A/N: Hi everyone! Here's the next chapter. I struggled a bit because it doesn't feel like there's as much action now that they're actually getting together-I seem to write better when there's a lot of unresolved sexual tension to play with. But I tried to get at the kinds of feelings Katniss would be having as she works through her conflicted resolutions about love and relationships in the midst of the hook-up culture that's so prevalent on a lot of college campuses. Thanks for all of your reviews, it really motivates me to keep working on the story when I hear from you. This chapter is bookended by lemons, I hope you enjoy the citrus! All mistakes are my own and I don't own the Hunger Games.
When Peeta woke in the middle of the night, this time he knew it wasn't a dream that Katniss was in his bed. She was burrowed next to him under the covers, her steading breathing indicating a restful sleep, and his heart surged at the feel of here there.
I made love to Katniss Everdeen, he thought to himself with wonder, with joy. His cock began to stir again and he groaned to himself, because he also had to pee, and a hard-on wasn't going to help with that.
He softly slid out of the bed so as not to wake Katniss and then made his way to the bathroom. He noted the time on the microwave clock in the kitchen—2:27am—and he figured his roommates must have come home at some point during the night because he saw Thresh's backpack on the table. He wondered how long it took Thresh to communicate to the guys what he'd walked in on earlier.
Peeta flicked on the bathroom light, saw his face in the mirror, and grinned at himself. He couldn't help it. I made to love to Katniss Everdeen, he thought again. And he was going to do it again as soon as possible.
He debated whether or not to wake her when he returned to his room. He wanted more of her, now, but he also knew she would want to get a good night's sleep. And maybe he shouldn't push his luck. He was sliding back under the covers quietly so as not to disturb her when she began to stir of her own accord.
"What time is it?" she asked sleepily.
"A little before three am," he responded, his hands reaching for her to pull her close to him. She settled in with her back against him and he reached his arm around her waist to pull her flush with his body. He was drunk on her again, already, and he wasn't going to be able to hide it. His cock hardened against her backside and he buried his mouth in her hair, inhaling her scent.
Katniss let out a sigh as she wiggled her bottom against his hardening cock. He felt her begin to undulate slowly, stretching slightly like a cat within his arms, and he slid his hand tentatively up to her breast and gave it a squeeze. She arched her back in pleasure, a position which pushed her ass against his cock even more insistently.
"Peeta," she cried out softly as he slid his hand from her breast down to the soft curls at the apex of her thighs.
"Mmm," he murmured as he slid his fingers into her folds, finding the beginnings of her arousal already evident. He pushed his hand against her center, pulling her back against him even more, and she shuddered.
He used his other hand to pull her hair away from her neck so he could kiss her there. "I want you again," he whispered in her ear.
She nodded and moved her legs so he could better access her center where his fingers continued to work. She moaned and moved with him, and he could feeling her getting wetter, her skin flushing hotter.
He reached for the nightstand drawer and pulled out another condom. Thank goodness he'd bought a box between his classes the day before. At the rate he wanted to go with her, he'd be buying a lot more.
Katniss' hands slid over his fingers and she grasped the condom. "Can I try?" she asked.
"Please," he said as he nodded, willing to grant her anything in the world that she wanted.
She rose onto her knees and kneeled over him as he lay back into the sheets, his dick standing hard at attention. She slowly tore open the packet and pulled out the rubber, the lubricant shining on her fingers in the moonlight streaming through the window. She stroked one hand along his length and he twitched, causing her to laugh softly.
"I think he likes you," Peeta said, he voice becoming rough as she continued to move her hand on him. Mercifully, she soon fit the condom onto the head of his cock and rolled it down.
He reached his hand down to touch her folds again, finding her even more wet, and he guided her up until she was poised over him. Her eyes flashed in the moonlight, her hair streaming over her shoulders, the dark shadows emphasizing the smooth planes and curves of her body. He stroked her clit with his thumb and began to position himself at her entrance.
"Take it as slow as you want," he said. "I'm all yours."
She braced her hands on his chest and began to lower herself onto him, her mouth opening in a gasp as he stretched her tight walls. She rose up slightly and then lowered herself more, then rocked forward a bit before settling back and taking him all the way inside her.
"Ohhhhh," she moaned as she settled fully onto his cock, her eyes falling shut. "That feels so good."
"I know," Peeta groaned, and it did. It felt fucking unreal. Her lithe body rose over his and he used his hands to guide her hips into a slow rhythm which she quickly took over, figuring out where to put her hands as she tested out the various angles at which she could take him from this position.
She found an angle she particularly liked, which he knew because she began rocking against him as he was buried deep within her, and her hands skimmed over her body until they found her breasts. She began to play with them, pinching her nipples, pushing her breasts together and squeezing them as she rode him, and Peeta had to fight not to come then and there at the sight of her playing with herself.
They moved together as if they'd been doing this forever, and Katniss let her hands roam from herself down to his chest. She leaned forward and captured his mouth with hers, and then he angled his torso up slightly so he could take her nipple into his mouth. He suckled the tight bud and moved within her, and then leaned back to watch her breasts bounce with each of his thrusts.
Katniss looked down through hooded eyes and he saw she was focusing on where they were joined, her mouth open in ecstasy and awe. He looked too, loving the sight of his thick length moving in and out of her.
"Pretty fucking perfect, isn't it," he grunted, and his words seemed to trigger something in her because she threw her head back and ground down against him more insistently. Her stomach muscles rippled as she rode him harder, and soon he felt her grow incredibly warm and wet around him before dissolving into a powerful orgasm, her inner muscles tightening around him over and over again as she cried out his name.
"That's it, Katniss," he groaned as he thrust into her to make her come as hard as he possibly could. She trembled and her skin broke out in goosebumps, her nipples tight as she leaned over him, this time falling down with the pleasure of her body.
