Hot Buns, Valentine Buns

SUMMARY: Katniss Everdeen has hired a baker whose buns are tempting everyone, mostly herself.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own The Hunger Games. The Trilogy of course belongs to Suzanne Collins. This is purely a work done for leisure and not for profit and no copyright infringement is intended in the use of these characters, their setting, or their situation. No copyright infringement is intended for any music, literature or other entertainment forms referenced within either.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: So, given some demand for this and also because I kind of fell in love with HB P and K, here's a continuation of HBHB. This isn't going to turn into a big 'ole story. There's just this and I may post other future scenes if I feel so inspired. I'm working on some other things I hope you'll like just as well. But here you go. It was meant to be up for Valentine's Day but life happens. Thanks for patiently waiting for it. Enjoy!


February:

"Getting hungry?"

Katniss startled for just a second and then grinned as she looked down and saw the almost-too-perfect-to-eat cupcake hovering just below her chin. She had been keeping busy reshelving books in the shop since customer traffic had died down significantly at this late hour. The cafe would be closing in a half hour and then she and Peeta would get to continue enjoying their first Valentine's Day together. Unfortunately, the holiday being a huge revenue day for eating establishments, there was really no way they would have found themselves anywhere but at the cafe that evening. It had never mattered much to Katniss before. She'd never felt particularly stoked for the day in the past, even when she was with Gale. But she and Gale had been similar in their "no frills" kind of ways, mocking convention and dealing in realism versus fantasy. Being with Peeta made her wonder though if she'd felt apathy or even disdain before for things that she just hadn't understood, things she hadn't experienced fully until she'd met him. Maybe it was just his love of life in general or maybe it was the extent of his feelings for her, which he freely expressed, but this year was different. And Peeta, it seemed, loved Valentine's Day.

"A girl could get spoiled here. And fat," she remarked, accepting the cupcake from him.

"Perfection can't be spoiled. And more of you to love? That would just be a gift."

She turned, screwing up her face at him in amusement. "Do lines like that get you somewhere, Mellark?"

His lips curved into a half-smirk. "I don't know, Everdeen. Do they?"

She just shook her head at him, a smile still on her lips. "Get back to work before I fire your ass."

Peeta chuckled then leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially, his eyes dancing with laughter. "Aren't there other things you'd rather do with my ass?" Then, he turned sassily away from her, taking on a strut and lifting the back of his chef's jacket every few steps so he could shake his ass at her rather comically. She tried to hold in her mirth but was unsuccessful and in the end, he turned and winked at the sound of her giggling as he pushed through the door, exiting the shop and heading back toward the kitchen.

She was alone in the shop and decided to sit at one of the reading tables for a few minutes and give her feet a break. She slid down into the nearest chair and rested her elbows on the tabletop as she carefully peeled the foil cup from the bottom of the cupcake. It was a beautiful little creation - no surprise there. It was a chocolate cupcake frosted with pink cream cheese icing, which was topped with two artfully splayed strawberry slices. But it held a secret. She knew because he had planned out his Valentine's offerings with her. This particular one had tempted her greatly and she hadn't had a chance to taste one until now. And Peeta knew this.

He still surprised her with his thoughtfulness and its regularity. From all she thought she remembered of 21-year-old guys (he'd celebrated his birthday in the fall), being sensitive to others was not a top priority. Being raucous and crazy and restless is what she had witnessed most often, with Gale, with his brothers, with college guys that hung out at the bars down the street on a regular basis. She had witnessed a hint of this over New Year's when Peeta had talked her into going to his best friend Finnick's party. Her boyfriend was a social being, talking with almost everyone there. After a few rounds of beer and a couple of shots, the talking had become noticeably louder and a bit slurred. There'd been dancing, some of it quite sloppy. Loud slaps on the back, uncensored belches, lewd jokes, and ridiculously complicated physical greetings (they hardly resembled handshakes) later and she had observed her boyfriend as "one of the guys." Still, he had respected her, had met her gaze from across the room when they'd been pulled into different conversations and had apologized profusely when he'd been bumped into and had accidentally spilled some beer on her shirt. She'd laughed it off but it still meant something to her that he had shown concern for it.

Katniss found little to support her fears in regard to whether or not their age gap would mean more work from her end in the relationship or a level of unfulfillment with someone too immature to understand her needs, her goals, and her view of herself as a person. Her worries of not being exciting enough for someone so young had thus far been unnecessary. Peeta just seemed a calmer soul than that. He preferred quiet nights in with her or going out to a movie or ice skating at the park to going to the slew of parties he was invited to. He preferred having a few friends over to his place to watch a game or play poker to going out to a bar for either of these activities. She wasn't sure if he was uninterested or if he had already gotten certain behaviors and experiences out of his system. Or maybe what she thought she knew of young twenty-something males was just a stereotype. In any event, he was very often the thoughtful boyfriend, ever generous in regard to her needs and desires…any and all of them. She did her best to reciprocate; she just didn't feel like she was innately good at it like it seemed he was. But he hadn't complained either.

She sunk her teeth into the cupcake and shut her eyes with pleasure as the moist strawberry and cream cheese center of it reached her tongue. The extra flavor was sweet and smooth. She chewed slowly, savoring it, and then took a second bite. Yep. It was as good as the first had been. Each subsequent bite was a welcome assault to her tastebuds. She alternated licking the frosting and strawberries from the top of the cupcake and whittling down the main body of it until the last bit of it passed through her lips. Peeta had a gift. There was no denying that.

