A/N: Just a little fic that wouldn't leave my brain, so I had to write it down. Takes place after Mockingjay, pre- epilogue. Even though it's mentioned in the description, I thought I'd mention again that this story contains adult content (read: sex) so don't read if you're sensitive about that kind of thing.

Anything you recognize from the books is not mine. Enjoy!

"Katniss?" Peeta's warm breath tickles my ear.

"Hmm?" I murmur. I'm almost asleep for the night, folded into his warm embrace. It's part of the comfortable routine we've adopted over the past few months. We've found that being together makes coping, functioning, breathing, healing just a little easier.

"You never answered my question about the nights on the train."

All traces of sleep vanish from my body as I absorb his words. I've been avoiding this conversation like the plague ever since he brought it up a few weeks ago.

"We slept together on the trains. Real or not real?" He'd sprung the question on me one night just as I'd popped one of his fresh, still steaming hot cheese buns into my mouth. I gagged and the sizzling cheese had promptly burned my tongue. After much gasping and gulping of water, I'd gone straight to bed without another word to Peeta. When he came to lie beside me hours later, I pretended to be asleep and he made no mention of the incident in the morning. It had been forgotten until now.

Peeta is still waiting patiently for my answer and I know this conversation has to happen eventually. We're supposed to be moving on. Pushing forward. Healing. The only way to do that is to answer his question honestly, so I roll over in his arms to face him.

"Well, it was like we are now. We both had nightmares after the Games, so we slept together. It helped, having someone there to wake me up from the bad dreams- you were the only thing that kept me going through all that time in the districts and the Capitol. You held me together, kept me sane. You once told me that I did the same for you." I say, hoping this will be a sufficient enough answer for him, although I know it won't.

"Okay," he says slowly. I can see him struggling to accept the information I've given him.

And here it comes, I think. Sure enough a second later he says,

"But I mean, was it just sleep? Was there… more?" Even though it's dark, there's still enough moonlight that I can see he's blushing. The memories flood back to me and I blush myself. The gentle kisses and caresses of that night, the slightly awkward fumbling of two inexperienced lovers, the taste, and finally the heavenly smell of him. Fresh bread and cinnamon, dill and musk. Just…Peeta. Oh.

I bury my face in his bare chest, wanting to remember the smell. His chest is no longer smooth, but covered in battle scars and burns that have only just begun to heal. The uneven patches of his skin are rough against my forehead, but I lean in closer and take a deep whiff anyway to find that the smell is still there, miraculously unchanged unlike the rest of him.

"I'm sorry I have to ask," he whispers, his chin resting on the top of my head and drawing his arms tighter around me. "But Haymitch didn't know, and you're the only one who can tell me." His words shock me out of my hazy memories of touches and tastes and smells.

"You asked Haymitch!" I gasp, horrified that Peeta has been talking about that, of all things with our mentor.

"I'm sorry, Katniss. But I needed answers, and you weren't ready to give them."

He's right and I know it. I have no right to be angry with him for this, not while he's still stuck in a kind of hellish limbo between reality and shiny, venom-induced fiction. I can't reverse the torture, I can't take back the past, but I can help make him whole again. I owe him that. So I roll onto my back when I answer him, my eyes trained on the moonlit ceiling.


I hear his sharp intake of breath as he echoes me, "Once?"

"Well, not on the trains, but in the training center. Before the Quell," I say, hoping I won't have to elaborate further. The memory of that night is something that I have been trying to block out for a while, because honestly, it confuses me. I know how I felt when it happened-I was going to die and he was going to live. Being with Peeta, giving him one last bit of myself for him to remember was right. But all the events that had followed left my thoughts and emotions a tangled mess. It wasn't difficult to shove the jumble of confusion and feelings to the back of my mind with so much happening. And okay, maybe I just didn't want to deal with them then.

"Do you remember anything about that day?" I ask, suddenly curious. He's squeezing his eyes shut tight, trying desperately to remember. He shakes his head, frustrated, and then turns those impossibly blue eyes on me.

"Remind me?" he says.

You owe him this. I remind myself. You owe the Boy with the Bread. And so I begin.

"Haymitch and Effie gave us the day off before the Quell started…Actually," I amend, "they were mad at us. We both scored a 12 in our private sessions with the Gamemakers."

Peeta nods, remembering this. He's seen the footage of the televised scores.