Peeta knew what he needed and he gracefully turned them both over until she was on her back, her legs falling to the sides as the waves of her orgasm receded, and he began to thrust into her from above. Her breasts moved with the rhythm of his thrusts and her eyes fell open, hazy with pleasure, and she smiled at him. Her lips tried to form his name again and he thrust harder as her legs wrapped around him. He felt the tightening in his balls and knew he was close, and he surged into her, nothing in the world mattering except the two of them.
He groaned out her name as he came hard inside her, his cock pulsing, filling the condom with his semen. He couldn't even imagine what it would be like to do this without a condom. He continued to groan with each pulsing wave and then eventually he lowered himself to her, careful to keep from crushing her with his weight. He wanted to stay inside of her forever but of course that wasn't an option, and he slid himself out of her slowly, careful to pull the condom with him. He managed to get it into the wastebasket next to his bed before his body crashed all the way down into its post-orgasm mode, but barely.
They lay across his sheets, a tangle of sweaty limbs, their breath slowly returning to normal. Eventually he pulled the duvet back over them as they cooled off, and they fell once again into a satiated sleep.
When he woke again it was morning, and Katniss was looming over him, her hand softly tangled in his hair.
"Good morning," she whispered.
"Good morning," he replied. He reached to pull her closer to him and realized that she was already dressed. "Wait, are you leaving?"
Katniss sighed. "I have to go, Peeta," she said, and he knew by the look in her eyes that their magical night together had ended. They were back to the reality of daytime, the reality of life.
Peeta reached his hand up to touch hers and then slid it along her arm, trying to bring her closer. "Are you sure you can't stay a little longer?"
She shook her head. "I can't believe I stayed all night," she said. "I didn't mean to…"
Peeta saw her mind warring with her heart in her eyes and knew he couldn't rush the through process she needed to go through now that they had slept together.
"I'm so glad you did," he said, pulling her down for another kiss.
"I have to run if I want to catch a shower before my postcolonial lit class," she said. "I'll, uh, text you?"
He nodded. "Yes. Definitely. Tell me how class goes."
"Okay," she said, kissing him on the cheek and then swiftly retreating from his room before he could get in another word.
Peeta stared at the door in shock and then lay back down to stare at the ceiling. He didn't like to see her rush out of here like that—he would have loved to go another round with her before breakfast—but he also knew she liked to get up and get her day started. So he let her go. He closed his eyes and let himself sleep a bit longer, if only so he could dream about her.
"And just where have you been, missy?"
Katniss paused in the doorway to her room, held still by Stacey's gaze, which pierced her from across the room where her roommate was in front of her mirror in the middle of her daily makeup regimen.
"You didn't sleep here last night!" Stacey taunted.
Katniss rushed inside the room and turned away before Stacey could see her blush. "I had a late study session and, uh, stayed over at Rue's," she lied.
"Studying on the first night of the term? Come on," Stacey said, her tone indicating how lame she thought that was.
"You know me, always trying to keep up with things," Katniss mumbled.
"If I didn't know any better I'd say you were with a boy," Stacey trilled.
Katniss nearly choked.
"But you're not a slut like my friends and me, so I do know better," Stacey continued, becoming reabsorbed into her toilette.
Katniss managed to strip down, grab her shower caddy, and escape to the communal bathroom on their hall before Stacey could continue. The hot water was soon hissing out of the shower head and she let herself stand beneath it. She let out a sigh and relished the feeling of the hot water. Stacey was the last person she would confide in about Peeta, so of course she and lied about her whereabouts the night before, but still, it felt weird to tell an outright lie instead of her usually fib via omission.
The weirdness dissipated as she let her mind return to last night and a smile spread across her face as she began to lather her soap. She felt slightly sore between her legs, and her muscles ached in odd places, from the sex. She'd had sex—twice!—with Peeta, and she felt incredible and strange and different and the same all at once. She was no longer a virgin, not that that distinction really meant much to her. It had always been a technicality. But there it was.
It had been even better the second time, when they'd woken in the middle of the night and explore each other again. She felt a pulse of warmth between her legs as she remembered the feel of him there, all of him, and she squirmed as she let the soap run over her body. It had been amazing, her body feeling things she didn't know it could feel, and part of her wished she had stayed in his bed and gone for round three before leaving to get ready for class.
But there hadn't been time, and she also felt different, in the daylight. She'd watched him sleep for a few moments before she got up and dressed quietly, and he was beautifully innocent in his sleep. She felt slightly scandalous seeing him like this when she'd been engaged in very wicked things with him only hours before. But there were those contrasts she found in him again, the many different sides of Peeta Mellark she was coming to know.
If she thought they'd turned a corner on New Years, they had definitely turned a corner now. Stacey hadn't been kidding when she referred to her friends and herself as sluts, even though Katniss kind of hated that term. But she knew what Stacey was talking about. She and her posse frequently hooked up with guys they met at parties, and these hookups rarely led to actual dating.
Peeta wasn't just some hookup, and she knew that. He had talked to her about his feelings, and she wondered now what that really meant. She could easily compute the physical aspects of their relationship: boy and girl have incredible chemistry, boy and girl have amazing sex, and hopefully lots more of it. But actual feelings were something different.
Katniss had always been suspicious of romantic relationships. She wasn't a romantic like Prim, or even like her mother, who had been so sweet on her father when he was alive. Her parents had clearly cherished one another, but Katniss also knew that their marriage had strained their relations with both of their families, and then when her father had died, her mother had nearly disappeared inside herself with grief. What was the point of loving someone that much if you were just going to lose them and then lose your mind as a result?
Katniss approached love the same way she had approached sex. She figured she would know when the time was right. And when it came to love, the time wouldn't be right until later, when she had her career figured out and was in a stable place in her life. That time certainly wasn't now.