She forced herself back up and finished putting away the books she had begun to earlier. Then, she discarded the cupcake wrapper and wiped the table she had enjoyed her treat at before closing out the shop register, turning off the lights and locking the door. She made her way across the outdoor eating area and into the kitchen. Out in the cafe, the last patrons were paying their tab and everyone was working on their closing procedures, so she quickly moved into the routine of helping them. Peeta stopped her in passing to smirk and wipe a chocolate crumb from the corner of her lips with his thumb. She smiled back at him and continued about her tasks until they had both said goodnight to the rest of the staff and all of the doors had been locked up.

"Ready for our date?" Peeta asked happily.

"Yes…" Katniss answered, a bit wary but curious to see what else he had up his sleeve. She had awoken to breakfast in bed, red velvet waffles with cream and berries, and a small vase of vibrant wildflowers sitting on her nightstand. Peeta and his messy blonde head had already disappeared from the abode, having left a note telling her he needed to run some errands and stop back at his place before heading into the cafe later that morning. He had spent the night as he'd been doing frequently for the past couple months. Still used to the baker's hours his parents had always kept, he was often up before her but she had still anticipated waking up in his proximity that morning, particularly being Valentine's morning. The waffles had been divine though and the flowers were exactly the kind she would have picked out for herself.

Before heading in to the cafe, Katniss made sure to retrieve the small gift bag she had put together for Peeta for that evening. They had agreed to have their own date after the cafe closed but she wasn't sure exactly what that was meant to entail. She wanted to be excited for it since all signs had indicated he was but she did inwardly hope for something low-key. And proving how well he really did seem to know her, it seemed that was just what Peeta had in mind.

"I thought we could just stay here for a while if you don't mind, have the place to ourselves for a change. Is that okay?"

Katniss smiled warmly at him. "Yeah. That's definitely okay."

"Good," he said, grinning. "I saved us a light dinner since I figured we might want to attack some heavy desserts afterwards."

"Good thinking."

He went into the nearest walk-in fridge and retrieved a large lipped plate covered with saran wrap. Peeling the plastic back and discarding it, he grabbed two forks and tilted his head for her to follow him out to the main dining area. They slid into a booth and Peeta handed her her fork. With all of the blinds down and only partial lighting on in the room, the quiet atmosphere was pretty nice. Peeta used a scripto lighter she hadn't seen him grab to light the small votive already sitting on the table. Her lips curved their approval as she dug her fork into the crisp field salad complete with dandelion greens and petals, tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, grilled chicken, walnuts and pears, with a balsamic vinaigrette.

They savored the salad in silence for a minute and then began to chat about some of the more interesting moments at the cafe that day, such as the few guys who had asked Katniss if the shop gift wrapped because they were obviously scrambling for a gift to give their significant others who were sitting alone for the moment in the cafe. "Amateurs," Peeta remarked confidently, much to Katniss' amusement. Peeta told her how Sae had buried a ring in mashed potatoes for one nervous gentleman and how the woman had said yes, after nearly choking on it.

"At least she didn't ingest it and have to wait for it to, um, come back out."

Peeta screwed up his face at that image. "Eww…thanks for that, by the way."

Katniss laughed. "Anytime. See how romantic I am?"

"You have your moments."

"I do, huh?"

"Yup. Like the bag tucked away behind the register that I am guessing is for me."

"Maybe," she teased.

"Did you just grab any bag or did you pick that one for any reason in particular?"

"I…well, it's swirled with light red, yellow, and orange, like sunset. You love sunsets."

"See. Romantic," he said matter-of-factly, smirking at her.

She pursed her lips. "Okay, you got me. On occasion, I do something that is maybe sort of romantic. But don't expect me to show up outside your place with a boom box blasting Peter Gabriel."

"What?"

Katniss stared at him for several seconds and then rolled her eyes and groaned. She was about to tell Peeta to stop being so young when his look of confusion changed over to one of utter amusement.

"I'm kidding. I've seen Say Anything, Katniss. Ione Skye…bet she still looks pretty good."

She reached across the table and smacked his arm. "She's older than I am. You have a problem."

Peeta reached into his pocket and retrieved his phone, quickly typing something into it. Katniss watched in confusion.

"She's seven years older than you…and she does look good." He held his phone out, so she could see a picture taken of the actress in recent years. "But not as good as you." Her lips twitched at this. "Did you know Susan Sarandon's dating a guy 30 years younger than her?"

"Well, aren't you up on celebrity gossip? I'm just learning all kinds of things about you tonight."

"Finnick's up on celebrity gossip. He pointed the whole Susan Sarandon thing out to me when I wasn't sure if you'd ever give us dating a chance because of the age difference."

"Is this supposed to be a selling point?"

"Do you need any selling points?"

She realized what she'd just said and glanced over at him with chagrin, meeting his eyes and shaking her head "no."

"Good. I'm just sharing. I know you get weirded out sometimes about us and sometimes you assume I don't get something because I'm younger, like the movie reference. And usually I do get it. Sometimes, maybe I don't or won't. But that could be the case if we were the same age. People have different life experiences and interests, especially men and women sometimes. Exactly how familiar was Gale with John Cusack and his propensity for lawnmowers and boom boxes?"

Katniss snorted. "Um…not very."

"There you go. There are going to be things we can relate on and things we can't but that's just couples, you know?"

