I'm awake, but I don't want to open my eyes. It doesn't seem fair when I know he hasn't woken yet. But, Jo's persistent voice isn't going to let me continue my languid idling.
"Hey Katniss," I sit up to see Jo jogging up from the sea, I envy her for her lithe, scar free body which is currently barely covered by the tinniest of bikinis.
"So, I'm going to go get a drink with the lifeguard," she says with a wicked grin as she grabs her bag, stuffing her towel into it at the same time. "You want to come?"
"You really want company?"
"No," she smirks and I laugh at her cheek. "Don't wait up!" She adds bounding back down the beach toward the waiting lifeguard, turning half way to shout. "You really should wake blondie up, you'll have no fun whilst I'm out if he's sunburnt."
I roll over on my side to study Peeta asleep on his stomach, his face buried into the crook of his arm. I'd have thought it hard for him to get much blonder than he was, but the Australian summer sun has bleached him even fairer. I stroke my fingers through his wayward curls stiffened with sea salt before lightly stroking down to his shoulders and the shiny smooth skin of the scar he sports there, one of the many souvenirs of our accident. I press a kiss to it before working my way back up his neck, the baby fine hairs there are almost white against his tanned skin. I tease them with my tongue before tugging slightly at them with my teeth.
He gives a muffled protest before catching me completely off guard by pulling me to him, rolling us over and pinning me underneath him in one fluid motion.
I raise my eyebrows as I laughingly scold, "Peeta! In case you haven't noticed we're on crowded beach."
He sighs rolling off to my side, readjusting his shorts, "Believe me, I'm totally aware of that fact."
"We could head back to the flat?" I suggest with an innocent smile. "It looks like Jo's going to be out all evening." His frustrated pout is instantly replaced by the beginnings of a satisfied smile.
"Here," Peeta says, handing me an ice-cold bottle of beer as he joins me on the balcony. The view over the city towards the harbour is amazing at this time of night, when the sun is just starting to dip in the sky. Jo and I would never have been able to afford the rent on a place like this without Peeta. I can't believe he was once worried about being broke and needing to move back in with his parents. He'd forgotten one vital bit of information. He'd already had the club's offer in writing before the accident. The lawyer he hired managed to put together a strong claim that Peeta's loss of income should be based on his new salary, as would have been with his new team. The resulting payout from the insurance company wasn't thousands, it was millions.
At the insistence of his lawyer we had to keep a tight lid on our relationship. I was after all the guilty party who stepped out in front of the innocent driver robbing him of his hard earned future. I had a tough time acting that our relationship was merely what it should have been - just two strangers, with no other connection but the crash - it too closely mirrored my own fears of those early days.
Waking up to the tearful, relieved reception of my family I had been confused and disorientated. My dream had seemed so real, yet too absurd to be true. I begged them to find Peeta, frantic to know he was alive and whether he had woken too. They convinced me it was all just a vivid dream induced by the concussion and eased my agitated state with a sedative. It wasn't until I woke the next day, after troubled dreams of white-haired monsters luring Peeta away, that I found out he too had regained consciousness. The nurses told me he'd been placed on heavy pain relief for his injuries which left him drifting in and out of lucidity. His family claimed his waking moments were filled with nonsensical rambling.
My friends and family visited, but I still had too much time alone to dwell on my thoughts and fears. I was scared he wouldn't remember me, that it really had been nothing more than a dream, because to me it all still felt incredibly real. I wasn't sure which option felt worse, never seeing him again or meeting him only to discover that he didn't know me as anyone but the stranger he hated for ruining his life.
It was over a week before they let me out of bed. I convinced Primrose, on a rare visit to hospital by herself, to wheel me to his room. He was alone, but I was too afraid to go in. I spied on him, the right side of his face bruised and battered as he watched TV, trying to pick up any sense of his emotions, but there was nothing. I had no special link to this person other than the one I'd imagined. Feeling wretched I'd asked Primrose to take me back to my room, but he'd looked up then and on seeing me had called out my name.
Primrose had wheeled me to his bed and swiftly excused herself. Peeta and I were left staring at each other, both too afraid to voice what we worried sounded like madness. But when he reached out a hand and I took it, I felt it. That same soft warmth that had settled on me before, filling me with a genuine sentiment of being cared for. And then he'd simply stated, "I remember everything."
We spent every chance we had over the following days getting to know the real us. It was hard to separate after that, but Peeta needed to stay in the hospital longer than me and during our rehabilitation we each had no alternative but to return to our family homes.
Jo was completely understanding about the need to postpone our trip until I was fit enough to travel. We backpacked across New Zealand before heading to Thailand. There we took in a few Buddhist temples, but mainly we just sat about on the beach and took what I felt was a well-earned rest. Then we came here to Sydney to work in Jo's uncle's firm as we'd always planned.
Peeta joined us here three months ago. We got a bigger apartment when Jo complained the walls in the last place were too thin. Serves her right I reckon, I've had years of listening to the sounds of my flat mate's bedroom exploits.
