Katniss had been so relieved to find an apartment actually within her price range in the city, she hadn't really paid attention to the large windows that practically jutted up against those of another apartment. She just signed the lease happily, wrote a check for the security deposit and made plans to move her stuff in immediately. She had a new job starting next week, and she wanted to get settled in before her first day.

It wasn't until she was unpacking boxes in the living room that she finally noticed just how open the windows were; they spanned the entire height of the wall, from floor to ceiling, and though she was on the top floor of the building, there was only a few feet's worth of distance between them and the next apartment over. Stunned, she surveyed the windows as she tried to work out how to cover them. The walls were made of brick, and she wasn't entirely sure she could find curtains long enough to shroud her living space from passing eyes.

She stepped flush against the windows, the glass cold against her hands. She could see straight into the next apartment; the lights were off, but sunlight illuminated the quaint living quarters. The layout looked nearly identical to her own, but the decorations were ambiguous enough that she couldn't guess who lived there. She hoped it was a woman. She might be able to begrudgingly live with being on display to a stranger, as long as it was a female.

Putting it from her mind for the moment, she returned to unpacking.


It was later that night that Katniss realized just how big of a problem the windows were going to be—and probably why the rent had been so laughably low. She'd just returned from grocery shopping and had flipped on her lights to drop her bags on the dining table (there wasn't enough counter space in the kitchen, yet another con) when she pulled up short, staring wide-eyed through her windows into the adjacent apartment. It was dark outside now, and all the lights were on, flooding the entire space with light.

Her neighbor most definitely was not a woman.

A medium-height, broad-shouldered man stood in the kitchen, his back to her as he cooked something over the stove. Their apartments were so close, she could make out every detail about him: his blonde, disheveled curls, the gray fitted T-shirt that stretched taut over the expanse of his back, the red basketball shorts, the apron strings that looped around his neck and waist. She didn't know how long she stood there, mutely watching him rummage through cabinets and drawers while he cooked, but when he turned around abruptly, pan in hand, she gasped and ducked out of view.

Shit. Had he seen her? She thought she briefly saw his gaze flit in her direction before she turned away, but she wasn't sure. She was embarrassed at having been caught staring, which quickly gave way to anger; she wished she had been more diligent in her apartment searching. She just wasn't used to such large, open windows and nosy neighbors.

She ignored the niggling voice in the back of her mind that reminded her thatshe had been the one watching him.

Katniss stood in her kitchen a while longer as she worked up the courage to unpack her groceries; finally, once she had mustered the resolve, she marched back to the table and pointedly avoided glancing up at the windows again. As she put away her food, she wasn't sure if she was just imagining his eyes following her or not; she couldn't bring herself to check.

Later, after she'd made herself something to eat, she retired to her bedroom for the rest of the night, by that point too anxious to hang out in the living room.

—-

The next morning, she got up early to finish unpacking, assuming—hoping—that the man wouldn't be up yet and that she could move about her apartment in relative peace for a while.

So she was disheartened when she looked across the way to find him on his couch, hunched over his coffee table as he ate breakfast. She froze when he seemed to notice her staring and glanced up. They held each other's gazes for a beat, two, and then he smiled pleasantly, holding his hand up in greeting.

Her face flushed, and she scowled, averting her gaze as she stomped into the kitchen to put away her dishes and cookingware. She didn't know why she was so annoyed, like it was his fault the apartments were built this way, but she needed to direct her anger somewhere. And acknowledging her own oversight and stupidity was out of the question.

The man must have left his apartment for the day because once she moved into the living room to straighten up some more, discreetly glancing in the direction of his apartment, he was gone.

She didn't see him again all day.

Good.


Katniss had stopped by the leasing office the next day, right after she'd finished her first day of work, but the owners refused to do anything about the windows and were expressly adamant that she was not allowed to put any holes into the brick facade. She'd nearly thrown a fit but managed to reign in her temper before storming back to her apartment. The blonde man was on his couch again, watching TV. When he saw her through the windows, he waved again.

