a/n: So I was trying to come up with a one-shot for everlarkrecs "Dirty December," but this one kind of got away from me. It's not so much dirty as it is...well, awkward.


"Who brings their little brother to a college party? Honestly," Katniss muttered, just loud enough so Gale could hear her over the music. He shrugged.

"I don't know—if Rory was a little older, I'd invite him," he said, swigging the last of his Bud Light. Then he crushed the can in his fist and tossed it into the recycling bin, where it clattered against glass and aluminum.

Katniss rolled her eyes at him. "Well, the difference there is Rory's cool. Peeta Mellark is not," she retorted, glancing back at the curly-haired blonde, who was chatting with some giggly, breathy brunette over near the glass doors of the porch. She was certain the girl was at least a second-year, like Gale and his roommate Rye, Peeta's older brother. Katniss wanted to snort; no doubt this girl thought Peeta was some college stud, with those obnoxiously broad shoulders and that smug smirk on his face. How much would she be laughing if she realized the kid was still in high school?

Katniss did not like Peeta Mellark. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say she hated Peeta Mellark.

Because Peeta Mellark was a dick.

He'd been a dick the moment she'd first met him, when he'd called her "Cat Piss" in sixth grade and had laughed with his asshole friends like he'd just said the funniest damn thing in the whole world. He'd stopped laughing when she punched him in the face, though.

Of course, she'd been sent to the principal's office and given detention for a week. But it had been worth it, just to see the shock in his eyes when he'd crumpled to the ground in pain, blood spurting from his nose. Her dad hadn't messed around when he'd taught his daughters self-defense.

Ever since then, she and Peeta had been unofficial enemies. Their proverbial warfare had consisted of mainly death glares, snide remarks in passing and the occasional middle finger if they ever found themselves at the same social events.

Like now. Gale hadn't warned her Peeta would be attending his party—he swore he hadn't known—and the moment he'd walked through the door, for once Katniss had been too stunned to react accordingly beyond a stupidly wide-eyed stare. Peeta had narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously, as if he were waiting for her to sneer or maybe throw her drink at him, but then Rye had handed him a drink, and Peeta was all toothy smiles and careless laughs again, effectively ignoring her for the rest of the night.

Which only made her hate him more. Why did he get to enjoy his night while she stewed in aggravation at his unwanted proximity?

"Well, I dunno, Catnip—" It was okay for Gale to call her that; his nickname for her wasn't nearly as insulting as Peeta's had been, "—I know you hate him and all, but the few times I've talked to him, he's seemed cool enough to me."

She gawked at him; he just smiled cheekily. "Traitor," she hissed, but he snickered as he grabbed some more beer from the fridge.

"This is seriously some bizarre hate crush you have on this kid—you sure you don't secretly want to fuck him?"

Her jaw dropped, and she sputtered incoherently at the absurdity of his suggestion, unable to think of a fast enough reply to refute it. "What—you—how dare you—I...fuck you!" she finally spat, her face flaming. Gale laughed boisterously, holding his hands up.

"I'm just fucking with you. But, look, maybe it's time you two bury the hatchet, yeah?" he said harmlessly, still smiling, but before she could snap at him, his friend Bristel called to him from the living room. "Sorry, my prowess is needed on the beer pong table. Try to have fun, okay? Johanna should be here soon..."

And then he breezed past her, a few cans of beer in his hands. Katniss stared after him, startled when someone pushed past her to get into the kitchen. She mumbled an apology and tried to disappear into the wall. She hated parties; actually, she hated people. If it was possible to throw a party without inviting people, she would be cool with that.

And she couldn't even get drunk; the Solo cup in her hand was full of water. She couldn't stand the taste of beer, and Gale didn't have any liquor. He and Rye weren't 21 yet, so neither could go to a liquor store. Gale did look old enough, however, to purchase beer from the local convenience store without getting carded by the attendant. She supposed some of their friends might bring liquor for themselves, but she wasn't about to ask someone she didn't know if she could drink their alcohol.

With a sigh, she took a large gulp of her water, her eyes scanning the living room—and landing on Peeta again. He was listening intently to the brunette, who waved her hands animatedly as she chattered, but he looked over at her then, and she stiffened, her cup frozen at her mouth. He arched an eyebrow—was that a challenge of some sort? Her neck flushed in anger as she recalled Gale's words ("You sure you don't want to fuck him?"), and she lowered her drink. Then she smiled sweetly—and flipped him off.

Peeta's eyebrow quirked, but his lips just spread into that familiar smug smirk of his before he turned his attention back to the chatty brunette.

No, she definitely did not want to fuck Peeta Mellark.


Katniss stared at Gale like he was speaking a foreign language. He might as well have been, as badly as he was slurring. At her silence, he gave her a pleading, glassy-eyed look. "Pleeease, Catnip?"

His question finally registered in her brain, and she shook her head vehemently. "No, absolutely not, no fucking way am I driving him home."

Gale sighed, running a hand through his disheveled hair. "C'mon, yer the only sober one...and he's too drunk to drive himself, and Rye's already pukin'."

She shrugged, folding her arms over her chest. "Not my problem."

Pouting, Gale rubbed his bleary eyes. "You won't even hafta talk to him; he's out of it. He'll probably jus' pass out in your car or sumptin."

"Why can't he just stay here?" she asked, trying not to whine. Gale shrugged.

"He's gotta work at the bakery early or sumptin, I dunno. Annnnd I'm pretty shure Rye'll be too drunk to drive in the morning still." Her hard expression didn't change, so he grabbed her arms. "C'mon, Catnip, yer goin' that direction anyway, iss like...not even outta yer way. Jus' do it fer me, please? Please?"

She gritted her teeth, craning her neck back from his face. His breath reeked of booze; it made her stomach churn. "Fine!" she snapped, wrenching her arms from his grasp. Gale nearly toppled over, catching himself on the wall. "You owe me, Hawthorne!"

Marching over to the couch where Peeta was passed out, Katniss kicked at his leg. He jerked awake and stared at her in confusion. "Get your ass up, Mellark!" she barked, ignoring the groans from other passed-out partygoers. When he didn't move fast enough, she grabbed his arm to try to yank him up, but she was unprepared for how heavy he was with his stupid wrestling physique. She lost her balance and fell on top of him, mumbling obscenities. In her attempts to push herself up right, she accidentally grazed his crotch. They both froze, their eyes meeting mere inches from each other. Then he smirked.

"I had no idea you felt that way about me, Katniss," he slurred huskily. Her face flushed in rage and embarrassment, and she finally scrambled off of him.

"Nope, not doing it," she announced, turning on her heel. "He can get his own stupid ass home. I don't care."