She thought about this and her lips curved slightly. "Yeah." She took another bite of her salad. "And I did know about Susan Sarandon. I guess if Louise doesn't give a fuck about others or it not being the norm, I shouldn't either," she joked. She scanned his face for recognition; she couldn't help herself. She saw the twinkle in his eye.

"Indeed. Though I see you more as a Thelma…and I'm your J.D."

"You do have the blonde hair. And you're hot. But that didn't work out so well for Thelma."

"But I'd steal your heart, not your money."

Her laughter rang out in the quiet room. "Alright, enough iconic movie references for tonight. Your cheese level is dangerously high."

"You love my cheese."

Katniss sucked in a slight breath at the word "love," which was silly. He was only talking about her loving one of his characteristics. But if she loved his characteristics, did she love him? Maybe. Probably. She re-focused. That wasn't what he was asking. "Your cream cheese," she shot back.

"All of my cheese."

Or maybe it was. He had used the word "love" earlier in the bookshop too, though it was just part of a common turn of phrase. Her gaze dropped to his side of their salad. Distracting herself, she noticed that he had eaten most everything else but the fruit, which he had pushed into a little pile with his fork. "Shut up and eat your pears."

This made Peeta chuckle and he speared a couple slices, shoveling them into his mouth agreeably.

They ate in silence for another minute and then Katniss spoke again, a bit wryly. "So, is this as hot as your Valentine's Day last year?" She didn't know why she had asked that. She didn't want to hear about him getting hot with some pretty, young thing.

He seemed surprised but vaguely entertained by the question. "Hotter. This year, you're sitting over here eating with me." She gave him a look urging him to explain further. "I was here last year, with a mixed group of friends, kind of protesting the fact that only couples get to go out and enjoy delicious specials on Valentine's." Katniss racked her brain to remember. She did have memories of seeing Peeta in the cafe over the past couple years but she didn't have a specific one of last Valentine's Day. "It's fine if you don't remember. You were flitting around busily and you spent most of your time in the kitchen. But when I did see you chatting with Prim and Rory for a few minutes and later sharing a laugh with your friend Jo, I just wished it were me you were talking with so easily."

She gave him a warm smile. "Well, here we are."

He nodded. "Yes. And had I known you were just going to test my movie trivia and boss me around until I ate my fruit…"

"Peeta!"

He gave her a sly look before continuing. "I would have still wished for the same."

Her smile returned as she averted her gaze down to the greens. "I'm glad." She took a sip of water and looked up again when she heard him start to ask a question.

"What about you?" When he saw the look of confusion on her face, he clarified. "How does this compare to your last couple Valentine's Days?"

"Oh, it's…definitely hotter, I guess."

"You guess?"

The smile that he watched form on her lips was incredibly sexy. Not as sexy as the next thing she said though. "Well…I can be a pretty hot date for myself, you know."

"Oh…" After a moment, further realization dawned. "Ohhh…well, that's something I would definitely like to hear about."

Her giggle was music to his ears. "Maybe later."

He licked his lips and reached across the table to walk his fingers playfully up her own before taking hold of her hand gently. "So, were you just not dating anyone the last few V-days?" He didn't know why he had asked that. It might be a bit torturous hearing about the guys she had dated all the while he knew her but could never get the balls to try to really talk to her.

"I dated some men here and there. And yeah, I may have dated some in February, but no, I haven't had a date on Valentine's Day since I was married."

"Because you were just busy with the cafe?"

She shrugged. "It's not that I couldn't have made time to have a late dinner like this or anything. It's just that, to me, going out on Valentine's Day, much as I think a relationship is about more than just one day a year, isn't something to do unless you're at least on your way to something serious with someone."

His expression was thoughtful and then hopeful. "So...are you on your way to something serious with me?"

She saw the reflection of the votive's flame set against his dark, dilated pupils and the hint of the deep blue irises she knew surrounded them. His thumb traced light circles over the top of the hand he held. His mouth was slightly parted, his lips threatening a smile that could melt her heart again and again.

Was she? She hadn't intended on making any such declaration; the words of her explanation had just come naturally. She knew the answer to that question. She set her fork down and slid from her side of the booth. He looked up at her, his hand still holding hers, and he scooted helpfully when she eased onto his seat next to him.

"Yes," she said simply, watching him intently for his reaction. He didn't disappoint and she leaned forward and kissed the perfect arc of his perfect lips. She wasn't as good with words as he was, so she promised him this way. Silently, she promised that she did love many things about him and that she would stay open to loving more things along the way, that she would try to remember that they were just two people with two sets of experiences and that their individual experiences could enhance their shared ones. She promised that she would continue on this journey with him and see where it led and that it would be about them and not about any critics they might have, especially not those within. When she pulled back and saw the look of content on his face, she sensed he understood all this. It was one of the nicest things about him; he seemed to get her, sometimes, she thought, better than she even got herself.

They sat smiling at one another for another few moments and then Peeta's grin widened. "Good. Does that mean you want to give me my gift bag then?"

She laughed and got up to get the bag for him. Returning, she slid it in front of him, taking the seat next to him again. "Go ahead then, Mr. Eager."

"Don't act like you don't like my eagerness, Katniss," he teased, leaning sideways and giving her neck a playful nip. She sucked in a breath and saw him smiling at her as he pulled back and started to peek inside the bag. He pulled the card out first. She had gone through quite a few, knowing she didn't have the words she wanted to say but finding plenty that had too many words that weren't exactly ones she could call her own either. She watched him read the limited but true words and remembered how they had resonated with her when she'd read them:

I get lost in your eyes,

feel at home in your embrace,

love to hear your voice,

and feel totally at home

in this place

we've only just begun to build

I'm looking forward to all that we have in store, dear Valentine

and here's to many more.