"Asshole," she seethed quietly, and then, before she could think, she flipped him off.

She didn't know why she did it; all her frustration just bubbled to the surface in that moment, concentrated in that one gesture of her hand. He looked bewildered, but she didn't stick around to see his next reaction, holing up in her room again for the night.

After about three nights of this avoidance routine, she quickly grew tired of confining herself to her bedroom. She was paying for the whole space, damnit. She wanted to sit on her couch and watch TV, too, or stare out into the streets of the city below if she felt so inclined to. If this guy didn't mind being seen, why should she?

When she got home from work, she showered first and made dinner for herself. Then she boldly marched her ass into the living room and plopped down in front of the TV, switching it on. She avoided looking through his window at first, though she could see him in his living room in her peripheral.

She finally glanced a quick look at him; he was stretched out on his couch, one arm folded behind his head as he idly flipped through channels on his TV. He seemed completely oblivious to her presence. Frowning slightly, Katniss tried to pay attention to her own TV, but she couldn't stop her eyes from drifting back in his direction. This time he was watching her; when they made eye contact, his eyes flitted away, as if he hadn't been staring at her. A flush crept up her neck, and she decidedly crunched on a carrot to distract herself. Forcing her gaze back to her TV, she nearly startled when she saw him sit up suddenly from the corner of her eye; she glanced back at him to find him talking on the phone, a large smile on his face.

He was really quite attractive, especially when he smiled; his whole face lit up. She wished she could see what color eyes he had. They seemed very expressive.

Too bad she'd flipped him off. Man, she was a horrible neighbor. This is why she had never answered the door whenever someone would come bearing welcoming gifts or foods in the past places she lived. She just didn't want to make friends with her neighbors. She had enough friends—well, enough forher, anyway.

The man ended his phone call and stood up, smoothing his palms down the front of his jeans. He pocketed his phone, turned off the TV and shuffled through the apartment to his front door. The lights flicked off, and then he was gone.

She found herself wondering where he was going, then gave herself a mental shake. What did it matter? "Idiot," she berated herself under her breath, hastily changing the channel to something more mindlessly entertaining.


They went on in this manner for another couple of weeks, dancing around each other from a distance, watching each other when the other wasn't looking; if they happened to glance at each other at the same time, both would quickly look away, pretending like nothing had happened.

Despite the awkwardness, Katniss found herself becoming more comfortable with their arrangement. His presence was almost…expected. If he was out for the evening or on the weekends, she often wondered where he was. Despite her no-befriending-neighbors rule, she supposed if she actually lived next door to him, she might have at least spoken to him in passing by now, maybe even managed a smile and polite small talk. But her apartment was at the end of the hallway, and his another hallway and a couple corners over (her best guess), and as it was, she never ran into him in the elevator or stairwell.

She was beginning to regret her rude, unwarranted gesture. He was only trying to be nice. He didn't deserve her hostility. She wanted to make amends, somehow.

So the next time she saw him in his living room, she summoned her courage and forced herself to maintain eye contact when he looked her way. Then, her mouth quirked in a nervous, half-hearted smile, and she held her hand up in a weak greeting. Much like he had done before.

The blonde man seemed momentarily stunned by her action, his eyes widening slightly. But he composed himself and finally flashed a wide smile in her direction, nodding his head in acknowledgment. Blushing, she dropped his gaze and forced her attention back to her laptop.

She had to fight the silly grin that threatened to overtake her face the rest of the night.


Their neighborly relations improved remarkably after that point. They no longer tried to avoid the other's stare, and he bestowed her with generous smiles every time he saw her across the way, waving to her whenever he'd come home or whenever she'd get in from work.

In a strange way, it was almost like having a roommate—but one whose name she didn't know and one she never uttered a single word to. It was oddly comforting—and Katniss had never liked having roommates before.

One night, as she sat at her dining table, working on some documents she had brought home from work, she noticed him moving around his apartment from the corner of her eye. Lifting her head, she watched him curiously. He was hunched over his own table, scribbling something down furiously. She tensed when he straightened and turned in her direction, crossing to the window, a sheet of paper in hand. He flattened it against the window, and she blinked, slow to comprehend the big, bold letters written in marker before her.

