Peeta had no recollection of driving back from London. He recalled getting in his car, and he could remember the feeling of his heart pounding in his ears. He could vaguely remember seeing Katniss in his rear view mirror as he pulled away. It looked like she was shouting after him but he couldn't remember hearing any sound, other than that of his own blood pumping. He must have driven the entire journey on automatic pilot because his first memory after leaving Katniss had been pulling up in to his drive. He had unlocked his front door and gone straight upstairs, ignoring Finnick questioningly calling after him. Finally he had fallen on his bed, staring at the wall, unmoving, and it wasn't until Annie had opened his bedroom door, sat wordlessly beside him and started to stroke his hair that he had begun to cry in earnest.

He cried until there were no tears left to fall, until he was left with just an empty, hollow feeling. A notion of betrayal started to fill him. She had lied to him from the beginning, that was bad enough, but he thought about the other people who were in that file. Some people he knew, others he didn't. Thresh was in that file; would she have done this to him if Thresh hadn't been so suspicious? Or any number of the other activists she had notes on? Would she have worked her way in to their beds and their hearts if she had spoken to them first? Why him? Why had she chosen him out of all of them? Was it because, like Thresh had warned, she had shown him the slightest interest and he had latched on to that fact? She must have been able to see him coming from a mile away….

Maybe he wasn't the first…. Maybe she had already worked her way through many of the people she had on file…. Maybe she had already moved onto the next one….

The hollow feeling mutated in to anger. He pushed Annie's hand away from him and sat up straight, shaking with fury at the injustice. How much of it was faked? All of it? He should have known; of course she wasn't truly interested in him, why on Earth would she have shown a genuine interest in him?

He had to get away from this bed that he'd shared with her. A primal, guttural sound escaped his lips as he swore over and over again. His rage transported him back downstairs, pushing Finnick aside in his haste to get past. With no clear idea of what he was doing or where he was going he found himself in his kitchen, his eyes alighting on the table. The memory of them fucking there tore through his heart and he kicked out at one of the chairs sending it flying across the room. Belle was barking loudly, and he was aware of two of the cats speeding past him in fear. Finnick's voice broke through his conscious; his hand alighted on Peeta's shoulder as he said, "Peet, will you please calm the fuck down?" Roughly shrugging him away he barged past again and stomped into his living room. He looked at his couch, where they had fucked for the very first time, and he noticed the spot on the floor where she had sat as he drew her. Swearing loudly again he pulled his sketchbooks away from his bookshelf, hastily flicking through them until he found the page he was after; the charcoal drawing he had done of Katniss. The beauty of her seemed to mock him and he ripped the page from the book, tearing it in half and in half again.

"Peeta, don't." Annie's voice reached him this time, seemingly coming from miles away. He felt her gentle touch on his arm but he couldn't cope with kindness. He walked away from her and stood behind his old armchair, his knuckles white as he gripped the back tightly, trying to get his breathing back under control. After an age his anger slowly ebbed away, only to once again be replaced by sorrow as he bent over the back, shaking with the effort of keeping his tears silent.

Shortly after he was able to hear raised voices; Finn and Annie outside the living room. He could hear Finn's exasperated words as clear as day. "I can't go through this again, Annie, I just can't!" It had taken all the effort in the world to lift his head from the back of his armchair, but he had stumbled out to them, unable to focus on anything through the curtain of tears and apologised for being a burden. There had been a moment of silence before Finnick had pulled him in to a hug. "You're not a burden," he had said firmly. "You're not."

The next few days were a blur as he turned to the bottle to blot out the world. He had started drinking coffee in the mornings, something he had never really done before, but he would temper the coffee with a shot of whisky. He started keeping a bottle near by from which he would sporadically swig as he tended the animals. By mid-afternoon he would be half-cut, and by evening he was paralytic and lucky to make it upstairs to bed.

She was constantly at the forefront of his mind. When he wasn't busy she filled his every waking thought, and despite himself he couldn't help but wonder what she was doing. Whether she was happy. If she was thinking of him as much as he was of her. And even though his heart hurt every single time he thought of her, he had to admit to himself that the time he had spent with her had been the happiest he had felt in as long as he could remember.

It was Annie that brought him back and gave him hope. She and Finnick had stopped over one evening to check on him and found him slumped over the kitchen table staring in to the bottom of a glass of Jack Daniels.

"I've been thinking, Peeta," she said, crouching down next to him and placing her hand on the side of his face so he would look at her. "Maybe how and why you met her isn't important. Perhaps all that matters is that you met."

