AN: Happy birthday to my dearest non-nurse nursing BFF, Kismet4891! I sincerely hope you enjoy this little bit that turned into a healthy one-shot. If I had the savvy to somehow attach a picture of Charlie Hunnam and a plate of cookies to this, I assure you I would.

The flash of red is the first thing that catches his eye. Peeta straightens up from the custom chopper he's been working on all morning and runs the back of his forearm across his face, catching the beads of sweat that rest there. It's been a long while since he's seen this car around the shop or the club, but the slight girl with corn silk blond hair still looks the same.

Primrose Everdeen gives him a shy smile as she slips by his workstation to one of the lifts further inside the garage. Rory Hawthorne turns with a smile when she calls his name over the sounds of power tools, but the smile quickly fades, replaced by an unusual frown. Typically, when the kid has his girl around him, he can't stop smiling. The club is always making fun of the Prospect, making sure he knows he's whipped.

Peeta watches as Rory tugs a hand roughly through his thick, dark hair, not unlike his older brother's. It's a nervous habit and Peeta wonders if Prim is ending things with the poor sap.

"What's eating him?" Gale questions as he walks up beside Peeta, wiping his hands on a ratty towel already filled with grease.

Peeta turns to look at the olive-skinned man. Gale Hawthorne looks remarkably like his younger brother. He's tall and dark, muscular, but not broad in the shoulders like Peeta. He has a slimmer body, a characteristic not uncommon to kids raised in the Seam, Peeta has noticed.

He shrugs, ruffling a hand through his sweat-dampened curls, "Dunno. Prim just drove up and whatever she's got to say has him worked up."

Gale's amusement quickly transforms itself into a scowl as he watches their interactions. "Something's wrong," he observes through narrowed, grey eyes.

Peeta looks between the man beside him and the couple across the garage. Sure, Rory and Prim both look unhappy, but he wonders how Gale can know this without hearing a word their saying. Then again, Gale has practically grown up with the Everdeens, so he has a better read on the petite blond before them.

They wait until Rory shuts Prim into her little red sedan before Gale turns to his younger brother with an inquisitive look. The worry doesn't leave Rory's face as he walks over to them, his hands fumbling nervously with one another.

"What did Prim need?" Gale asks, watching the younger man closely, reading his every twitch.

Rory doesn't hesitate to answer, "Katniss is missing."

Gale's shoulders tense visibly at this admission and Peeta nearly drops the wrench he's working with. It's been a long time since Katniss's name made its way into the shop. She hasn't made an appearance since she and Gale broke things off over a year ago. Peeta hasn't forgotten a single damn detail about her though, much to his dismay. He knows he's only asking for trouble.

"What do you mean she's missing?" Gale demands, his voice strangely hoarse all of the sudden, his hand clutching his grease rag hard enough that his knuckles turn white.

"She never came home from work the other night," Rory explains, shifting uncomfortably under his brother's gaze. "Prim said she should have been home around ten and she never showed. She thought maybe Katniss was out with a friend or something but she didn't send a text and she hasn't come home since."

Gale's frown deepens. His voice is quieter when he continues, "Is their mom around?"

Rory shakes his head and Peeta's gut twists uncomfortably. He doesn't know much about the dynamics of the Everdeen family, but he knows enough that he understands that Katniss's mother is about as fucked up as they come. She wasn't always, of course, but when Mr. Everdeen died prematurely, she never quite recovered. She's been hooked on crack ever since and it's been known to cause the girls problems, especially when she suddenly takes off for weeks at a time.

Gale lets out a heavy sigh, one that flares his nostrils slightly. He looks to the blond man beside him and then at the door to the garage office. He doesn't say a word as he throws down the grease rag and heads for the office.

Rose Mellark-Crane barely glances up when the boys walk through her doorway. She's busy riffling through the business's old filing cabinets and doesn't seem to care about giving them the time of day.

"Where's Crane?" Gale asks bluntly. Rose arches an eyebrow at the young man as she continues filing papers.

"Hell if I should know. What do you want him for?" she questions disinterestedly.

"Club business."