"So we went up to the roof of the training center. We spent the whole day up there. You sketched, and I watched. We were just… ourselves. It was nice, for a change, not having to fake anything, not fighting to save each other's lives. It was one of the happiest, most peaceful days of my life." I admit, and I feel my own blush creep into my cheeks at my confession. And then Peeta, with his eyes shut again says,

"Apples. We played with apples." He opens his eyes and looks to me for confirmation.

"Yes," I say, happy that it's coming back to him. "We bounced that thing off the force field for hours."

"I remember wind chimes, and flowers, and… your hair. It was out of its braid," he says, his hand finding my plaited hair at once. He strokes the end for a moment before pulling the elastic from the bottom and combing his fingers through the plaits. He does this for a few minutes before I realize I've been watching him do this, mesmerized. More to break my trance than anything, I say,

"So it's coming back to you?"

"Bits and pieces. Not the full memory, but I can tell it's there, just out of reach. What happened next?" he prompts me.

His fingers are still in my hair, combing, stroking, and it feels so impossibly good. It's true that I've gradually allowed him back into my bed, and every once in a while we get a kiss in, but I've been so cautious about keeping my distance from him, afraid of hoping that my old Peeta will return to me. Because I know he won't. He'll never be the same again. Yet his fingers threading through my hair feels so much like the old Peeta that it's easy to keep talking. Maybe sharing this memory will bring him back to me, if only for a moment.

"We watched the sunset, and then we went back to my room." I remember the crushing fear that if we separated, even for a minute, our doors would lock and I would have to spend the night without him. I tell him this, and about how I went to take my shower and then he got his turn.

"I was brushing my hair when you came out of the bathroom in a towel." As I say it, I can clearly picture Peeta emerging from the steamy bathroom, clutching the small towel around his waist and grumbling something about having to put his dirty boxers back on because none of my pajamas would fit him.

I never hear his exact words because I'm focused on the way his dripping, tousled, blonde hair hangs over those blue eyes. My stomach swoops low in my abdomen as I appreciate his well- muscled chest, still shiny and wet from the shower and the steam. Months of training like Careers have given him defined bicep and back muscles, which stretch sinuously under his pale skin as he bends to retrieve his discarded underwear. When he straightens up and catches me looking, he blinks those long lashes curiously, his eyes boring into mine. Even with his prosthetic, Peeta looks like some sort of god in this moment. And I want him.

Just the memory of it sends wet heat pooling in my core. Makes my heart pound a bit faster, and I'm glad I'm not directly snuggled up against Peeta or he might notice my body's reaction. I continue now without his prompting as more memories flood back to me.

"We kissed. I don't know who initiated it; we sort of just fell into it. And… it was different than the others. It was our first real kiss. No cameras, no audience, just us."

His hand gently cups my face and his lips are so deliciously warm and soft against my own. For the first time since the cave so many months before, I feel that hunger- that desire for him. I stumble backward toward my bed, dragging him with me but not breaking the kiss, which is growing hungrier with each passing second. Peeta's tongue traces my lower lip and I open my mouth to allow him access. When the back of my knees hit the mattress, I fall back and he lowers himself over me- one hand fisted in my damp hair, the other on my hip.

"We ended up on the bed. You…touched me." My voice catches as his other hand- the one not threading through my hair- finds my hip and begins tracing soft circles on the sensitive skin there.

"Like this?" His lips are so close to my ear that his soft, warm breath sends shivers down my spine.

"Yes," I whisper.

"Keep going," he murmurs. His lips are at my collarbone, skimming the flesh with gentle kisses.

My fingers find the hem of my pajama top, but Peeta's hand closes around my wrist, preventing me from pulling it up.

"Are you sure?" he asks, his eyes blazing with arousal and need and…love. I know that we've reached a sort of turning point. Once we cross this line, there is no going back.

"Yes," I answer firmly. Because if I am sure of anything, it's that Peeta loves me. I know that I have one more day before I'm in that Arena, before I have to face the death sentence that Snow has placed upon my head. The least I can do is give him something to remember my by when I'm gone and he's out there, rallying the rebels into action with his gift of words. As one of my final acts on this earth I will give him a last memory of me to hold onto.

My heart is hammering against my ribcage and I'm so overwhelmed with memories that it's becoming difficult to get the words out, but I continue the story as Peeta requested.

"You touched my breasts." My voice falters as his large hand slides up into my shirt and begins slowly massaging the swollen flesh. He brushes his fingers across my nipples, which are already hard in my arousal for him. I take note of Peeta's own hardness, pressed firmly against my thigh. I'm not quite sure what to do. His ministrations feel incredible and his touches seem to be bringing back the memory for him, so I stay as still as possible allowing him to explore my body, afraid that any movement on my part will break his trance and he'll revert back to hijacked Peeta- the one who doesn't love me, the one who thinks I'm a killer mutt.