The words resonated in him. The time he had spent with Katniss felt so right, so natural that he couldn't believe it had been entirely fabricated on her part. But he had to know for certain. And so he had arranged with Finn and Annie that on the next day they were free to look after everyone he would travel to London to confront her.

And so it was that he found himself on a London bound train. In a blind panic over what he would discover the following day he had, against the advice of his friends, drunk himself to sleep and was still clearly over the limit the following morning. As a result Annie had confiscated his car keys, forcing him to take public transport. He took his seat and gazed out of the window. In the past week and a half the weather had changed. The summer, like all typical English summers, had been fleeting and transient, the once seemingly endless sunshine giving way to cloudy skies and sporadic storms.

He hadn't telephoned Katniss to let her know he was coming. He needed to talk to her but he wanted, no, he had to do it face to face.

His hangover began to kick in when he was about twenty minutes outside of London, a sharp pounding behind his eyes coupled with severe thirst and extreme nausea. Taking deep calming breaths he sat back in his seat, closed his eyes and tried to focus on staying upright.

The nausea intensified as his train pulled in to Liverpool Street Station. He stumbled blindly down the length of the platform recalling with sadness the butterflies he had felt last time he was here after meeting Katniss for the first time. He had started to fall for her already, for a woman who didn't exist…

He sought out a Costa's stand and bought a large tea before he was able to carry on, trying desperately to get his pounding head under control. The last thing he needed before going underground was a hangover headache. He sat for a while on a bench, sipping at the oversized tea, watching the world go past, until he was forced to admit to himself that he was procrastinating and he hauled himself to his feet. As he finally descended towards the underground his legs felt as though lead weights had been tied to them. Other tourists, commuters and people generally going about their daily lives bumped and jostled in to him, doing little to settle the rising unease in his stomach.

He checked and rechecked his route. Central Line one stop to Bank. Change for the Northern Line. Fourteen more stops to his final destination. In a little under an hour he would be at Katniss' flat. He felt a little dizzy at the realisation.

As always the trains were overcrowded, and he wasn't able to get a seat until the mass exodus at King's Cross station by which time his hangover was back in full swing. He sat hunched over, not making eye contact with anyone, concentrating solely on breathing and not emptying the contents of his stomach all over the carriage floor.

The train came above ground at East Finchley, with only four more stops to go. The heavens had opened at last, the rain careening down on the top of the train carriage, causing his head to pound even harder with each echoing drop. Peeta realised with a slight sinking feeling that he hadn't brought an extra layer with him. He was going to get soaked. Time seemed to slow down as he got closer and closer. Three stops to go and his heart rate rapidly picked up. Two stops and the world outside took on an eerie, unreal quality, as if he were still asleep. One stop and he could hardly breathe. And the train pulled in to Woodside Park at last.

The rain was torrential and he was drenched to the bone just seconds after stepping off the train. He felt as if he were in a dream, not in control of his own actions as his body began to tread the path to Katniss' home. The nausea that he had just about got back under control returned with a vengeance and he had to pause, leaning against a lamp post until his stomach felt strong enough to continue.

In the distance he could hear a growing rumble, and in response the rain came down even heavier, the skies darkening with each moment.

When Katniss' flat came in to view he paused again and very nearly made the decision to turn around, get back on the tube and go home, but a flash in the sky, followed shortly after by a loud crash gave him cause to press forward.

His finger hovered over the bell for her flat. His mouth had gone dry and his heart was racing as he took himself by surprise, falling against the buzzer.

Moments later her voice, cracking with static, came across the intercom. "Hello?"

"Katniss?"

A pause. Only a second but lasting an eternity. "Peeta?"

"Katniss, I…. I have to see you."

Silence. He waited for the buzz of the door that signalled that she had allowed him entry. More silence. He tried the door. Locked. Silence.

His heart shattered with the rejection. He turned away from the front door and looked up in to the sky. Another flash followed almost immediately by the loudest crash yet. The pouring rain mingled with his tears; one became indistinguishable from the other. He took a few steps away when he heard her voice again.

"Peeta?"

He spun on the spot and there she was, framed in the portal of her doorway. His heart stopped at the sight of her.

"Peeta, what are you doing?"

"I had to see you."

"Why didn't you call?"

"I had to do this face to face."

She looked up at the sky, at the rain pouring down on him. "Peeta, come in out of the rain."