Her eyes finally look up from her work, questioning Peeta whether this is the truth. He nods. Sure, it's not actually club business, but she doesn't need to know all the details of it. He's learned that the less his mother knows of what's going on, the better it is for everyone. She's a meddlesome, mean-spirited woman, and Peeta has grown tired of her hand stirring the pot over the years.

Crane isn't much better in his mind. The older man took over the club after his father was killed in an accident and it's never been the same. Now they're running guns and killing rivals left and right. The club was never up to its elbows in shit until Crane took over. All Peeta really wants is to get out while he's still alive and out of prison. It's not an easy task though and he's been trying fruitlessly to come up with a reasonable excuse as to why he should leave the Sons of Anarchy behind.

"What kind of club business?" Crane grumbles as he makes his way into the office. "So far as I heard, we were all good with the other clubs."

Gale steps forward, "Katniss never made it home a few nights ago. I think her mom has been dealing with the Mayans again, buying crack."

Surprise washes over Crane's face for a moment before he manages to hide it under a façade of neutrality again. He remembers Katniss, of course, she was around for years as Gale's girl. Crane's cold eyes find Peeta's. He remembers that night too. The one where he found the two of them shit faced and in bed together. It wasn't long after that when Katniss and Gale decided to break things off. Peeta made his stepfather swear never to speak of it to Gale, but he's still not sure whether the older man can be trusted to keep the secret.

"That doesn't sound like a club problem. Sounds like a family issue," Crane replies after a long silence.

"Then give me the afternoon off." Gale demands, his fists clenching at his sides. To him, Katniss is family and he doesn't take well to people who don't take family seriously. "I can't just leave her in their sadistic hands."

Crane presses his lips into a thin line, eyeing the boys suspiciously before giving a short nod. "Fine. Go, but be back here tomorrow and ready to work."

Gale is out the door before anyone has a chance to change his mind and Peeta turns to follow him.

"I suppose you're going with him, aren't you, boy?" Crane asks sarcastically, a smirk pulling at his lips.

The hairs on the back of Peeta's neck bristle. To be honest, he's never really liked his stepfather. There's always been something off about the older man. Perhaps it is his utter lack of morality, but he just doesn't sit quite right with the golden-haired, Mellark.

"He needs backup," Peeta reasons lowly, his tone giving away his irritation with the other man.

His mother scoffs from her seat, shaking her head, "You know that slut will never have anything to do with you now. You got your dick wet once and that's all you'll get."

His heart rate increases threefold at his mother's words. She's always hated Katniss for some reason no one seems to understand, but she became especially derogatory once she discovered Peeta has feelings toward the Seam girl.

"You should just go after one of the bunnies that hangs around the club. At least they're willing to keep fucking you if you give them the title of old lady." Rose cackles harshly, earning a smile from Crane.

Peeta turns and leaves the office before he has a chance to do something stupid that he'll regret later. Gale already has his old truck started up and he's waiting in the driver's seat for Peeta.

"Do you know where they'll be keeping her?" Peeta asks as he jumps into the passenger seat and buckles in.

Gale throws the vehicle into gear and they speed out of the garage lot. "There's an old house that the Mayans use to cook and distribute. There's nothing around for miles so they've probably got her there."

"They usually keep the place armed?" Peeta questions, pulling out the handgun he keeps tucked under his cut.

Gale shakes his head, "Nah. Not much anyway. There aren't many crack heads dumb enough to go up against the Mayans."

The place is a dump, the perfect picture of a crack house. It's an old farmhouse, set up on a slight hill on a barren expanse of land. The yard looks like it's never been cared for, dry weeds growing up everywhere and vines tangling along the sagging chain link fence that surrounds the front yard. There's even an old, faded, 'beware of the dog' sign hanging from the front gate despite the apparent lack of dog.

Peeta and Gale enter the yard silently, or as silently as Peeta's heavy tread allows for. The house itself has definitely seen better days. The roof over the porch sags dangerously, ready to collapse any minute. Several windows are boarded up with cheap plywood, and most of those that aren't sport cracks in their glass panes.

"Looks like no one's here," Peeta mutters under his breath. There aren't any other cars or bikes around, and there's no light on in the house that they can see.

