He was pushing forward trying to reach her. If he could just stretch a little bit further he could grab her, pull her to him, shield her from the others, and fulfill the promise he'd made to himself. Protect her, save her, sacrifice for her. But he just couldn't reach. His legs slipped out from beneath him and he watched as she grew smaller and smaller in the distance. Yet he still struggled. He would die before he let her go. She had things, people, to live for…she wasn't going to die with him or for him. She was going to live, she had to live. Throwing all of his weight forward he pushed violently. Pushed so hard he felt his lungs collapse in his chest. He trembled as the reality of his own death began to claw at his last remaining thoughts. No! He couldn't stop; her life depended on him not stopping. Sinking down into the artificial ground he clawed at it desperately. He had to keep reaching, clawing, and pulling…he had to get to her. But as he focused his eyes on her, willing her to keep calling out for him, the soft ground continued to slip through his trembling hands.

His eyes grew heavy as he the ground beneath him began to swallow him whole. Life was quickly turning into a rapidly fading light above. Life no longer felt like an option. His arms went weak at the exact moment his eyes fell closed, the moment where everything faded to black. He could hear the slowing of his heartbeat in his ears; he was so tired…but just as the arena began to fade around him one single image pushed itself to the forefront of his mind.

Katniss.

His once tired limbs sprang to life, propelled by the fear of leaving her alone and a mess. Pulling harder than before, regardless of knowing that he was making no progress, he called out her name. He promised himself, he promised Haymitch…he would never stop fighting to save her. He couldn't stop fighting, if he gave up…

Katniss.

He inwardly chanted her name over and over, hoping that the strength of his love for her would drive his body to push harder. Her name was his life-preserver, he just had to continue holding onto it and he would make it. He had to make it for her, for himself, for them.

Katniss.

The sky above him exploded and he choked out her name as he dug his trembling fingers into the ground. She was still fighting, she was still waiting…the glimmer of hope it offered gave him strength. If she was still alive, still fighting, he was that much closer to her. He could get to her… Suddenly the palm of his hand came into contact with something just within the reach of his outstretched arm, a solid plank separating him and the ability to save her from this horrible place. He pushed, hard and continuous, yelling out her name until his arms turned into a jelly he no longer had the energy to control. This was it; after all of the painful work, all of the promises he'd made, all of the love he had…he was being forced to leave her alone…

"Katniss!"

His eyes snapped opened, frantically searching the darkened room for something that would pull him back to reality. Sweat soaked his brow as he gasped to take in the air his failing lungs had kept from him. Bringing his left hand to his chest he attempted to suppress his intense trembling.

"Peeta?" she was up, gazing down into his anxious eyes, no more than a moment later. Her hand placed on top of the one still resting on his chest, her grey eyes struggling to adjust the darkness that surrounded them. "Peeta?"

He forced himself into an upright position, still shaky and disoriented, as he focused his gaze on her face. His blue eyes still flashing with remnants of panic and defeat, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her flush against his chest. His body shook violently as his hands clawed at her, desperate to grasp a piece of her that could save him. In return, she held him tightly, her lips pressed against his damp forehead as she whispered soothing reassurances.

"Not real," she breathed as he buried his tear-stained face in her chest. Her name continued to escape through his trembling lips as he sobbed, quickly wetting the front of her shirt with his warm, fearful, tears. "Shhh…"

"Katniss," it actually sounded like her name as it passed through his lips that time, a small but noticeable improvement. "Katniss…I tried, I tried so hard to…"

"It was just a bad dream," she interjected as she rocked him back and forth, her hands stroking the back of his head. "It's been awhile since the last one, shhhh."

"I'm sorry," he breathed as he finally pulled back slightly. She shook her head back and forth as she pressed her palms to his cheeks, wiping his tears away. In the two years since he'd returned to 12 he had most definitely been the one to do the majority of the soothing. Her nightmares; about losing sight of him for the last time in the arena or of watching Prim's life be taken right before her eyes, were intense. She woke up screaming and the aftermath was often far-reaching and long-lasting. He hadn't had a nightmare in months, since he'd permanently moved into her home, and he rarely ever dreamed of losing her now that he slept beside her every night. Reaching out he brushed the pads of his thumbs across her cheeks, catching the lone tears she'd allowed to fall from her eyes. "Hey…"

"Just a bad dream," she repeated as she smiled gently, brushing his hands away before resting her own hands on his shoulders. This moment was not about her, or the things that tortured her at night when she closed her eyes, it was about him. He had pulled her back from the edge of insanity so many times since he'd come home and she knew that he would need her to do the same. But it still terrified her every time he had a nightmare. She was so afraid that one day she wouldn't be able to pull him back and that she would lose her boy with the bread forever.