My shirt lays discarded on the floor, and Peeta looks down at me with something like reverence. He shakes his head as I squirm a little, slightly uncomfortable- as I always have been- with nudity.

"Katniss, stop. You're perfect," he says almost scolding, before dipping his face down and capturing one of my breasts in his mouth. He licks and suckles and nips, paying close attention to my reaction to each technique before moving his affections to my other breast. I gasp at the sensations, so new and pleasurable. Without fully meaning to, my chest arches up into his mouth and I thread my fingers through his hair.

Peeta's fingers lightly trace the scars that now mar my stomach and breasts. His lips have left my collarbone and are moving slowly down my chest to the low neckline of my shirt. Here he pauses and glances up at me, his eyes smoldering with pure need and love again. We've reached that line once more and I know he's asking for my consent- he won't go further than this if I don't want him to. Always the perfect gentleman.

I nod, my eyes never leaving his and he gently lifts my top up and over my head. I have to tell myself to keep still, to leave my arms by my sides instead of crossing them over my chest to cover the ugly scars.

"You're perfect," Peeta whispers, kissing me softly. It's the first time our lips have met tonight and I want nothing more than to keep kissing him, but a lump is forming in my throat as I realize what his words mean.

"You remember?" I break away from him, daring for a moment to hope that the memory has come back to him, that I'm not the only one of us who remembers that first time.

"Some. Bits and pieces like I said before, but it's coming together… This happens next, right?" And his mouth is on my breast once again; more practiced than the first time and I can't stop myself from letting out a soft moan, my hands tracing the lines of his broad, strong shoulders.

Peeta's fingers wander down my stomach and come to rest on at the apex of my thighs, cupping me with his hand. The pressure intensifies my need, and I let out a loud moan into his mouth when he slips two fingers inside my underwear. He strokes my slick flesh with his calloused baker's hand and I gasp when he finds the bundle of nerves located at my core. It's something I've discovered once or twice on my own before, but it never felt as incredible as it does now with Peeta's fingers instead of my own. He repeats the motion again and again until I'm moaning and thrashing and breathless under him.

"And now…this," Peeta says, and his hand trails the familiar path down my stomach and into my underwear. I'm glad he seems to be remembering without my help now, because I'm rendered incapable of speech as he strokes me, finding a rhythm that has me panting and thrusting into his hand. This time he slips a finger inside me and I almost topple over the edge when he curls it forward, igniting a fire within me.

He suddenly withdraws his hand and I whimper at the loss. Then I realize that he's tugging my pants and underwear down, so lift my legs to make it easier for him. His mouth finds mine once more as he drapes himself over me; our sweaty, scarred bodies flush against one another. Peeta is pressed into every line of me- his shorts the only thing in our way.

I can feel his own need pressing against me through them, so I let my hand trail down his back, coming to rest on his hip and begin to peel the underwear down his legs. Peeta sits up to allow this, and after I toss them to the floor I wrap my hand around his pulsing erection, stroking the way he showed me the first time.

When Peeta's erection first springs out in front of me, I'm immediately intimidated by it. I'd seen pictures back in school of course, but none had prepared me for the real thing. I can't imagine anything that large ever fitting inside a woman, much less me, small and starved and underdeveloped. Peeta seems to sense my hesitation, and places his warm hand gently over mine, guiding me to him. He's smooth and very firm as I gradually pick up the technique he shows me; gentle strokes back and forth, my fingers lingering to trace circles on his tip. He throws his head back and moans with pleasure when I do this so I speed up my motions slightly, wanting him to enjoy every second of this time together.

Something to remember my by when I'm gone.

But then he grasps my wrist again and pulls my hand away from him.

"Sorry," he pants. "I don't want this to be over too soon." I'm not entirely sure what he means by this, but I nod anyway, not wanting to display my lack of experience. He props himself up on his elbows over me so as not to crush me with his weight and he grasps my breast again, kneading the flesh while he brings his lips back to mine. Through the clashing of tongues and teeth, I'm aware that his tip is pressed right against my entrance. And I want him. I want him inside me. Now.

This time, I guide him closer to my entrance as I stroke him.

"This next," I say breathlessly as he slides back and forth through my slick folds, coating himself in my arousal. I'm suddenly nervous, remembering the feeling of the first time.