PEETA

When she glanced at his face, her brow knitted in confusion, he smiled and pointed to himself. Comprehension dawned on her. That was his name.

"Peeta," she tested out loud to herself, rolling the sound on her tongue. He nodded, as if he could read her lips. She smiled faintly, embarrassment blossoming in her cheeks, but she found a scrap of paper and flipped it over, writing out her own name: KATNISS. She traced the letters many times with heavy strokes of her pen and then stood up, approaching the window more self-consciously than he had to hold the paper up for him to read. He squinted, his lips sounding the syllables out. He repeated the word and looked up at her in questioning; she smiled, earning a dimpled grin in return.


She liked knowing his name. Maybe she didn't really enjoy making friends with neighbors, but at least she had a rebuttal when her mother fretted over her being alone in a new city, hours away from her and her sister, Prim.

"I've met people," Katniss insisted, annoyed.

"Like who?" her mother inquired.

Katniss glanced out the window, watching Peeta's back flex under his shirt as he moved around the kitchen. "Like…Peeta. He's my neighbor."

"You met a man?" She couldn't tell if the tone of her mother's voice was that of shock or intrigue. Either way, Katniss felt defensive.

"Not like that. He's just my neighbor. He's nice. I'm capable of making acquaintances," Katniss stressed, quickly ending the conversation a moment later. She was happy in her solitude. She could make friends later, if she wanted to; she was still adjusting to her new environment. Too much change at once was overwhelming for her. She might have been alone, but she wasn'tlonely. If she ever felt the loneliness creeping in, she just had to look over at Peeta to reassure herself. His presence was a solid, ever-present comfort; it put her at ease.

Until she came home one evening to find him shirtless and sweaty, chugging water in the kitchen. Utterly mesmerized by the sight, she stubbed her toe on one of her dining chairs as she blindly crossed through the living room.

"Fuck!" she hissed, her teeth gritted in pain as she brought her foot up to grab the throbbing appendage. When she glanced up again, Peeta was watching her in amusement, having turned toward the window; her face went slack as she took in the sight of his bare, finely sculpted chest and arms, covered in a sheen of sweat; his ab muscles contracted as if he were panting for air. He must have been out exercising.

He took a deep swig from his water bottle again, breaking the trance. Her entire body flushed, and she ducked her head, scurrying into her bedroom to compose herself.

She'd seen naked male bodies before, so she didn't understand why this one affected her so much.


The amount of time Peeta spent shirtless after that point was obscene. Even when he clearly hadn't been exercising. His chest was often exposed and offered up for consumption when he was just lounging on the couch, or shuffling through the living room, or rummaging around in the kitchen. If he cooked, he put on an apron, but his back was left uncovered. She could gawk openly at him then, when he wasn't looking, her eyes spanning the hard planes of his body. He had a black tattoo inked on his right side, toward the back of his ribcage. It was relatively small, some sort of design. She wished she was close enough to make it out, to trace her fingers over it, down his side to the dimples in his lower back, right above his ass…

Her stomach flipped, and she clenched her thighs together on the couch, drawing her knees up to her chest; she buried her face against her legs so she could continue to watch him without being too conspicuous.

She didn't want to think he was doing it specifically for her enjoyment, but…his state of undress had increased exponentially since that first incident. And she had probably been pretty obvious in her flustered arousal.

That pulled her up short. Arousal?

Aroused. Yes. She was aroused by him. Immensely.

Muffling her sigh against her knee, she tried not to groan out loud when he bent over to grab something from under the stove, his pajama bottoms stretching across the lovely curve of his ass.


What possessed her to do it, she had no idea. But she wanted to drive him as crazy as he was driving her. She couldn't walk around shirtless—that was a little too much; instead, she wore the skimpiest lounge shorts she owned, the ones that revealed a glimpse of her ass cheeks when she bent over, or she walked around in just a t-shirt, one that reached only mid-thigh, or she casually strolled past the window in just a towel after getting out of the shower.