Peeta cared for her. And, she had to admit to herself, she cared about him too. She wouldn't have slept with him if she didn't. But love? That was a completely different situation. Something she knew she'd be better off pushing out of her mind. Besides, this was college. College was for experimentation and enjoyment, not for falling in love.
She rinsed off and hurried back to her room, knowing she had to hustle if she wanted to get breakfast before her class. Stacey was gone, much to her relief, and she quickly dressed, braided her hair, grabbed her things, and got out the door.
Shortly after, the bells of the Baker clock tower sounded the half hour as she practically ran across the Green towards Dartmouth Hall while shoving an egg and cheese sandwich into her mouth. She got stuck in the shuffle of students milling up and down the stairs between classes and her frustrations built. She was never late to class, especially not on the first day.
She finally found her way to the classroom and found the door already closed, so she opened it and tried to slip inside unnoticed. This was impossible, she quickly realized, because the room was small. It contained a large wooden table shaped like an oval, and there was no way to blend into the crowd because there wasn't one. There were maybe fifteen or so other students in the room, and at the head of the table sat a slouching figure she decided must be Dr. Haymitch Abernathy.
"Well, nice of you to join us, sweetheart," the professor drawled as she slunk in and found an empty seat, her face burning and her mood rankling at his endearment.
She wasn't sure what she'd expected Dr. Abernathy to be like, but it wasn't this. His long, greyish blonde hair was shoved out of his face and he looked like he hadn't shaved in a week. His eyes were bloodshot, and he was dressed in a blue button-up with a stain on the front, a brown tie that was also stained, and a rumpled blazer with patches on the elbows. He looked like he'd slept under the table in the classroom and had woken up five minutes ago.
He stared her down with a slight smirk on his face as she settled into her seat and waited until she retrieved her notebook and her copy of Midnight's Children from her bag before he cleared his throat and continued speaking.
"As I was saying, this seminar is an introduction to postcolonial literature, intended for upperclassmen, so don't expect me to baby you like little freshmen. In here you are expected work your preppy little asses off so by the end of the term you have at least some understanding of the literature and how to write about it."
Some of the other students chuckled at the phrase "preppy little asses," but Dr. Abernathy just stared at them with his red eyes until they stopped. "You think it's funny that I used a bad word? Well guess what. I'm gonna use a lot more bad words, and it's not funny. This class, this subject matter, is not funny. Not. Funny. Do you hear me?"
The chuckling students had turned serious. Katniss just glared at the professor, completely unsure of what to think of him and his bizarre attitude.
Dr. Abernathy took a stack of papers and tossed it into the middle of the table. "There's the syllabus. Take it or leave it. Not like half of you are even gonna bother to read it anyway."
One of the chucklers reached out and took the pile, then proceeded to pass it around to the rest of the class. Katniss had already seen the syllabus, having requested it at the end of last term from the English department secretary, but she took another copy now.
"Now," Dr. Abernathy said, leading back slightly in his chair and swirling the coffee mug he held in his hand. "Can any of you tell me what the word 'postcolonial' means?"
The room was silent until another of the chucklers raised her hand. "It means, like, after colonialism?"
"That's, like, kind of correct," Dr. Abernathy responded mockingly. "Doesn't take a Latin scholar to figure out what 'post' means."
The girl receded, blushing deeply, and her friend raised his hand.
"Yes?" Dr. Abernathy said expectantly.
"Um, it refers to the state of different, um, places in the world that were colonized by European powers, and the things that are happening there now that, um, they aren't colonies anymore?"
Dr. Abernathy nodded his head thoughtfully. "Actually, that was pretty good, all 'ums' aside. You might not fail this class. Anyone else want to contribute to this scintillating discussion?"
The room was silent. Katniss sure wasn't going to volunteer anything, not until she got a better read on this guy.
Dr. Abernathy set his coffee mug down with a clack on the wooden surface of the table. "Okay. This is probably a stretch for you, living in this here day and age, especially at a fancy school like this one, but go ahead and humor me. Imagine that you live in a place, and you and your people have your culture, and your way of life, your way of doing things, and everything's going along just fine. And then one day, a ship shows up, and a buncha guys whose skin is a different color than yours gets off the ship and decide they're going to make some changes around here. They're gonna tell you your religion is wrong, and that you're heathens, and you're dirty, and everything you do is inferior to their way of doing things, and you need to start speaking and eating and dressing and worshipping like them, or else. Fast forward a couple hundred years, and maybe along the way they found some gold or diamonds or furs or tea trees or whatever and they took it all—well, they made you and your family work like slaves to get it for them—and then they left. Or maybe they liked your place and they stayed there and kicked you out of your homes and decided it was their place now. Either way, you're not coming out on the top of this bargain. Your world is screwed no matter what part of the timescale you're living in. But along the way they taught you how to read and write and with those tools, some of you have managed to write about what happened to you. And for awhile those colonizers try to ignore you, but after a while they can't, because lo and behold, you're just as good at writing now as they are. And some of you write novels about all of this. Really complicated novels that get at every little nook and cranny of the disgusting history that has been forced upon you. And those novels, kids, are what we're reading in this here classroom. Questions?"
He finished his spiel and picked up his coffee mug again, looking expectantly around the room. Nobody said anything, and he sighed.
"Alright, no questions. Fine. Now let's do the first day of class thing where I read through the syllabus and tell you how much trouble you'll get in if you buy your essays off the Internet." He looked around for a moment, confused. "Can I borrow someone's syllabus? I forgot to make myself a copy."
The student closest to him handed theirs over and he began to read through it.