Yours,

Katniss

Admittedly, the "many more" had worried her but ultimately, she was cautiously hopeful and Peeta let her know how hopeful he was in every smile, every goodnight kiss, and every morning snuggle. His lips were curving as he read and then they were on hers, caressing them, plying them. She could get lost in more than just his eyes. "Thank you," he whispered, pulling back.

"You're easy to please, Mellark. Guess you don't even need the rest of the bag," she joked, reaching for it and letting him stop her.

"Never said that," he shot back playfully, turning and reaching into the bag again. He pulled out another smaller envelope and looked at her curiously. "One card wasn't enough to convey your feelings for me?"

She shook her head at him. "Just open it."

Doing so, he pulled out the paper rectangles inside. "Lumineers tickets! Seriously?! Katniss, this is awesome!"

"They're for April. It's an outdoor concert. Sounded pretty cool."

"It'll be amazing. We're gonna have so much fun."

"Oh, so you want me to be your date then?"

Peeta rolled his eyes at her and then his expression turned devilish. He leaned in closer and opened his mouth and she waited to see what he had to say.

"I belong with you. You belong with me. You're my sweetheart," he sang happily and she scrunched her nose at him as best she could, doing a poor job of looking unamused or displeased.

"Nope. Definitely can't be seen with you now."

His fingers went to her sides. "I have ways of convincing you."

She clamped her hands down over his and squirmed. "Geez…tickling, singing…do your torture methods know no bounds?"

"Ohhh…ohhh…" he reacted and challenged in a mock dramatic fashion. "I have other forms of torture. I'll happily introduce you to them." He placed his hand on the inside of her nearest knee and slid it upward, watching her face until his pinkie grazed the thin material at the junction of her thighs. Then, he bit his lip as though considering his devious options and slid his hand away, turning his attention back to his gift bag.

Katniss expelled the breath she had just sucked in. She felt anticipation at the promise his teasing actions made to her. Still, she was glad he was going to finish opening his gifts.

Peeta sifted through the handful of dark chocolate hearts in the bag, his favorite brand too. He felt warm inside at the little things like this. He had wanted her to know him for so long that it felt really, really good that she was showing him now that she did. The tickets, the chocolates, and now his fingers were closing over what looked to be some very nice stainless steel measuring spoons. Upon closer inspection, he saw that his initials were carved into the arm of each along with a tiny, intricate representation of a baked good. One of the spoon designs was clearly meant to depict one of his famous honey buns.

"Katniss, these are great! Where did you even…how…?"

"My friend Cinna. He's a designer. Usually, he's more likely to work images into fabric, fashion accessories, etc, but he helped me render these images and hooked me up with one of his friends, Portia, who can do fine engravings like these. I hope the spoons are okay. I tried to pick some with high ratings on baker swag dot com."

Peeta tried not to laugh; he really did. "Baker swag dot com?"

"Umm…yeah," she offered in a tiny, embarrassed voice. "Do they suck? I'm sorry if their quality isn't as good as you need. I thought…"

"They don't suck. They're amazing. I like this kind. I just haven't honestly heard of that site…but maybe I should check it out."

Katniss gave a light shrug. "Maybe."

Peeta looked at each tiny design more closely, smiling to himself. Then, he turned to face his girlfriend again, bringing his thumb and forefinger to her chin and leaning in to place a lingering but chaste kiss on her lips. "Thank you, for these gifts and…for being my valentine this year," he said softly, sincerely.

"You're welcome. And as your valentine, I am guessing you want to share some sweet treats with me," she said, not so surreptitiously shooting a glance toward the nearby baked goods display.

He laughed lightly. "I definitely do. But I have something else to share with you too, or rather, give to you. Come on," he said, motioning with his head for her to slide out of the booth so he could do the same. Then, he took her hand and led them back through the kitchen to her small office. He moved over to her small bookshelf and pulled out a large wrapped rectangle from behind it. She hadn't even noticed it had been pulled away from the wall a bit.

"What did you…?"

"Just open it," he said, sliding it her way.

Her lips curled into a half smile and her curious excitement took over. She found a spot to begin tearing the red foil and soon exposed the top of what appeared to be a beautiful dark green wooden frame with tiny design etchings in browns and silvers. She ran her fingers over silver leaves and brown branches, little gray flowers and tan butterflies, all subtly entwined with one another around the entirety of the frame. She was so awed by the perfection of the frame itself that it took her a few long moments to finish pulling the paper away completely and to really look at what Peeta had actually framed.

Her soul, that's what he'd framed. Or at least a portion of it expressed through the things she loved to read, the things that spoke to her. Peeta had created an art piece (on Thanksgiving, she'd learned that he enjoyed creating art through mediums other than food as well) that included some quotes from the book recommendations she had made to him or from books she had talked with him about enjoying or from authors she enjoyed. And he'd included his own painted or illustrated representations of the quotes behind, adjacent to or surrounding them.

There were some from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which Peeta had enjoyed reading just as much as she always did-the two main characters thrown together at such a dangerous but exciting time, all of the history surrounding the rebellion, the actual wars and fighting, the times they were parted and their beautiful, though challenging, reunions, the humor, the sex… She smiled to herself. Peeta had found the books inspiring.

