five short stories on love and virtue

But I could give it all to you now
If only you could ask

Some days, Katniss hates being in Abnegation.

She'd done it for Prim, after all. With their father dead and their mother caught up in her own head, she couldn't abandon her twelve-year-old sister, no matter where the aptitude test said she belonged. So she'd stayed.

And when Prim had chosen Amity at her own Choosing Ceremony four years later, Katniss had smiled through the tears, hugged her little sister, and let her go. Because that was the point of all this, wasn't it? For Prim to be happy, above all else?

Katniss is very good at being an Abnegation. But that doesn't mean she likes it.

There are moments that make it bearable, of course. Like this one, now, with her husband's tongue on her clit.

Growing up, Peeta Mellark had been the friendly boy next door, and not much more. He was kind, and thoughtful, and everything an Abnegation should be. Once, his mother caught him with a stash of drawings he'd made over the years – birds, trees, classmates – but that was as far out of line as Peeta had ever stepped.

He was nice to Katniss, but no nicer than he was to anyone else. Sometimes when they were children he would leave an extra piece of candy in her desk at school, but she was pretty sure he did that for Madge Undersee, too. And when they were a little older he would rush to open doors for her, but he was just preparing for the day when he'd be initiated and have to do that for everyone, anyway.

So when he'd shown up at her family's house the day after their initiation to ask her on a date, she'd been so surprised that she'd blurted out yes (and spent the next three days panicking about it.)

But at the end of that date, when he'd taken her hand as they said goodbye on her front step – a physical gesture frowned upon but worth the risk, according to Peeta – she'd known she made the right choice.

Peeta sucks the little bundle of nerves into his mouth, and it's over; her back arches off the mattress, thighs pressing in against the sides of his head, trembling with the aftershocks of her orgasm. When he crawls up the bed to kiss her, he slips his tongue into her mouth, and she can taste herself on his lips.

She's selfish, when it comes to Peeta. There's never enough of him; she wants more, more, more.

"You're welcome," he murmurs against her neck, his hardness pressing against her stomach. Katniss smiles despite herself.

"Thank you," she breathes.

"D'we – have a condom?" he asks, groaning as she kisses her way across his jaw, nipping at his earlobe. They're newlyweds still, and not ready for the responsibility of a child. But condoms are expensive and hard to come by, so more often than not they use their mouths to make each other feel good. Sex is more selfless that way, anyway, or so they'd been told growing up.

They do have one condom left from the last time they were available at the grocery, though, and Katniss rummages desperately through the drawer in her bedside table.

"Here," she says, stifling a laugh at the way Peeta's eyes light up when she hands him the small foil packet. It's been two weeks and four days since he was inside her – not that she's been counting.

Her hips twitch in anticipation as he rolls the condom over his cock and then falls forward, catching himself on his forearms to hover over her. "Oh," she gasps as he enters her, stretching her open. That first moment when he pushes into her, the surge of pleasure that runs deep through her bones, always catches her off-guard. It feels so luxurious, so good, in a way that nothing else in Abnegation does.

Peeta moves slowly at first, his shallow thrusts picking up speed as they settle into a steady rhythm. He dips his head to her breasts and sucks one nipple between his lips. "Peeta," Katniss moans, drawing the word out, rolling her hips up to meet him.

"You like that?" Peeta shifts and moves over her again, his nose coming down to brush against the tip of her own. "Tell me what you like, Katniss."

She's so caught up in the feel of him it's almost impossible to be coherent. "What – do you like?" she challenges him.

He grits his teeth, pumping into her a little harder. "I asked you first."

They've run into this before – every time they've actually had sex, in fact. To give is so ingrained in an Abnegation child that by the time they're adults, to take – for pleasure, of all things – is nearly unthinkable.

Katniss doesn't answer, just raises her knee to his chest. It's a hint. He takes it, pulling her leg up over his shoulder, and presses a kiss to the side of her calf.

"Ah!" She cries out at the sudden shift: he's deeper, so deep, and every time he drives his cock back into her it's like he's nudged her one step closer to the edge. "Peeta," she gasps, fingers curled into the bed sheets. "Will you come for me?"

He grins a little, shaking his head quickly. This time he kisses her knee. "Not until you do."

She flattens her palms on the mattress and bucks her hips up into his at a wild pace, determined to make him come first. She always has her orgasm first – doesn't he deserve it for once?