She could only barely manage to spare him a glance in these moments, too nervous and perplexed by her own audacity, but each time he was watching her intently, though if he sensed her stare, he'd look away.

Once, when she was sitting on the couch in only her sleep shirt, with her heart pulsing in her throat, she deliberately criss-crossed her legs in front of her, giving him a clear shot at her panties; she was almost too scared to look at him right then, but she did. The sight made her ache. He was unabashed in his stare now, his tongue darting out to wet his lips before he sucked his bottom one into his mouth. Her hands twitched around the hem of her shirt, sliding it farther up her thighs ever so slightly. She could feel the wetness seeping out of her; there was just something so erotic about the way he watched her, something that made her bold and stupid.

But Peeta stood up abruptly from the couch right then, pushing a hand through his curls, and then he disappeared, stalking into his room, she guessed. She was too stunned to process the situation at first, her face frozen in mortification. She'd started to think she had gone too far when a new thought struck her: Maybe he was turned on. Maybe she had worked him up to the point that he needed to relieve himself. Maybe he went into his room to touch himself.

Katniss let out a shuddering breath and launched herself across the living room, slamming her bedroom door shut behind her before she fell onto her knees on top of her bed. She hastily pushed her panties down her hips and buried her hand between her thighs, dipping her fingers inside herself before dragging them up to deftly stroke her now-aching clitoris. She buried her face in a pillow to muffle her choked moans, her body seizing a moment later when her orgasm ripped through her.

Curling around her pillow, she closed her eyes with a sharp inhale and reveled in the lingering tremors of her climax. She wondered if Peeta was doing the same.


Gale was coming to visit. Normally, she would have been ecstatic to see her best friend, but she was leery of having him in her apartment; she almost felt like she should give Peeta a heads up. Which was ludicrous. Despite the little game they had been playing for the last few weeks, and despite the fact that she touched herself to the thought of him with alarming frequency (and hoped he did the same), they had still never spoken a word to each other. They were nothing more than mutual Peeping Toms, really.

Still, she was nervous when she led Gale into her apartment after they'd met up for lunch.

"This is a pretty sweet place," he noted in approval as he swept through the front door and surveyed the high ceilings and open floor plan. "A lot of light."

She laughed weakly. "Yeah, almost a little too much."

He walked farther into the living room, and she followed him, wringing her wrists. He frowned when he stopped in front of the windows, throwing her a glance over his shoulder. "You can see right into the next apartment," he pointed out unnecessarily, arching an eyebrow. She laughed again and stepped up next to him, discreetly searching for Peeta. She was relieved when she didn't see him.

"Yeah, so I've noticed," she replied.

"And you're okay with that?"

She shrugged. "I guess I've kind of gotten used to it. I just needed a place to live, and this was the cheapest apartment I could find."

Gale narrowed his eyes as he studied the windows. "And you don't have any problems with the neighbors looking in?"

She hoped he couldn't tell she was blushing. "Ummm, no, I mean…we coexist. We're fine."

Of course, Peeta chose that exact moment to enter his apartment. Her eyes widened when he shut his door and turned toward the windows, his own eyes going round at the sight of Gale. Shit. She heard her friend's sharp intake of breath, and he craned his neck to look at her.

"Your neighbor is a guy?" he asked incredulously. Her eyes darted between Gale and Peeta, who was still rooted to his spot, fixated on them.

"Um, yeah, it would appear so, wouldn't it?" she tried to deflect light-heartedly, her lips twitching into a smile.

"And you're okay with him being able to watch you like that?"

She knew her face was an embarrassing shade of red by that point. "He doesn't watch me," she lied, but Gale just shook his head.

"This is weird. Why don't you put curtains up or something?"

She glared at him. "You think I haven't thought of that? They won't let me put holes in the walls here, so I can't cover the windows."