"Maybe we lucked out," Gale replies. "You go around back and see if you can get inside that way."

The backdoor is locked, naturally, but Peeta didn't expect it to be that easy. He tries one of the windows that isn't boarded up and it slides open with a screech. He cringes, but manages to slide inside without making too much noise, his feet landing with a quiet thud on the floor below.

He appears to be in some sort of bedroom, a filthy mattress pushed up into the corner of the room with a pile of dirty blankets on top of it. There are clothes scattered across the floor and several pairs of underwear that he'd rather not think about. Used needles are scattered across every surface as well, but there isn't a soul in sight.

Peeta frowns as he steps further into the room. Something just doesn't feel right. If Katniss is really here, why would they just leave her unattended? He presses his back to the wall covered in torn wallpaper. The soft clink of glass falling to the ground is the only warning Peeta gets before hell breaks loose. The thunder of gunshots fills his ears and Peeta swears under his breath, yanking the gun out of its holster and returning fire around the doorframe. Several voices shout out in Spanish followed by another round of shots.

"Peeta!" Gale shouts, accompanied by the crash of the front door opening. More frantic shouting follows as Peeta rushes out of the room, returning fire to the four men in the living room of the broken down house.

He shoots one down as Gale hits another one. "Throw the guns on the ground!" Gale yells to the two remaining Mayans. The silence that follows is deafening, the pounding of Peeta's heartbeat filling his ears so all he can hear is the rushing of blood.

The two men slowly bend down, arms raised as they settle their guns to the ground with quiet metallic thuds. Gale quickly kicks the weapons out of their reach before looking to Peeta.

"You good?"

Peeta nods, gun still at the ready as he tries to slow his heart back down. "Where is she?" Peeta demands of the two men on the ground before them.

"Where she deserves to be!" one spits with a heavy accent. "She owes the club a lot of money."

Gale's foot makes contact with the man's ribcage almost before the words are out of his mouth. "She doesn't owe you shit!"

The Mayan shouts in pain, distracting everyone just long enough that Peeta sees a flash of metal only seconds before a shot rings out and a tongue of fire bores into his thigh.

"Fuck!" Peeta shouts, wasting no time before sinking a bullet into the bastard's skull. Gale takes the opportunity to finish the other man off as well.

"Shit," Peeta mutters as he inspects the bullet wound, blood gushing freely down his leg.

"Here," Gale hands him a cloth that looks relatively clean considering the state of the house. "Tie it up. Let's find Katniss and get the hell out of here."

Peeta bites the inside of his cheek to repress a moan as he ties the cloth as tightly as he can, hoping it will stem the blood flow long enough that he can find someone with the skills to sew him back up.

"I'll search upstairs," Gale states, already heading for the staircase on the other side of the room. "You try the basement. I doubt they'd keep her on the main floor."

Peeta nods, wincing as he puts weight on his injured leg. It doesn't feel like the bullet caught any bone though, which is good news. They part ways, Peeta heading into the musty, damp basement that spans the entire underside of the house. It's not finished, and the only light comes from single incandescent bulb that hangs from a wire, barely illuminating half of the space. There are boxes everywhere and he can hear the quiet scratching that signals there are probably a fair number of mice living down here.

A shiver runs through him at the thought of Katniss being kept prisoner in this shithole. His feet shuffle loudly along the dusty floor as he makes his way between stacks of moldy boxes and old newspapers.

"Katniss?" He calls quietly, his voice echoing in the far corners of the room.

A soft whimper comes from somewhere to his right and he heads off toward the sound. It's pitch black in this corner, all light blocked out by the piles of junk stacked up around him.

"Katniss?" He repeats, shuffling forward slowly in hopes that she might make a sound again. The toe of his shoe bumps into something soft and a shaky cry breaks the silence.

"Katniss!" Peeta's hands are reaching toward the floor in an instant, finding chilled skin and damp fabric. His hands scramble around her body, attempting to identify what part of her he's touching. She gives a shuddering groan when his fingers finally brush against her cheek and the strands of thick, dark hair he can recall so well.

"Are you alright?" Peeta whispers, his voice shaking involuntarily at the thought of what the Mayans might have done to her.