Her breasts bounce freely in time with her thrusts, and she notices how enraptured he is by the movement, his eyes trained steadily downward. With a rush of giddiness she grabs her breasts, squeezing them together, then rolling her nipples between her fingers. "You like my tits," she tells him knowingly, pleased by the way the dirty word hops off of her tongue.

Peeta sucks his bottom lip into his mouth for a long, silent second, trying to hold himself back. "God, I do," he half-groans, half-laughs. "I love them."

Her triumphant grin falters a moment later when his hand moves to the juncture of her thighs, his fingers rubbing firmly at her clit. She presses her face into her pillow, burying her moan.

"Not fair, Peeta –"

"Come for me," he mumbles against her neck, his voice strained. His hips start to jerk out of rhythm, and she knows he's close. So close. If she can just – hold out – a little longer –

But she can't: her body sparks and shudders like a livewire, trembling around him. Peeta buries his face against her neck and groans deeply, emptying himself into the condom, panting for breath. They lie together, silent but for the sounds of their heartbeats, until his weight becomes too much to bear and she prods at his side with a fingertip.

It's the first time, in one month and five days of marriage, that they've ever come together. Katniss tells him this as he rolls off of her to the side, slinging his arm around her waist.

He releases a sigh of contentment. "I don't think I'm even allowed to feel this good," he murmurs into her hair.

"I'llallow it," she whispers, smiling into his skin.

I was looking at the black and white world
It seemed so exciting

"What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done, Peeta?"

The crowd is quiet, eager for the answer. Katniss slouches lower in her seat. They always ask this question, and they'll certainly ask it of her when it's her turn to sit on the dais. But thinking about it now won't make any difference to whatever her mind dredges up under the influence of truth serum.

"I accidentally split my pants open in the middle of the hallway at school," Peeta answers easily. "Eighth grade."

There are a few giggles here and there, but compared to some of the other initiates, it's not that bad of an answer. Besides, Peeta is well-liked in Candor; no one would tease him about something silly like that for more than a day or two.

"What's the worst thing you've ever done?"

It takes him longer to answer this time. "I lied," he finally says.

Katniss lets out a breath she didn't even know she was holding.

The crowd's titters fall suddenly silent. Candor don't lie – and if they do, why would they choose to be in Candor, when they could so easily choose to leave?

Their instructor pauses. "What did you lie about, Peeta?"

The blond boy looks down at his hands, folded in his lap, and Katniss shifts uncomfortably. It's her first initiation – no one underage is permitted to attend – and the thought of sitting through this year after year makes her sick. She doesn't want to know her friends' and neighbors' deepest, darkest secrets. And she definitely doesn't want them to know her own.

"A girl," Peeta says.

"Which girl?"

"The girl I love."

That gets Katniss' attention. She's never seen Peeta with a girl, at school or in their neighborhood – not that she paid particularly close attention or anything.

"And who is the girl you love, Peeta?" The silence is long this time, longer than any of the initiates before him. "Peeta?"

"Katniss." Her name rings loud through the room. "Katniss Everdeen."


Her parents hug her when it's all over, their eyes shining with tears. "We're so proud of you," her mother says warmly, and the truth of her father's pride rings out in the smile stretched wide across his face.

She hugs them back absently, her mind elsewhere. Her own interrogation is hazy, already receding into the depths of her memory. But Peeta's is sharp and clear. The girl I love.

Katniss Everdeen.

There's a party that begins after the last initiate passes her test, but it's tense and awkward now that years of hidden longings and shames and secrets have been spilled into the air. Katniss keeps to herself, hovering by the table with the vegetable dip until Delly Cartwright, another initiate, corners her. "Are you in love with Peeta, Katniss?"

Candor aren't known for their tact, but even by their standards Delly was exceptionally forthright. Katniss tells her the truth. "No. I…I don't know how I feel about Peeta."

"I always knew Peeta liked you. Well, not knew. I thought. But I was right! So I guess that means I did know. Oh, you should talk to him, Katniss. He's right over there."

Delly points, and Katniss follows her gaze; Peeta is surrounded by friends, grinning easily as though he hadn't just confessed to harboring a secret, unrequited love for the most taciturn girl in Candor in front of the entire faction.

"No. Way," Katniss mutters, biting down hard on a carrot.