She heard Peeta clamber to his feet, scurrying after her. "Wait, wait, I'm coming!" Gale looked at her imploringly as she passed him, and she faltered. Then she huffed in defeat.

"Okay, but if he pukes in my car, you're paying to have it detailed!" she threatened, and he just nodded, barely suppressing a grin. Once she felt Peeta at her back, she crossed to the door and threw it open. "Let's go, Mellark," she bit out, not even bothering to make sure he followed her.


Peeta was a chatty drunk, she soon learned.

She spent most of the drive home working out exactly how Gale could pay her back while Peeta rambled away in her front seat; she'd tried to coax him into the back seat so he could lie down and she wouldn't have to look at him, but he'd just slid into the passenger side, shouting "Shotgun!" and cackling at his own stupid joke.

He was now babbling about some wrestling match in which he'd barely squeaked out a win, his forehead leaning against the car window, and she tightened her hands on the steering wheel. Free Grand Slams every Sunday from Denny's for the rest of the year, she chanted in her head repeatedly to calm her rising blood pressure; that was what she'd decided Gale's repayment would be for this favor. Really, she thought she deserved two years' worth of Grand Slams, but she knew Gale was cheap.

"Oh, man, have you written that paper for English yet?" Peeta asked suddenly, his head jerking up. "Never mind, of course you have."

She scowled. "What is that supposed to mean, of course I have?" That she was some loser with no life so she'd already finished a paper nearly a week before it was due? Okay, so, yeah, what if she had? She wasn't a loser. She just didn't like to procrastinate.

Peeta's eyes widened at her tone. "I didn't mean it like that! I just meant—well, you're smart. You always do your work on time."

Katniss nearly swerved off the road as she shot him an incredulous look. Was that a compliment? From Peeta fucking Mellark? "What's your game?" she demanded, turning her eyes back to the road.

He sighed. "No game, I swear." His forehead thudded against the window again. "I haven't even picked a subject yet. Like, I have no idea what my thesis is going to be..."

She just frowned, her eyes focused on the road as Peeta bounced from topic to topic. She hadn't heard him talk this much in...well, ever. And without some rude, underhanded comment directed at her? Just what the hell was going on?

The drive home wasn't long, about 20 minutes, and she stayed mostly quiet, only responding when prodded incessantly. She actually had no idea where Peeta lived, but when she'd first asked him where to go when she got on the highway, he'd just vaguely replied, "You're going in the right direction; you're fine." When she tried to ask after that, he'd talk over her or ignore her question and turn the conversation to something else. She at least knew where the bakery was, so she headed there, hoping Peeta's family lived nearby. She wasn't opposed to just dumping him at the curb in front of the bakery either—Gale said he had to work early, anyway.

"—Mom was so pissed; it was hilarious. Rye was grounded for a month—"

"Peeta!" she finally yelled, cutting him off. "Where the fuck do you live?! I'm trying to get you home!"

He was silent for a moment before he sighed quietly. "Okay, just take a right up here. It's off of 12th."

The seriousness of his voice rattled her, and she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye as she made the turn. He just stared out the windshield, his eyes clear but troubled, pointing out the directions to her. When she finally pulled up in front of his house, she put her car in park and twisted in her seat to look at him. "What's the deal?" she asked skeptically, and he lifted his eyebrows.

"What?"

She regarded him silently, searching his face. Maybe they hated each other, but, regardless, she had become well acquainted with him over the years. He was acting weird. Something was off, something... Then her eyes narrowed. "You're not even drunk!" she accused, and his eyes widened. He suddenly looked very nervous.

"Um...no, I guess not," he admitted, his hands fidgeting in his lap.

Her mouth parted in disbelief. "Then why the hell did I drive you home?" she wondered, and he shrugged, finally flashing her a small smile.

"Well, you were going this way, anyway... Is it really that big of a deal?"

She scowled. "Yes, it is—I don't like you!"

He flinched. "Oh, yeah," he said softly. Wait—why did he sound so defeated?

"You don't like me either," she said stubbornly.

"Right," he agreed, but his voice lacked the conviction. Now she was really confused—and that made her feel even more defensive.

"Okay, I'm not crazy, you know—you called me Cat Piss in sixth grade, and I punched you, and we've barely been able to look at each other without spitting in each other's faces for the past, like, seven years. I'm not just making this up!"

He pursed his mouth into a frown, tracing the seam of the window and the car door with his fingernail. "No, I know. I didn't say you were."

"Then why are you acting like you want to be my friend?"

He shrugged. "Maybe 'cuz I do?"

She was stunned silent for a long moment, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly. He wanted to be her friend? She squinted as she surveyed him. If he didn't sound so sober, she'd be inclined to think he was blitzed out of his mind. "I don't understand... Were you just acting drunk at the party?"

He looked sheepish this time. "Um...well, I did have a little bit to drink, but...yeah, I guess I was."

Shaking her head, she turned back to face out the windshield. "I am so confused..."

"Is it so weird that someone would want to be your friend?" he asked rhetorically, but she answered, anyway.

"Yes, when that someone is you!" she exclaimed, and he just shrugged again, smiling. She looked back at him, narrowing her eyes. "Why? Why do you want to be my friend?"

Was she imagining it, or was he blushing? "Well...maybe 'friend' isn't the right word for it..."

"Huh?" she asked stupidly, but he didn't answer right away. His face only flushed redder, and he seemed to be warring internally with himself. She pressed further. "What do you mean?" There was an edge to her voice, but she wasn't sure it was anger. Panic, maybe. Or hysteria. Her tone only made him more tight-lipped, which further rattled her. "Answer the question!"

"Er—I don't—I just—I mean-"

"Spit it out, Mellark!"

"I just wanna know what you taste like!" he blurted angrily, the words slipping out before he could stop them. She jerked back like he had slapped her in the face, blinking mutely at him. She had never seen his face so red before, his eyes so wide; he groaned to himself, cursing under his breath. "Shit, I can't believe—maybe I am drunk..."

She just blinked some more. "What I taste—like, you want to kiss me?" Her own cheeks flooded with warmth as she spoke, and she lingered somewhere between confusion and embarrassment and—intrigue?

Peeta didn't speak for a moment, staring out the car window. "...We could start there, sure," he finally muttered, his cheeks never quite losing their blush.

Everything seemed to click at once, and her head snapped around to face forward, a squeak of surprise sticking in her throat. She stared out the windshield, watching the bugs dance in the light of her head beams. She could feel Peeta's stare boring into her temple now, but she couldn't look at him yet. Taste her? Where had this come from?

And why didn't it revolt her like it should?

That was an interesting revelation.