A long silence follows in which their breathing is the only sound aside from the occasional squeaking mouse.

"Yes," she breathes just when Peeta begins to think that she's fallen unconscious.

The pads of his thumbs brush over her cheekbones, catching trails of wetness that he can only hope are just tears.

"She's not upstairs, Peeta," Gale says as his feet hit the stairs, which creak under the weight of him.

"She's down here," Peeta says softly, "in the corner. Do you have a flashlight? I don't want to move her without seeing what they've done to her first."

A beam of light illuminates the ground next to Katniss who moans softly, turning her head away from it. Anger flashes through Peeta's veins faster than a fire would through this shitty old house.

"Oh, Catnip," Gale murmurs as he hurries to kneel beside her. "I'm so sorry."

Her eyes are black and nearly swollen shut but she manages to crack one, revealing a silver iris that still manages to stop Peeta's heart in its tracks. Her lip is split clean down the middle, blood trickling slowly from it, dribbling down her chin. Her cheeks are still wet with the tears that Peeta had tried to wipe away only moments ago. What he can see of her arms and legs is mottled with bruises and cuts.

"Take me home, Gale." She whimpers, reaching her arms up shakily and wrapping them around his neck. He scoops her up easily, her thin, though athletically built, frame causing him no difficulty.

She buries her face against Gale's neck once they step onto the main level of the house where sunlight streams in through the windows. He doesn't seem to mind though. He only continues to whisper quietly to her. Peeta can't take his eyes off the pair, his heart thudding loudly in his ears.

Part of him wishes that he hadn't already killed the damn Mexicans responsible for this. He wishes he had waited so he could make them suffer like they did her. Most of all, Peeta wishes that it was his neck she chose to wrap her arms around.

Gale settles her into the truck as gently as he can but Peeta catches the way her face still contorts with pain. "We're going to go home, Catnip," Gale reassures her in a hushed tone, one that Peeta is sure he's not intended to hear. "You're safe now."

She nods slowly, her head appearing too heavy for her body. Gale leans forward, gently brushing his lips against her temple before he shuts the door to the truck.

"I'll ride in the bed," Peeta offers needlessly. He's not about to force Katniss into squishing her body against his when she's in so much pain. Gale nods, hurrying around the truck for the driver's seat. Peeta hesitates before jumping into the back of the truck, still dumbstruck by the state of the girl before him. She's always been so strong, so vivacious. She might not be like the girls that hang around the club and giggle all the time, but her smiles light up the entire room. She's a treasure, and Peeta doesn't take kindly to the thought that anyone has treated her otherwise.

She cracks one swollen eye, her silver eye finding his own deep blue ones and in that instant, Peeta Mellark knows he's a goner. He won't leave her side again until he knows for certain that she's safe. He climbs into the truck and lays down, finally allowing the adrenaline coursing through his veins to recede, leaving behind that utter exhaustion that always comes with a day like this. His leg throbs painfully and he looks down to see the bandage completely saturated with blood, shining in the late afternoon sunlight like a ruby.

They pull up outside of a building Peeta has only seen a handful of times. It's one of the old housing projects, long since forgotten by the government and left to rot along with its inhabitants. It's always bothered Peeta that Katniss lives here, but she's Seam through and through and she's not about to think she's too good for this place.

A couple of burly looking guys sit around the front stoop of the apartment complex smoking blunts in broad daylight. They eye the trio casually as they puff the acrid smoke into the air. Gale helps Katniss out of the car, her limbs slowly unfolding as she steps down to the cracked pavement.

"Are you sure you can walk, Catnip?" Gale questions worriedly but she shakes her head as she takes several limping steps, clearly favoring her right leg.

"I'm not letting you carry me in there," she states fiercely. "No one is going to respect me if I do."

Gale's nostrils flare, but he doesn't argue the point further. Even Peeta knows her well enough to know that it would be useless anyway. Once Katniss Everdeen has made up her mind about something, it's damn near impossible to change it.

Katniss lives on the top floor of the building. Peeta is acutely aware of this as she winces with each step they take up the seven flights of stairs. He wants to reach out and help her, but he knows she'll only be furious with him. Katniss doesn't like being labeled as weak.