The light streaming through the windows grows softer as the sun begins to set, and Katniss slips away, ready to head home. Halfway down the path towards her street she changes her mind and turns back inside, climbing up, up, up to the roof where the hydroponic gardens grow.

It's quiet on the roof, and the cylindrical towers of lettuce and tomatoes give the illusion of a lush green forest in the sky. This is where she and Gale used to come, to talk and play games and stare at the stars, until he'd chosen Dauntless and left her behind.

Katniss sits at the base of a lettuce tower and closes her eyes. She's almost dozed off into sleep when heavy footsteps pad towards her from the stairwell.

It's Peeta, his skin flushed and healthy-looking against his white shirt and pants. Katniss had worn black today, though most of the other initiates had chosen white like Peeta: it symbolized rebirth and purity, as they started their new lives as Candor. "What are you doing here?" she asks brusquely.

Peeta doesn't answer, but jerks his chin at the space beside her. "Can I sit?"

She nods, shifting into an upright position to make room. He sits to her right, his back lined up straight against the tower.


"I saw you leave. And I followed," he admits.

"That's kind of creepy," she tells him bluntly.

Peeta laughs. "I know."

"So you love me." There was no use in beating around the bush; not at this point, anyway.

"I do," he says quietly.


He glances at her, and she gets the distinct feeling that though he may love her, he also thinks she's crazy. "Do I need a reason?" he asks. "Why did you love Gale?"

She almost denies it, but stops herself. This is her life now. This is what she chose. No lies…ever.

"I'm sorry," Peeta says, staring down at his hands, clasped in his lap. For the question, she thinks, but also for the answer he'd given that afternoon, lips loose with truth.

"It's okay," she says, tracing circles on the ground with her fingertip. She shrugs. "The initiation…it's not fair. It should be private."

Peeta hums in agreement. "Aren't you going to ask me?" he asks suddenly.

"Ask you what?"

"What I lied about."

It takes everything in her to break away from his gaze. "You already said. You said it was about me."

"Yeah, but…I didn't say what the lie was."

"Okay." She lifts her chin. "What was it?"

Peeta breathes in deep. "D'you remember, the first day after the Choosing Ceremony, when they asked us why we chose to be in Candor?" She nods. "I said it was because I believe in the manifesto, in the doctrine of truth."

Katniss blinks, not understanding. It's probably what they all said – it was what she'd said, anyway, though in her heart of hearts she knows it has more to do with her parents and Prim, and less to do with her unyielding faith in the Candor manifesto. "So?"

"So…I lied." Peeta looks down at his hands, the way he had during the initiation. "I chose because of you. You chose Candor first, and…" He swallows. "Here I am."

"Really?" she whispers.

He nods. "Really."

She doesn't know what to say to that. So she says nothing at all.


They stay on the roof that night, side by side, until the sky deepens to an inky black and Katniss can't get through a sentence without her mouth stretching into a yawn. Peeta walks her home, and when he leaves without even a friendly squeeze of her hand, she can't deny the disappointed tug in her stomach.

So she doesn't. She flies down the street and stumbles into his back, and he catches her in his warm arms, and when she kisses him it's the most honest thing she's ever done.

What do you think my brain is made for?
Is it just a container for the mind?

"There's a war coming, Katniss," Gale tells her, and that's when her world changes forever.


Katniss is good with numbers, so they pair her with Peeta Mellark, an expert in food science. Their mission is to develop a new system of food production and distribution to implement after the war, because it's likely that Amity won't take sides. And if that's the case, well…

They'll be removed, is how their project leader Alma Coin had put it. At first, Katniss had protested.

"But they're our –" Friends, she'd been about to say, but she knew that argument would hold no water. Friendship wasn't a logical reason to do something, even if the something in question was not killing someone. "They're essential."

"If you do your job right, they won't be."

Katniss looked at Peeta. His face was impassive. "This doesn't make any sense. I – I can't do this."

"It doesn't matter what you do, Everdeen," came the crisp reply. "These decisions are made so far over your head they're stratospheric. There are dozens of eager young minds who'd gladly take your place. So you can make yourself useful and help ensure your faction's survival…or you can make yourself expendable." A pause. "It's your choice."

It wasn't a choice – it was a threat, and they both knew it. Peeta was quiet throughout the exchange, looking thoughtful, but never coming to Katniss' defense. He had no reason to – for all she knew, he despised the Amity, and was eager to play a role in their eventual destruction.