"Not until we've talked," he answered. In his head he'd had this all planned, every last word, but now that she was here in front of him he found that his words were failing him. He was lost in the sight of her; his eyes greedily took in every detail, as if she were his tether to life. Finally he spoke. "I just need to know, Katniss, was any of it real? Because if it wasn't, I'll walk away right now and I promise I won't bother you again. I'll go home, I'll try and get on with my life, I'll try and forget you. But if any of it was real, any of it at all, I need to know."

She stepped out of the doorway in to the rain, her hand reaching up to push the dripping wet curls out of his eyes. "Ask me again," she said softly.

There was so much to ask, so much that he needed her to clarify, but he had no idea where to begin so decided to start with the broadest question. "Everything you told me was a lie."

"Not real. Not everything."

A tiny spark of hope ignited inside him. He just had to narrow it down. "You're a writer."

"Real."

He nodded. He knew that much already. "But you were never interested in animal rights."

He watched as she swallowed and looked away from him, the rain clinging to her eyelashes. She quickly blinked away the droplets and said, "Real. At first. But I've changed, Peeta. You've helped with that. I promise you I'm not doing that story. I couldn't do that after everything I saw."

"You're vegetarian."

"I'm sorry. Not real. At least at first. But again, I'm changing, Peeta, and it's thanks to you. Don't give up on me. Please."

He looked down at his feet to avoid eye contact with her, at the canvas of his trainers that were completely soaked through, meaning his right foot was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. There was one thing he had to know before he continued. "You did this to other people too."

"Not real!" she protested, looking highly affronted. "Of course not!"

"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "My imagination's been torturing me, and I…. I'm sorry."

"Ask me another."

Another rumble of thunder overhead. "You like me."

She stepped a little closer. "Real."

His heart skipped a beat. "I make you happy."

She laughed a little. "Mostly real. This last week or so not so much."

He shared in her nervous laughter. "I know how that feels." Taking a deep breath, he continued. "You think we shared something special. And you've missed me this last week. Really missed me."

"Real and real." She came even closer, laying her palm flat on his chest, causing his heart to pound harder than ever.

His mouth had gone completely dry, "You want to give us another go. To start again and try and make something of all this."

"Real."

The effect on him was immediate. Half tears, half laughter, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to him. He buried his face in the crook of her neck switching between sobbing and chuckling. "You didn't try to call me," he choked out.

"I didn't think you'd want me to," she replied, her own tears starting to flow. "When you left you looked like you hated me. And besides, you didn't try to call me either."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I ran from you. I'm sorry I didn't call you. I'm an idiot and I'm sorry."

"Stop it. You shouldn't be apologising to me."

"Ok. I'm sorry."

"I said stop!" she said, half amused, half crying. "It's me that should say it. I'm sorry I deceived you, Peeta. Truly I am."

They held each other in the rain, silently shaking, until they were brought to their senses by another crack of lightening and a rumble of thunder.

"Do you want to come inside?" she called out over the sound of the pouring rain.

He nodded and their fingertips found each other, their hands interlocking as she led him upstairs. It felt like a whole lifetime ago that he had last been here; he couldn't quite believe it had only been eleven days. He followed her in to her living room, where Jo was sat on the couch in her pyjamas, watching television, feet tucked in, cradling a mug of hot chocolate. As Peeta entered the room she looked up, her eyes darting between the two of them. "Well," she said at last. "I don't think I'm needed at this party." She took her mug of cocoa and stalked off to her bedroom.

"Please, sit down," Katniss said, gesturing to her couch once they were alone.

Peeta shook his head. "I can't, I'll ruin your furniture."

Katniss rolled her eyes at him. "Do you want some dry clothes?"

A small smile crept across his lips. "If you're trying to pay me back for making you wear my things, I appreciate the gesture but-"

"You left some clothes here. You left in such a hurry that you didn't pick everything up. Don't worry, I'm not trying to dress you like me."

"Look, Katniss. I can't really stay long, and-"

"Why not?"

"Because I only bought a cheap day return and I can't aff-"

"Why didn't you drive?"

He felt his face grow hot under her scrutiny. "I was still drunk when I woke up this morning."

"I thought you looked rough."

"Thanks. I haven't really bothered shaving since…." He fell silent, unable to finish his sentence.

"I wasn't talking about that, which suits you by the way. So can I get you that change of clothes?"

He floundered once again. "I really can't afford to get another ticket tomorrow."