"Well, right off the bat I'm gonna have to change things around, because this syllabus was made by a colleague of mine who went on maternity leave and I just don't like the order she put things in. Get your pens out. No way in hell are we gonna touch Midnight's Children before week four. That's just too many pages and too much magical realism to deal with right off the bat. Look, let's swap Midnight's Children with Weep Not, Child. Way shorter book. And I like to start with Africa anyway. You got that?"
Katniss glared, her blood pressure rising. She'd been reading Midnight's Children for nearly a week in preparation for this class, and now he was telling her they didn't have to read it for another month? What the hell was this guy's problem? Was he even qualified to teach this class? He clearly hadn't even read the syllabus before just now.
"Since it's the first day and you haven't read anything yet—and neither have I, let's be honest, at least not recently—we're gonna cut this short. I have a liquid lunch date with a colleague from the anthropology department anyway. We meet again on Thursday. Read the first half of Weep Not, Child and we'll talk about it then. Now scram."
The students quickly began to stuff their belongings in their bags and rush out of the room. Katniss, however, had a bone to pick. She walked over to the window where the professor had planted himself, staring out at the Green.
"Excuse me, Dr. Abernathy," she said.
He turned to look at her, making a face like she smelled funny. "What do you want?"
Katniss squared her shoulders. "I requested the syllabus in advance last term and was told I could start reading Midnight's Children early."
Katniss gritted her teeth. "So I'm almost done with it, and I…" She trailed off, having failed to fully think through her argument before approaching the professor.
"And you what?"
"I think it's unfair that you changed the syllabus just like that!" she blurted out.
"Oh you do, do you?"
"Yes. And I also think you're wrong about something."
He blinked at her. "And what is that?"
Katniss took a deep breath. "You said it was a stretch for us to imagine what it's like to endure colonialism. Well, I'm part Native American, and I want to tell you first hand that I have seen plenty of the horrible effects of colonialism on my people. So don't assume that everyone here is just another spoiled rich kid."
Dr. Abernathy raised his eyebrows and looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. "What's your name, kid?"
Katniss glared. "Katniss Everdeen. I'm part Chippewa, from Fond du Lac, Minnesota."
An entirely new expression came over Dr. Abernathy's face. "Ohhh, now it all makes sense. Ha, Blondie was right about you, sweetheart. You got spunk."
"Excuse me?" she hissed.
Dr. Abernathy chuckled. "I'm talking about Blondie. Our mutual friend. You know him, he's from the same town as you? Kinda smart for a dumb hockey player?"
"You call Peeta Blondie?" Katniss asked incredulously. Now she was completely thrown off.
Dr. Abernathy just kept smiling his jaded smile. "Yeah, it suits him, don't you think? Now Blondie told me about you."
Katniss' eyes flashed.
"Don't worry, he sung your praises. Boy worships the ground you walk on. Anyway what I'm saying is, I knew you were coming, I just didn't put two and two together until now."
"I don't expect you to do me any favors," she said bitterly. She was furious that this professor was being so presumptuous. He was picking up her tone, though, as he slowly realized that he wasn't going to be able to charm her—or blow her off—with his snarky commentary.
"And I don't plan to do any for you, sweetheart," he said. "I apologize for not asking if any of you were from formerly colonized populations before I went into my diatribe, but I'm not going to change the syllabus back for you. If you're smart enough to read ahead then you can keep it all inside your noggin for a few more weeks and be just fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I have get my favorite table at the Hanover Inn before Dr. Thread from the history department beats me to it. He's a real bastard, trust me."
Katniss just stared at him for a few seconds before she realized he was waiting for her to leave first. She huffed and turned around sharply to gather her things.
"And sweetheart?" he said as she reached the door, "You can call me Haymitch. Say hi to Blondie for me."
Peeta was flying high all day on the joy of having spent the night with Katniss, and he knew he could barely keep the shit-eating grin off his face. His friends gave him grief at the lunch table and later that day in practice his coach even noticed the extra bounce in his step.
"Keep it up like this, Mellark," he said, nodding sternly but approvingly after a particularly good defensive drill.
In the locker room, Finnick squirted him with a water bottle when he walked by. "Looking sharp out there today, Mellark," he said with a wink from where he leaned against the edge of his locker.
"Whatever," Peeta said modestly, but he couldn't suppress the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Finnick's eyes glinted and he followed Peeta to the bench where they both sat down to unlace their skates. "Correct me if I'm wrong, Mellark, but you skated out there today like a man who got laid last night."
Peeta blushed and shushed Finnick. "Don't announce it to the whole room, please?"
Finnick lit up and clapped Peeta on the back, but lowered his voice. "So you did get laid last night!"
Peeta just smiled and concentrated on his skate laces. "Things are…good right now. Really good. But it's still really new, okay? And I know Katniss doesn't wants her business advertised all around the locker room."
"Whose business?" Cato Anderson said as he walked by.
"Nobody's," Peeta said.
"You talking about that girl you were sucking face with on New Years Eve?" Cato continued. "She's a total a smoke show. What's her name again?"
"Katniss," said Finnick, who then cried out as Peeta punched his arm.
"That's right," Cato said. "Damn, how come she hasn't been around before now? She a freshmen?"
"I'd drop it if I were you, Anderson," Finnick said.
Peeta just glared at him.
"Oh I see," Cato said. "Not just some puck bunny tail, huh? You got it bad, Mellark, you should see your face right now. You fucking pussy!"
Cato walked away, cackling, and Peeta gritted his teeth and shook his head.
Finnick laughed and gave Peeta another slap on the back. "Oh come on now, Peet. You know how hard it is for Cato when he's forced to respect the women his friends actually have feelings for. Took me ages to get him to shut the fuck up about Annie, and she doesn't even go to school here."