"For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying and it is enough."

"Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own."

"Dinna be afraid. There are the two of us now."

"If it was a sin for you to choose me…then I would go to the Devil himself and bless him for tempting ye to it."

She laughed at the last one she found:

"Men would eat horse droppings, if ye served them wi' butter."

"If I hang this here, I'd best not let any health inspectors see that one. I'm still inclined to believe it's true though."

Peeta laughed. "So am I."

Grinning, Katniss looked over the quotes some more. "Well, there's a better statement for the cafe," she said, looking over Paula Deen's so eloquent declaration:

"I don't want to spend my life not having good food going into my pie hole. That hole was made for pies."

There were plenty of more somber or thought-provoking quotes as well.

"That's one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket." -Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

She remembered discussing this quote with Peeta a bit before. She had told him that her marriage had left her feeling like this at times, that she had dreams and Gale had dreams but somehow his were always bigger. She wasn't opposed to getting married again one day but she knew she had to tend her own dreams now as well, that she was allowed to be the arrows too. She also knew it was okay to be the bow, to support the arrow, but that neither was worth much if it wasn't working with the other. The next few Plath quotes were just very typical of Katniss' own enjoyments:

"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery-air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'"

"I am sure there are things that can't be cured by a good bath but I can't think of one."

"I collect men with interesting names."

She saw he had drawn a pitifully humorous self-portrait next to that last one, complete with big blue puppy dog eyes, and the laughter bubbled up within her again. "It's a very esteemed, very small collection you know…currently a collection of just one," she teased him.

"Better be. Who else has a name that sounds so interesting and carbalicous all at once? I'm a rare find. You should be pleased."

"And he's humble too," she shot back, rolling her eyes before bringing their attention back to her present.

"And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary?" -Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

"With you being so extraordinary, I guess it's good that I help fill the ordinary quotient."

"Don't kid yourself, Katniss. You're the extraordinary."

"Buttering me up, now?"

"Butter's not what I had in mind, but nah, not until you're done enjoying your gift."

She lifted an eyebrow at him, amused, but continued to peruse the quotes before her.

"But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called - called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come." -Jack London, The Call of the Wild

She understood the signs and sounds so well. She thought, not for the first time, that she needed to take Peeta out into the woods with her, to see his experience of it.

"That's what was great about him. He tried. Not many do."

"You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only…from human relationships. God has placed it all around us…and all you have to do is reach for it."

Both quotes from Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild reminded her that her boyfriend had told her he'd like to see every part of her world, all the places where she thrived.

Lionel Trilling's Sincerity and Authenticity held thoughts with which she could not disagree:

"We who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us."

"Literature is the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty."

But some of her favorite included quotes were those from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird:

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corn cribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

"Before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

She took a deep breath, as though all of the words were the air filling her lungs. It was wonderful. And the intermixed drawings and painting from Peeta - a mockingbird, a steaming bathtub, a forest's edge, a stack of well-worn books, a pie, a devil, his own comical self-portrait - it was the most personal, special and well thought out gift she had ever received and she told him so.

His face beamed with the compliment. "I'm glad. There are so many more quotes I could have included…"

"These are great. You're great! I love this, every bit of it," she said, placing the frame down and propping it against her desk.

He accepted her embrace as naturally as his arms accepted sleeves and they stood, holding each other in her office for several long moments. "I have something else for you too," he said, pulling back to look at her.

"Peeta! This is more than enough."

"Well, I couldn't help myself," he said, by way of explanation, producing a small square box from his pants pocket.

Katniss' eyes widened when she saw it. It wasn't small enough to be the kind of box that would probably scare her right now. It was clearly a jewelry gift box though.

"I hope you like it," he said, placing it in her uncertain hand.

She met his eyes for a moment and then looked down at the box, carefully using her other hand to open it. Inside was a beautiful single pearl necklace on a delicate silver chain.

"It was so simply elegant. There aren't any embellishments. It just is what it is and what it is is beautiful. I think anything I saw at the store would have looked beautiful on you but this one just seemed like it was you. I know I'm being cheesy again but that was my reasoning. I saw this and knew I had to get it for you."

She brushed her fingers gently over the pearl and its chain. She blinked to control the moisture threatening to leak from her eyes. "It's perfect," she whispered, half to the necklace, half to its purchaser. She looked up to see him watching her with a quizzical expression on his face, part concern and part satisfaction. "Will you put it on for me?"

"Of course." She turned and lifted her hair and he removed the necklace from the box, fastening it at the back of her neck. When she turned, he smiled because "perfect" is just how he thought it looked against her skin.

She looked down, twisting her neck oddly to see it and then looked back up into his adoring face. "Thank you, Peeta. These gifts…I'm not great with words to begin with and I think you've nearly left me speechless here, but just thank you. I feel so lucky. I was already lucky when I woke up today…because I have you. And that's all I really needed today."

He stroked her hair with one hand, placing the other lightly over her chest, his thumb brushing the pearl there. He pressed his forehead to hers and rubbed his nose gently past hers before drawing her lips to his own. "You're plenty great with words," he said, drawing back. "You're more than welcome. I'm the lucky one. And I'm pretty sure there was something else you needed today."

"And what is that exactly?"

He grinned mischievously at her. "Dessert! Come on!"

Giggling, she let him take her hand and tug her back out to the cafe until they stopped behind the glass baked goods and desserts counter.

"Everything in this display looks blissful," she remarked.

