Thanks so much to passionately_curious, bleedtoloveher, and modernlifeofash for holding my hand, being my cheerleaders, being super amazing prereaders, and basically just wonderful friends. And for my best friend in the whole entire world, jeniezee: this is for you :) Thanks for putting up with my near constant ridiculousness.

. . .

The first time Katniss sees Peeta Mellark again is on a sweltering August day in the university bookstore as she's selling brand new Intro to Biology textbooks at almost two hundred dollars to dumbass freshmen who don't know they can get it used off of Amazon for ten bucks.

In fact, she's so busy trying to control her grimaces (her version of friendly customer service) that she doesn't even see him until he's right there, standing in front of her, clutching a thick new book in his hands and gaping at her. She barely has time to even note that she knows him before he thumps the book on the counter.

"Katniss Everdeen?" he asks incredulously, bright blue eyes wide with shock and weirdly familiar considering they had about three conversations in the twelve years they went to school together.

"Peeta?" She wishes she had the forethought to forget to remember his name; holy shit he looks good. Like if Henry Cavill was blond good (okay not really, but still, damn). "You — you don't even go here." She distinctly remembers him getting some ridiculously generous art scholarship to SCAD and moving further down south, out of Panem and her hazy circle of awareness.

"Oh, uh," his eyes dart down to the university edition upper level business textbook he so unceremoniously dropped onto the counter; he frowns slightly. "I do now." The frown slips off his face almost as quickly as it appears, a charming, dimpled grin taking its place. "So I guess we'll be seeing each other around now."

And okay, it's cliché, but her stomach knots up a little. She shrugs indifferently though, finally doing her job and scanning the book's barcode. "It's a big campus," she says coolly; his smile stays in place. "That'll be ninety-six twenty-seven."

. . .

But apparently the campus isn't as big as she wants it to be, because less than a week later when she meets up with Gale for their traditional first-day-of-classes dinner, he gives her the kind of smirky, knowing look only someone who has known you since birth can give you without getting kicked in the shins.

"What is your problem?" she asks, shifting uncomfortably in the booth at the look he is giving her. She takes a gulp of her sweet tea.

"So there was someone new in my Econ class today," he tells her slyly, reaching across the table and snatching a few french fries off of her tray, swirling them in her ketchup. He ignores her scowl as he eats them in one bite, wiping ketchup off his chin with the back of his hand.

"I don't give even the tiniest shit about anyone in your classes," Katniss tells him, slapping his hand away as he reaches for more.

"You already know this one, though," Gale says, doggedly reaching back for more fries. "Surely you remember him. Blond hair, medium height, worked at the bakery, total boner for you the entire time we were growing up…" He grunts in satisfaction as her hands drop to her lap in sudden defeat, swooping in on her food. It takes him a moment to even notice the look on her face; when he does he laughs, choking on his mouthful.

"He did not have a boner for me." The tips of her ears are burning hot and she wonders if her face is as red as it feels.

Gale grins smugly. "So you do know who I'm talking about."

"I ran into him at the bookstore," she says hotly, scowling. "How do you even know Peeta Mellark? He was like two grades below you."

"I had to know my competition," he says lightly, and she tenses; it's not often he brings up their brief (and incredibly unsuccessful) relationship. But that was a long time ago. He snorts a little.

"God, your face, Catnip. Lover boy's got you all worked up, huh?"

Katniss scoffs, ignoring the insinuation. "What is he even doing in your business classes? I thought he was studying art or something. Far away." Not that she kept tabs (except she did, accidentally, but whatever).

He shrugs. "I dunno, you'd have to ask him about that."

"Ugh, no thanks." She pushes her tray towards him; she feels weirdly like she would throw up if she ate anything else.

"He mentioned you, ya know," Gale teases, taking the bun off of her burger and picking up the meat. She watches in disgust as he eats. "Sat right beside me in class, asked me if I remembered him. Told me he ran into my girlfriend at the bookstore. He about shit his pants when I asked him how he knew Madge."

Okay, no, she is not excited that he asked about her (but she remembers the almost but never quite creepy way she would catch him looking at her in the hallways, in class, and feels the same flutter in her stomach now that accompanied eye contact back than).

"Whatever," she grumbles, trying for some form of poker face. Gale grins anyway.