"I just… I don't want to scare her off. I'm finally getting somewhere with her. The last thing I need is for some dumbass goon like Anderson to say something stupid to her," Peeta said, yanking off his skates. He shoved them into his locker and turned back to Finnick. "It's not just sex with her, man. It's more than that. She's more than that."
Finnick shoved off his own skates. "I get it, man. Seriously."
He did. Finnick acted like a playboy on the surface, but his heart belonged to Annie Cresta, his girlfriend from his hometown in California. Peeta knew about how they'd gotten together two years before when they'd run into each other at a party after years of bad timing. He wondered, actually, if there were any parallels with him and Katniss. He hoped so, since it was working out well for Finnick and Annie. They were planning to move in together that summer after they both graduated.
"Is Annie back at Stanford already?" Peeta asked.
Finnick nodded and stood to return to his locker. "Yeah, final semester. We're getting closer."
"Two years of long-distance must be intense," Peeta said.
"Trust me, Mellark, when she's the one for you, you'll do anything to be with her. I may not have said that three years ago but I sure as hell know it now. And I suspect you'd be willing to go to similar lengths for your girl."
It was true, Peeta realized. On his part, at least. "Now I just have to convince her she feels the same about me."
"Ah, young love," Finnick sighed. "Hang in there, Peet. If you're sleeping together, I'd say you've got a pretty good start. That's usually how chicks work, right? Sex always comes with feelings attached."
Peeta thought about this in the shower, and again on the walk to the dining hall with some of his teammates after practice. Yeah, the general rule was that girls got more attached than guys, but Peeta wasn't much for generalizations, and besides, Katniss was the least likely girl to fit into any stereotype of that kind. She wasn't unfeeling, of course. But she also wouldn't be declaring her love for him just because they'd slept together. Funny how most guys he knew would be thrilled about a girl not getting attached. But he wasn't most guys. And Katniss was definitely not most girls.
He needed to see her again. He'd texted earlier to see how her class went and she'd responded with OK but hadn't elaborated. He knew she was having dinner with Rue at a different dining hall before they went to the library, but he figured he'd see if he could manage to see her.
Study break later? I'll bring the hot chocolate, he texted before going into the dining hall to eat. Fifteen minutes later his phone chimed with her response.
9:30 at Collis? she wrote, referring to the spot where they'd first had coffee back in the fall, and where they'd met several times since.
Perfect, see you there.
Katniss and Rue sat across the table from one another, recounting various stories from their winter breaks over their bowls of pasta, when Rue finally set down her garlic bread and gave Katniss a serious look.
"Okay, enough of this small talk. I want to know what happened between you and Peeta," she said.
Katniss felt her face burn. "What do you mean?"
Rue laughed and shook her head. "You guys drove all the way here from Minnesota and you keep making this face when you mention him. I know something's up."
Katniss looked at her quizzically. "What kind of face?"
"A face like you've got a secret."
Katniss set her bread down with a sigh. She was about to start telling Rue what had happened on New Years when she caught a flash of long blonde tresses out of the corner of her eye. "Uh oh," she said as Stacey and Francie made their way towards the table where she and Rue sat in the corner. "Listen, Rue, I need you to cover for me."
"What?" Rue said, but before Katniss could answer, Stacey was slapping her tray down on the table.
"It's super crowded in here, so we're gonna have to share a table with you guys, okay?" she said.
"Whatever," Katniss said, giving Rue an apologetic look.
"I heard you guys were up all night studying," Stacey said to Rue.
Rue looked at Katniss in confusion, and Katniss silently pleaded with her eyes for Rue to play along.
"Oh, uh, yeah," Rue replied, overly brightly. "You know how it is, gotta get a head start on the term."
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm excited for the rush meeting tonight," Francie piped up.
"The what meeting?" Katniss asked.
"Rush, duh," Stacey said. "As in rushing sororities? Rush happens in the winter here, and tonight is the meeting where you have to attend to learn the rules and officially sign up to rush."
Rue looked at Katniss. "Are you rushing?"
Katniss snorted. "Yeah right."
"I know you think you're too good for this stuff, Katniss, but the Greeks run the scene here. There are even sororities for the girls who think they're too cool to be in sororities, and co-ed fraternities for the real freakazoids. And you can rush as a junior since you're a transfer student."
"Trust me, it's not that I'm too cool," Katniss said. "It's that I don't have the spare time to kiss people's asses for the privilege of paying to be their friend."
"I can't rush this year since I'm still a freshman, but I might next year," Rue said, causing Katniss to look at her in surprise.
Rue shrugged. "My RA is in KDE and I've met some of her sorority sisters. They seem really cool and normal. And who knows, it could be fun."
"We're hoping for Tri-Delt or Kappa," Stacey said, and Francie nodded.
"It's just not my scene," Katniss said.
"But Peeta's in a frat," Francie said.
"So? I can be friends with someone who's in a frat without joining the system myself."
"I'm just saying, it's not all bad."
"Uh huh, and they do charity work and blah blah blah," Katniss said.
She didn't think much about Peeta's involvement with Chi Heorot, and he didn't mention it often. She knew he'd joined the year before with his hockey friends, but Peeta was personable and popular and good at the whole group participation thing. She was most definitely not.
"We're never going to change Katniss' mind about this," Stacey said.
"Fine, let's talk about boys instead," Francie said, twirling her hair red hair around her finger.
"Talking about dating and sororities over dining hall food," Katniss said sarcastically. "I feel like I'm in a bad college movie."
"Who said anything about dating?" Stacey replied. "People don't date here."
"What do you mean?" Rue asked.
Katniss sighed and settled in for Stacey's rant, which she'd heard several times before.
"I mean, people don't date here, like, seriously or anything. It's a hook-up culture. Instead of going out on actual dates, it's all about hooking up. And if you really like hooking up with someone and he likes you back, maybe he turns into your boyfriend. But dating? So last century."
