thinking of what is going to happen tomorrow and why we'll need our rest. He drops my hands and shifts back on the bed, peeling the covers down so he can slide beneath them. I climb in and scoot toward him, until my body is right beside his. One of his arms slides under my neck and the other rests securely over me. I press my forehead into the crook of his neck. He sighs, almost imperceptibly, and rubs his cheek against my hair.

I don't know how long we spend like this. Several minutes, but less than a quarter of an hour it seems. I feel a hyperawareness of him, because I know this is the last time we'll be together like this. When we're in the arena we'll have to take shifts sleeping (provided we both survive the bloodbath) and will not have the comfort of a bed. I find myself wishing I'd never met Peeta, or Gale, and that Prim had been born into another family, because the thought of never seeing any of them after the Quell is so painful. It would be better if the people I love had never been a part of my life, so I wouldn't have to lose them. It would be easier to let go if I had no one to miss.

Peeta turns onto his side and slides down so that we're face to face. "Katniss," he says softly, reaching up to wipe tears off my face with the backs of his fingers. I didn't realize I'd begun to cry, but now that I'm aware of it a new round of sorrow washes over me and I start to sob. Peeta's mouth forms a pout. He leans in and gently presses his lips to my face over and over, kissing my tears away.

My heartbeat speeds up and the cries stop. I cup one hand over his jaw and turn my head so that our lips meet. I feel him start with surprise - and why wouldn't he be surprised? This is the first time we've kissed without a camera on us. He presses his lips into mine but goes no further, and I realize it's up to me. When I push my tongue against his bottom lip, he allows me entrance into his warm mouth. His tongue moves against mine, massaging it in a way that makes me forget all about being sad. It makes me forget about everything but his firm, warm body pressed against mine, and the way my pulse seems to throb everywhere. And his mouth, his mouth feels so good…

Peeta lets me push him onto his back. I slide my leg across him, shifting so that I'm straddling him and the needy place between my legs is pressed against his stomach. I knot one hand in his hair and run the other over his chest, relishing the firmness of his flesh. He's so strong. I wish he wasn't wearing this shirt, it's keeping me from him.

I move my mouth faster and harder against his, wanting more, more, more. Abruptly, he pushes me away and I feel a stab of disappointment. Before I can protest, he's sat and scooted up so that he's leaning against the headboard of the bed and I'm now sitting in his lap. We both work to catch our breath and I am just about to ask why he stopped, but he speaks first.

"Katniss…what…" Peeta pauses, swallows, then licks his lips. His starry eyes flicker around my face. "What's happening? Wh-what is this?"

I don't know how to answer him. I'm so desperate to continue that I feel terrified of saying the wrong thing. It's hard to think right now, but I try to imagine what he wants to hear. I bet he wants me to say that I'm in love with him and that I want to have one night together during which we share everything.

But that wouldn't be fair on my part. I would be lying…at least partly. And I won't lie to him. Eventually I say, "We're…living through our last night together."

A crease forms between Peeta's eyebrows and he blinks a couple of times. "Katniss, you know I love you. And…no matter what you say, we can do whatever you want tonight. But I need to know why we're doing this."

Oh, Peeta. He's so sweet, so kind and considerate, and what he's asking for is perfectly reasonable. It breaks my heart that I can't say what he wants to hear. I shut my eyes, trying to focus on the fact that he's already said he'll do whatever I want. We're going to kiss again, and more besides, as soon as I can give him just one answer.

"I want to be with you," I say, my eyes still closed, "because this is our last chance. Because…you're the best person I've ever known and I want to be close to you, while we still can."

It's true. Everything I've said is true. I'm going to die soon, so why not make the most of this last night? What do I have to lose?

I open my eyes and see that Peeta's are glistening. He nods slowly and then slides his hand up my back, over my neck and into my hair. He draws me forward, engaging me in another deep kiss. I'm glad that what I said does not seem to have upset him. I think those tears that were threatening to spill out of his eyes were of relief, maybe even happiness. I know he's not sad about what's happening between us. I can feel it.