Taking a deep sigh she said, "I wasn't asking you to stay the night. But you're dripping wet, you're leaving water all over my carpet, and you're going to get ill if you stand around in those wet clothes. And they're yours anyway so please, stop punishing yourself for my behaviour."

He nodded and she left him alone briefly, returning moments later with a neatly folded pair of jeans and a t-shirt; the very clothes that she had helped tear from him in a fit of passion when they had returned from the restaurant. A lump appeared in his throat at the memories and he fought hard to blink back tears.

He wordlessly took the clothes from her and found himself in her bathroom, catching sight of himself in the mirror as he peeled off the sopping wet t-shirt. He barely recognised the man in the mirror; his eyes were red and puffy, his skin haggard and even paler than usual, the scruff on his face unkempt. He picked up a hand towel and dragged it roughly over his face and hair before pulling on the dry t-shirt. His heart skipped a beat; it smelled of her. Losing himself in her scent, he allowed his eyes to flutter closed as he felt a familiar stirring starting deep in his belly.

Ignoring the butterflies that threatened to overwhelm him, he kicked off his shoes as quickly as he could then pulled off his wet jeans, perching on the side of the bath as the heavy fabric stuck to his skin. He breathed a small sigh of relief as he dressed in the warm, dry clothes. When he felt ready to confront her again he opened the bathroom door and was greeted by the sight of Katniss carrying a large mug of steaming hot tea. "You left that unopened carton of milk here too. I thought you'd appreciate this."

"Thank you," he said, cradling the mug gratefully. "You have no idea." He realised that despite her insistence that he change out of his wet clothes she still hadn't done the same. "Don't you want to get changed?"

"I'll be fine. My home, my rules. In here it's do as I say, not as I do. Anyway, come on," she said. "Let's talk."

He sat in the armchair while she took a seat on the couch, tucking her feet up beside her. "So," she said at last.

"So."

"We have a lot to talk about, I guess."

He nodded. They did indeed, but he had no idea where to start. "What were you trying to prove?" he asked eventually, his voice unusually timid.

She shrugged. "I don't know, Peeta. This is what I do. I expose people. Criminals."

"We're not criminals," he said desperately.

"I know that now," she replied. "I didn't then." She became overly interested in a piece of fluff attached to the couch to avoid looking at him. "I write those grittier pieces under a pseudonym. Marianne Jay. I hadn't done one in a while and I guess…." She gave up on picking at the fluff, sighed and twisted the end of her braid round her fingers. "I guess your group was an easy target."

"Why me?" he asked, the question he needed to know most falling from his lips. "Out of everyone, why me?"

"Convenience, at first. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. I needed to get close to someone and the opportunity was there. But… I recognised you too, and you, I don't know, you intrigued me."

"I intrigued you?" he repeated, carefully tasting each word.

"Yes," she answered. "I didn't understand it at first. But I couldn't stop thinking about you. I tried to convince myself it was just as a subject but as time went on… that intrigue grew into something else." After a moment's pause she continued. "You know, I was terrified of you at first."

"Why?"

"I recognised you before we even met," she confessed, her cheeks growing red from the admission. "From the information I'd gathered on you. And I was worried you'd know who I was. But that still didn't stop me wanting to know more about you. To get closer to you."

"Again, why?"

She looked around as if desperately hoping the answer was hovering in the air in front of her, ready to be plucked out. "Because, Peeta. Because I liked you but had no idea of it myself. I didn't understand how I felt, I ignored it, I convinced myself I was imagining my own feelings."

"Lying to me is one thing, Katniss. Lying to yourself is just plain stupid."

"I know, alright! I know! I'm stupid, and deceitful and not a good person at all and-"

"Stop," he interrupted. "Please, stop."

"I'm sorry. I just think that now the truth has been forced out I may as well be entirely honest."

He shook his head and ignored her self-denigration. Something else was nagging at him, something he needed to clear up. "Would you ever have told me the truth of your own accord?"

"Yes," she said and she sounded so sincere that Peeta had no reason to doubt her. "I already tried to, that night after-"

"After I drew you," he finished for her, remembering her tears, and how she had said that she didn't deserve him. He hadn't understood why she was so upset at the time. It all seemed pretty clear now.

"Exactly," she confirmed. She became interested in picking at the piece of fluff on the couch once more. "Look, Peeta," she said, looking up at him again. "I'm sorry. I really am. I never wanted to hurt you. I wish I could change what happened."