"He'll probably ask you out next time he sees you." He winces when she kicks him under the table.

"It's a big campus," she insists, echoing her conversation with Peeta. "I don't think I'll be seeing him again."

. . .

Except the odds are never really in her favor, are they, because the next Wednesday he is back in the bookstore. (Okay, but maybe they are, because when he shows up at her register again armed with bluebooks and number two pencils he is kind of sweaty and completely gorgeous that she's pretty sure there should be a porno that starts this way and she swallows so loudly when he walks up that she worries he can hear her.)

"Fancy seeing you here," Peeta says brightly. God, she doesn't even remember him ever wearing braces, which makes his perfect teeth even more obnoxious.

"I work here," she points out. He laughs breathlessly, and his cheeks turn slightly pink.

"I know," he says sheepishly, ducking his head a little. (Oh man, stop being so cute. Stop it right now.) "It was a joke. A very successful one, too, obviously."

Katniss continues to stare at him blankly, and the blush on his cheeks grows darker. The corner of his mouth tips down uncertainly, obscuring his dimple. "Are you gonna—?" he points at his supplies.

"Oh, uh," it's her turn to flush, "I'm usually better at my job than this. I just, you—" (are incredibly distracting.) He perks up a little at her floundering, gives her a winning smile. She scowls reflexively. "What are you even doing here, anyway?"

Peeta laughs nervously as she begins to scan his items. "Kind of a long story."

"Oh." Even she can hear the disappointment in her voice.

He looks at her quickly, his blue eyes hopeful. "I just mean, I have class in a few minutes." He gestures to the bluebooks, smiles at her. "But um, what—what time do you get off? We could, you know, grab some coffee in the student union?"

She sucks in a quick breath, hesitates. Peeta must sense her weakness because he smiles disarmingly, leans forward on the counter, and he is so close it's disconcerting.

"I don't really have any friends here," he explains quickly, although she has a really hard time imagining Peeta Mellark without friends. "It's nice to see a familiar face."

"But we don't really know each other," she says slowly. He smile gets bigger.

"Thus the coffee," he teases. His dimples are so deep she's pretty sure he could store things in them.

The worst part is that Gale was right. And she is so screwed.

. . .

When she comes to the Starbucks at the student union he is already waiting on her, looking at the bakery display with a look of distaste.

She walks up behind him, peers over his shoulder. "Did those scones do something to offend you? Or is it just British baked goods in general?"

He jumps at the question, knocking against her; his back presses against her fully, warm and firm, and she can't help the tiny exhale of shock that escapes her. (And, okay, he should definitely run into her more often because this is the most action she has gotten since high school and she doesn't hate it.)

Peeta turns around to face her, looking adorably embarrassed. "Sorry," he mumbles. "I didn't hear you at all."

She laughs uncomfortably. Can he tell how attracted to him she is? (Because um, yes please.) "I'm pretty quiet," she shrugs. "Plus you looked pretty involved with those scones.

Peeta grimaces. "Ugh. Don't even get me started."

"I kind of like the blueberry ones," she admits; she has to suppress a laugh at the look of horror on his face.

"God, Katniss, no. You — man, I could make you something at the bakery that would make you this forget this place even exists."

She snorts. "And you're modest, too."

He grins. "I like to call it self-assurance."

There is an awkward pause. "So, uh. We should order?"

He nods eagerly, and they get in line. She is still waiting for her mocha frap when he takes the first swig of his iced chai latte, and she can't suppress the laugh that escapes at the look of bliss on his face.

"That good, huh?" she asks curiously, pointedly averting her eyes from his throat as he swallows. She takes her drink from the barista and they walk outside.

Peeta smiles broadly. "Have you ever tried it?" When she shakes her head, he frowns. "It's like — like Thanksgiving and Christmas got together and made a cold drink. It's awesome."

She laughs again. "That sounds weird."

He shakes his head determinedly. "No, it's — here, try it." He holds the drink out to her, stepping closer.

She wrinkles her nose a little. "Oh, uh, I don't really share drinks."

Peeta laughs. "Seriously? Miss Badass, Hunter, Killer of bunnies Katniss is afraid of germs? I never would have known."

She scowls. "Not afraid." To prove it she snatches it from his hand and takes a long slip. (Is she imagining the way his eyes darken as her lips wrap around the straw?)