Of course, now she understood what he meant about "tasting" her. She might have been a virgin, but she wasn't completely clueless. She'd seen some softcore porn, read a lot of cheesy harlequin novels—hey, she was really curious about sex, okay. And she was a robust, sexually viable 17-year-old; she was horny a lot of the time. The vibrator Johanna had taken her to buy when she'd found out she was a virgin got a lot of use.

She hadn't really thought about a guy going down on her before, though. It seemed like a very intimate act, and she wasn't sure she was all that comfortable with the idea of someone's face in her crotch. When she touched herself, she only really thought about having her clitoris stimulated and the vague impression of a faceless man's penis moving in and out of her. That was enough to get her off. Although...that oral sex scene in "Blue Valentine" was pretty damn hot; she had replayed that scene many times on her computer in the comfort of her room.

She suddenly found herself wondering how good Peeta was at oral sex. He had a mouth that could spin gold; she'd seen him speak in enough classes over the years to know this about him. Would that translate well between her thighs? Would she enjoy it?

And why the hell was she entertaining the thought at all?! She huffed to herself, tightening her fists on the steering wheel. She finally glanced at Peeta, who was still watching her expectantly.

She had never seen him look so unsure before. Without the smug smirk and the shadow of disdain hooding his eyes, he was quite...not unattractive. Okay, so his eyes were an impossible blue and his hair so golden and curled, he looked like a freakin' cartoon character, but...the slope of his nose called for her fingers to trace it, and his crooked smile made his pink lips look that much fuller.

And kissable. So, so kissable.

"Katniss?" he finally pressed, bringing her gaze back to his eyes. "Look—do you want me to just get out of the car already? I get it, like, we can just go back to despising each other from afar if that's what you want—"

"Taste me," she interrupted, but her eyes widened at her choice of words, and she backtracked immediately, "I mean, kiss me! Um, kiss me, if that's what you want."

He was hardly breathing as he stared at her. "Seriously? I can? I mean, you want me to?"

She was loathe to admit she did. "I'm...curious, I suppose."

"And here? Like, right here, in your car?"

She gave him an exasperated look, finally prying her hands off the steering wheel. "You don't need to lay me down in a bed of roses or some shit. It's just a kiss, Mellark."

Peeta glowered, running a hand through his hair nervously. He glanced out the window, then back at her, unbuckling his seat belt and angling his body in the passenger seat so he could face her. She carefully did the same, her heart starting to beat wildly. This wasn't her first kiss, at least. She wasn't sure she could handle it if Peeta fucking Mellark ended up being her first kiss. No, that honor had gone to Darius Schobotsky in ninth grade at a stupid homecoming dance Madge had dragged her to. She'd thought he was cute, and he was nice enough. The kiss was okay, she guessed. Nothing special. He didn't seem like he knew what he was doing.

Then again, neither had she.

She hoped Peeta knew what he was doing, at least.

He leaned toward her, but she stayed perfectly still, watching his mouth as it neared her face. He stopped suddenly, and her eyes darted up to meet his. "Okay, could you like...lean forward some? Meet me halfway? There's a console in the way, and I can't exactly crawl over it."

Rolling her eyes, she blew some hair out of her face and unfastened her seat belt; she sat forward, bracing her hands on the console. "Well, come on then," she said, trying for blasé and nonchalant, hoping it masked her nerves. He nodded, almost to himself, then his face was in front of hers again, the movement so fast, it startled her. Her eyes were still wide open when he pressed his lips to hers, his hand cupping her cheek. She stared at his closed eyelids, annoyance stirring in her chest that he hadn't even warned her, hadn't given her just a second to brace herself for the touch of his mouth.

She felt his tongue pressing at the seam of her mouth, licking at her bottom lip as if he was asking permission to enter; she was so put off by the wet sensation, she almost clenched her jaw to deny him—but then his thumb smoothed over her cheekbone gently, and the gesture was so tender, especially for someone like him, she found her lips parting despite herself.

Once his tongue touched hers, her eyes fluttered closed, and she leaned into the kiss. It was awkward at first—she wasn't sure how to move her tongue, if she should reciprocate his movements, but she finally stopped thinking and just let him do all the work. He seemed more than happy to. His tongue explored her mouth eagerly, massaging her tongue, licking over her teeth, stroking the roof of her mouth.

This was a lot more involved than she'd thought it would be, she realized; she didn't know if kissing was always like this, or if Peeta was just that thorough. Darius' tongue had just kind...sat in her mouth like a dead fish or something. She tried to pay attention to other things about him: how he tasted like shitty beer, how the barest hint of a stubble on his upper lip scraped against her lips, how his nose kept bumping against hers, forcing her to tilt her head in different angles so she could breathe fully.

But gradually, all she could feel and taste was his tongue, the slippery feel of it filling her mouth and coaxing hers into his own; she was heady and lost, chasing after his tongue when he would retract it. He nipped and sucked on her lips, worrying them between his teeth, wetting them more with his tongue.

There was more saliva in her mouth than she was expecting, and their tongues and lips made a lot of noise—but she found they weren't...completely unappealing sounds.

When he finally pulled away, they were both panting heavily, their warm breath fanning over each other's faces. Her lips felt so wet, she had to pull back to wipe them off. She blushed when she realized that wasn't the only place she was wet. Shit.

She tried to shift discreetly, but he was watching her like a hawk. "Well?" he needled, his blue eyes still so blue in the darkness of her idling car. She bristled at his demand. What did he want her to say? Did he want her to stroke his ego, Oh, that was amazing, Peeta; no one's ever kissed me like that? And maybe no one had, but for all she knew, that had more to do with her small sampling size than with Peeta Mellark being some boy wonder at kissing. She'd bet Gale was a good kisser—not that she would know, though it wasn't for lack of some early teenage crushing. Peeta Mellark did not corner the market on great kisses.

She entertained the idea of telling him as much, opening her mouth to do so, when her eyes dropped to his lap. And she promptly looked away, her mouth clamping shut. Shit. He had a huge boner. Not that his penis was necessarily huge—she had no idea—but his erection was huge relative to the fact that she hadn't expected it to be there at all. So compared to nothing, it was huge, she guessed.

She didn't know if she was embarrassed for him or...just really, really flattered. If he was aware of his own arousal or her observation of it, he didn't acknowledge it. Man, she was suddenly very glad she didn't have a penis.

Licking her lips hesitantly, Katniss kept her eyes trained over his shoulder. "I guess that was...interesting."

He frowned and then scoffed, slumping back against his seat. "Interesting..." Here, he finally made an attempt to adjust his bulge, but he still seemed mostly unconcerned with her seeing him do it.

The words slipped out before she could think about them. "Did you get enough of a taste?"