A frown creased Peeta's brow. "Do you mean you wish your friend hadn't sold you out?"

"No!" she protested. "I should have done it myself. I mean I just wish I could change how it happened. I'm so sorry for Gale's behaviour. I don't know why he reacted that way. He isn't normally so…" she looked around for the right word.

"So much of an arsehole?"

She smiled tightly. "I guess. But you were hardly blameless."

"I was just standing up for myself," he objected.

"I know," she replied, her voice weary. "But Gale's like my big brother. He thought you were trying to change me, trying to brainwash me."

"Brainwashing?" he said, his voice becoming heated. "Don't make me laugh. Tell him from me to turn on the TV and find an ad break. If there's a single advert for tofu or kale or soy milk, we'll talk. If, as I suspect, it's adverts for fast food, meat, eggs, dairy, followed by ads for indigestion remedies, constipation aids, weight loss, vitamins, cosmetics tested on animals, leather shoes followed by more ads for fast food then maybe he should reconsider who's the brainwashed one."

"I'm not telling him anything, Peeta," she sighed. "And I'd like to keep both of you in my life so please, if, no, when you meet him again, will you please try and be, if not friendly, then at least civilised?"

"It depends on him."

"He already knows how I feel and I've never seen him more apologetic. He knows he was a jerk. So please, Peeta? For me?"

He took in the plaintive look on her face and immediately felt the heat of his anger dissipating. "Of course," he said quietly. He leant back in the armchair and looked at the ceiling. "I guess I should thank him, really."

"What for?"

"Because of what he did, here we are now. No secrets from now on, no more pretending."

"And no more insecurities?"

Could he guarantee such a promise? Probably not, but he would have to try. "No more insecurities."

She stood up slowly and made her way over to him, bending down and capturing his lips in the softest kiss he had ever experienced. "Do you forgive me?" she whispered.

He nodded and brought his hand up to cradle her head, drawing her back to him. That kiss…he had never felt a kiss like it and he wanted to recreate it. Her lips tasted sugary and sweet, and he ran the tip of his tongue along them, tasting the sweetness. One of her hands rested against his chest, the other cupped the side of his face. She pressed her lips further into him, her tongue probing his own gently at first then with more force, with a hungry desperation as if their contact was all that was keeping them both alive. He wanted to resist, to keep it slow but his heart beat faster and he found himself yielding to her, drowning in her kisses, returning her passion tenfold. He pulled her into his lap, pressing every inch of his body into hers, their mouths and tongues dancing together until he was dizzy and breathless.

They both gasped for air as she pulled away from him for a moment. "Is it too soon to entice you into my bed?"

"Maybe," he said, as she rested her head on his shoulder, the shift in her weight making her grind against his erection as she got comfortable. "But that's not to say I'd refuse if you asked me."

"Really?" she asked looking up at him.

Peeta gazed down at her shining grey eyes and allowed himself a small chuckle at her hopefulness. "Katniss, I have the most beautiful woman I've ever seen offering me a place in her bed. What do you think I'm going to say?"

"I thought you'd want to hold out on me longer. Where's your willpower?"

She shifted against him once again; there was absolutely no way she couldn't feel his erection through their clothing. "It's pretty much all right there," he answered with a nod to his crotch, causing Katniss to burst into laughter.

"Look, Peeta," she said, trying to calm her laughter, before standing up in front of him. "I'm not going to force you in to anything you don't want. But I would like you to know that I'm going to my room. These wet clothes aren't comfortable so I'm going to be getting changed out of them. It's entirely up to you what you do with that knowledge, and I won't be offended either way."

She kissed him once more before turning away and sweeping from the room. Peeta leant forward, his elbows on his knees, and pushed his still damp hair from his face. His mind was made up in an instant. There was no way he could refuse such an offer.

Taking a deep breath, and using the opportunity to convince himself that he was doing the right thing, he stood up and strode down the hall after her. Without pause he opened the door to her room, his breath catching in his throat at what he saw.

She had her back to him and was already half undressed, down to her underwear. He admired the curve of her backside as the cotton briefs she wore clung to them, entirely failing to supress a smile at the Wonder Woman logo printed across them. Her olive skin formed a perfect contrast with the white cotton of her bra, cutting a swathe across the expanse of her back.

She turned on the spot to see him admiring her, and a shy smile appeared on her face. "I can't tell you how relieved I am that you came in."

"How could I have possibly resisted?"

"I'm sorry I'm not exactly dressed as your fantasy. Not like last time."