He is still leaning forward, closer than she knows how to handle. "Well?"

She licks her lips and hands the drink back (and okay, he is definitely looking at her lips this time). "It's...not bad," she admits; his face lights up.

"That might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me," he teases. She frowns.

"I'm nice," she snaps. Completely aware of the irony.

"Oh I know," he assures her earnestly. "I always thought — I always thought you'd be really fun to hang out with. In fact, I can't believe I'm having coffee with Katniss Everdeen," he says, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet. "You were kind of a big deal in high school." She gives him the most skeptical look she can muster and he shrugs, conceding. "Kind of a big deal to me, anyhow." She chokes a little on her latte and he grins. "You have no idea, the effect you have."

She sputters a little, her mouth moving but not forming any words. And dammit, he is still standing really close. Subject change. She needs a subject change. "So. I thought you had gone to SCAD," she asks abruptly. He looks a little amused at the sudden shift.

"I did," he smiles a little wistfully. "But my dad's arthritis got really bad this summer, he can't do the piping he needs to do on the cakes. That's where we make the most money. And we can't really afford to hire someone, so..." He shrugs. "I mean, I was probably going to end up at the bakery anyway. My brothers don't really want it, and it would break Dad's heart for it to just die out. So I'm taking some business classes, helping out as much as I can. Just a little earlier than I ever planned."

She frowns sympathetically. "That sucks. Giving up your dreams to come back here."

"I would do anything for my dad," he insists. "And I really like the bakery. Besides," his smile is so shy, so sweet that it completely disarms her, "there are just some things here that SCAD could never offer."

She gulps. "Like Starbuck's blueberry scones?"

He just smiles. "Ugh, shut up about the scones, Katniss. You need to come to the bakery, I'll show you what a real scone tastes like."

"Um," she doesn't mean to smile back, but once she does he looks so cute and hopeful, and ugh, he was not this attractive in high school. She grips her frappe tightly, and starts walking in the direction of the parking lot. "I guess I could try a scone."

"And the cheese buns," he urges, falling into step beside her. She stops walking, looking at him with sharp curiosity.

"What are cheese buns?"

. . .

His hand traces the curve of her waist through her thin camisole that she sleeps in, his eyes darkening as she shivers. "You have no idea," he repeats his words from earlier, his voice low, "the effect you have." He is leaning over her on her bed, moonlight streaming through the window and lighting up his pale skin. His chest is broad and defined and she runs her hand up him, gripping his shoulder tightly.

"Show me then," she whispers, pressing closer. He groans, dipping his head forward to press kisses to the column of her neck, making his way slowly to her lips. "You really want to know?" he asks huskily, and she nods desperately. His hand skims up her side again, across her shoulder and down her arm, and when he reaches her hand he laces their fingers together. "You'll allow it?"

Her lips curve into a grin. "I'll allow it."

And then he is dragging her hand down, down, down, between their hips to stroke him. He moans. And she finally understands the effect she has—

She wakes with a gasp, a pillow clenched hard between her thighs. A dream. A dream about Peeta Mellark. A dream about getting Peeta Mellark off.

Perfect.

. . .

Katniss doesn't see Peeta again for the rest of the week (thank goodness, she'll probably never see him again without turning a violent red), but his invitation to come see him at the bakery hovers at the edges of her awareness. "I work on Saturdays," he had offered once they had reached her car (and he had opened her door for her. OPENED HER DOOR FOR HER. Should she be offended? Should she jump his bones? She doesn't even know). She spends the rest of the week hoping he doesn't come in to the bookstore even though her dream about him has led her to several sessions with the detachable shower head.

She is restless all Saturday morning, holed up in her room pretending to do research for class but really stalking Peeta's facebook page (he friend requested her, okay?). He is tagged in photos from his SCAD days, hanging out at artsy little places in Savannah, buying canvases and paintbrushes at Primary, riding bicycles down streets with huge, mossy trees. There are pretty girls with red lipstick and brightly colored hair, guys his age drinking beers and laughing, moments captured at thrift shops and art galleries, on cobblestone streets and beside the Savannah River.