Slinging an arm around her shoulders, Gale turned back to survey the windows and rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, Peeta all but forgotten. But she was still watching him, trying to read the indecipherable expression on his face. She was stiff under Gale's arm, but she knew he would be suspicious if she shrugged him off; it wasn't unusual for her best friend to show her affection. Still, she could only imagine how this looked to Peeta.

"You know, I could probably help jury-rig something for you, if you want, like a freestanding structure that blocks the windows but doesn't mess up the walls…" Gale rambled as he strategized, but she stopped listening.

At that moment, Peeta finally came to himself. His gaze settled on her face for a long, tense moment, and she felt her stomach twisting. His expression hardened then, and he turned on his heel, retreating to his bedroom. Panic tightened her throat. She didn't want him to think she had a boyfriend; she wouldn't have been flirting with him if she did. He knew that, right?

But she didn't owe him anything. It was just a harmless flirtation. She didn't have to explain herself. She assumed he didn't have a girlfriend, as he'd never once had a woman over that she could tell—but he could if he wanted to. He could date and fuck somebody else, for all she cared. He didn't owe her anything, either.


Except, when she saw him bring home some blonde woman the next day, she was furious. She nearly choked on the spoonful of cereal she was eating as she gaped at the two of them from her spot on the couch. It was very clearly a date; he was dressed nicely, and the woman was extremely handsy with him, touching his arms, his waist, his back, playfully ruffling his hair. When they looked her way, she averted her eyes and forcefully shoveled another spoonful into her mouth, trying to ignore the anger quelling in her stomach. She could tell they were discussing her, probably having a similar conversation she'd had with Gale the day before, but then she was ignored.

She noticed a flurry of movement a moment later and risked another glance in their direction; she wished she hadn't. Her spoon clattered to her bowl, and her lips parted in astonishment. They were making out, the blonde's arms wrapped around Peeta's neck as their mouths slanted together. His hands dropped from her waist to her hips, sliding down even farther until they reached the hem of her dress. Then he pushed it up slowly, revealing more of her thighs to his touch. When he palmed her ass, Katniss squeaked indignantly.

Her face blazed with embarrassment and outrage, and she forced her eyes away from his hands, bringing them back up to his face—and she startled when she found him staring right back at her. Even with his mouth preoccupied with another woman, he kept his eyes trained squarely on her. Her breath hitched in her throat as realization hit her.

He was trying to make her jealous. Or turn her on. Or both.

Either way, it was working.

She couldn't tear her eyes away from them as Peeta backed the woman up against the arm of the couch, breaking the kiss. He pushed her dress up to her hips and dipped his hand under the elastic waistband of her underwear. Katniss couldn't see the exact movements of his hand, but she could guess what he was doing by the way the blonde's head tilted back, her mouth opening wide.

He was fucking her with his fingers, the way Katniss wished he would fuck her.

She continued to watch, her eyes oscillating between his hand and his face. He kept watching her, too, his eyes dark and hooded, his teeth digging into his bottom lip. Her clit throbbed in response, her breathing quickening, and she tried not to squirm under his stare as wetness pooled between her thighs. She itched to touch herself, to relieve the ache building inside her, but she felt pinned wide open by his eyes. He wanted her to watch—and she wanted to watch.

She was hyperaware when the woman came, almost as if she could feel the orgasm herself. But while his date was completely sated, Katniss was not. As the blonde nuzzled his neck, no doubt murmuring words of gratification and promises of things to come, Katniss dropped her bowl to the coffee table, not caring about the milk that splattered everywhere. She noticed the slightest crease of Peeta's brow as he watched her stand up from the couch.

Before she could lose her nerve, she whipped her shirt over her head, baring her breasts to him. His lips parted in shock, but she didn't wait for any further reactions; she circled around her couch and sauntered into the back room, collapsing on her back on top of her bed and spreading her legs open, quickly working herself until she was panting and trembling, pleasure coursing through her body.

She hoped he knew what she was doing right then. And she hoped he thought about her when he fucked that other woman.