"So, let's have a little bit of everything then."

Grinning, she nodded her agreement and reached in to retrieve a small plate of chocolate covered strawberries. She knew that these had just been replaced not long before the restaurant had closed because they regularly replaced any cold items in the display for freshness and visual appeal. Still, the chocolate was definitely in the process of melting. Looking into the pleased eyes of her boyfriend, she felt a bit inspired…to do more with these desserts than just eat them. She lifted a strawberry, eyeing it for a moment before holding it above her mouth and darting her tongue out to lick the softening chocolate. She met Peeta's eyes and let her tongue reemerge and run the circumference of the strawberry before she placed her lips around the bottom of it and sucked. In one smooth movement, his fingers gripped the berry's stem. She raised an eyebrow at him and he gazed at her intently.

"You like this?" he asked, sliding two fingers down over the body of the fruit until they touched her lips.

"Mmmhmm," she responded, her lips vibrating slightly as the sound pushed past them.

His fingers traced first her upper and then her lower lip. She held his eyes as he slid them back up to the stem and pressed the ripe berry forward. She opened her mouth wider and he pushed it further in, but as she began to suck harder on the chocolate covering, he started to pull it back past her lips. But two could tease like this, so she caught the berry with her teeth and bit through it.

"Biting…tsk, tsk."

She grinned as she chewed slowly, not quite closing her mouth, such that a trickle of juice started to make its way down her chin.

Peeta understood her game and he was more than willing to play. His mouth swooped in as the juice touched her neck, his tongue stretching forward to catch it, lest it drift down onto her new necklace. He licked and sucked it back up to her mouth before pulling back and biting the remainder of the strawberry from its stem. He trailed the green stalk down Katniss' jaw and neck as he chewed and swallowed. Retrieving another strawberry, he bit the bottom tip from it and brought his mouth down to cover hers. She opened for him and tasted the tart and the sweet as the bit of fruit fell into her mouth. It was tossed around by the motions of their tongues; they played at passing it back and forth until she sucked it from his tongue and drew back to finish making it hers.

"Thank you for sharing," she purred.

His eyes sparkled as he assured her "there's much more to share" and then he asked her to wait right there. She did, picking up and finishing eating the remainder of the second strawberry where he'd set it down. He returned after a couple minutes, carrying out one of the small red velvet milkshakes they'd been offering on their dessert menu that night. He pointed the straw in her direction and offered her a sip. She let her lips linger on the plastic as she drew a slow sip of the frothy liquid into her mouth. The taste was rich, creamy and soothing. Peeta smiled and set the glass down on the counter behind her, his fingers tracing the neckline of her dress into the center of its deep V. He slipped them beneath the fabric and beneath the lace and satin of her bra, sliding both aside and baring her left breast to him. She bit her lip lightly, anticipating. His hand covered her exposed mound, his thumb rubbing teasing circles around its hardening nub as he reached for the glass with his other hand and brought the straw to his mouth, taking a long sip as she watched him. His lips curled around the straw and she knew he was enjoying himself immensely, which assured her she would enjoy whatever he had in mind just as much. She gasped as he pinched her nipple lightly, whilst setting the glass back down. And then his mouth was on her and she jumped and squeaked briefly at the change in sensations from the slight burn of his fingers to the shocking chill of his mouth surrounding her. He sucked and teased her with his tongue, withdrawing to smile at the dark, erect nub before him.

"More?" he asked lightly, straightening back up and offering her the straw. She took two shallow breaths and drank more of the milkshake, watching him. "Ah, ah, ah…not too much. I'm so not done with this yet." He confirmed this statement by sipping from the straw after her, visibly swishing the liquid around in his mouth slowly and setting the glass back down.

"You're evil," she accused huskily as he trailed his left hand down the other side of her neckline and exposed her other breast to the air and his ministrations.

"No, I'm not," he said lowly, dipping his head once more, one hand gripping her waist tightly as her body jolted again and the other palming her still sensitive twin peak.

Katniss gripped at the glass behind her and, realizing the futility of that, reached forward and gripped his hair and his shirt as he swirled his quickly warming tongue over her puckered flesh. "Peeta," she breathed, as the pleasure ran a straight course from her chest to her belly and below. The hand on her waist moved down her thigh and then back up, squeezing her ass possessively. Peeta moved his mouth to her other nipple and brought his other hand down and beneath her dress to stroke her between her thighs. Her knees buckled, his hands helping to keep her upright even as the one threatened to bring her down. She leaned back against the counter, moaning at the combined treat of his mouth and his hands. She wondered why he didn't slide her panties to the side and touch her more fully but she sensed he had other plans. When he pulled back from her abruptly, she knew she was right.

"Let's not do any more damage to your dress," he said, eyeing the V where it had been stretched out over her chest and then the place where his hand still bunched up a handful near her hip. She nodded her assent and he pulled the dress up over her head. Then, he reached around her and released the clasp of her bra, pulling it free of her body and draping it over the register with her dress. "Better," he husked, pressing his body to hers and kissing her languorously. Katniss took the opportunity to reach her fingers between them and unbutton his shirt, sliding it down over his broad shoulders and muscular arms and gripping it behind him as she pressed her chest up into his, relishing in the skin on skin contact. His hands found the backs of her thighs and lifted, supporting her weight as he pressed her more tightly to the glass case. Her lower back stuck to it as he began a torturous rotation of his hips. He was growing hard for her and with every teasing pass of his hips, she wanted more. She crossed her ankles behind him but he held back on purpose. And there were still pieces of clothing between them. Katniss growled her frustration but Peeta just chuckled, ending their kiss. "What's your deal, Mellark?" He leaned forward and sucked her earlobe into his mouth for a moment before speaking next to her ear. "It's Valentine's Day." When she shot him an impatient look as he stepped back, releasing her legs, he elaborated. "You don't rush dessert on Valentine's Day." Oh. "Let's have some more."