Gale pounds on the peeling green door once they finally arrive and a series of clicks follows. Prim's light blue eye is visible once she cracks the door open and it widens in shock when she see's Katniss.

"Oh, god, Katniss," the door shuts and the sound of chains echoes in the hallway before it swings open again. "Bring her in," Prim orders, her EMT training already taking over as she settles into her take-action mode.

"I'm okay, Prim," Katniss assures her baby sister, but it falls on deaf ears as Prim rushes around the kitchen, gathering her bag of medical supplies and plenty of towels.

Katniss glances helplessly between the men standing in front of her and frowns when her eyes roam over Peeta's form. "Peeta, you're hurt."

He shrugs, trying to ignore the spinning in his head. Gale pulls a chair out and shoves him into it, earning a yelp from Peeta as his leg is jostled. Prim returns to the table and lets out a worried sigh when she sees the saturated bandage wrapped around his leg.

"What is it?" she questions as she pulls on gloves and her delicate hands begin to work at releasing the bandage.

"A bullet," Peeta answers shortly. "Damn Mayan got me right before I got him."

Prim nods as she probes around the wound. Peeta grunts when she presses a gloved finger inside the bullet hole. Sweat prickles along his forehead and he bites his bottom lip.

"Looks like it's still lodged in there," Prim explains, her lips pressed together tightly, "Doesn't seem to have hit any bone though. I just need to get the bullet out. And I think it might have hit a pretty decent vein so I'll sew that up too."

"How long are we talking, Prim?" Gale questions anxiously, suddenly much more interested in Peeta's injury now that it appears to be more grievous than either man initially thought.

She shrugs her petite shoulders, "It won't take long to get the bullet out, I don't think. But he's going to need to recuperate. He should stay here so I can keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't get infected."

She digs in her bag, pulling out a set of forceps and what looks to be a suture kit, though Peeta tries not to look at it for too long. The sight of the needle makes him queasy just thinking about what she'll be doing with it.

"Shit." Gale mutters, running a large hand through his dark hair. Peeta offers the other man a tight smile, which quickly turns into a grimace as Prim starts searching for the bullet. "I guess I'll be the one that has to break it to your old man that you're out of commission for a while."

Peeta shrugs, trying his best to shoot his friend a nonchalant look, but failing when Prim probes deeper. "I'd rather it be you than me, man."

Gale eyes Peeta as the sweat begins to stream down the blond man's face. He nods after a moment, "Fine. I'll let them all know."

"Sounds grand, Gale," Peeta spits as Prim manages to extract the bullet cleanly, blood oozing quickly from the wound again.

Gale steps forward, pressing his lips softly to Katniss's forehead, "Will you be okay?"

"You know me, Gale." She nods, trying her best to lighten the tension in the room. "I'll be fine."

The Seam children lock eyes for a long moment until Gale finally seems to believe her words and nods. He thanks Prim and tells her to call his disposable cell if she needs anything.

Peeta manages to stay quiet while Prim continues her work until all of the sudden it feels like a bolt of lightning shooting up his leg, burning a path straight through him. He shouts and nearly kicks the girl kneeling beside him, for which he promptly apologizes profusely. However, it's not until a small hand settles in his that the pain begins to recede. He stares at her olive skin, littered with bruises and cuts, but still more beautiful than any hand he's ever held before.

Two nights later, once he's settled in their mother's empty bed, Peeta finds himself unable to sleep. It's not that he's afraid Mrs. Everdeen is going to walk in any minute. She's probably shacking up with some new crack dealer- one that she doesn't owe thousands of dollars like the Mayans.

No. The reason Peeta Mellark can't sleep is because there's only a short hallway separating him from her. He can't bar the memory of their one night together from his mind: the way she panted his name, how it felt to be buried deep inside of her, the way her folds tasted on his tongue, the beauty of her sheer ecstasy when she fell apart underneath him.

His cock twitches traitorously beneath the sheets and he scruffs a hand over his face in frustration. He shouldn't even be able to think about that night anymore. He betrayed Gale. He's certain that night is the reason Katniss ended things with her childhood sweetheart. But here he is, torn between the guilt and the overwhelming desire to jerk off to the memory of her.