Francie nodded. "My last boyfriend and I totally got together after hooking up at a Chi Gam dance party."
"Sounds depressing," Katniss muttered.
"I'm just being real, Katniss," Stacey said sanctimoniously. "And there are some couples who do it the old fashioned way, but they're usually weirdos. So in addition to rush we're strategizing about which hot frat guys we want to hook up with this term."
"I guess I'm old fashioned," Rue said. "I'd like to think that if I liked somebody and he liked me back we could at least, I don't know, go out for dinner?"
"You hook up with him first, and then you go out for dinner," Francie said matter-of-factly.
Katniss just watched the conversation unfold around her as she grew increasingly uncomfortable. Rue was always more patient with Stacey and her friends than she was, and watching her with them seemed to underscore how much nicer and more open to things Rue was in general.
Stacey's rant about hook-up culture resounded with her differently now, though. When it came down to it, wasn't that what she and Peeta were doing? Hooking up? It was certainly easier to hook up than it was to sort out some kind of definition for what was going on between them. It just felt strange to her, to be embodying the concept her roommate had been harping on since day one in their dorm room. But didn't see herself and Peeta as one of those "weirdo" couples who actually dated, either. For some reason, the less defined it was, the more in control she felt.
Stacey and Francie finally finished their dinners and their strategizing—apparently, in addition to the Heorot boys, they were going to make a play for some guys in AD and Psi U—and left so they could make it to the rush meeting in time. Rue turned back to Katniss after waving goodbye.
"Okay, you look like a storm cloud," Rue said. "What gives?"
Katniss shook her head. "Those two and their inane chatter. You seem to be getting along just fine with them, though."
Rue sighed. "They're not that bad. Yeah, they're shallow, but at least they're upfront about it."
"You really might rush next year?"
"Yeah, I like meeting new people. But forget about that. You went radio silent there for a while. Where's your head, Katniss?"
Katniss shoved her remaining pasta around in her bowl and didn't meet Rue's eyes. "Nowhere."
"Are you going to answer my question from earlier? About Peeta? Or do I have to drag it out of you?"
Katniss met Rue's eyes and saw her friend pleading for openness. "Okay fine. Something did happen. Is happening. I don't know."
Rue's eyes widened. "Really?"
"Yes really," Katniss said reluctantly. "On New Years Eve I ended up going to this party and he was there and it was midnight and we kissed…ugh, I don't know…" she trailed off, burying her face in her hands.
Rue put her hand on Katniss' shoulder. "Hey, come on, don't hide from me after telling me you guys finally kissed. This is huge, Katniss!"
"No it's not," she said. "But it's more than kissing."
Katniss looked around before leaning in closer to Rue so she could speak quietly. "Last night, when he got back from his tournament in New York, he cooked me dinner at his place and we, well, we, you know…"
Rue just looked at her, not letting her get away with trailing off again.
"We had sex, okay?" she whispered.
Rue punched her fist victoriously in the air. "Yes! I knew it!"
"That you guys would end up together," Rue said with a smirk.
"Who says we're together?"
"Oh come on, Katniss."
"I'm serious. You heard Stacey and Francie. This place is all about hook-ups, not about actual relationships."
Rue shook her head. "Don't listen to them. Peeta's not like the guys they're into."
"He's exactly like the guys they're into! He's a popular athlete in a cool fraternity."
"I mean, he's not just going to hook up with you. That boy likes you for real."
"And you know this from the one time you met him last term?"
"I saw the way he looked at you, Katniss. And I've managed to pry enough out of you about your interactions since you started hanging out to get a pretty good picture of the kind of attention he gives you. I'm willing to bet the feelings he had for you in high school are back and stronger than ever. Especially now that you're both grown-ups."
"We're college kids. We are not grown-ups."
"You don't believe that for a second. You're the most mature person I know, except when it comes to acknowledging your own feelings. Why are you coming up with objections to everything I say?"
Katniss let out another sigh. "I don't know, okay? I'm just really confused right now. I've never been in this situation before."
"When are you seeing him again?"
"Later tonight. We're having our usual study break."
"Okay, so what are you going to do when you see him?"
"Um, talk to him about studying, like we always do?"
"Is that all you want to do?"
Katniss blushed at the thought of wanting and Peeta. The word "want" had a whole new definition now when it came to him.
"I'm going to guess, based on the color of your face, that you're thinking about more than studying right now," Rue teased.
Katniss shook her head. "Okay look. I… want him. I do. I'll admit that. It's all I'm willing to admit at this point. I'm twenty-one years old, and my body is angling toward its sexual prime, and just… just thinking about him makes me get all flustered and please, don't laugh at me."
"I'm not laughing," Rue said. "Katniss, this is a good thing. You're going be fine. Just promise me two things."
"Only two?" Katniss said sarcastically, but she couldn't help smiling.
"Yes. Promise me that you won't overthink this, and that that you won't run from love just because you're scared of something new."
Rue had her there and she knew it. Katniss ignored the comment on love and went straight to the challenge not to be scared. She didn't do scared. She picked up her tray to head to the back of the dining hall. "I'll try," she said, which was the best she could do at this point.
A few hours later, Peeta climbed the stairs inside the student center with two cups of hot chocolate in his hands and found Katniss curled up in the armchair in the alcove, concentrating hard on a book.
"What happened to Midnight's Children?" Peeta joked as he walked up to her, and she greeted him with a scowl.
"Your good buddy Haymitch decided to switch the syllabus up on us," she muttered, folding down the corner of a page of the book, which he saw was Weep Not, Child.
"Yeah, he has a tendency to not follow the rules," Peeta replied, setting one mug down in front of her before settling onto the loveseat.