His hands were at her waist the next second and he lifted her up so that she was seated on top of the counter. Taking his shirt from her, he set it on top of the growing pile of clothing on the register. Then, he crouched and reached toward a shelf below and she watched his hand through the glass display at her bottom, seeing him pull out a pie, the special variety he had made for today, black currant pie. He set it next to her on the counter and cut a slice from it. Holding the perfect wedge up to her crust side first, because he knew she liked his crusts the best, he said "taste." She took a healthy bite, the buttery crust melting away in her mouth and blending with the sweet tang of the sugared currants. He set the slice down and brought his hands to her inner thighs, his thumbs teasing strokes over them as he pushed them further apart. Katniss gripped to the other side of the counter, preparing herself, as his intentions were more than clear. If they hadn't been, the next words out of his mouth would've provided the additional clues.

"I want to taste your sweetness, Katniss. I want your juices on my chin."

"Please," she whimpered as he bent forward and rested his elbows against the glass, his mouth hovering above her dampened black panties. He brought his lips to them, his mouth parted and his hot breath seeping through the thin, lacy fabric to her tingling flesh beneath. Then he licked her through them and she cried out. And he did it again and she spread further for him, the muscles in her legs tight with anticipation. He ran his tongue along the edge of her panties where they met her inner thighs. He snaked it under the edge of them, flicking over her swollen lips briefly. And then, as she looked down at him, he carefully took the material between his teeth and shifted it to the side, exposing her heated center to him. She gasped at the unexpected but highly arousing move and arched upward as his tongue seared her clit in a short pass. It flicked over her again before sliding through her wet lips, teasing her and exploring every inch of her as though it hadn't traversed it before. She panted above him, savoring every bit of titillation and torture. Surprise shown on her face when he pulled back but he only wanted to remove her underwear completely. The slight break gave her an idea though and it was her turn to surprise him.

As his tongue found its way back into her folds, with shaky hands, she managed to reach for the slice of pie she had tasted minutes ago. Peeta noticed her movements and looked up, slowing but not ceasing his actions, curiosity in his big blue eyes. His tongue penetrated her and she nearly crushed the piece of pie in her hand but somehow she managed to keep it intact and set it down such that the point hovered right above her clit. "Taste," she encouraged, as he had for her. At his own pace, he trailed his tongue upward toward her offering. Thoughts of the movie "American Pie" crossed his mind and he felt somewhat amused, but seeing the playfulness and desire on her beautiful face, he was interested to see what could be done with this situation and how he could make that face he adored flush deeply for him. His tongue circled her clit and flicked upward to lick both her and the end of the pie wedge. It wasn't much of a taste, so he remedied that on his next pass, taking a bite of the pie, his teeth just barely grazing the hood of her flesh and earning him a strangled sound from her. He rested his chin against her as his mouth worked the piece slowly, his eyes looking up to hers, dark with lust. He took another bite and dragged his jaw along her inner thigh as he chewed and swallowed it. Then, he stood and kissed her, dipping his tongue into her mouth so she could taste the pie and taste herself. He sucked a bit of the dark filling from her lower lip and then bent back down between her thighs, adhered his mouth to her where he knew it mattered most, and sucked. Licked and sucked in a pattern that stole her breath again and again. He moved the pie back to the dish off to the side and put the flat of his tongue to her, pulling her pelvis closer and rocking her against his mouth. One of her small hands came to the back of his head, buried in his hair as he continued to lave her. Her back arched and her hips bucked as her orgasm shuddered through her.

He kissed his way back up her body until her lips met his, thanking him. He loved the array of tastes in their mouths, a reminder of each enjoyable part of their evening so far. But a true Valentine's Day taste was chocolate and the strawberries hadn't met this need nearly enough.

As he continued to kiss her, he slid a hand down her body, floating over her breast, tiptoeing down over her abdomen and coming to rest midway between her hips. His thumb lightly stroked her clit as the kiss became more heated. Her moans, though muffled, increased in volume as this continued and as he reached further to slip two fingers inside of her. His own moans nearly leapt out of his throat as she gripped him firmly through his pants and began stroking. Much as he loved it though, he didn't need any more foreplay. He told her so.

"Katniss," he said, his voice tight with need, "I just need to be inside of you."

She released him, fervently nodding her agreement, and he stepped back to hastily remove his pants and boxers. She slid down from the case, knowing its height wouldn't quite work for their next endeavor. Instead, she turned and faced the display, partially bending over the top, pressing her breasts to the glass her bottom had just been warming. She heard him suck the air in through his nose and felt the heat of his body as it moved nearer. He stopped just behind her and crouched down. She saw a movement below her and looked through the glass to see him pull out a chocolate mini-cake. It was another one of those treat-within-a-treat items like the cupcake she'd had earlier. He placed a few kisses and a light nip on her ass before standing and aligning his whole body to hers. His cock nestled between her thighs, against her lips but not inside them, he used one hand to move her braid so that it hung over her left shoulder while reaching around to hold the cake to her lips with the other. "Now, you can bite."