Katniss has nothing to offer in comparison to this, no hip clothes or appreciation of art; the nicest thing she's ever said to him was that his chai latte wasn't that bad. She groans at a picture of a pretty, curvy blonde with her arms slung around his waist, her lacy cream colored top revealing a bright pink bra that is pressed against his side. It's not that she's jealous — except, okay, it's totally that she's jealous, which is dumb (except she was always a big deal to him too, apparently. That's not just a thing someone says, is it?) She clicks the next photo and—

Shit, shit, shit, he is at the beach in this one, his eyes closed as he laughs. There is a spray of freckles across his shoulders that weren't there in her dream, his abs defined by his movement; she presses her legs together, shuts her eyes and envisions the dream with these new details in mind. She fights the urge to go shower again.

You have no idea, the effect you have.

Screw it.

. . .

Her roommate is lounging on the couch in her underwear, eating cereal and watching episodes of Naked and Afraid she has saved on the DVR. When her eyes land on Katniss, she chokes on her Frosted Flakes, pausing right in the middle of 'The Jungle Curse.'

"What the hell are you wearing, Brainless?"

Katniss frowns. "Is it that bad?" She looks down at the casual khaki shorts and the sheer green top paired with a cami that Prim talked her into buying. Her hair is loose behind her, wavy from her constant braid. Granted, a little fancier than her usual athletic shorts and oversized tees (standard Saturday attire), but still.

Johanna shakes her head, grinning wickedly. "Nope. You look pretty decent for once." She looks her up and down appraisingly. "So who are you trying to fuck?"

Her jaw drops and she can actually feel her face heat up. "Why — who, I, what makes you—?"

Jo snorts. "You know the shower isn't soundproof, right?"

"Like you're one to talk," Katniss snorts defensively, crossing her arms over her chest. "I can hear your vibrator all the way in my room like every night; you know they make quieter ones, right?"

Johanna shrugs carelessly. "I need something with power. You wouldn't understand." She smirks again, eyeing her outfit. "Or maybe you would."

She groans. "Oh my god, Jo, shut up." Her roommate pats the spot on the couch next to her and Katniss slumps beside her, burying her face in her hands. Johanna cackles.

"I've waited for this day for so long," she says dramatically, elbowing her hard in the side. "The day Katniss Everdeen finally develops a sex drive." When Katniss doesn't answer, she grins. "So what started this? Is this the guy Gale told me about?"

Katniss drops her hands from her face, gives her a look of horror. "Oh my god, Gale told you?"

"So it is the high school sweetheart," Johanna crows. "Gale said this was a long time coming."

"Ugh, we weren't high school sweethearts." She grimaces. "We didn't even ever talk in high school. And then he moved away, but now he's back and—"

"And you're feeling all lusty."

Katniss groans again. "We met up for coffee the other day," she admits, wiping her hands on her thighs (that, oh god, she actually shaved for once). "And he — ugh, he was just really sweet. And hot. And then I had this dream—"

Johanna sits up straighter, turning towards her. "You had a sex dream about him?"

"Not — not a sex dream. More like a sexy dream."

Johanna smirks. "That's not what your outfit is saying."

Katniss stands up, glares at her friend. "I'm done with this." When she starts to walk away Johanna reaches out to smack her ass.

"Go get 'im, Brainless!"

. . .

Somehow she has lived her whole life in this town without ever actually going into the bakery — growing up on a budget meant supermarket brand white bread and the occasional pack of Oreos. So the moment she steps in the door, she is immediately mesmerized by the warm, sweet smells of bread and frosting, the display full of goodies (oh shit, are those the cheese buns?). It's three o'clock in the afternoon and there seems to be a lull in business. She only notices the older man behind the counter after he says curiously, "Katniss?"

When she looks over at him suspiciously, he smiles brightly, the very picture of a grown up Peeta. His blue eyes crinkle around the corners. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he chuckles. "I'm Peeta's dad, he told me you might be coming by today."

Katniss blushes. "Oh."

He smiles at her once more and then gestures for her to take a seat at one of the small tables; he disappears behind a door, leaving it cracked open. "She's just as pretty as you always said," she hears faintly, and she allows herself to smile. That's a good sign, right?

When Peeta appears a moment later, pink faced and carrying a plate of food, he looks so absurdly happy to see her that she lets herself smile fully, teeth and all. He sits in the seat across from her a little breathlessly. "Hey, Katniss." He reaches across to touch her arm, beaming. "You look really pretty," he says sincerely. "I don't think I've ever seen your hair down like that."