The dynamic between them shifted after that night. It was a little less innocent, a little more intense. The blonde never made an appearance in his apartment again, nor did any other woman. There was something more possessive in his gaze now, hungrier. She found herself purposefully touching herself more in his presence—fingertips caressing the curve of her neck, the line of her collarbone, her hand grazing the swell of her breast, the peak of her nipple under her shirt, the pads of her fingers stroking the inside of her thigh, dangerously close to the damp crotch of her panties.

His own hands would wander, too, as he watched her deliberate touches, absently rubbing his quads, his fingers ghosting over the slight bulge in his pants, teasing the skin of his abdomen right above the waistband, periodically slipping underneath. She wanted to see. She wanted to see all of him.

A few nights later, they sat on their respective couches, playing their game of touch chicken, hands roaming their own bodies idly, almost as if in challenge. Katniss couldn't take it anymore. The teasing was torturous. It didn't seem like he was going to take the next step, so she supposed she would have to be the one.

Heady with lust, she lifted her ass up and shimmied out of her panties, dropping them to the floor. She looked over at him; he sat forward on his couch, his face slack with astonishment. Her legs were clamped together, but, digging deep, she shyly opened her thighs, hoping her apprehension didn't read on her face. Her trembling hands smoothed across the delicate skin of her inner thighs, and she hitched her feet up on the edge of the couch cushions, spread precariously before his eyes now. She thought she saw his mouth move as he issued either a groan or a curse, the bulge in his pants growing steadily as he watched her.

Emboldened, she slid one hand over her stomach and pushed her shirt up to her chest to expose her breasts. She let his gaze linger on them for a moment before she cupped one in her hand to massage it.

Peeta stood up abruptly and crossed to the window. She quivered in anticipation as he leaned against the glass, propping his forearm above his head to brace his full weight off the window. His hand dipped beneath the waistband of his pants, stretching them out to slide down over his erection. She inhaled sharply at the sight of his hard cock as it strained upward, squeezing her breast firmly when he wrapped his hand around his shaft. Her stomach bottomed out, and she gasped as she pushed two of her fingers inside herself, pumping them in and out slowly while her other hand kneaded her breast, her thumb and index finger pulling at her nipple. Peeta's hand stroked his cock, his thumb circling the swollen head briefly before resuming his pumping motions.

She was mesmerized by his cock, the way he expertly worked himself, his hand moving in near tandem with the motion of her own fingers, sliding quickly in and out of her folds. If she closed her eyes, it was almost like it was his cock driving into her.

But she didn't want to close her eyes; she wanted to watch him when he came.

Her clit begged for her attention, so she refocused her efforts there, moaning as her middle and ring fingers lighted upon it, outlining short, quick arcs over the hooded cleft. She struggled not to let her eyes flutter closed, fixing them on his glorious cock as he stroked it. His breath was fogging up the window as he panted, his chest rising and falling with his deep, quick breaths.

She was going to come. She could feel it, right there; she didn't know if she should wait, prolong it somehow, but she couldn't stop now. Her chest seized, and her head fell back on the couch as the coil of pleasure snapped between her thighs, spreading through every limb, tightening every muscle of her body. Her thighs clamped shut around her hand, and she whimpered, her back arching off the couch.

Through the haze of her orgasm, she saw him finish; his hips jerked slightly as he came, his hand cupping the head of his cock to gather the stream of cum. His face screwed up tightly in ecstasy, and his other hand flattened and flexed against the window. It was incredibly sexy.

And wrong and utterly foolish. Now that she was thinking clearly, the blinding veil of arousal and carnal pleasure lifted, she was suddenly horrified with herself. What had she been thinking? She jerked her legs closed and yanked her shirt down, her entire body flushing with shame. Peeta was looking at her again, dumbfounded by her actions, but his hand still held his softening cock.

Humiliated, Katniss jumped off the couch and flew into her bedroom, out of his line of sight, shakily closing her door behind her. She couldn't believe she'd done that—exposed herself to him like that, letting him be privy to such an intimate act she'd never shared with anyone else before, not even boyfriends—and him practically a stranger. What the fuck was she doing?