Peeta looks to me for confirmation one last time. I mean to nod again, or smile, or do something to reassure both him and myself that I'm ready for this. But instead, I blurt out,

"I've never done this before." Immediately, I blush and turn away from his gaze. I'm pinned beneath him so I can't go anywhere, but I bury my face in a pillow to hide my embarrassment.

"Katniss?" He tugs the pillow away from my face and I feel a hand on my cheek, coaxing me to open my eyes. "It's okay. I've never done it either…we don't have to if you're not ready." He starts to shift off me, but I reach up to grab his arm.

"No! I want to… I'm just… nervous." I don't have to say anything more. Peeta gets it. He knows I'm not a stranger to pain, he doesn't like seeing me in pain, and he certainly doesn't want to be the one inflicting the pain.

"Tell me right away if it hurts and I'll stop," he says. I nod and whisper,


He begins pushing into me slowly, inch by inch. It's not so bad at first, just a little pressure, but then I feel as though a white-hot blade is slicing through me and I cry out in agony. He stills immediately.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Katniss. What should I do?"

"Just… give me a minute," I gasp out. The hurt is still there, though not as intense as it was initially, as my body struggles to adjust to this foreign situation and to the sheer size of him. Peeta stays as still inside me as possible, stroking my face and lips, brushing stray strands of hair from my forehead.

I try to relax around him, and the irritation lessens slightly. It's now or never. I push my hips up into his, taking him a little deeper. It still hurts, but it is bearable. Peeta gets the idea and finds a slow, steady, gentle rhythm. In and out. In and out.

This time when Peeta pushes into me, I feel some initial discomfort as my body stretches to accommodate his considerable size, but I am pleased to find that it fades fairly quickly.

"Does it hurt?" he asks. His eyes are filled with concern and guilt. He actually feels guilty about causing me pain last time, but I take this as a good sign because it means he really does remember. I dare for a moment to hope that my old Peeta might come back to me.

I shake my head. "A little, but not much," I answer honestly. He searches my face to see if I'm telling the truth, and apparently finding no evidence of a lie because he says,

"Tell me if I need to stop." And he picks up his methodical rhythm. In and out. In and out. With the pain all but gone, I can appreciate how good he feels inside me. The immensely pleasurable feeling of fullness. That it is Peeta, my Peeta inside me now.

He's gasping and thrusting above me, and when one of his hands drifts down to find that sensitive bundle of nerves again, I moan loudly at the sensation. My hips lift up to meet his hand and he responds with added pressure of his fingers. My pleasure intensifies, and I know I'm chasing something just out of reach. It's hard to believe that I've done this once before with Peeta, yet it feels so different now. Maybe it's because we're different people in a different situation. Trying to heal instead of survive.

It's not long before Peeta's thrusts become faster and more erratic. Then his eyes slam shut and he gasps above me. I feel him swell even larger as a rush of warmth swirls within me. Panting, he drapes himself over me, and rests his head on my shoulder. I stroke his hair and back as his breathing and heart rate return to normal. He rolls off me.

"I'm sorry," he frowns. "I wanted to hold out for you." I'm a little confused, so I shake my head.

"No, it's okay. It started to feel good after a while," I say. Peeta looks at me curiously.

"Haven't… haven't you ever had an orgasm before, Katniss?" I still have no idea what he's talking about, and I'm embarrassed that I am once again displaying my inexperience. But Peeta seems to require no further explanation. He grins a little wickedly.

"Well, let's fix that," he says. He reaches for his discarded towel on the floor and gently cleans the area between my legs. Then before I can anticipate his next move, his mouth is on me. He runs the tip of his tongue teasingly over my sensitive flesh before diving in, lavishing me with his tongue and lips. Kissing, licking, sucking. And oh, nothing has ever felt this good in my entire life. His damp blonde hair brushes the inside of my thighs as he works away, his lips fastened securely around my most sensitive spot.

I can't keep from fisting my fingers in his hair and thrusting my hips up to his heavenly mouth, needing more pressure, more friction. I feel a spot of warmth growing in my center and I scream out Peeta's name when the circle of warmth expands, finally exploding in a fiery wave that courses through my entire body, right down to the tips of my fingers and toes.

Peeta lips stay with me as I come down from my high. He kisses me there once before wiping his mouth on the towel and swooping over me to give me a sweet, chaste kiss.

"There," he smiles in a self- satisfied way. "That's what I'm talking about."

Peeta's thrusts are once again becoming harder, more hurried. But this time I'm right there with him. I can feel the fire growing inside me as he pumps into me, his fingers still circling my most sensitive spot. I can see the fire in his eyes, and I know he's close too. This time we're in completely in sync, so when he leans down to give me a kiss we come undone together. The fire shoots through me, even more powerful than before and I'm aware of the same rush of warmth that means Peeta is experiencing his own high.