She shrugs, attempting to be casual. "Oh, you know." She smiles shyly. (And really, it's a good thing Johanna can't see her now because she would never hear the end of it).

Peeta's smile is brilliant; he scoots his chair closer to the table, leaning forward and nervously tracing the edge of his plate with his index finger (don't even think about it, Katniss). "I wasn't sure you would come," he admits softly.

"Well you know, I checked Starbucks first but they ran out of scones so I thought, why not."

He laughs, and when his eyes lock with hers again he looks more sure of himself. "I guess I don't have much competition, then," he teases.

Katniss licks her lips. "It's kind of looking that way, huh?"

His father laughs a little from his place behind the counter and Peeta gives him a dirty look. It is so endearing, she doesn't even know how to handle it. She looks back down to the plate.

"So, about these cheese buns?"

. . .

Katniss [AUG 26 10:27 AM] You'll be happy to know I was at starbucks this morning and I couldn't even LOOK at the blueberry scones, much less order one.

Peeta [AUG 26 10:45 AM] :) YUSSS. Victory!

Peeta [AUG 26 10:45 AM] So what you're saying is that I've changed your life.

Peeta [AUG 26 10:45 AM] Kind of. In a roundabout way.

Katniss [AUG 26 10:51 AM] lol. You didn't change anything. it was all cheese bun.

Peeta [AUG 26 10:52 AM] But I made those buns.

Katniss [AUG 26 10:52 AM] Ok, yes. Your buns were great.

Peeta [AUG 26 10:53 AM] ;D

Katniss [AUG 26 10:55 AM] OMG NO. Shut up.

Peeta [AUG 26 10:56 AM] It's okay to like my buns, Katniss :)

Katniss [AUG 26 10:58 AM] You are dead to me.

. . .

She is restocking the graphing calculators on Tuesday, working the morning shift before her afternoon ecology class, when she hears someone walk up loudly behind her. When she turns around to glare at whoever is making so much noise she is surprised to see Peeta, looking comically disappointed that she has discovered him. In his hands is a square Tupperware container.

"I was trying to surprise you," he says, his mouth turning down into a pout.

She stands up and brushes off her knees, trying to suppress her laughter and giving him a smile instead. "I'm a hunter, remember? Practically perfect hearing." Her eyes dart down to the container. "What's that?"

Peeta grins sheepishly. "I thought since I ruined Starbucks for you, the least I could do was bring you good food." He lifts the lid off to reveal four perfectly golden brown cheese buns.

She stares in disbelief. "You — you made those for me?" He nods, looking a bit nervous (okay, he has officially reached the level of five stars, two thumbs up, blog worthy perfectness). Something inside of her melts a little. "That's really nice, Peeta, thank you." She reaches out to take it and their fingers brush. This isn't a romantic comedy or anything, but she feels something close to sparks.

He looks relieved. "It's nothing." His smile falls a little when he looks down at his watch. "Shit, I've gotta go. My class starts in ten."

Before she is even aware of what's happening, he has stepped forward and wrapped an arm around her in a brief hug. And then he is gone, his fingers waving goodbye over his shoulder.

Her boss comes up to her the moment he is gone. "I'm not paying you to flirt, Sweetheart." His eyes zoom in on the food in her hands and he helps himself to one, ignoring the death glare she gives him. "Holy shit, Blondie made these?" He grunts his approval. "Damn. You could live a hundred lifetimes and never deserve him if this is any indication."

Katniss rolls her eyes. "Shut up, Haymitch."

Her mind replays everything about their interaction on repeat. Fuck deserving. She wants him more than ever.

. . .

Katniss [AUG 27 8:07 PM] Okay, I had my doubts but you have officially ruined all other bakery type places for me. I'm a Mellark's convert.

Peeta [AUG 27 8:23 PM] :) excellent! Now you just have to be initiated. You're not opposed to cupcake tattoos or large tubs of frosting are you?

Katniss [AUG 27 8:25 PM] Oh man. I was thinking more like I could take you out to lunch one day. But I mean, that sounds fun too.

Peeta [AUG 27 8:27 PM] WAIT. Just checked the rule book. Turns out lunch is allowed.

Peeta [AUG 27 8:27 PM] Who knew?

Katniss [AUG 27 8:33 PM] Oh, phew! When are you free?