"Not real," he agreed as he pulled her into his lap, resting his head against her chest once more. Letting out a deep breath he listened to the steady beat of her heart beneath his ear and felt his worry fade away. She turned her face into his neck and inhaled deeply, pressing her lips to his warm skin, and relished in the feeling of being completely protected by him.

"Are you going to be okay?" she questioned softly.

"Yeah," he breathed. "It felt so real…"

"They tend to," she breathed her understanding as she pulled back and stared into his eyes. "You sweat through your shirt," she announced gently. He looked down at himself to take in the site. She was right, soaked right through. "Take it off," she instructed as she moved off of his lap. Instinctively, he reached for her…his hands trembling despite himself.

"Katniss…"

"Shhh," she hushed him as she took his left hand in her own and guided his fingers to her lips, giving him the physical connection he needed in order to realize that she wasn't going anywhere. "Just…take it off." He nodded as he pealed the shirt from his body, tossing it to the side before catching her eyes again.

"Much better," she declared with a soft smile as she deposited herself in his lap once more, her fingertips skipping over the noticeable scars that littered his chest and healing him with her loving touch. He loved that he was the only one who got to see her this way. The walls she'd steadily built over the years down, her touch familiar and comforting, and her eyes void of the intense fire that had sparked a rebellion. She was just the Katniss he'd fallen in love with from afar when she was this way. He loved every Katniss he got, but this Katniss…made him feel safe.

"Katniss…" she silenced him by pressing her mouth against his, her lips capturing his in a strong reassuring kiss. A familiar and welcome occurrence now, their kisses were no longer the stuff of pretense. It was like coming home, each time they were joined this way, and he felt his heart open up to all of the possibilities of life and love and a future with her with each kiss. When it felt like the entire world thought he was crazy to return to 12 he recalled these moments, these kisses, and inwardly told each naysayer he'd encountered to fuck off. The mere possibility of this was all he needed to know that he'd made the right decision. He needed these moments to be who he'd been meant to be, to be whole and healed in spite of the hell they'd endured. Pressing herself against his chest she opened her mouth to him as his hands found their way up the nightshirt she wore and came to rest on her bottom, pulling her closer.

He let out a soft sigh, and she took that moment to capture his bottom lip in her mouth, sucking it gently. His hands slid up the length of her arms, and wrapped around her neck, weaving his hands into her hair and pulling her closer to him as his mouth took over dominance. His long fingers worked against her scalp, his soft, and loving, tongue filling her mouth. Katniss moaned as she became lost in every little touch, unconscious tears welling up in her eyes.

"Peeta…" she breathed into his mouth, feeling his lips turn up into a guilty smile against her own. Boy, did she live for that smile…that reassurance that everything was going to be okay. That smile made her world a little bit brighter each day.

"Let the record show that you kissed me first," he declared as he moved his lips to her cheek, his hands still lost in her hair.

"Hmm," she sighed her understanding with a nod of her head as he pulled back and looked up into her eyes. "Help me," she whispered as she lifted her arms.

He gathered the material of her shirt in his hands and pulled it up and over her head with ease. It, most certainly, wasn't the first time he'd stripped of her clothing but regardless of that fact he always felt so privileged to be given her permission to be seen in such a state of vulnerability. It had taken her months to not instinctively cover herself when he'd rid her of her clothes, to not hide her scarred body from his gaze. They were birds of a feather, though, with matching scars and she was nothing but gorgeous and beautiful to him…just as she'd always been.

"What?" her face reddened as he did little more than drink in the sight of her.

"Nothing," he shook his head back and forth as he leaned into her chest once more, pressing his mouth to her collarbone as his hands splayed across her back. "I couldn't reach you," he confessed the contents of his dream as her hands found his hair once again.

"Peeta…"

"There was glass," he recalled lightly as his voice broke once more. "Keeping me from you…I couldn't get to you."

"Not real," she whispered.

"You were yelling for me…I…"

"Stop," she interjected gently as she caught his face in her hands. "I'm right here. You're touching me, we're together…everything in this room is real. Feel that?" she whispered as she guided one of his hands to where her heartbeat could be felt through her chest. "I'm right here, Peeta. Nobody is ever taking you away from me again."