His face flushed, but he regarded her curiously. He didn't respond right away, and she could see the myriad of reactions flashing through his eyes. Finally, he settled on amusement, his brow furrowed, the corners of his mouth only slightly curled in humor. "What if I said no?"

After a tense, silent moment, she flicked the headlights off and cut her car's engine, slowly pulling the keys out of the ignition. Peeta just stared at her dumbly when she looked at him. She raised her eyebrows. "Well? I know I said you didn't have to lay me down in roses, but I'm still not about to let you do it in my car."

He scrambled out of her car so fast, she didn't even realize he was gone until her passenger side door slammed shut. Grabbing her purse, she dropped her keys in it and slid out of her car. She made sure it was locked before she circled around her car to where Peeta stood on the walkway, running his hand through his hair nervously. She felt oddly calm as she followed him into his house, waiting momentarily on the front step while he fumbled with the lock. They didn't speak as he led her through the dark living room up the stairs to his bedroom. Once inside, he flipped on a bedside lamp and hurriedly cleared things off his bed, kicking them underneath when they dropped to the floor. He looked back at her sheepishly.

"Sorry, it's a mess. I wasn't really expecting...you know, company."

She shrugged, setting her purse down near the nightstand; her room looked worse. They stared at each other awkwardly, a couple minutes passing by before Peeta licked his lips, stepping closer. "So, should I...kiss you again before we...?"

Katniss frowned, folding her arms over her chest. "I'm going to let you do this because I admit that I'm curious, since you want to do it so badly and all. But I just wanna know—why me? I mean, how do you go from hating me to wanting to—to—to eat me out?"

They both blushed furiously at the bluntness of her words, hearing it out loud for the first time that night. Well, that's what was going to happen, right? Why beat around the bush (no pun intended)?

Peeta cleared his throat, shoving his hands into his pockets. "I mean...I didn't ever really hate you—that's kind of strong, even though you did punch me in the face that one time—but I don't know..." His mouth puckered, his nose scrunching, as he looked at her. "Okay, so, don't kill me, but...you remember in our tenth grade gym class, you used to...uh, you wore these little red shorts? Like, they were really short. And, well...one day we were doing stretches—you know, the one where you sit and spread your legs out and then touch your toes?" He mimed the movement with his arms, and she nodded suspiciously. He grinned sheepishly. "Well, I kinda saw your, you know...your junk."

Her eyes widened in horror. "What?"

He hastened to add, "I mean, not all of it! Just the side a little bit."

She punched him in the arm, hard, and he flinched in pain. "You fucking pervert!" she hissed, punching him again for good measure.

"Ow! Stop!" he cried, holding his hands up to deflect any more hits. "I'm sorry, but it's not like I meant to look! Er, I mean, I guess I did, but I didn't know I'd see your vagina!"

"You didn't see my vagina. You saw my vulva," she corrected, still seething. He looked at her in confusion. "You can't see my vagina. That's inside."

He rolled his eyes, rubbing his sore arm. "Whatever. Look, you asked. I'm just trying to be honest. I was a horny 16-year-old. And you have nice legs."

She snorted, deciding to ignore his compliment because it embarrassed her. "So you see part of my junk a couple years ago, and what, you were so mesmerized, you've been fantasizing about it ever since?"

He looked at her, his face serious. "Well, yeah."

"Oh." That was kind of weird. Nice, but weird. Averting her eyes, she waved her arms around the room. "Okay. Well. How do we do this? What's your M.O.?" she asked to deflect some of the awkwardness of his admission, shrugging her jacket off.

"Uh...I don't have one, I guess." He scratched the back of his head, ducking her gaze when she turned it on him.

"What? I thought you'd done this before!"

He shrugged. "Never said I had. I mean, I've had sex a few times, but...not this. Seen a lot of porn, though."

Once again, she was speechless. Why would he ever want her to be the first girl he ever tried this with?

Oh.

"Wait a minute—are you just using me for practice so you can perfect your cunnilingus skills and then woo some other chick with them?!" she snapped. To his credit, he seemed absolutely scandalized by her suggestion.

"What? No! Jesus Christ, Katniss, I know you don't think that highly of me, but cut me some slack," he said, his voice tight. "I just confess that I've been thinking about doing—that—to you since the tenth grade, and your first thought is that I wanna use you so I can bang another chick?"

She deflated, her anger leaving her rapidly. Damn. He really liked her. Or at least, he liked her vagina. Vulva. Whatever. "Sorry, I guess," she offered begrudgingly. "We haven't exactly had the best track record, you know. Sorry if I'm having a little trouble believing you actually like something about me."

He plopped down on his bed with a sigh. "Are we going to keep rehashing this or can we start maybe?"

She sat down next to him, albeit stiffly. "Well, I asked you how you wanted to do this..."

He looked at her abruptly, angling his body toward hers. "Can I kiss you again?" She nodded, and he only hesitated briefly before his hand came up to slide around her neck, tugging her face toward his. His lips parted hers, and then his tongue was in her mouth. He kissed her more urgently this time—eager to get down to business, probably.

Her head hit the pillow before she realized he was leaning her backward. She was twisted underneath him on the bed awkwardly while he kissed her, his hand trailing down her neck to her chest. When she felt his fingers grazing her breast, she peeked her eyes open to glimpse the hand cupping her left breast. Katniss shifted underneath him, turning her head some to break the kiss and push on his shoulder. "Can you—"

He jerked his hand back, his eyes large. "Shit, sorry! Was that too presumptuous of me?" he whispered.

She wrinkled her nose. "No, can you sit up a little? This is an uncomfortable position for me..."

"Oh!" He lifted his weight off her some so she could lift her legs up onto the bed and stretch out on her back. He lay down beside her once she was settled, rolling back on top of her. He placed his hand on the pillow next to her head—far away from her breasts this time. "Good?"

She nodded, but his mouth was on hers already. Their tongues slid against each other fervently, searchingly, and she felt an ache between her thighs with every stroke. Eventually, his hand drifted back to her breast to squeeze it through her shirt. His thumb found her hardened nipple through her bra, and he pressed down on it, rubbing circular patterns around it. That felt surprisingly good. Well, not too surprising; it felt about as equally as good as when she did it to herself. She could feel his erection hard against her thigh; she had a sudden urge to touch it, but she refrained. That wasn't part of the deal.

He pulled back breathlessly after a few minutes, his hand still massaging her breast. "Are you, ah...you know...are you wet?" He blushed fiercely at his question, and she thought that, for someone so fixated on her vagina, he sure was squeamish.

"Yes, I think I am sufficiently aroused," she said dryly. He started to scowl until the full weight of her words hit him, and he smirked instead, moving his hands down to the waistband of her pants. He unfastened the button, teasingly plucking at the zipper.