Standing behind me now on the balcony, Peeta slides one arm loosely round my waist as he lowers his mouth to my bare shoulder. My warm skin pricks with goose pimples at the touch of lips, chilled by the beer.
"I love this dress," he murmurs against my neck. I smile to myself, I know he does, it's the reason I changed into it. He's mentioned more than once how he admires the amount of skin the low backed halter neck exposes, that and the fact I never wear a bra with it.
His fingers trace the outlines of the scars that line one side of my back. I was reluctant to let him see them at first. When we'd been together on the roof our bodies had been blemish free, devoid of all the earthly damage caused by the accident. But Peeta made me see they were a symbol of our survival and a result of destiny throwing us in each other's path. Besides, he claims they match his own. It's true when we lie together, facing in each other's arms, the scars seem to join. The marks on his right shoulder continue connecting to the ones on my left before travelling down my back to create one long unbroken map of our skin. As if they had been made whilst we embraced.
I take a long deep swig of my beer before setting it down and turning in his arms to face him. I brush a rouge curl away from his eyes, his hair still damp from our shower. I feel my skin heat at the thought of us, glad that Jo was out and I won't have to suffer her sly comments about the sounds from earlier that seemed to amplify and echo in the tiled space of the shower.
I admit I was scared that after the experience on the hospital rooftop, sex would be disappointing in comparison. Peeta and I no longer share the same extreme empathy we had during the twenty-four hours at the hospital, and we are left to try to interpret and guess at the other's emotions just like any other couple. But we soon discovered the physical connection remained just as strong. Perhaps not quite as wildly out of control, savage as we were that day, but enough to break two headboards and cause Jo to hammer on the wall to 'shut the fuck up, we're scarring her innocent mind forever'.
Peeta finishes his beer and places it down on the table before slowly reaching to undo the knot where the dress ties at the back of my neck. I let his hands skim over the material dragging it down until the dress falls about my ankles. I bite my lip trying to reign in my grin as he swears at the discovery that I didn't put any underwear on after our shower and now stand before him completely naked.
We don't make it to the sofa, instead we crash down on the carpet, our hands shedding his clothes. My fingers pull at his hair, holding him to my breast as he roughly sucks me into his mouth. His moan is muted by my flesh as my nails create marks of their own to join the ones on his shoulders after he bites down on me.
I desperately urge him on as my body arches under his tongue, his pace agonizingly slow as it moves down my torso toward its goal between my legs. Begging and praising him with each passing stroke across my slick centre, crying out when he sucks then bites down on the hard bullet of nerves. Persisting in his determined cycle of torment until I can stand it no longer, demanding him to give me what I want.
His hands grip my hips, dragging me to him and hastily raising my ankles to his shoulders as he thrusts deeply inside with a growl that reverberates through my entire being. The sounds of our connecting flesh and impatient desire fill the room as each time he drives a little harder taking us closer and closer to completion. A gloriously pained cry of fulfillment comes from us when with shuddering breath we reach the end together.
I allow him to roll my lifeless, panting body with his to lie side-by-side facing each other. His kisses are gentle as he strokes the length of my arms and I reach up to brush his cheek with my fingertips, smiling into his blue eyes.
"I love you," he tells me softly.
"I know," I contentedly smirk back in response. Unimpressed he nips softly at my neck in a way he knows tickles the hell out of me. "I love you, too." I admit, quickly halting his attack.
Jo and I only have a few more months left on our Australian work visa and then we'll all be heading back to the UK. Our jobs have given us some great work experience that I hope will give us a head start in the job market, but we'll have to wait and see as its pretty tough out there at the moment. Peeta hasn't quite made up his mind what he wants to do, but I know he's swaying toward following in his father's footsteps, back to his first love before he found football. His family owns a bakery up in Yorkshire and Peeta has told me stories of how his father taught him to bake as a child. He's been practicing his recipes out on us, and he truly is an incredible cook, so much so Jo and I had to join a gym to counteract the carb overload. I think if it's the path he decides to take, his skill and his dogged determination to achieve what he wants will ultimately mean he'll be a success, but again we'll have to wait and see what the fates have set in store for us.
I have to hope that they continue to favour us, because so far it seems that they have chosen to smile on us, yes there are scars that will never fade and there are days when the ache in Peeta's leg bothers him more than he tries to let on, but otherwise we are fit and healthy and we are alive.
And what I do know is that whatever happens, whatever we decide to do, it will be together.
So that's the end - I hope you enjoyed this short little story, but there's another one just starting up called Priceless so go check that out.
Thanks to everyone who left reviews - it really is the only way for me to guess whether there's anyone out there actually reading/enjoying the story - so I really really do appreciate them no matter how short.
Thanks again for Kismet4891 for all her betaing and encouragement.
And who did I have in mind for footballer Peeta, well I'm English so there's really only one option. Beckham of course - only more early 1990's when he was all cute and boyish, with floppy blond hair and a lot less tattoos - but Posh was definitely NOT Katniss!