"Katniss…" he gasped as her mouth found his once more.

"I will die…" she assured, pulling back from his lips for a brief moment. "…before anyone takes you from me again. In any way. I love you, Peeta," she confessed softly as her fingers wove into his blond hair.

Since he'd come back, since she'd stopped wishing to die herself, she'd told him every day. He was the reason she was alive, when there had been a choice to make, he had been the reason she'd kept breathing. She never wanted him to forget how much she cherished him.

"I love you so much."

"I know," Peeta smiled genuinely, the fear in his eyes softening slightly, as she lowered her lips to his once more. "I love you, too," he muttered his reciprocation as he pulled her closer to him. He looked into her tortured, yet brilliant eyes, for a moment before slowly shaking his head back and forth. He didn't know, couldn't fathom, how they'd gotten here. It had all been so hard in the beginning, had stayed hard for so long, but now, for some reason that he couldn't explain there was clarity in her eyes. It was as if she knew now that with him was where she was meant to be…that they were meant to be together. "What did I ever do to deserve you?"

"Love me," she whispered her plea, her small yet capable hands cradling his head and her eyes begging for him to touch her in any place, and in any fashion, he desired.

Leaning into him, capturing his mouth with hers, he pulled her flush against him once again. Every part of her body melted into him. He wanted her so badly he could taste it, and she clung to him, wanting him to hold her forever. Birds of a feather, desperate to cling and be clung to.

Using the strength he so clearly had over her, he rolled them to the side, lying himself on top of her and pinning her to the mattress as she opened her legs and gave him a place to rest. His hands ran down the length of her body, her breath hitching in her throat when his hands grazed her breasts and then slid over hips. The touch of his hands was so familiar. It was the touch that she dreamt about at night, when she wasn't having nightmares, and it was the touch she wanted to feel for the rest of her life. Her hands slid down the length of his bare back and inside his pajama pants, pulling him tighter against her and grinding against him. His head fell back with a low moan, and Katniss smiled at the reaction it created, his erection instantly making itself known.

"Take off your pants," she murmured seductively as she reached for the drawstring of his bottoms. Gently pushing him away, she arched and tugged at her underwear, offering a sexy smile as she pushed them down the length of her legs. He couldn't help but return the smile when her eyes caught his. He knew for certain that he was the only person to see her this way. Flirtatious and writhing in need. And he was perfectly content keeping the existence of this Katniss a secret from everybody. Only he knew what the Katniss lying beautifully naked before him needed and he was prepared to give it to her because he knew when he did his nightmare would becoming nothing more than a memory.

She had barely tossed her underwear to the floor when his hands found her hips and pulled her pelvis against his own. Letting out something between a giggle and a gasp, she rubbed against him as he kissed and sucked at her neck.

"Peeta…" she whimpered as his hands slid up and cupped her breasts.

"I want you," he rasped against her neck, his hot breath sending shivers down her spine as she nodded.

"I want you, too."

Peeta gave her breasts one last, loving, squeeze before kissing down the length of her body. Relishing in her skin against his mouth as he pulled his own bottoms off and tossed them to the side, forgotten in an instant.

Katniss' hands slid easily over his upper back as she pulled him up the length of her body in earnest, her trembling fingers running over every curve and ripple that she knew so well. Each little part of him was memorized, and when his mouth was on hers against and she was able to reach his erection, her hand easily wrapped around it. She stroked him slowly, teasing him, making sure he was hard and ready. He was more than ready for her, as he always was, and when he dipped his hand between her legs, he felt how ready she was for him.

"Did I do this?" he questioned with a smile as he stroked her teasingly.

"You know what you do to me," she reminded him sharply, her tone reminiscent of the one she used with most everyone but him, albeit laced with a bit more sexual frustration than usual.

"Don't think I do," he argued, feigning innocence, as two of his fingers sunk into her easily.

"Shit," she hissed as her legs fell open further and her hands wound themselves into her own hair. "Don't tease," she warned.

"Or…what?" he asked as he curled his fingers inside of her, pressing into the spot that could send her flying over the edge of oblivion if touched correctly and with enough consistency.

"Fuck," she bit out as her hips began to move in response to his touch in spite of herself. "…Peeta."

"Tell me what you'll do if I keep teasing."

"I don't know," she was practically singing as he watched the muscles in her stomach tighten. "Please, please, please."