"Can I—"

"Peeta," she snapped, exasperated, and slapped his hands away, hurriedly unzipping her pants herself. "I already said yes. You don't have to stop at every step to ask." He sighed and leaned back on his elbow, watching as she wiggled out of her jeans and kicked them off her legs.

"Your attitude is really helping to set the mood here..." he muttered, and she just shot him a nasty glare once she'd sent her pants flying off the edge of the bed.

"I really don't have to do this, you know. I have a vibrator at home that works perfectly fine."

He blinked, his face going slack. "...You use a vibrator?" There was awe in his voice, which cracked on the last word. Maybe she should have been more reticent to admit that out loud. She guessed girls weren't allowed to talk about those kind of things, especially not to guys they didn't even like who were currently trying to get into their pants.

"Well, we all have to get off somehow," she mumbled, suddenly feeling very awkward lying beside him so...pantless.

"Yeah, I just...never would have pictured that," he replied distractedly, sliding his hand down her ribcage; he pushed her shirt up to uncover her stomach some, his eyes glued to her black boy shorts.

"You mean, you've been thinking about putting your mouth on my vagina, but you haven't wondered about the things I might do to it myself?" she asked snidely, but he was unfazed by her tone.

"Vulva, you said it was your vulva," he corrected, watching his hand as he trailed it down her hip to her thigh. She cringed, remembering how she hadn't shaved above her knees in a week or so because the weather was cooling and she hadn't really planned on anyone touching her. He didn't seem to mind, though, as he danced his fingers from the crease of her thigh down to her kneecap and back.

And why should she care if he did, anyway? She wasn't trying to impress him. She didn't even like him. The dampness of her panties had nothing to do with liking him. It was just a natural bodily reaction.

Peeta licked his lips, his palm resting on her pelvis; his thumb traced the elastic waistband delicately. He opened his mouth but seemed to think better of whatever he was going to say because he looked at her then, a determined glint in his eye. "I'm going to...take off your underwear...now?" There was a questioning lilt in his voice.

Well, he tried, at least. She just raised her eyebrows to acknowledge his statement/request. He pushed up onto his knees and moved between her legs, forcing her to spread them wider. Suddenly, she was anxious, unnerved by how intensely he was eyeing her crotch. "Um, so, full disclosure: I haven't showered since this morning...and I haven't really done any—maintenance down there for a few weeks, soooo..."

Her face felt hot, but he only spared her a brief glance. "That's fine," he responded absently, slipping his fingers under the sides of her panties to tug them down. She couldn't look at his face as he pulled her underwear down her legs, effectively baring her most intimate parts to him. And then he just stared.

Oh, God, he was staring.

"Okay, look, I never said it was anything spectacular or anything. I'm not sure what you were expecting—"

"Katniss. Shut up."

His tone was so commanding, she actually listened; she was too stunned to feel the immediate outrage at his words, and then she jerked compulsively when he slid his fingers through her folds. She gaped at him as he lifted his hand away, rubbing the stickiness of her arousal around on his fingers curiously. Then he kneeled between her legs to align his face with her middle so abruptly, she had to quash the sudden urge to squirm away in discomfort. She felt his hot breath first, like he was panting heavily; he gave a deep sigh, once, twice—was he smelling her?

This was weird; this was too weird for her. She'd just opened her mouth to protest, to call this off, no, thank you, actually, she really wasn't that curious about this after all, when he spread her folds open and dragged the flat of his tongue through them up to her clitoris.

"Oh!" she squeaked on a high, embarrassing gasp. Her eyes had screwed themselves shut, so when she felt him pause, she could only guess that he was staring at her. But then he did it again, and again, and when he dipped his tongue inside her, she had to slap a hand over her mouth to muffle her moan. It was a bizarre sensation, his tongue thrusting in and out of her, probing her walls, and she didn't know if she liked it, but it made her clit throb all the same. Her thighs quivered, clenched tightly around his head; he had to stop to pry them apart, trying to pin them open with his arms. His elbow dug painfully into her flesh, but she was too entranced by the movements of his tongue to scold him. She was acclimating to the sensation; it was starting to feel good...really good.

It wasn't enough, though. He wasn't paying any attention to where she wanted stimulation the most. "Ah," she gasped, reaching down to tap his head. His mouth stilled, his eyes darting up to connect with hers, curious. It was kind of comical, really, just his eyes peering up at her, his nose nestled in her dark curls. "Could you, uh, maybe do something with my clitoris?"

His brow furrowed, and he pulled his face away some to look down. His lips and chin glistened. His fingers started poking and prodding through her folds until—"There?" he asked, and she whined, nodding her head. Peeta shifted his position to get his arm wrapped around her leg, and then his thumb was back on her clit, stroking it lightly as he returned his mouth to her slit, his tongue flicking through the wetness.

His steady ministrations on her clit felt good—but it was a teasing feeling that did nothing to abate the building pressure in her core. "Could you—" Katniss covered his hand with hers, pressing down, "—harder?"

He obliged, increasing the pressure of his thumb, in hard, sweeping strokes over her clitoris, and she had to fist the sheets around her to steady herself. She tried to fight the moans bubbling in her throat, still reluctant to give him the satisfaction of knowing he was doing something right, but it was impossible; the groans started low in her chest, every other one catching in her throat, blocking out the wet sounds of his mouth moving over her.

The pleasure was there all at once, coiling tight, fast, and she clamped a hand over her mouth because his name was there, too, slipping from her tongue, and she wasn't going to say it, she wouldn't, she couldn't give him the satisfaction, she— "Peeta!" she gasped, her hand falling away to grasp the sheets again, her body trembling as her orgasm tightened every muscle in her body, and then she was falling, crashing, the pleasure coursing through her body, pooling between her thighs.

She didn't even realize her thighs were clenched around his head again until he pushed them apart, sitting up on his hands and knees. Her eyes were closed as she panted, trying to calm her racing heart and ragged breathing. But when she heard the sound of a zipper, her body tensed, and she opened her eyes. Peeta was crouched over her, unfastening his pants. He looked at her then, as if he could sense her stare. "Was that good?" he asked, nodding to her groin.

"Yeah..." she said slowly, her gaze still trained on whatever he was doing below his own waist; one hand braced himself against the mattress, the other parting his fly and pushing his underwear down. What was he doing?

"I just need to—do you mind if I—?" he asked haltingly, his hand wrapping around his length to pull it out. She just watched dumbly as he began to stroke himself, the head of his penis staring at her so...angrily. She had never seen a penis live and in person before. It was kind of weird, and, there he was, just...jacking it right in front of her, like, no big deal. She couldn't bring herself to say anything to stop him, though, just watched his large hand pump the shaft deftly, his palm tugging the flesh up to his head. His breathing was shaky, his grunts quiet, and his face was screwed up with the ecstasy and the strain.