"You're kidding me, right? Look at you. You're perfect."

"I'm really not, Peeta. I think we've proven that." Her eyes trailed to the floor and Peeta stepped forward to comfort her.

"In that case I'm hardly perfect either. So maybe we're perfect for each other."

His words caused a small smile to lift the corners of her mouth and she stepped into his waiting arms. Her skin was slightly damp to the touch and she sighed as he ran his fingers down across her back.

"I really can't apologise enough to you," she said, her words slightly muffled as she leant so close in to his body. "But maybe actions can speak louder than words."

Peeta's eyes fluttered closed as he felt one set of finger tips moving up his back to cradle his head while the other set moved lower. She pulled the back of his t-shirt up, running her hand across the expanse of his lower back, dipping her fingers just inside the waistband of his jeans. Her lips barely touched his before she pulled away from him and brought her mouth close to his ear, briefly sucking on the lobe before whispering, "What do you want, Peeta?"

"You," he answered.

The exasperated sigh that fell past her lips gave him cause to smirk. "I know that much," she replied. "But I'm all yours. In any way you want."

His heart began to race as image after image flashed through his mind. This reunion had to be perfect, and the more he thought on what he wanted, the more he came to realise that no matter what happened it would be perfect, because together they couldn't be anything but. "Let's just see what happens," he said gently as he brushed a few loose strands of hair away from her eyes and sat on the edge of the bed, manoeuvring her to stand between his legs before placing several kisses along her abdomen. Her muscles tensed slightly under his lips as her hands came to rest on his shoulders. She crouched down in front of him, trailing her fingers down his torso as she did so before pulling at the hem of his t-shirt. He lifted his arms above his head and she pulled the shirt off him, then leaned in towards him, placing an open kiss on the tattoo above his heart. The close contact caused his pulse to quicken even further and his eyes fell closed as her tongue began to lathe the skin. He needed to feel her lips against his once more. "Katniss?"

She looked up at him, her grey eyes sparkling, and understood immediately. Kneeling in front of him, she parted her lips and tilted her head in towards him. Peeta met her halfway, pressing his lips to hers just as a tiny groan of ecstasy escaped the back of his throat. She became encouraged by the noises he made, winding her fingers into his hair and holding him tight and steady, as she flicked her tongue along his bottom lip. His hands splayed out across her back, drawing her even closer towards him so that their bodies became almost as one. Taking control of the kiss he gently pressed his tongue against hers and in response she parted her lips further, echoing the little moans of pleasure coming from him.

His whole body ached for her. All the hurt, all the desperation, all the confusion and heartache that he had been storing inside himself since he had last seen her needed to be released. He broke apart from her momentarily, totally breathless. "Katniss," he gasped. "Can we…?"

She held his gaze for a moment, nodding slightly before she turned her attention to the button fly on his jeans, pulling them apart one at a time. He lifted his hips and she pulled his jeans and boxer briefs off him before kneeling down in front of him. There was undisguised lust in her eyes as she took in the sight of his erection. Licking her lips once she lowered her mouth to him, swirling her tongue around the head.

"Shit," he hissed. This wasn't what he wanted at all… As heavenly as her mouth felt on him he desperately wanted to be inside her. "Wait…" he said desperately. But Katniss seemed to have other ideas. She licked down the entire length of his shaft before wrapping her hand around him, and placing her lips over the head again, hollowing her cheeks and sucking hard. "Please!" he begged her. "I need you!"

She released her hold on him with a wet popping sound and stayed kneeling before him, her hands on his thighs. "Now?" she asked him. He nodded his affirmation. "Sit back a little further," she purred, and as he did so she stepped out of her underwear and quickly reached behind her back to undo the clasp of her bra.

Once naked she straddled him, and Peeta couldn't help the groan that escaped his lips as she guided him into her, as their bodies pressed together intimately. He was thankful that she paused for a moment as she reacclimatised herself to the feel of him, as he wanted this moment to last forever. He wrapped one arm around her waist and brought the other up her back, resting his hand on top of her shoulder, so that he could pull her down further on to him and bring their bodies even closer together. Very slowly he began to roll his hips up towards her as he felt her thighs gently squeeze him before she too began to rock over him. Her hands seemed to be everywhere all at once; weaving in to his hair, exploring his back, stroking the side of his face, holding his head steady as she dipped down to capture his mouth in a passionate kiss.