His smile widened. She inhaled deeply, her own lips turning upward, as she reached out and punched him in the shoulder. He had her number, all right…and it was both frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. He leaned in, covered her mouth with his own, as his fingers continued to play her like she was a musical instrument he'd studied all his life.

"Please," she breathed against his face as his eyes locked on her own, her fingers curling against his jaw line as she fought against the part of her that was desperately yearning to fall over the edge of the cliff of ecstasy.

"Say it," he demanded gently. A mixture of a whine and a moan passed through her lips as his fingers curled against that spot once again.

"Fuck me," she gasped as she reached down and stilled his hand by wrapping her fingers tightly around his wrist. "Please…just…please…fuck me."

She sighed as his fingers fell away but nearly melted into the mattress underneath her as he settled between her legs. His blue eyes studied her for a few brief moments as his right hand palmed one of her breasts. Her body flushed with added desire, basking in the gaze that made her feel like a goddess. If this was what she needed to do in order to chase his nightmares away…she'd do it gladly for the rest of her life.

"You're fucking stunning," he announced gently. She smiled as the expletive passed through his lips. Her perfect Peeta had the mouth of a sailor when he was turned on. The only other times he used those words were when he was having an episode…and when he used them then they weren't dripping with the desire they had when he was about to have his way with her. She loved that she had that effect on him.

It didn't take much…with one solid thrust of his hips, he was buried inside of her, completely, and she felt whole again. Both let out contented moans at the feeling of being joined as one and Peeta bowed his head, seeking out Katniss' lips. They met with growing passion, his tongue battling hers as his hands slid down the length of her arms to reach her hands. He laced their fingers together and pinned her hands over her head, keeping her from touching him. She moaned against his lips at his power over her, and he began thrusting in and out of her with sure strokes.

"Yes," Katniss panted as Peeta bent his head and took one of her nipples between his lips. "Peeta," she gasped as she arched her back and pressed against him.

She could feel him practically pull himself clear out of her with each thrust, making her body feel empty, only to be restored when he thrust himself even deeper into her than before. He rotated his hips against hers each time, and she gripped his hands tighter while allowing him to press his mouth into hers once again. She was barely able to control herself or her movements. Katniss felt as though he was surely trying to drive her crazy.

"Peeta…" her breath caught in her throat as his gaze met hers again, the intensity in his eyes making her feel like the entire world was right. "I…Peeta..."

"Katniss," he practically gasped against her slightly parted trembling lips, his hands squeezing hers. "Don't ever…go…I love you."

"Peeta…I…love…please…" She wanted to touch him, she wanted more of him, but every time she tried to pull her hands out of his, he held them a little tighter. It only served to stir her desire even higher. "Harder, do it…harder."

She could feel her insides twitching, her velvety walls starting to contract around him, and the familiar feeling began to form in the pit of her stomach. She was aching to hold on, to make it last as long as possible, but she couldn't do it, not with the torment Peeta was inflicting on her. His mouth had moved to her neck, and easily sought out her secret spot, low on her neck, toward the back of her ear. He was unrelenting as he sucked on it while continuing to pump himself in and out of her.

"You own me," he declared gently as he thrust deeply, his hands dropping hers and resting just above her head.

"We own each other," her breath hitched against his lips, her trembling hands finding his forearms and holding on, her nails digging into his skin. "Peeta…" she hissed as he pressed her palms into the mattress over her head before allowing his own palms to find her thighs.

"Deeper," he grunted as he spread her legs wider and moved harder into her.

"Oh," Katniss gasped as she wrapped her legs around him, lifted her hips to meet his thrusts. "Nothing…nothing will take you from me."

"I love you," he repeated. "…fuck, Katniss…"

"Yes, oh…yes," her trembling hands found his hair once more as her head fell back. "I love you," she cried out desperately.

"You're so amazing," he moaned as he held her tighter to him. "So fucking perfect." Her skin was flush, pink, and hot to the touch. He loved knowing he made her this way. It felt like a religious experience watching the bliss streak across her face and feeling the deep pants against his face. He knew that those moments when muscles she didn't know she had began to twitch in ecstasy were the moments that made him the man he was.

"Please… Peeta…" She begged. Her body didn't know what to do, not with the stream of emotions and desires running through it. His only response was to pick up his pace and enter her faster and harder than before while whispering a continuous stream of loving declarations into her ear. "Oh…don't stop…please…don't stop…" Her back arched and her body stiffened as she toppled over the edge, tears escaping from her eyes, as she called out his name loud enough to wake all of District 12.