Katniss slapped the book on the table. "How does that man have a teaching job? He's ridiculous! He looks like he sleeps in his office, he hadn't so much as skimmed the syllabus before class today, and he ditched out early so he could go drink martinis with his buddy at the Hanover Inn, which he gladly told all of us about. How hasn't be been fired?"
Peeta laughed. "Well, it's called tenure. They can't fire him. And I know he seems terrible at first, but really, he's an amazing teacher once you get past his, uh, rough exterior."
"Oh is he, Blondie?"
Peeta flushed. "Oh geez. Yeah, he has a flair for nicknames."
"Yeah, well if he calls me sweetheart one more time I'm gonna kick him in nuts," Katniss grumbled.
"Now that's something I'd pay money to see. Wow, so it was really that bad?"
Katniss sighed. "I don't know. He just…pissed me off. But I need this credit. Damn liberal arts requirements. And besides, if you like him so much I guess he can't be completely terrible. But seriously, Peeta. He smells so weird."
Peeta chuckled and sipped his hot chocolate. "Haymitch is an interesting character. He played hockey too, actually. Played in college at Wisconsin and then played a few years in the NHL. And then things…changed."
"What happened?" Katniss asked, clearly intrigued in spite of herself.
Peeta set down his mug. "There was a car accident. He was driving. His wife was killed and his leg was broken badly enough that it ended his career. When he couldn't play hockey anymore he got really good at two things: reading books and drinking."
"He told you all of this?" Katniss asked.
Peeta shook his head. "Not all of. It's a fairly well-known story, in the hockey world at least. He told me about the books, though. I think he got lost in the books out of grief for his wife. He couldn't play hockey anymore, so he just read and wrote until he got his Ph.D., and eventually he got hired here."
Katniss looked gloomily at her hot chocolate. "Now I just feel sorry for him."
"Well he hates pity, so I wouldn't advertise that fact to him. He likes to be a jackass at the beginning of every new class to scare off what he calls the 'riff raff.' He'll mellow out. And the way he teaches about books, I don't know how to describe it to you, but it's really great. I've never had an English teacher like him."
"He must love you because you play hockey too," Katniss said.
"He does like to dispense terse advice on the sport every once in a while. And he comes to all the home games. He's friends with our coach. He was a great player back in his day, a lot of people still respect him for it."
Katniss frowned thoughtfully, then looked up at Peeta. "Did you tell him to go easy on me?"
"What? No," Peeta said. "Why, did he say something?"
"He knew who I was," she replied. "It just made me think you tried to put in a good word for me or something. I don't need that kind of help, Peeta. I can hack it on my own even though I'm not a word genius like you."
Peeta was taken aback by her defensiveness. "Katniss, I told him you might take his class when I saw him after a game last term. I didn't say anything about going easy on you. You'll probably get a better grade in the class than I did, because you're just plain smarter than me."
Katniss rolled her eyes, but he could see a smile emerging on her face. "He seemed like he knew who I was after I told him where I was from. I may have, uh, called him out for assuming we were all spoiled idiots who didn't know anything about hardship."
Peeta laughed. "Good. He needs to get called on his bullshit more often. And if I'm being honest, Katniss, I told him about you before I told him you'd be in his class. He was at the bar for Finnick's birthday back in the fall right after I found out you'd transferred here, and I may have been a bit drunk and, well, excited that I'd run into you."
"He goes to bars with you?"
"Oh, he was already at the bar when we got there. It's kind of his haunt."
"I can't believe you talked to him about me," Katniss said, but she wasn't angry. She sounded more incredulous than anything.
Peeta got up and walked over to her, leaning over to put his hands on the arms of her chair so he could gaze down at her. "Are you kidding?" he asked. "The day I saw you in the dining hall here for the first time, it was like this… missing puzzle piece had suddenly turned up. I probably went on about it to everybody I know at some point, that's how happy I was."
Katniss stared at him. "Did you just compare me to a puzzle piece?"
Peeta smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I did."
She leaned up suddenly and kissed him, and Peeta let himself be captured, the chocolate on both of their mouths mingling. She rose slowly and reached aside to set down her mug, and then he pulled her into his arms for a full kiss. It felt incredible to taste her again, after thinking about her all day and replaying what had happened between them the night before.
They swayed slightly on their feet and he backed them toward the loveseat. Katniss tangled her fingers into his hair as he lowered himself to the cushions and she swung her leg over so she could perch on his lap. He slid his arms along her waist and she sighed into the kiss, her hands cradling his jaw. When she lowered herself more firmly onto his lap his hips bucked up and he felt her smiling against his lips as she felt him growing hard. He broke the kiss and began to trail his lips across her cheek toward her ear.
"I kind of wish we were having this study break back at my place," Peeta murmured.
Katniss was tilting her head to the side slightly, inviting him to kiss her neck, when she paused.
"I have an idea," she said, and then she stood up, taking his hand in hers.
She led him around the corner to the door of a darkened study room. She opened the door and poked her head inside and then turned to meet his eyes, a sneaky look on her face as she beckoned him to follow. She pulled him into the room, which he could see contained a table and chairs, and was lined with chalkboards.
"We'll have more privacy in here," she said, and then she was pulling his mouth down to hers, and he was gladly meeting her halfway.
"There's no lock," he said between kisses.
"I'll chance it if you will," she said softly and he felt a surge of need run through his body at the huskiness in her voice.
His lips fused with hers and he pulled her tight against him, his hands running over her subtle curves, encased tonight in black leggings and a soft grey hoodie. He grabbed her ass through the thin black fabric and squeezed, then lifted her off her Sorel-clad feet until he could manoeuvre her backwards and set her down on the table. He reached for her hair and pulled the elastic from the end of her braid, kissing along her neck as he untangled the soft waves. She reached around and pulled his hips between her legs until he brushed against her heat with his now rock-hard cock.