We clutch each other for a long time as we come down together. After a while, I'm finding it difficult to breathe with Peeta's weight bearing down on me so he rolls off and pulls me into his chest.

As I lie in his arms, a confusing mixture of emotions comes over me while my brain struggles to comprehend them. I didn't have sex with Peeta tonight. No. Sex is too common a word for what just occurred. I made love with Peeta. And it wasn't just for him either, like I'd told myself in the beginning. Somewhere along the line tonight, it stopped being about hunger and desire and survival and it became about us. I realize that what I feel is love for Peeta. It's not an entirely new or unfamiliar feeling; in this moment I understand that I've loved him for a long time, it just took me until now to recognize it.

Peeta is stroking my cheek with a sleepy smile on his face, completely oblivious to my revelation. But then I remember he's known all along that he loves me- this is how he feels about me all the time. I'm overwhelmed with guilt for the way I've treated him up until now and I know that Haymitch is right- I'll never deserve Peeta.

I haven't changed my plan for the Arena. If anything, tonight has strengthened my resolve. I will still go into the Games protecting Peeta as fiercely as I can until it's time for me to die. Hopefully, he'll remember this night and go on.

He kisses me one last time on the forehead before he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep. I lay awake for some time after he falls into unconsciousness, reveling in the peaceful rise and fall of his chest. When I'm sure he's deeply ensconced in his dreams (or usually in our case- nightmares) I whisper,

"I love you," and I let my exhaustion pull me under.

Not for the first time tonight, I'm hit with the sense of Déjà vu as the feelings I've tried to suppress for so long come bubbling to the surface. A tear slips down my face before I can stop it and Peeta wipes it gently away with his thumb. I want to tell him what I've only dared to say when he was asleep before. I love you. But the words won't come. I'm so afraid that this is a dream- that I'll wake up at any minute and Peeta will think I'm a mutt once more. And I can't recover from that. Not again.

He pulls me even closer to his muscled, scarred chest. After a while I stop trying to suppress the tears and he holds me as they flow freely. This is the first time since my arrival back in District 12 that I've let my guard down, allowed myself to really feel, and the weight of everything crashes down on me. The Games, the war, the deaths of so many I held dear. I cry and Peeta doesn't try to stop me. He knows I need this and he strokes my hair soothingly as I weep.

Almost an hour later when the tears finally subside and my sobs recede into soft hiccups, he kisses my forehead again and gives me a sad smile. My head is surprisingly clear after my fit. I find myself wishing I'd done that a long time ago, because now I can see that my Peeta has been beside me all this time. He still struggles with his flashbacks and shiny memories and venom- induced nightmares, but he's here with me, helping me heal.

I tilt my chin up and bring my mouth to his. The kiss is wet and salty from my tears, but it still sends warm tingles all over my body. When we break apart, Peeta gives me a searching look.

"You love me. Real or not real?" he asks. I look into those blue eyes and there's only one answer I can give.

"Real," I say.

And then because I feel that I owe it to him after all this time to say aloud what I've known for over a year, I tell him, "I love you, Peeta."

He doesn't need to say it back. I already know how he feels about me. So I draw the blankets tighter around our naked forms, and rest my head upon my designated spot on Peeta's chest, his strong and steady heartbeat pounding against my cheek.

I'm lost in the revelation that he fought his way back to me, and I wonder how he can still want me, broken and scarred and disturbed as I am.

I'm damaged goods.

But then, so is he. Peeta has suffered even more so than myself, and yet my ever- optimistic dandelion in the spring has fought his way back to me, just as he always will. Peeta is the only constant, dependable thing in my life since that fateful reaping day a lifetime ago.

I marvel at how far I've traveled tonight- from tolerating Peeta's presence here to depending on it for my survival.

Because what I've come to realize is that I can't survive without my dandelion in the spring, my Boy with the Bread. I can't survive without my Peeta.

A/N: Ok, I have to admit that I've read plenty of wonderful smut, but this is my first attempt at writing it (never mind two smut scenes in conjunction with one another!) Writing sex is such a personal and intimate thing, and I kind of feel like I'm baring my soul here. I'm a little nervous posting it, but I'm curious to know if it worked for you. Please let me know in the reviews- it's the only way I can gauge if you liked it or not!

I'm also on tumblr: ofpearlsandshoelaces . tumblr . com