He lost all concept of time and place. Nothing existed outside the two of them, nothing else in the world mattered except the woman in front of him. She broke away from his kiss and sat up straighter, placing her hands on top of his shoulders, and as she did Peeta's eyes were drawn to her breasts. He ducked his head towards her, drawing one dusky nipple in his mouth causing her to call out his name and arch her back as she lost all sense of herself. He gave her other nipple equal attention, sucking and gently nibbling on the small nub of hardened flesh, thrusting his hips up into her as he did.

She pushed his mouth away from her breasts, cupped his face and began to rock in to him faster than before. Watching her writhe so wantonly on top of him was pushing him dangerously close to the edge. He could feel the pressure in his balls increase in intensity, but he wanted to make her come first. "Katniss," he gasped before it was too late. "If you keep this up I'm going to come really soon."

"Good," she said as she peppered his neck with kisses, sucking on his pulse point.

"But, Katniss-" he began before she cut him off with a firm kiss on his lips.

"Shhh, Peeta. I want to make you happy."

At her words every muscle in his body became taut, as his orgasm began to rise up through him. He crested the wave, pulling her down on to him hard, as she became the only real thing in the world. She caught his cries in her mouth as she twisted the curls at the nape of his neck round and round in her fingers. As the relentless waves of his orgasm began to subside he fell back on the bed, his legs still dangling over the edge and Katniss still sat over him. "Thank you," he whispered to her. "Thank you."

She climbed off him and lay down on the bed beside him. He put his arm out and she took the cue to curl into him, resting her head on his chest. "Are you ok?" she asked.

"More than ok," he replied dreamily.

She idly trailed her fingertips across his stomach. "Me too. This certainly isn't how I envisioned spending today."

"Me neither if I'm honest."

"No?"

"No. This is the definite best case scenario. I kept picturing the worst."

"Really" she asked, leaning up on her elbow.

"Yup," he replied, tucking a few loose strands of hair behind her ear. "I didn't think you'd see me at all. I thought I'd be on my train home by now."

"Well, I'm glad I proved you wrong."

"Me too," he said, a sleepy smile on his face. He hooked his arm around her waist and pulled her back in to his chest. A wonderful feeling of contentment washed over him as he placed several kisses on the top of her head. "Can I make you happy?"

"Maybe later," she replied.

"But I can't stay long…."

"Why not?"

He held her a little tighter, pausing just slightly before he spoke. "I wish I could, but I have to get a train back today."

"So you've said."

"Well then," he said, leaning in to her and starting to stroke along her back, making her squirm.

"That tickles!" she giggled, curling in to him even further. At that moment, the storm, which seemed to have passed, returned with a vengeance, a huge crash of thunder shaking the room. Both Katniss and Peeta stared at the window for a moment as the rain started to fall even heavier. "You sure you want to head back out in to this?"

"I never said I wanted to head out in it," he said, but his voice clearly betrayed his nervousness.

"Then stay here tonight."

"I can't," he sighed. "I wish I could but I can't."

"What if I promise to buy you dinner again? And more sex?"

A whimpering noise escaped the back of his throat. "You're not playing fair," he said, as he seriously considered the offer.

"Then what's stopping you?"

"My usual, Katniss. My ticket's only for today, and I can't afford to buy another tomorrow."

A flash of lightening lit up the room, followed almost immediately by yet another room shaking crash of thunder.

"Can I ask you a question?" she said, staring out of the window. "The way you asked me earlier?"

"Sure."

"You're actually trying to get away from me, and this whole 'I need to get back today' shebang is just a front."

He couldn't help but laugh slightly. "Absolutely not real," he said, pulling her closer.

"Ok. So if there was a way for you to stay, you'd take it."

"Definitely real," he replied.

"That's good to know," she said.

He looked at his watch as the rain beat a heavy tattoo against the window pane. Time was making fools of them both as always, but with the spark between them reignited there was one final question he had to ask her. "One more thing, Katniss, that I just have to know."

"Go ahead."

"You think that possibly… in time… you could grow to love me."

She paused before answering, and Peeta felt as though the world stopped in those few moments. Her eyes met his and the corners of her mouth turned up in a small smile. "Real."

Tears immediately sprang to his eyes as their lips met. The security and joy of knowing that he was wanted, that he was needed by another person, was overwhelming, and he couldn't help but laugh as he kissed her.

"What's wrong with you?" Katniss chuckled. Peeta's jubilance was clearly contagious.

"Nothing," he replied, and he meant it in the most literal sense. "Nothing's wrong."