She couldn't bear to look at him after that, so she hid in her bed the rest of the night. She'd become fairly familiar with his schedule now; she knew how and when to avoid him.

Waking early the next morning, earlier than usual, Katniss got ready for work, creeping through her living room, hoping to get out the front door without being seen by him.

She pulled up short when she looked at his window, however. He'd taped a sheet of paper there at some point. Her heart constricted at the message.

I'M SORRY

Why was he apologizing? She was the one who was sorry. And embarrassed. She had goaded him into it. It wasn't his fault she did stupid, reckless things in the heat of the moment; sometimes, she just acted before she could think. And then she regretted it later.

Ugh. She was a terrible person.

Shaking her head, she forced herself to walk away and out the door.


Katniss couldn't stop thinking about him and that note all day, however. On top of feeling ashamed, now she felt guilty. She hadn't meant to lead him on—though, was she leading him on? What had she hoped would happen after masturbating in front of him? She cringed at the thought. She hadn't really thought anything, she guessed; she was only thinking of the moment.

She really was an idiot.

So, maybe she hadn't been thinking about the next step, but what was stopping them from taking it? She had finger-fucked herself for him while he'd jacked off in return—really, there was no going back after that.

So why not forward?

After work, she hastily made her own sign. She checked the window; his apology had been removed, and there was no sign of him in his apartment. Biting her lip, she scrutinized her sheet of paper, wondering if she could really do what she had planned, but then she huffed and hastily taped it to the window before retreating to her room to shower.

12F.

She hoped he understood what it meant.


Katniss was unbelievably antsy as she made dinner, shuffling around her kitchen sluggishly, too afraid to check his window. It had been an hour since she'd put the sign up. He should have seen it by now; he was normally home by this point. Maybe he didn't get it. Maybe he didn't care. Maybe he was done with her and her mixed signals—

She nearly dropped the pot in her hand at the soft knock on her door. No one ever knocked. Her stomach twisted painfully, wrought with nerves, and she set the pot down carefully, taking a moment to compose herself. Then she strode to the door, her hand faltering on the doorknob briefly before she forced herself to turn it. She cracked the door open and peeked her head around, her heart jumping into her throat.

Peeta. He got the message.

Her face heated up under his stare, but he looked equally nervous. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she opened the door wider, and he flashed her a smile. Her heart was racing.

"Hey, neighbor," he greeted softly. Her lips spasmed in the shape of a smile.

"Hi."

He cleared his throat, keeping his hands behind his back. "So, I've been thinking…maybe we've been going about this all the wrong way. I never even came over to welcome you to the neighborhood. I haven't been very neighborly, have I?" He quirked an eyebrow, the corner of his mouth twitching into a grin. "Or…maybe I've been too neighborly."

She flushed deeper, simultaneously wanting to slam the door in his face and kiss him. "I wasn't complaining," she mumbled vaguely, fighting a smile. He narrowed his eyes at her briefly as he deciphered her words, then he licked his lips and smiled again.

"Well, I thought I'd rectify that. I come bearing food—as a welcoming gift," he explained, pulling his hands out from around his back to present her a container of rolls. She eyed the offering in confusion. "Cheese buns. You'll love them, I promise."

Tentatively, she took the container from him. "Well…thank you," she said shyly, unable to hold his gaze. "That's, um, really nice of you." A troubling look settled in his eyes, and he shifted his weight from foot to foot; he looked like he was about to bid her goodbye, but she didn't want him to leave yet. She didn't want to go back to their previous relationship. So she forced the words out before she could second guess herself. "Umm, I'm making dinner. Would you…maybe like to stay and eat with me?"

His eyes widened as he stared at her in disbelief. "Really? You want me to have dinner with you?" She nodded silently, twisting the doorknob in her hand. The container was starting to sear her fingers from the heat of the rolls. Peeta broke out into a grin then. "Okay, yeah. I would love to have dinner with you, Katniss."

His grin was contagious, and she found herself returning it as she welcomed him into her apartment, shutting the door behind him.

Maybe making friends with the neighbors wasn't so bad, after all.