But for a single, silent second, she hated him.


So Katniss does the work.

The hours are long, but it's challenging, satisfying work, if she can ignore why she's doing it in the first place. There are so many factors to consider: transportation, infrastructure, population growth, climate. On the walk home each evening she finds herself assessing the familiar trees and bushes that line the sidewalks with a new, critical eye: Could an apple tree thrive here, and bear fruit? Could carrots and potatoes grow in the narrow strips of grass between concrete?

Most of her free time is spent with Prim, her sister, who at fifteen is still too young to know about the conflict that's brewing, and too innocent to know the terrible truth about Abnegation. How they're hoarding food. How their children are routinely abused. How they're selfish and cruel behind their placid demeanor and plain, loose clothing.

At least that's what Gale says. And she trusts Gale; he's been her best friend since childhood, after all, and he's risen so quickly through the ranks of Erudite leadership that at the age of twenty-five he is already privy to highly classified information. "They say I've got a strategic mind," he told her proudly one day, not long after his initiation all those years ago, tapping on his temple with one finger.

She can't tell how much Peeta Mellark knows. He's quiet, mostly, and capable of a laser-sharp focus on the task at hand. They don't speak much in their small lab, which is fine by Katniss, though sometimes she'll catch him with his mouth slightly open as though he's about to say something.

He always seems to think better of it.

One morning, though, Katniss spills a glass of water over her desk. Without being asked, Peeta brings over a stack of paper towels and helps her sop up the mess. "Thanks," Katniss murmurs.

"No problem," Peeta says easily. She looks up at him – his eyes are a startling blue behind the thick frames of his glasses. Erudite blue. He was born for this faction, she thinks.

Peeta clears his throat. "Katniss. Would you like to have dinner with me this weekend?"

She freezes, the wet paper towel soggy and cold in her fist. Weeks of near silence, and now he's asking her to spend her extracurricular time with him? They're barely even acquaintances.

But he smiles at her then, and the hint of shyness in it warms her down to her toes.

"Okay," she says slowly.

His smile broadens. "Fantastic. I'll come pick you up at seven o'clock tomorrow."


Peeta is prompt, knocking on her door at precisely seven o'clock the next evening. "I like your dress," he compliments her as they walk deeper into the city together, the sky fading into twilight.

Katniss blushes. It's the dress she'd worn for her Choosing Ceremony seven years ago, the only one she owns, royal blue and tighter around her hips and bust now that she's grown more of a figure. "Thanks," she says.

Peeta talks more in the next thirty minutes than she's ever heard him talk before – about work, about his brothers, about a new kind of wheat with higher nutritional content that his father is developing. His family are all food scientists, it turns out.

Katniss stays mostly quiet, letting Peeta carry the conversation. She feels tongue-tied and awkward around him; she doesn't want him to know that out of everything, the one topic she's still completely ignorant of is dating.

His voice is so level and soothing that they've walked a mile before Katniss realizes they aren't heading where she'd expected. She'd memorized the city map as an initiate, just like all the other Erudites – and there are no cafés or even grocery stores in this part of town. "Peeta, where are we going?" she asks, unable to mask the twinge of fear in her question.

He's silent for a beat too long. "It's a hole-in-the-wall place," he says. "Don't worry, we're close."

The streets are empty here, the buildings dark and shuttered, and she's about to turn her heel and run – she doesn't know this man at all, really, no matter how beautiful his eyes are or how good his arms look when he rolls up his sleeves – when Peeta stops by a battered, unmarked door and knocks in what can only be a deliberate pattern. He turns back and sees her expression, and his face softens. "You can trust me, Katniss," he says. "I promise."

Before she can respond, the door creaks open. Peeta pauses, then jerks his chin towards the open doorway. "You coming?"


Peeta Mellark is a rebel. On Saturday nights he meets with other dissenting Erudites – a few dozen of them – in this abandoned building by the train tracks, and they make plans to bring down the faction leaders from within.

She sees a few familiar faces – Haymitch Abernathy, a middle-aged drunk who lives down the block, and "Beetee" Calhoun, one of the faction's most admired inventors. But her gaze is always drawn back to Peeta. He's like an entirely different person here, a leader, speaking eloquently, passionately against the coming war.