Peeta [AUG 27 8:34 PM] Every day for the rest of my life.

Katniss [AUG 27 8:35 PM] Um. I was thinking more like Thursday.

. . .

They meet at Wendy's; she orders the Baconator and he gets a salad, and he doesn't even try to pay for her (which is such a relief because that always gives her such a weird kind of anxiety), and when she asks for a bite of his Frosty she ends up eating pretty much all of it and he doesn't even mind. (In fact, he keeps giving her looks like her gluttony is the most adorable thing he's ever seen and ugh, she just wants to keep him.)

The whole time he tells her stories about SCAD and funny memories of growing up in the bakery. And she's already experienced this a little, hanging out with him on Saturday and the times they've texted since, but he's so easy to talk to. He wants to hear about hunting, about how bummed she is she doesn't get to go hunting much anymore with her dad because she's so busy with work and school. He asks about her sister and her favorite color and doesn't even act bored when she starts babbling about Environmental Biology.

And somehow even after they've finished eating and have driven back to campus, they end up sitting in his car for another hour, their arms brushing against each other as they lean toward the center console. His hand is dangerously close to hers and she is positive he's going to lace their fingers together when her phone vibrates. Peeta keeps talking as she checks her text.

Johanna [AUG 29 1:48 PM] There is no reason to be parked in a car with a hot guy that long unless you're naked in the backseat.

She looks around wildly and there she is — standing three cars down and grinning wickedly. Shit.

"Uh, Peeta," Katniss says slowly. "My roommate is kind of stalking us right now." She nods in Johanna's direction and he looks mildly amused as she waves.

"Should we go talk to her?" he asks curiously, noting to her discomfort.

"Ugh, we definitely shouldn't," she mutters. But they get out of the car anyway.

Johanna is in top form today, clad in a halter top and low slung shorts that show the tops of the tattoos on her hipbones. Her smile is feral as they walk up to her, shifting to adjust the weight of her backpack on her shoulders.

"Peeta, this is Johanna," Katniss introduces reluctantly.

"You must be the high school sweetheart," she greets, looking him up and down. "God, I went to the wrong high school."

Peeta gives Katniss an alarmed look and she blanches. "Gale is a jackass," she explains. (Which really doesn't explain anything, but it's true.)

"He really is," Johanna agrees. She can't stop eyeing him. "Damn, Katniss. Why've you been hiding this guy?"

"Don't you have class or like, an STD test to go take?" she snaps.

Johanna cackles. "All the cool kids get tested, Katniss. But yeah, actually, I do have class. Lucky you." She winks at Peeta. "Nice to meet you."

Once she's gone Peeta lets out a small breath. "She's uh — nice."

Katniss rolls her eyes. "Yeah, she's a peach."

He laughs. "How did you even wind up with her?" They start walking to further into campus.

"Um? Really bad roommate assignment freshman year," she tells him, laughing a little at the memory. "Man, we hated each other. And then, we just kind of didn't anymore. I've been stuck with her ever since."

Peeta smiles at her. "Are all your friends that interesting?"

(And there it is, that opportunity she's kind of been waiting for without wanting to seem weird and forward and eager.) "Um, pretty much," she admits nervously. "But, uh, you could find out for yourself. If you want."

"Really?" He stops walking, turns toward her. She wonders if this moment is as big a deal as she thinks it is.

She shrugs. "A few of my friends are having a party Saturday at their apartment," she says nonchalantly, staring to the left of his chin. "Labor day weekend, and all. Um. I mean, I know it's kind of last minute, but if you're free—"

His answering smile is dazzling. "I'd love to."

Her chest feels all warm and perfect. "Good. I'm — good."

They start walking again and after a moment of companionable silence he nudges her with his arm. "So, what's with the whole 'high school sweetheart' thing?"

. . .

Katniss [AUG 29 2:12 PM] I'm going to ducking kill you.

Katniss [AUG 29 2:13 PM] UGH AUTOCORRECT. Fucking kill you.

Johanna [AUG 29 2:58 PM] lol. That was significantly less intimidating than you probably wanted it to be. ;)

. . .