And then his hips jerked, his wrist flicking with a few erratic strokes. She gasped in surprise, caught off guard when his semen shot across her stomach. "What—hey!" she cried, but Peeta was lost in his own world as his dick pulsed in his hand, the last of his cum dribbling down the head. Then he groaned and pushed her leg out of the way so he could collapse on the bed beside her. She gawked at him, knocked momentarily speechless, before she was able to gather her bearings. "Hello! You just fucking—jizzed on me!"

"Sorry," he gasped, but he didn't sound that sorry. His softening dick was still just hanging out—and there was still a puddle of semen on her.

"Well, get it off me!" she demanded indignantly.

"Christ, it's just semen, not acid," he griped, pushing himself on his elbows to grab some tissues from his nightstand.

"I still don't want it on me," she muttered, looking at the off-white fluid pooling around her belly button. "Gross," she whispered, but then she touched a finger to the semen, skating across the surface of the puddle. It was warm and slippery.

Peeta rolled back toward her and brushed her hand out of the way to wipe her off. "Sorry, just got a little...turned on." He flashed her a weak, sheepish smile then tossed the tissues into the waste bin. He didn't bother to pick them up when he missed, instead flopping back down on his back.

Katniss snorted, but she was still conscious of the pleasant pulsations between her thighs. "And do you make this a habit—jerking off on top of a girl and shooting your wad all over her?"

Bright red spots had appeared on his cheeks beneath his eyes, and he finally tucked himself back into his pants. "Not exactly. I told you I haven't gone down on a chick before," he grumbled, tugging his zipper up. She took in the sight of him, the flush of his face, the slickness that still coated the skin around his mouth, the rise and fall of his chest as he struggled for his breath. She was tempted to ask him how he liked it, tasting her, but she couldn't seem to force the question out.

Instead, she found herself saying something completely different. "If you were so horny, you could have just said something. I would've let you have sex with me."

He looked at her sharply. "What?" he breathed, his eyes wide.

She wasn't sure where the thought had come from—but she realized she meant it. What was the big deal? She didn't have any special attachment to her virginity. She hadn't had sex yet, not because she particularly cared about safeguarding it; she just hadn't cared enough to actively try to lose it before this point.

"Really?" Peeta continued, his voice barely a whisper, like he didn't dare hope. She shrugged.

"Yeah, why not?"

His eyes sparkled with excitement. But then he frowned. "Damn, I wish you had said something sooner."

Puzzled, she looked pointedly at his dick. "What, can't you get it up again?"

He snorted. "It takes a little longer than that, sweetheart."

Sighing, she tugged her shirt back down and sat up on her elbows. "Well, I guess I can get dressed then."

Peeta sat up abruptly, shooting his hand out to stop her. "Wait! Uh...I mean, I don't think it would take too long for me to, you know, get hard again. Maybe if I could play with your breasts some?" he suggested casually, his gaze dropping to her chest.

She pursed her mouth thoughtfully, watching his face. His chin still looked slightly sticky, and he licked his lips unconsciously. For some reason, the idea of him seeing and touching her breasts made her more nervous than what he'd already done. Which was probably ludicrous. Katniss sat up fully, pressing her legs together to help conceal herself. She pulled her shirt off over her head, glancing at him when she dropped it to her lap. He got the hint and sat up, tugging his own shirt off. His skin was pale but lightly flushed from exertion. His shoulders were even more obnoxiously broad unclothed. His torso was hard and nicely taut from his wrestling regimen.

She kind of hated him for it.

Forcing her eyes forward, she slowly reached behind her back to unhook her bra. When it released, she shyly let it slide down her shoulders, hesitant to bare her breasts to him. But the fact that he was the one invoking this sort of modesty in her emboldened her with enough defiance to let the bra fall away completely, slipping to the floor with her shirt.

So, there she was: naked in Peeta Mellark's bed. How quickly things change.

"You have condoms, right?" she asked, hoping to jar his hungry gaze from her breasts, but he was undeterred by her question.

"Yup," he replied absently, shifting closer to her, so she lay back down stiffly as he hovered over her. His warm hand cupped one of her breasts, almost reverently, squeezing ever so carefully, experimentally. She saw his pink tongue dart out to lick his lips.

His gaze was too intense; it made her anxious. "I know they're not much; they're kind of small," she blurted then cursed herself mentally for revealing such an insecurity to him. He just gave a small shake of his head.

"Don't care. They're boobs." Then his thumb pressed down on her nipple, rubbing tight circles on it, and she sucked her lip into her mouth. When he pinched it lightly between his fingers, she inhaled sharply, and when he captured the other nipple between his lips, she exhaled on a short gasp. This was a new sensation; she liked it, the wet suction of his mouth around the sensitive bud, his tongue swirling over it. She liked it a lot.

Her moans were mortifyingly loud in the quiet of his room, and he spent such an inordinate amount of time on her breasts and her nipples, she began to wriggle underneath him from the acute distress of the throbbing between her legs. She clenched her thighs together, bucking her hips slightly to relieve the pressure, but it wasn't enough. "Ah," she gasped, unable to keep the whine out of her voice, and her hand threaded through his hair, tugging on his curls. He released her nipple to look at her, wetting his lips. She felt a little sheepish. "Are you, uh, ready yet?" she asked breathlessly, glancing between his face and his crotch, where his pants had started to tent.

He smirked a little. "Almost." But he shifted onto his back and unfastened his jeans again, pushing them down his hips over his erection, which strained against the fabric of his boxer-briefs. Once he had his pants off, he hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his underwear and slid it down. Her eyes widened when his dick sprang free—it wasn't fully hard yet, she didn't think, but it was still so...pink and veiny. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but...it was thick. Maybe that was good.

"Katniss," he asked hesitantly, kicking the boxer-briefs off his feet. "Do you think you could, um...stroke me—just a little would be fine. I mean, I can do it myself, but I thought I'd ask, in case..."

She regarded his penis critically. Well, if it would move things along... She might as well touch it, since it was going to be inside her and all. "Okay," she said; he looked incredibly pleased with her acquiescence. He rolled onto his side to ruffle through his nightstand drawer; her eyes darted down to his ass, which was nicely shaped, before they fixated on his hands again. She watched as he pulled out a box of condoms and tore one from the others, hurriedly shutting the drawer to turn back to her. Peeta dropped it onto the mattress and climbed between her legs; she brought her knees up reflexively to cradle his hips. Then he just stared at her, raising his eyebrows as he leaned over her.

Oh, right.