She moaned and leaned back and he followed her down, his fingers finding the zipper of her hoodie and pulling it down slowly. Underneath she wore a black camisole over a simple black cotton bra, and he kissed the skin of her breasts above the neckline.
She moaned again and her thighs tightened against him, and he heard two thunks against the floor as she kicked off her Sorels and then wrapped one leg around his back to pull him even closer. He thrust against her and she arched her back slightly, pushing her breasts up. The fact this was happening on top of a table in a darkened study room late at night made it even more insanely erotic to him.
His hips moved against hers, seeking the blissful friction they created together, and he groaned against the skin of her shoulder. "A bed would be nice right about now."
Her fingers slid around to fumble with the fly on his jeans and he pulled up to look at her.
"Katniss Everdeen," he said, his voice catching as her hand skimmed over his erection. "What are you trying to do to me?"
Her lips curled in a sexy smile and she continued to stroke him through the denim with one hand while her other hand undid his top button. "I want you again," she said, echoing his words from the middle of the night, causing his cock to throb with desire.
"Here?" he asked.
"Right here," she said, nipping at his bottom lip. "On this table."
He growled and pulled her bra and camisole down enough to bare her breasts to him. He loved their roundness and their feel, how they were fuller than they seemed when she was clothed. He cradled them in his palms, teasing her nipples with his thumbs while she worked down his zipper and her hands coordinated to slide his pants and underwear down just enough to free his straining cock from their confines. She glided her fingers over him and he feared for a moment that he would come then and there.
He managed to hold himself back while he pulled out his wallet and extracted the condom he'd slipped in there the day before, extremely thankful he'd had the foresight to do so.
Katniss grabbed the condom to unwrap it and he marvelled at the way she took charge. He knew last night had been her first time, but Katniss was the kind of woman who owned her body and everything she did with it. As she rolled the condom onto him, he leaned down to kiss her tenderly, luxuriating in the taste of her before she leaned back and he followed, his hands sliding down to the elastic of her waistband. She bent one knee up and tugged her foot completely free until her underwear and leggings were hanging from her other leg. His hand immediately covered her and he slid his fingers into her folds, finding her hot and wet.
"You're a fucking miracle," he said, his voice low, and she was reaching for his cock, guiding him to her entrance.
She lay back on the table and he rubbed her clit before thrusting into her tight pussy, his mind blown once again by the feel of her. He pumped until he was buried inside her to the hilt, her legs spread to either side and her throwing her head back in ecstasy.
"Oh Katniss," he moaned as he began to move.
"Oh god, Peeta, you feel so good inside me," she cried softly, whimpering as he began thrusting into her again and again. "Oh, oh, oh…"
He leaned down and took her nipple in his mouth, nipping with his teeth, as he kept his hands on her hips to control the snap of his own. She met his thrusts with hers and he felt her hands run over his back before finding purchase on his ass. She dug her fingers in and pulled him deeper and he could feel her finding her pleasure.
"I'm gonna come, oh… fuck… Peeta!" she cried out before long, biting down on her sleeve to muffle herself. She continued to moan into the fabric as her walls clamped down tight around him, over and over again. The feel of her coming was too much for him, and he felt his balls tighten until he was muffling his own cries against her shoulder as he spasmed inside her. It felt so fucking good he was afraid he might pass out.
As they came down from the high, Katniss started laughing softly. She looked gorgeous, her hair mussed, her shirt down to her navel, her pants still hanging from one leg.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
"I can't believe we just did that," she said.
"We're still kind of doing it," he said before sliding out of her and disposing of the condom.
Katniss laughed and once she was disentangled from him she tugged her pants back on and looked around for her boots. He zipped himself up, and when she was ready, they went back out into the hallway and back to the alcove, where their hot chocolates remained undisturbed.
Katniss picked her book up off the table. "Well, I guess I'd better get back to this."
"You're going to keep studying?" he asked in surprise.
"I have to," she replied.
He looked at her in wonder, her loose hair slightly wild, skin still flushed from the orgasm he'd given her.
"Okay, well… can I walk you to the library?"
She studied him for a moment, then nodded. "Okay."
The post-coital glow managed to keep him warm as he walked with her to Baker Library in the freezing winter night, and when they got to the doors of the 1902 room she turned to him.
"Thanks for the study break, Peeta," she said, not meeting his eyes.
He tilted his chin so she was looking at him. "Katniss, can I take you out for dinner this weekend?"
She looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "As in, out to a restaurant?"
He laughed. "Yeah. Like a date. Please?"
She just stared at him.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm all for more study breaks like this one, but I'd also like to take you somewhere nice. I was thinking Simon Pearce, over in Vermont. We play St. Lawrence here on Saturday, so how about Friday?"
Katniss blinked, then nodded. "Um, okay, sure."
"You seem surprised."
She bit her lip. "I guess I am a little bit. I just…hear so much about how dating isn't really a thing here."
Peeta shook his head. "Yeah, people love to go on about hook-up culture. Don't listen to them, Katniss. Friday, I'm taking you out on a real date at a fancy restaurant."
Before she could respond, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her, and he knew he'd won when he felt her melt in his arms.
"Friday it is," she said before she pulled away and headed for the doors to escape the cold.
He watched her go. "Friday it is," he said to himself as she went inside.
It was time to show Katniss Everdeen just how serious he was when it came to her.
A/N: Coming up next, a date at Simon Pearce (which is an incredible restaurant, if you're ever in Quechee, VT), some hockey action, and more winter adventures before things get stirred up a bit. Also, the Olympics are coming, so we get to see Johanna on TV! Fair warning: I'm really sad about the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, as I've been huge fan of his work for a long time and loved him so much as Plutarch in Catching Fire, so I might try to bring Plutarch in as a minor character as well, in honor of PSH.