The red numbers on the clock read three thirty when he hears the door creak on its hinges. He assumes it's only Prim coming to check on him. She still seems pretty concerned that he'd lost so much blood. Katniss's injuries were mild, the worst of which were a few cracked ribs and bruised muscles. Thankfully, they hadn't attempted to use her in other, more horrific ways. Peeta feels sick at the thought of someone violating her.

It's not Prim's voice that he hears once the door opens though, "Peeta, are you awake?"

His heart stutters in his chest at the soft tones of her voice as he leans up on his elbows, "Yeah."

She steps inside, the moonlight drifting through the open window beside him providing enough illumination to see the overlarge t-shirt she's wearing. It's enough for him to see that it ends just above the middle of her thighs as well. Heat pools in his groin as he screws his eyes shut for a moment, wishing away these feelings that he shouldn't be having.

Katniss doesn't ask before she slips under the sheets with him, turning over so they face one another, heads resting only inches apart. From this close, her eyes remind him of the moonlight, silver and flecked with shades of blue. She's beautiful; there's no point in trying to deny it.

"I couldn't sleep," she offers after a long silence during which they just gaze at one another.

Peeta can't stop himself before a hand moves to brush several strands of her dark, glossy hair back from her face. Her eyes are less swollen now and she can open them, though they are still a deep shade of purple. Prim doctored up the cuts that covered her body but there wasn't much else she could do for her big sister. Most of her healing will have to happen with time, much to Peeta's dismay. Her skin is still covered in bruises; even her thighs sported some nasty shades of red and purple before she curled up beneath the covers just now.

"That's understandable," he murmurs, letting his fingers tangle softly in her hair. "Are you in pain?"

She shakes her head, a frown pulling at the corners of her mouth, "I'm okay. The Vicodin Prim gave me makes it so I hardly feel my ribs."

"Then what's wrong?" he asks softly, brushing the pad of his thumb over the soft skin along the column of her neck. "Nightmares?"

She nods, and Peeta swears his heart shatters for her. Gale mentioned it occasionally; that she would wake up screaming sometimes with the night terrors. The memory of her father's death still haunted her though she would lie to anyone that asked.

"It's okay, Katniss," Peeta murmurs, tucking her head under his chin as he settles her closer to him. He can't honestly say it's a selfless act since his blood heats in his veins when he feels her soft breath against his bare chest. "You're safe here. I won't let anyone hurt you."

"It's not me I'm afraid for," she admits quietly, her voice little more than a squeak.

Peeta frowns again, gazing down at the head of dark hair tucked comfortably against his chest. Then suddenly her hand is trailing over his stomach, the muscles tightening instinctively as his cheeks flush with heat. Lower, lower. His cock twitches with anticipation, and he's almost certain she can feel it against her thigh, though she doesn't acknowledge it. Just before her fingers skim the top of his boxers, they dart to the side, sliding down his thigh to rest over the clean bandage Prim dressed his wound with.

She lifts her head so those quicksilver eyes meet his own blue ones, dark with a passion that she incited. "I'm worried about you," she confesses softly, the words barely a whisper on a breath.

Peeta tries to control his breath that escapes him in heavy pants, his body too wound up to really make sense of what's happening. Her free hand moves up to palm his cheek, brushing against the scruff of blond hair that grows along his jaw.

He doesn't know what to say. Does he admit to her that his dreams are nearly all nightmares now? Does he tell her that his nightmares are only ever about losing her? Does he tell her that he's loved her since he first met her when they were still only children?

Peeta doesn't want to frighten her though, and he fears that's exactly what these admissions would do. "Don't," he murmurs instead, his voice begging her to listen as he pulls her hand away from his bandage. "Don't worry about me, Katniss. I'll be fine. You just take care of yourself."

She looks away, her eyes darting around the room, unable to look him in the eye. It's the tearstains on her cheeks that cause a stab of worry in his gut.

He cups her face in his hands, forcing her to meet his gaze as he searches her features. "What's wrong?" he asks softly.

She screws her eyes shut against his inquisitive blue ones, trying to shake her head, though his grasp impedes the attempt. Peeta waits but she still doesn't answer so he asks again.