Faltering only slightly, she wrapped her small hand around his dick. It felt surprisingly smooth and silky to the touch. He groaned immediately, his hips thrusting into her hand. "Just—just for a minute," he mumbled, his eyes fluttering closed. "Ah...a little tighter, maybe..."

She gripped him harder as she pumped his shaft slowly, trying to remember how he worked himself earlier. He moaned quietly, and she could actually feel him hardening in her hand. Finally, he grunted and stilled her hand, opening his eyes. "Okay, I'm good, I'm good," he gasped, quickly locating the condom again, and he sat back while he fumbled to open it. Watching him pull the condom out, she felt her stomach tense with nerves. He looked bigger than her vibrator, or thicker, at least. It was a little intimidating, but she was determined to keep her face expressionless and free of any fear.

When he positioned himself between her legs, the condom on, bracing himself over her, he looked at with her worry. "Are you ready?"

His concern aggravated her slightly, and she grabbed onto his shoulders, gritting her teeth. "Just do it," she breathed, and then he was there, the head of his penis—no, his cock, that was sexier, not so clinical—pressing through her folds, parting them as he pushed into her. Her breath hitched; that felt good.

But then he pushed into her farther, his full length sliding in completely, stretching her uncomfortably. She gasped in pain, everything in her tensing and locking against the intrusion, but Peeta moaned loudly, pausing once he was buried to the hilt. "Shit...this is...fuck," he murmured blissfully, and she made a face at the ceiling, blinking against the tears that swelled in the corner of her eyes. This was fucking painful, actually; he was much thicker around than her vibrator. She was not as adequately prepared for this as she'd thought.

"Katniss?" he asked when she'd been quiet too long, shifting his hips back to begin thrusting into her.

She inhaled through her teeth as he moved. "Uh, yeah—this kinda hurts, actually."

He froze above her, pushing away to look at her; his face was filled with alarm. "Hurts? Am I doing something wrong?" Then his blue eyes rounded with horror. "Wait...you're not—have you—you're a virgin?" His voice cracked, and she frowned.

"Well, yeah."

His mouth hung open, opening and closing while his brain struggled to comprehend the situation. "I...I didn't...know. I thought...I mean, you seem so..."

Shaking her head, she lifted her hips to his and actively fought the grimace as discomfort racketed through her again. "Just—keep going, we're already this far."

But he looked shaken now, and the concern still haunted his eyes as he thrust back into her. She bit down on her lip while he moved, slowly, like he was trying to not hurt her, like she was going to break, but she thought she'd almost prefer him to just do it fast and get it over with. Her fingers dug into his shoulder muscles; she listened to his strangled breathing, the moans dying in his throat. It was like he was afraid to express any sort of pleasure or enjoyment on his part.

After a few minutes, he gasped. "I'm sorry, I can't—" His hips jerked against hers roughly a couple times, a soft groan tumbling from his lips. She felt him throbbing inside her and realized he was done; she almost sent up a hallelujah when he pulled out after a minute, crashing face-down to the mattress next to her.

They didn't speak for a moment until Katniss broke the awkward silence. "Well, that sucked."

Peeta groaned loudly into his pillow. "I know." He sat up, propping himself up on his forearms to look at her imploringly. "I'm...sorry. Really sorry. I didn't realize...And then I got nervous...And that sucked. You're right. That was bad."

She wished she could pull a sheet over her or something. She'd felt hot and sticky while he was on top of her, but now her skin was cooling rapidly, making her shiver. And her vagina hurt. A lot.

"Katniss," he started nervously. "Why would you...I mean, with me?"

She shot him a look. "I don't know. It seemed as good a time as any. It's not a big deal, Peeta."

He looked incredulous. "Seriously?"

She couldn't stop the scowl. "And tell me about your first time, Peeta. Were you madly in love with the girl? Did you two make love in a field of flowers and rainbows while angels plucked harps to provide the soundtrack as you came?"

His expression changed to one of chagrin. "Okay, I see your point." He faltered a moment then added, "I exaggerated earlier. I've only done it twice. Before this, I mean. So...uh, that's why I sucked." She just shrugged. She hadn't expected it to be great, honestly.

"If you want to get technical...my vibrator took my virginity first, anyway."

Something between a sigh and a laugh caught in his thrust, and Peeta flipped onto his back, reaching down to pull off the condom. His hand halted on his cock, however. "Oh. Shit. You're, uh, bleeding." She saw the blood on the condom; the sight made her feel queasy. Damn. She didn't do well with blood.

"Uh..." She shifted, feeling the wetness between her thighs. He moved quickly then, rolling the condom off and tying it off clumsily. Peeta slid off the bed, covering his dick with his hand while he trashed the condom and grabbed his boxer-briefs, jamming his legs through them.

"I'll get you a wet rag, hold on," he muttered, quietly slipping out of his bedroom. She sat up on the bed, yanking the sheets out from underneath her so she could shield most of her naked body. He returned after a moment, shutting the door behind him, and he held out a damp washcloth to her. She took it graciously. It was warm, at least.

"Thanks," she murmured, moving her hand under the sheet to the juncture of her thighs. Pressing against her tender flesh, she hissed softly, but she stopped when she realized he was still watching her, his face twisted in a sympathetic grimace. "Well, don't watch me! This is awkward enough."

"Sorry!" He held his hands up and crawled back onto the bed beside her, dutifully keeping his gaze averted. She gingerly cleaned herself off, and when she withdrew her hand, she wrinkled her nose at the smears of blood on the rag. Well, it wasn't as much as she'd thought, at least. Balling it up, she held the washcloth out to him. "Um...?"

He took it from her, handling it delicately as if he was afraid to get any blood on himself; she had to roll her eyes. Looking around his room wildly, he finally just sat the rag on his nightstand. She wasn't sure what to do at this point, and she started to lean over the edge of the bed to grab her clothes when Peeta grabbed her arm, gently pulling her back down to the mattress. She shot him a questioning look, but his eyes were wide and honest.

"You didn't come," he said simply. Well, no shit. He ran a hand through his curls, ruffling them slightly, then he shifted closer to her. "If you want...do you want me to get you off again?"

The thought of anything poking around down there again made her wince, but...she felt frustratingly unsatisfied. Maybe... "Okay," she agreed, edging the sheet off her body. Peeta smiled boyishly, touching his fingers to her cheek to turn her face toward his; his lips met hers in an open-mouthed kiss, his tongue sliding past her lips.

She liked kissing him, she realized, as reluctant as she was to admit it. Small sampling size or not, she enjoyed the way he moved his mouth against hers, the way he molded her tongue with his own like he was working with wet clay. She tensed unintentionally when she felt his hand slip between her thighs, but his fingers only sought her clit; she helped guide him to it, pressing his fingers down over it. "Just—stay there, okay?" she gasped against his mouth as he began to stroke her clit.