It's hard to swallow – that everything Gale had told her about Abnegation's beatings and hoarding and cruelty was a lie. But Coriolanus Snow, Erudite's leader, wanted more power. And this was how he'd chosen to take it: by spreading lies throughout the ranks of Erudite headquarters, like a poison slowly pumping through a corrupted body.

By the end of the night, she's in.

Peeta walks her home, taking an odd, circuitous path through the backstreets to put some distance between them and the others and ensure that too many people aren't seen coming from the same place at once. They don't say much, but it's less uncomfortable now, and Katniss has a million thoughts racing through her mind anyway.

"I can't believe I thought this was a date," she admits, trying to choke back a nervous laugh.

Peeta looks at her sharply. "You did?"

"Why else would you ask me to dinner?" she says defensively.

He shrugs. "I don't know. Just…colleagues, getting to know one another." There's a heavy pause. "Would you…like to go on a date? A real one, I mean."

The question stops her short. "A real date?"

"Yeah. Dinner, but without thirty other people this time."

Peeta's watching at her so intently that she has to look away. "Maybe. I guess – yeah," she says.

He takes her hand and smiles, that shy smile that makes her heart jump just slightly, and that's when her life changes forever.

And now after some thinking I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

After thirty seconds in the Conflict Room, Katniss can't even remember why she'd been seconds away from punching Cato Jackson in the throat. "You look very handsome today, Cato," she tells him, patting his hair fondly, and it's true, he's really a gorgeous boy, and such a nice, pleasant one to be around, too.

Peeta's waiting for her in the hallway – lovely, reliable Peeta, her best friend in the world – and he smiles and laughs when she takes his hand. They were born just days apart in the Amity birthing center, sixteen years ago, and have been inseparable since the day he shared his cupcake with her in the nursery after she dropped her own on the floor and cried.

Peeta probably wouldn't even know where the Conflict Room was if he hadn't been there so many times to accompany Katniss. He never gets into fights.

"You've cheered up," he jokes, and Katniss giggles. She's so lucky to have such a funny best friend. She tells him that. Peeta just smiles and squeezes her hand.

He takes her home, but her parents are at work in the orchards and Prim is at her weekly sports group, so he tucks her into bed himself. She always ends up exhausted after a trip to the Conflict Room.

Peeta sits beside her on the bed and plays with her hair, telling her a story about something silly one of his brothers did in the orchard the other day, but when she feels herself drifting off she grabs his hand, silencing him.

"You won't leave me, will you?" she asks him sleepily. "When you choose. You'll choose with me. You'll stay with me."

He's quiet for so long that she nearly nods off into sleep, but then he squeezes her hand tightly, bringing her back long enough to hear his answer. Always.


Katniss stumbles away from the testing room, her mind reeling. She hadn't known what to expect from the aptitude test, but certainly not that. And she really hadn't expected –

"Hey." It's Peeta; he's waiting for her outside the building, like he promised he would. "You okay?"

She nods mutely, falling into step beside him.

"That was pretty crazy, huh," he murmurs quietly. They're not allowed to speak about the test, or their results. But this is Peeta.

She has to tell Peeta.

"Dauntless," she blurts out. "I got Dauntless."

Peeta turns to look at her, an uncertain grin smile plastered onto his face. "Ha, ha."

"Peeta." She stops.

He stops, too. "But – you're joking, right?"

Katniss shakes her head painfully, a tear leaking from the corner of her eye. She wipes it away miserably. She's not used to feeling this unhappy. It's awful.

There's a long pause. Then Peeta begins walking again, quickly. She nearly trips over her own feet when she follows after him.

"What did you get?" she whispers, hoping against hope that maybe, maybe

"Amity," he says. Her heart sinks. Of course Peeta would end up in Amity; there's kindness blooming in every cell of his body.

Even so, she'd always feared that Peeta might leave one day. He was smart enough for Erudite, honest enough for Candor. Selfless, too, but she couldn't imagine bright, laughing Peeta choosing the drab, solemn life of an Abnegation.

She'd never dreamed it could be the other way around; that she might leave him behind for a new life.

"We shouldn't talk about it out here," he says, and they walk in silence all the way back.


They end up in her bedroom at home. It's the only place they won't be overheard.

"What are you going to do?" he asks in a hushed voice. He hasn't looked her in the eye since she told him.

"I don't know," she says honestly. There's a part of her that recoils at the very thought of being a Dauntless: the aggression, the harshness, the ugly, dark clothing.