"Katniss, why are you crying?"

Peeta almost gives up on hoping that she'll answer him. His eyelids are heavy, drifting shut with each passing second. He nearly misses her question, she says it so softly, but he does hear her.

"Why don't you want me?"

His eyes snap wide open as he stares at her in disbelief. There's a vulnerability in her gaze that he can't remember ever seeing before. He almost asks her what she said, sure that he must have heard incorrectly, but even though she said it quietly, he knows he heard her.

"Katniss…" he trails off, unsure of what he can possibly say.

Her bottom lip quivers. "I thought- after that night, I thought that we had something."

Peeta opens his mouth, but no words come out. How could he have gotten everything so wrong? He thought she wanted the space after they screwed up that night. He thought that she blamed him for ruining everything with Gale. After all, she never approached him once they'd broken up.

"But… Gale-" Peeta says stupidly, unable to form a coherent sentence while she's looking at him that way with so much pain.

"Things had been bad with Gale for a long time," she scoffs. "He'd been all over Johanna the entire month before that night. He didn't want to be together anymore, but he didn't want to leave me alone. Mom was going through such a bad time then. We broke up when I told him he didn't have to stay with me to protect me." She takes a shaky breath before continuing.

"I waited for you to come around. I hoped it wasn't just another fuck for you. But then you never talked to me after. You never called. You never came here to visit." A scowl mars her beautiful face and Peeta hates that he put it there.

"Katniss," he murmurs, though it sounds more like a groan, his gut twisting painfully with the knowledge of just how badly he'd screwed up.

His lips find hers in a needy kiss before he realizes what he's doing, but his heart soars when she kisses him back. Her hands slide over the planes of his chest, a hum escaping the back of his throat as they do. Her touch sets his every nerve on fire, his groin throbbing with spurs of pleasure as her lips suckle softly against his.

Peeta rolls over, trying to ignore the shooting pain in his leg so he can hover over her. Her fingers splay against his back, tugging him closer to her as his lips trail down the soft column of skin along her neck. She gives that little sigh he still remembers vividly and his cock throbs with want.

"Katniss," he moans, the word nearly a cry on his lips as he buries his face in the crook of her shoulder, laving his tongue against her sweet skin.

She presses him back away from her, and he looks up at her in confusion. Was this too much? Has he freaked her out? Is he hurting her? But she smiles softly as she rises slowly to her knees, pushing him back until he rests on his back again, his shoulders propped up by the headboard.

"Rest your leg," she orders as she straddles his waist before leaning over him and finding his lips with hers again.

His hands rest on her narrow waist and he realizes this position is better for the both of them. She must be sore as hell from the beating she took just days ago. Even though he tries not to rest his weight on her, it still must have hurt.

Her fingers tangle in his curls as their tongues meet, Peeta's brushing against the roof of her mouth, pulling a moan from deep in her chest. One of his hands trails up, resting over her breast as her lips continue to suckle his. He pinches her nipple and groans when her hips buck against his, the friction gloriously torturous.

His cock pulses with need and he knows he won't be able to hold out long. All he wants is to be buried inside of Katniss Everdeen again and it seems as though she wouldn't mind it either with the way her body continues to writhe above him. He releases her breast and lets his hand find its way under her tee shirt, his thumb dipping under the waist of her panties to find that tiny bundle of nerves.

Katniss whimpers when he does, grinding her hips into his hand, her ass brushing over his cock, leaving his hands shaking while he tries to continue his work. Her movements become increasingly disjointed until finally her hand grabs at his, pulling his fingers away from her heated folds as she sucks his bottom lip into her mouth.

She deftly slides down his body, pulling his boxers with her and revealing his ridged cock. Peeta groans at the greedy look she gives him before she tugs the tee shirt over her head. She pulls a condom out of the beat-up bedside table and Peeta doesn't even want to know why her mother would have them there or how Katniss would know about them. He helps her roll it on over him, thrusting into her hand when her fingers brush against his length. She smiles softly as she slips out of her own panties the climbs back up him, pressing a palm to each cheek as she pulls him to her for another desperate kiss.