He nodded. "Got it," he mumbled before kissing her again. Her fingers found the hair at the back of his neck, scraping through the short curls. His fingers moved slowly at first, gradually quickening as he increased his pressure. Her face fell away from his so she could breathe deeply, reveling in the pleasure that surged through her at his fingertips. His mouth trailed down her neck, leaving a path of wet kisses; his lips fluttered over her clavicle, down her sternum to her breast, where he sucked her nipple into his mouth.

She whimpered, squeezing her eyes shut; she was close, his determined fingers pushing her to the edge quickly, almost sooner than she was prepared for, and she gasped. "I—Peeta, I..." And she came, her body seizing up suddenly, closing around him; her back bowed, her toes curled, and she unconsciously clawed at the back of his neck. She was aware of a sound akin to that of a dying animal falling from her mouth, and if she had any sort of wherewithal in that moment, she might have been embarrassed.

When she could focus her eyes again, her shallow breathing evening out, she blinked her eyes open to look at him. His head was resting on her chest, his eyes watching her intently. He smiled at her, prying his hand free from between her legs, then he set his head down on the pillow next to hers. His nose was nuzzled against her ear, and he slung an arm over her bare waist.

"Thanks," she offered in the silence, and he chuckled.

"'Welcome." He grew quiet, though, then he added, "Sorry your first time sucked."

But she shrugged; she wasn't concerned. "It's fine. There will be other times to make up for it."

She heard and felt his sharp intake of breath. "With me?" he asked timidly, and she stiffened underneath him, surprised by his question. He noticed her hesitation and tightened his arm around her. "Er, never mind. Shit. Don't answer that. I don't know why I asked that. I'm tired, I think."

But it was out there now. Did he want to have more sex with her? She hadn't thought that far ahead yet. Did she want this to be a regular occurrence with Peeta? Only a couple of hours ago she hated his guts. Well, she thought she hated his guts. Maybe he wasn't so bad. Maybe he was tolerable. Maybe she could stand to be around him, voluntarily even—especially if he continued to do those things with his hands and his mouth.

"I, uh...haven't made plans for the other times yet. Obviously. I hadn't even planned this time," she said sleepily, her eyes drooping. She felt extremely relaxed and exhausted now. The drive home was going to be a bitch, even if it was only 10 minutes.

"Yeah, I know," he whispered. He sounded like he was starting to slur. "Think about it, though, maybe?"

She wanted to laugh, but it took too much effort. "Okay...maybe." He didn't say anything more, and she thought she felt him smile against her ear, but then she didn't remember anything at all after that.


The obnoxious sound of an alarm blaring startled her awake. In the haze of sleep, she was confused by her unfamiliar surroundings and by the weight anchoring her to the bed until she heard a loud, rumbling groan in her ear. Peeta.

He rolled over and slapped a hand down on his alarm clock, thankfully shutting it off. They didn't speak, and she could already feel herself drifting off again until she heard him mutter, "Shit." Then he shot up in bed. She blinked against the grit in her eyes, squinting at him.

"What?"

Rubbing his eyes, he looked down at her. "I, uh...didn't exactly plan for you to sleep over," he explained, his voice gruff and scratchy.

That woke her up. She sat up, already looking for her clothes, when she heard him huff and laugh weakly. "Wait, that didn't come out right. I just meant...I forgot—I didn't think about the fact that I had to be up early for the bakery. And that means my dad is already up, and I don't think either of us really want to do the walk of shame in front of him..."

Her eyes widened. "Oh, shit," she whispered, snatching her bra and shirt off the floor. Sliding out of bed, she hastily put them on and searched the foot of the bed for the rest of her clothes. She tried to move quickly, but the soreness between her legs slowed her steps. It was an uncomfortable ache.

Peeta got up too and quickly dressed, putting on fresh clothes. She looked at him expectantly, jamming her shoes on. "So what the hell do I do? No offense, but I'm not exactly ready to meet your parents like this." She knew Mr. and Mrs. Mellark in passing from the bakery, and his father was nice enough—but she had a feeling his mother would not at all be happy to see her in their house with their son. "Can I just jump out the window or something?" she asked, only half joking. She'd do it, really. Maybe there was a tree nearby she could climb out onto...

Peeta laughed nervously, his eyes shifting around the room. "No, don't do that—wait. Actually. That might work." She arched an eyebrow, and he held up a hand. "No, seriously, I can go down and grab the ladder from the shed. Just—give me a couple minutes, okay? Stay here."

He slipped out the door soundlessly, and she put her jacket on and paced the room anxiously, unsuccessfully trying to smooth down her ratted braid, until she heard noise at the window. Grabbing her purse, she rushed to the window and pushed the curtains aside. She saw the ladder and Peeta below, motioning for her to come down. Unlocking the window, she pushed it open and climbed up onto the window sill. Clutching her purse to her side, she took a deep breath, and then she twisted around and gripped the ladder tightly, finding the rungs with her feet.

Once she was almost to the bottom, Peeta grabbed her by her waist and helped her down the rest of the way. When she turned around in his arms, he smiled shyly at her. "Thanks," she murmured, pushing her purse straps farther up her shoulder. He walked her around to the front of his house to her car. She stopped by the driver side door and dug out her keys, but his hand on her arm stopped her before she could unlock it. She looked up at him.

"This is kind of weird, I know, but...do you want my number? In case you wanna talk or...something?" His mouth quirked on the last word, and she swallowed a giggle. Then she shrugged, fishing out her phone.

"Okay," she agreed, and she typed it into her phone as he recited it for her. When she dropped her phone back into her purse, she looked up him, pursing her mouth uncertainly. "Well...it's been fun...I guess," she said with an awkward laugh, and he grinned, shuffling his feet.

"Yeah. Thanks for...well, thanks." He leaned down to press a kiss to her cheek. It was a sweet gesture. But his lips lingered, and then he moved them next to her ear. "By the way...I like the way you taste," he murmured, his breath tickling the hair that had come loose from her braid around the shell of her ear. An involuntary shudder ran down her spine, and she couldn't stop the bizarre laugh that bubbled in her throat.

"Thanks. Okay, bye," she rushed out, grabbing her keys and hastily unlocking her door so she could shut herself inside immediately. Starting her car, she glanced out her window. Peeta was still grinning, his eyebrow cocked in amusement. She held her hand up in a small wave, and he did the same. She pulled away from the curb, driving off the down the street, but she couldn't stop her eyes from finding him in her rearview mirror. He was still standing in the same spot, watching her car disappear. Her stomach flipped in an odd way, an uncomfortable flush igniting her entire face. Damn it.

She definitely hated Peeta Mellark.