But there's another part – a very small part – that wonders.

"I don't want to leave," she says. "But what if I spend my whole life wondering what if?"

"I'll go with you," he says suddenly. Katniss looks at him in disbelief.

"You'll – what?"

"I'll go with you," he repeats.

"You can't. You can't just – join some random faction."

"Who's going to stop me?" he demands.

"It's too dangerous, Peeta," she insists. "You'd never make it through initiation. You wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Neither would you," he says.

"Apparently I would," she mutters, and she sees the dog from the simulation in front of her again, and all she can think is Prim, is Prim okay? and she's reaching for the knife –

She would.

"I'll be fine," Peeta says calmly. "I'm strong. I could do it."

Katniss shakes her head. "Peeta, what – why would you do this? Do you even hear yourself?" She takes his hand, squeezing it hard. "You're talking about giving up your whole life."

"I don't want a life without you," he says softly, looking down at their hands entwined between them.

A lump settles in her throat, but her heart races. Peeta's been her best friend since before she can remember. But best friends don't talk like this. They don't follow each other to factions where they don't belong.

"Peeta –"

He interrupts her with a kiss. It's her first, and probably his, too, and their teeth and tongues bump together clumsily and it's perfect. Katniss feels her stomach swoop and she doesn't understand how she can feel this many things at once: scared, happy, hungry.

She scoots back on the bed, pulling him after her, their lips moving together desperately. He moans a little into her mouth when she lies back, and he falls over her, their chests pressed together – their hips, too. Her mouth falls slack for a second when she feels him grow hard against her thigh.

Suddenly she realizes where they're headed, and she sits up abruptly, wiping her mouth roughly with the back of her hand. Peeta kneels before her on the bed, watching her closely. His cheeks are flushed, his lips red and swollen. She wants to kiss them again.

"Peeta, why…?"

"I don't want to spend my life wondering what if," he says, echoing her words. He swallows hard. "If this is the last day I'll ever get to spend with you, just tell me, Katniss."

"I don't know," she says, eyes wide. It could be. If she chooses Dauntless, this is it – one of the last moments she'll ever spend with Peeta. "I don't know, I don't –"

This time when he kisses her, she melts against him instantly. When he tugs her shirt off she unbuttons his own, running her hands over his skin that looks golden in the sunlight streaming through the windows. And when he sinks into her she knows this is the only place she'll ever feel at home, no matter where her blood falls tomorrow: sizzling on the hot coals, or seeping into the cool, dark earth.

For now, it doesn't matter. She'll live in this moment forever.

I read with every broken heart
We should become more adventurous

"You scared?" he teases, his fingers playing at the edge of her underwear.

"No," Katniss says, narrowing her eyes. She lifts her hips to buck against his, and he groans at the contact. "Do I feel scared?"

Peeta dips his fingers beneath the fabric, running them gently over her hot, wet center. "Fuck," he breathes, dropping his forehead against the crook of her neck. "No, you don't."

Smiling in triumph, she folds her legs around him, pulling him closer to her heat.

She isn't really sure how she'd ended up in bed with Peeta Mellark, topless and tangled together. The Choosing Ceremony was only a few weeks away, and emotions were running high in Dauntless as the sixteen-year-olds taunted one another, no one wanting to admit that they'd ever consider leaving for another faction – least of all Katniss Everdeen.

So when Delly Cartwright had dared her to get a tattoo across her ribcage, one of the most painful parts of the body, she'd done it. When Gale Hawthorne had dared her to steal a gun from the faction leaders' stash, she'd taken two. And when Peeta Mellark had dared her to have sex, calling her "pure", well…

Katniss shivers as Peeta presses wet, sloppy kisses on her breasts, pausing only to take her nipple between his teeth. "Ah, Peeta," she moans, clenching her fingers in his dirty blond hair.

He flicks his tongue over the hard peak in response, rolling his hips against her. "Feel good?" he murmurs.


She's kissed boys before – mostly as a result of dares – and even done a little more, letting them slip their hands up to palm her breast, or down the back of her pants to cup the curve of her ass. But she's never been this intimate with anyone, so close to baring herself entirely to another person, and letting him inside of her.

It does make her nervous. But she'd never admit that to Peeta.