"Not stopping," he promised.

"Fuck!" she cried out as his hips faltered for just a moment before resuming their relentless pace. "I'm gonna…Peeta!" her hands moved down the length of his slick back and found his bottom. Guiding his movements harder and faster she felt like she was being split in two, but it didn't matter, she loved when he owned her in this way.

"Again?" he grunted as she nodded vigorously.

"Yes!" she gasped. "Please, fuck me…please."

"Shit," he bit out as he watched her unravel beneath him.

"Yes…" she breathed as her entire body tightened, her heels digging into his lower back and she fell apart around him. "Fuck, I'm…Peeta! Peeta, yes!"

He gasped at the feel of her walls clamping down around him, her hands winding into his hair and pulling gently, and with a few more solid thrusts he erupted with an animal like cry. His head flew back, his body trembled, and Katniss could swear that it was one of the most erotic sights. It touched everything inside of her, and she memorized every little detail of that moment.

"Fuck," he choked out as his forehead fell to her shoulder. She continued to guide his hips slowly, not wanting the connection to end, as they attempted to regain their composure.

"I love you so much," she announced as he lifted his head and looked down at her. Smiling gently he nodded his understanding before closing the gap between their lips. "You're amazing."

"You are," he chuckled his disagreement as his lips brushed across her damp collarbone.

"I'd like to see anyone try to take you from me now," she muttered as she wrapped herself around him.

"Katniss," he breathed as one of her petite hands found the side of his face and guided his trembling lips to hers. They stayed close like that, gently kissing and caressing, for several moments before he rolled to the side. He was surprised when he felt her roll with him. Her lips brushed against the sweaty surface of his chest as a few warm, subtle, tears fell from his eyes, being caught by her dark hair.

"Peeta…

"I'm okay," he assured, unable to control his tears as she slipped up the length of his body. "Can I just hold you?"

Katniss nodded as she draped one leg over him and rested her head on his shoulder, allowing him to wrap his arms around her and lock her within his embrace. He relished in the feeling of her melting into him, feeling safe…if only for a moment, if only until he had another nightmare. Pressing his lips into her temple as he ran his hand up and down the length of her body.

"I really love you, you know that?" he whispered as he tucked a strand of her damp hair behind her ear. She toyed with his fingers as he continued to murmur softly into her ear.

"I really love you, do you know that?" she replied gently.

He nodded as his larger hands splayed across her back, protecting her from the rest of the world. He basked in the feeling of her palms pressing into his chest before letting out a deep breath and speaking

"I just want to stay this way," he confessed quietly. "Just like this."

"We can," she promised as she rested her chin on his chest, just above his heart. "We'll stay like this, sleep like this, and in the morning we'll still be like this. For forever."

"Can you just stay up with me, just for a little while?"

"Of course."

"And you won't let me go?"

"Never," she insisted gently before pressing her lips to his forehead. Pulling back slightly after a moment she looked into his eyes, getting lost in the tortured gaze. They stared at each other silently, each allowing their gaze to burn into the others. Peeta reached out and wiped away a tear she hadn't felt fall before letting a gentle smile tug at the corners of his lips. He saw forever staring back at him, a forever that he had thought he'd never truly find with her, a forever that he'd almost lost several times, and he was so utterly thankful for it all.

"You're beautiful," he muttered. "You're so beautiful…"

"Peeta…" she interjected as she lifted her head and brushed her nose against the side of his face. "I…I will pull you back from every nightmare…nothing is ever taking me."

"I know," he nodded as he pulled her mouth to his own. "I do…"

"I think you're beautiful, too," she breathed against his lips as he rolled her onto her back once more.

"Just…hold onto me, okay?" he whispered as her arms and legs wrapped around him once more, preventing him from knowing just where he stopped and she began. He trembled slightly as he rested his head against her chest, allowing her to thread her fingers through his hair and cradle him in a way that made him feel untouchable.

"I'll never stop."

And as the gentle promise passed through her lips, he knew he could stop pushing. He didn't have to struggle to feel her beneath his hands anymore, he didn't need to stretch himself to touch her, he didn't have to fight any longer…she was right there. She was holding him, breathing with him, existing with him, and, best of all, loving him. She was his reality…and not even the worst nightmare could take that away.