They lay together listening to the sounds of the raging storm outside, content to just be in each other's presence. Peeta felt so incredibly comfortable and relaxed even with the ill-effects of his over indulgence from the previous night. His eyes closed and his breath deepened as the girl on his chest nuzzled closer in to him. Everything was perfect. Just perfect….

"Peeta?" Her gentle voice broke through his conscious and his eyes flew open.

"Whu-?" In confusion he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked around. The sky visible through the window was even darker. "Shit," he said, sitting up in a panic. How much time had they lost?

"Calm down, it's not too late."

He checked his watch. It was after seven p.m. which was late enough. As he sat up his stomach gnawed uncomfortably at him, but he ignored it and began to redress. "I shouldn't have fallen asleep," he said. "Even if I could afford to buy a ticket in the morning, Finn and Annie only had today free, so I'll need to look after everyone tomorrow…"

"It's ok," she said soothingly. "You've still got plenty of time."

He took in her look of disappointment as he pulled on his jeans, a feeling that was echoing throughout him as well. She reluctantly began to dress as well, looking up when his stomach growled particularly loudly. "Are you going to be ok travelling? Do you want anything before you go?"

"Maybe one more tea? And some toast?"

She nodded and left him to finish getting dressed, as a melancholy washed over him. Their time together, although it had exceeded his wildest expectations, had ended far too soon. With a sad smile he pulled on his t-shirt and went to join her.

He could hear her chatting excitedly to Johanna in their adjacent kitchenette, their voices stopping abruptly as they heard him enter the living room. Moments later Katniss appeared carrying a steaming tea and two slices of toast and jam. "Is this all you want?" she asked.

"It's perfect, thank you," he said, devouring one of the slices before he had even sat down.

"Is there nothing I can do to convince you to stay?"

"My animals need me, Katniss," he answered with a sad smile.

"I was meaning to ask you, how are the new hens?"

"Good," he replied. "They've got new feathers growing every day, and they're putting on weight. I'm really happy with their progress. Still haven't got a new coop sorted for them but I'm waiting on payment for a couple of commissions so hopefully soon."

"And… Peto and Katherine? How are they doing?"

His smile widened. "Best of friends, as you predicted."

"I'm glad to hear it," she said, grinning. "May they have long and happy lives together."

The insinuation warmed him right through his heart, making his inevitable departure even harder. There was no point putting it off any longer. He quickly finished the other slice of toast and downed the hot cup of tea. He didn't want to go, he wanted to stay more than anything, but he had no choice in the matter. Katniss stood up and held her arms out to him. "Come here," she said gently.

He stood up and crossed over to her, losing himself in her embrace. As he held her close he heard a familiar sound. It started with a clock ticking, then the syncopated tick-tock of many more. He looked up and the sight on the TV caused him to chuckle as a camera panned across a wall completely covered in even more clocks.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Back to the Future," he replied, nodding towards the TV. "It's just starting. This was supposed to be our first ever date, remember? We never did have that film night you promised me."

"We could have it now?" she suggested.

"Katniss-"

"Shut up and listen to me," Katniss said, taking him by surprise. "I'll drive you home in the morning if I have to."

"You'd do that for me?"

"Of course I would. I don't want to turf you out in this weather. And to sweeten the deal my offer of buying you dinner again still stands."

Peeta looked out the window at the rain still falling. It certainly was a tempting offer…. "I'd have to get back early tomorrow. Really early," he said thoughtfully.

"Then you can get me up at stupid o'clock when you wake up, and we'll get back early. What do you say? Please? Stay with me?"

Her eyes were wide as she pleaded with him and the sight caused his heart to melt. As he placed a kiss on top of her head, he knew that he was a lost cause. He had been from the moment he laid eyes on her. Of course he would stay. If she asked it of him he would stay by her side forever. "Always."

She grinned and hopped on the couch, indicating for him to join her. He sat down beside her and as she snuggled in to him he was struck by the realisation that the future no longer felt like something dark to dread, but more like an endless summer day, with a myriad of possibilities to embrace.

Fin


A/N – I'm so bloody proud! My first ever completed multi-chapter story!

Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed this. And a massive thank you to annieoakley1 for allowing me to rant at her while trying to get this written ;)

Please do leave a review, they mean the world to us fanfiction writers. And they may well inspire me to do a couple of oneshots from this universe in future. Any scenes you'd like to see? Let me know!

Thanks again! :)