His fingers replace his mouth on her breast, and she tenses in anticipation as he presses a trail of open-mouthed kisses down her stomach. He hovers over the place where her thighs meet, kissing the inside of one almost absent-mindedly. "Can I, um…"

"Yeah," she says, her breath catching in her throat as he slowly peels off her underwear. His swallow is audible as his eyes run over her naked form. She wants to curl up under his gaze, hide herself behind the safety of her limbs; but she doesn't move. She'll be brave, this time.

Peeta dips his head between her legs in one swift movement. His tongue suddenly runs over her slick folds, catching on her clit for one brief, incredible nanosecond. Katniss squeaks – actually squeaks – and her legs jerk so suddenly that one knee knocks him in the head.

"Ow!" Peeta sits up, rubbing his temple firmly. "What was that for?"

He thinks she did it on purpose. Well, good – he doesn't need to know how much he's affecting her, and her ability to control her own body parts. "I just…want to get to the good part," she lies.

"I thought that was the good part for a girl," he mumbles, crawling back up beside her.

"Yeah, well." She isn't sure what to say. They're quiet for a long moment, just studying one another, and Peeta leans in to kiss her. It's a slower, deeper kiss, nothing like the hurried frenzy of kisses they'd exchanged when they first reached his bedroom and tore off each other's clothes.

It's a kiss that could mean something, she realizes, and for the first time she's genuinely terrified.

Katniss breaks the kiss, pushing him away impatiently. "Aren't you going to…?" She trails off, running one hand down his back to the waistband of his boxers, toying with the elastic.

"Oh. Oh – um, yeah." Peeta rolls off of her, pushing the boxers down over his hips, kicking them onto the floor. His pale cheeks flush when he sees her widen at the sight of his groin. "What?" he says, shifting his leg in a casual attempt to hide himself.

"Nothing," Katniss says, trying to sound unimpressed. "I've just…never really seen someone's…you know."

Peeta snorts. "And you say you're not pure."

"I'm here with you now, aren't I?"

He stares at her for a moment, suddenly serious again. "You are," he says quietly, and moves on top of her, his forearms braced on either side of her shoulders.

She meets his eyes – she'd never realized how blue they were, not until she saw them up close. They're intent, focused, like he's seeking something in her own gaze. His body hovers over hers, humming with want, when she abruptly realizes it might be humming with something else, too.

"Peeta – are you scared?"

His mouth moves like he's about to protest, but instead he falls to her side with a heavy sigh. He murmurs something that she can't quite catch.


"I didn't think you'd say yes," he says in a low voice.


Peeta groans, running a hand over his face. "I thought – it was kind of a joke, you know? I didn't think you'd want to go through with it."

Katniss tenses, suddenly cold. She covers her arms with her breasts. "So – you don't –"

"I do," he interrupts quickly, his face beet red. "I really, really do. I just…" He touches a tentative hand to the curve of her waist. "I've been thinking about this for years. And I want to make you feel amazing. I just…I've never done this before, either."

"You haven't?" Peeta shakes his head. She's silent for a long moment. "Years?"

He nods solemnly.

"I didn't know that," she says quietly.

"Yeah well, I was too scared to tell you," he admits, the corner of his mouth lifting into a smirk.

Katniss rolls on top of him, laughing when he gasps as she rubs her center over the tip of his cock. "We can be scared together," she whispers against his mouth. She can feel the satisfied rumble deep in his throat.

His arms squeeze her tight as they kiss, and she breaks away, breathless. "Just…don't tell anyone I admitted that, okay?"

Peeta smiles, pressing his lips to hers firmly. "Deal."

With a deep breath, she lowers herself onto him slowly, squeezing her eyes shut at the unfamiliar ache as he fills her. The pain isn't as bad as she'd expected; nothing compared to the near torture she'd endured for the katniss flower tattoo that snakes down her ribcage, anyway.

And eventually, the pleasure of feeling him pulse inside of her, of his fingers pushing her over the edge moments later, is better than anything she could have imagined.

This time, when he kisses her long and slow and deep, she forgets that she was ever scared at all.

Mega thanks to soamazinghere for being a super helpful beta (and helping me figure out wtf I was doing w/ the Abnegation section)!

I thought it would be cool to explore Katniss & Peeta in the Divergent universe, even though I'm not a big fan of the series itself. I'd love to know what you think of my interpretation!

The lyrics that start each section are from: Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Frank Ocean, Fleet Foxes & Rilo Kiley.