Peeta's hands splay over her thighs, helping to lift her as she takes his cock in her hand and guides him inside of her. His eyes roll into the back of his head, the feeling even better than he remembered. Then she rises up again until just his tip is inside of her before she plunges back down, a guttural cry rising from her throat as she does. Peeta moans, offering his hands to her to steady her movements as she continues to move above him, sending waves of pleasure pulsing through him with each beat of his heart.

She rides him to abandon, her lips parted as she breathes his name. His hands skim her body, entranced by her. He doesn't think he will ever get his fill of her and he prays she'll feel the same way tomorrow morning. Peeta knows he won't last much longer so he finds her clit and rubs quick circles over it, reveling in the sweet, throaty moans she gives at his touch. Just when he feels her clamp down around him, she reaches back, tugging at his sack and sending him over the edge with her.

His cock throbs endlessly as he spills himself into the condom. Katniss collapses on top of him, her lips sucking gently along his jaw as he continues to moan, his hips pulsing erratically against hers as he begins to soften.

The room is silent save for the loud thudding of his heart and their ragged breathing. Peeta pulls her to him as tightly as he dares for fear of hurting her ribs. Her breath is hot and damp against his neck, a feeling he never thought could be so extraordinary as it is right now.

"I want you," he confesses, his thumbs drawing swirls over her skin that leave her shivering in his arms. "I want you so fucking much it has killed me to stay away from you. I thought that's what you wanted. I thought you were angry. I thought what we did that night ended things with you and Gale," he lists every worry he had over the last year.

"God, when Prim came to the garage and said you were missing, I was paralyzed. I don't know what I would have done if something worse would have happened, Katniss."

She lifts her head to look at him, brushing a chaste kiss on the tip of his nose. "I don't want to live like this, Peeta. I don't want to be afraid to leave my apartment." Her voice is timid, more fragile than he's ever heard before, but he can see her sincerity.

"You won't have to," he shakes his head. "I'll protect you. The club will protect you."

She shakes her head this time, "No, I mean, we need to get away from here. Away from SAMCRO. Away from my mother."

Peeta locks eyes with her wide, grey ones. She looks terrified with what she's just said, but he's not surprised at all. She never liked the fact that Gale was involved with the Sons. She was always afraid that he would be found on the side of the road one day with a bullet through his skull or worse. And isn't that the exact same thing Peeta has become increasingly fearful of himself? Hasn't he been designing different ways for him to leave SAMCRO?

"I'm sorry," Katniss begins to backpedal when he doesn't answer right away, moving to sit up as she adds, "I never should have said that. I have no right to ask that from you."

Peeta wraps his arms more securely around her and holds her to his chest. "You have every right," he assures her, taking a deep breath before adding, "Okay. We'll leave. You just have to give me time so I can get out in good standing."

Her eyes widen in shock at the same time as a crease forms on her brow. "Why would you do this for me?"

Peeta can't stop the smile from planting itself on his lips as he playfully asks, "You really have no idea the effect you have on people, do you?"

A blush rises to her cheeks, visible even in the dim light of the room. Peeta thinks she's never looked more radiant, even battered and bruised as she is. Gently, he cups her face, reveling in the shy smile playing at her lips.

"I love you, Katniss Everdeen." He confesses. "I have for a very long time. And I will go to the ends of the earth to be with you and keep you safe."

He holds his breath, certain that this will tip the scale. He's sure that this confession is too much, that she will run for the hills. She doesn't run though. She doesn't even try to pull away.

Instead she leans forward until their foreheads are resting against one another. "I think I'm in love with you too, Peeta," she whispers, "I think I have been for a while."

A grin breaks across his face and he thinks his chest will explode with the joy inside of him right now. She smiles brightly and Peeta is sure that, somehow, things are going to work out. Somehow he will leave SAMCRO. He'll make a living, maybe baking. He always enjoyed baking with his father before he died. He'll take care of Katniss and she'll be safe from rival clubs and her mother's crack dealers. Prim will go to medical school like she always wanted instead of settling with her EMT training. They'll be happy. They'll be free. But for tonight, Peeta settles Katniss against him, cuddling her as close as humanly possible, whispering his promises for a better tomorrow.