She thought back to his cupcake offering earlier in the evening and smirked. This was quite a bit different than earlier. She opened her mouth and took a bite of the cake, the moist crumbs and the inner chocolate sauce coating her tongue. It was like a molten chocolate cake minus the heat. That was fine; they didn't need any more heat right now. She moaned her approval at the satisfying heavy sweetness and gave pause as she felt Peeta straighten some and place the rest of the cake on the upper middle of her back. Wondering at his reasoning, she noticed that his swollen head was at her ready entrance a second before he thrust inside of her. She gripped the counter and exhaled a harsh breath. He retreated almost fully and then thrust again. She felt chocolate begin to seep from the inside of the small cake onto her back and he thrust again. She felt his tongue lap at the chocolate and he filled her again.

Her cries resounded off the glass. His fingers held a wet piece of cake to her lips and she received it, sucking the excess chocolate from his fingers as he continued his steady entry and withdrawal. She felt his tongue and his teeth on her skin as he bent to eat the remainder of the cake. It was driving her crazy - the erotic act of him feeding further from her naked body as well as the controlled action of his hips, giving her some but not all of what she wanted, what she knew he wanted too. He leaned forward and turned her face up and back to him, his mouth taking hers in a passionate kiss. It may have been the wettest, sweetest kiss they had ever shared. Sweet in taste, not in temperament. In temperament, it was lustful, hot, greedy and, appropriately, hungry. It was a kiss that demanded more. Her teeth caught his lower lip as he pulled away and his eyes flashed their pleasure for a second before he thrust into her hard and she released him on a gasp. He stood back up and slid his fingers through the remainder of the chocolate sauce on her back; she knew the sticky liquid must now be stuck to his chest as well and she longed to see it. She rose up a bit on her arms, turned to look, and grinned at the dark splotches on his otherwise fair chest.

"Like what you see?"

"Yeah. You're looking tasty...and dirty."

"Guilty as charged." His hands slid around to cup her breasts, their sticky liquid covering providing a new kind of wet friction. She moaned as he tugged at her nipples and she arched her back and pushed back against him, wanting more. He brought his hands to her shoulders and moved them down her arms, straightening them as he went such that her chest leaned fully on the counter and her arms stretched back toward Peeta. He held to her wrists, his thumbs resting over her pulse points and slowly he began to build up the intensity of his thrusts, going deeper, angling more purposefully. She laid her head down on the glass and let him take her where she knew she could trust him to. In the moments that her eyes weren't squeezed shut with sensation, she gazed down upon each and every one of Peeta's lovingly prepared creations, each well thought out for the day, each sensuous in its own way, each guaranteed to leave a positive last impression on their patrons. His talent amazed her. He amazed her…and overwhelmed her in the best ways, like he was doing right there at the front of the cafe.

Peeta moved his hands so that they were first under and then linked with hers. He bent forward and moved their left hands to the counter again for support and then he brought their right hands beneath her. His hand guided hers to the aching center of her pleasure. With his fingers as well as her own, they rubbed her clit, teased it and circled it, two persons and two hands knowing exactly what they were doing. "Peeta," she moaned, her insides turning molten as his hard cock kneaded them relentlessly and their deft fingers caused pleasure to spread from the pit of her belly to her hips and thighs and through her swollen lips in repeated tremors and jolts.

"Yes, Katniss…come for me, my valentine." His voice was gravelly with his need, with how close he was to his own precipice. It was the sexiest sound…and coupled with the slippery sounds of their bodies working together, the slight creak of the glass case from the pressure they were exerting on it, and the heated sounds of their rasping breaths and moans, it was more than enough to push her over the edge. Their hands stilled as she cried out, lost to herself, to time and space for those precious moments. Peeta gently released her hands as she quieted; his made their way to her hips and he held her firmly in place as he finished fucking her, his hips slamming into hers, his cock filling her again and again until he trembled and choked out her name.

A minute later, when they felt able to attempt to move, Peeta slid from her and moved to lean against the counter next to her. She straightened and moved to lean against him, to press her front to his. Her lips soon followed and his fingers skimmed her back as he kissed her lovingly.

"Well, one thing is certain," he said when he released her lips.

"What's that?" she asked, smiling up at him.

"The cafe's desserts are definitely better this year than last."

She laughed with him and welcomed his mouth to another leisurely taste of her own before they both pulled back once more. "Happy Valentine's Day, Peeta."

A slow smile spread across his lips. He knew this wasn't her norm, that this wasn't a day she typically recognized too greatly, but she had celebrated it with him. And not halfheartedly either. It meant a lot to him, told him things about her feelings for him even if she couldn't tell him yet herself. He knew it was only a matter of time before he voiced all of his own to her, said the exact configuration of words he'd already whispered at dawn while she was still fast asleep at a different time when she was ready to hear them. But, for now, he would tell her in other ways.

"Happy first Valentine's Day, Katniss."

The light in her eyes told him she understood…and that this would be the first of many.


A/N: Okay, there it is. Hope it was enjoyable. Also, I cited way too many things in here. I tried to bold the book stuff for reference. I referenced some movies, some actresses, and The Lumineers, none of which I own, obviously...duh. Katniss' Valentine's card is one I actually saw and darn it, now I can't find where to cite it but um, no copyright intended...kudos to the card writer. Oh, and the food in this...it all exists. Check my tumblr (everydayescapeartist dot tumblr dot com) and I may post some Peeta dessert!porn there. Yum!