Peeta stands behind her in the shower, his hands slipping over her wet skin. "You are so beautiful," he whispers, trailing kisses down the column of her neck. His arms wrap around her, holding her tightly against him, and then he reaches for the shower head, taking it off the hook and adjusting the spray until it comes out hard. He nudges the back of her right knee, guiding her to prop it up on the rim of the tub. His left foot slides her other leg further apart.

"You like this, don't you?" With his free hand he draws circles on her stomach, sliding dangerously close to her breasts. He guides the spray down, aiming it at her clit, smiling against her skin as she shouts out.

"Like that?" he asks; she nods furiously. Just a little longer, she's so close—

She wakes up trembling, groaning at how tightly strung her body is. These dreams are killing her.

She closes her eyes and remembers the dream, the way he felt against her, and when she slips her hands under her sheet it takes less than a minute for her to finish.

. . .

Peeta [AUG 31 9:04 PM] Hey, running late. 5B right?

Katniss [AUG 31 9:04 PM] Yep. See you soon :)

. . .

She tucks her phone into her back pocket, exhales shakily. There is no reason to be nervous. (Except, oh look, Johanna is here. And Finnick and Gale, all people who love to torment her. No big deal.)

There is a crowd of people in Gale and Finn's apartment, a bunch of people Katniss has never met and doesn't remotely care about milling around drinking cheap beer and setting up a table for beer pong. Even though Gale is older than most of the older people here, he started college late and the majority of his friends are her age, still in the throes of their partying days. Not that Katniss minds partying. But tonight she has other goals.

She stomps over to her group of friends. "I swear to god, if any of you does something to embarrass me tonight I will kill you."

Finnick raises an eyebrow, obviously enjoying her discomfort. "So this is what Katniss is like in love?" he asks jokingly. "It's unsurprisingly terrifying."

Annie shakes her head at him, smiling at Katniss. "Don't worry, Kat. I'm sure it will be fine."

"And you—" Katniss points her finger at Gale threateningly. "If you say anything about high school sweethearts Madge won't have sex with you for a month."

Gale scoffs. "Um, you can't do that."

Madge laughs, leaning over and kissing his cheek. "Oh, she can totally do that."

Gale's mouth drops open indignantly and they all laugh. Jo shoves a vodka cranberry in her hand and slaps her on the back of her head. "Relax, Brainless. If you haven't scared him away I highly doubt anything we do will get rid of him."

(That is a slightly valid point.)

"Get rid of who?"

Peeta has on a blue plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up, slightly out of breath as if he ran the last few steps here. He moves to hug her and she freezes a little, hyper aware of the attention focused on them. Johanna laughs loudly and he hesitates.

"Hey," she says softly, reaching out and touch his arm. "I'm really glad you made it."

He smiles uncertainly. "Yeah, that huge guy let me in," he says, pointing at Thresh, Gale's other roommate. He turns to face her friends, gives them a small wave. "Hey, Gale."

Gale nods at him, wrapping an arm around Madge's waist and pulling her closer. "Hey, Peeta. This is my girlfriend Madge." His tone is teasing and Peeta laughs a little, scratching the back of his neck and ducking his head a little; while his gaze is averted Madge looks up at Katniss and nods her approval, mouthing 'Wow.' As Finnick and Annie introduce themselves and Peeta begins an easy conversation with her friends, Katniss can't control her smile.

(This is so easy, so perfect and wonderful, she can't even believe it's hers.)

. . .

Peeta follows her into the kitchen a few minutes later in search for drinks. She makes another vodka cranberry and watches as he takes a long swig of beer. He looks so good that she just wants to kiss him now, leave the party and take him to her apartment and stop just dreaming about him. Instead she smiles at him again, downing half of her drink in one swallow for courage and stepping much, much closer.

"Hey," she says again, bolder this time, cocking her head and looking up at him as seductively as she can manage (which is probably not at all, ugh).

He smiles down at her, reaching out and touching the bottom of her braid hanging over her shoulder, close to where she wants him but just not close enough. "Hey," he says quietly. His blue eyes are more intense than usual. She wonders if he wants to kiss her as badly as she wants him to. "Your friends are pretty cool."

"I'm glad you like them. That — it makes me happy. That you all like each other." (And really, isn't that admitting something in itself?) His face softens but he doesn't lean any closer.

"We should probably go back out there," he says a moment later. He laughs at the look on her face, grabbing her hand and tugging her along. Before they reach the group again she drops his hand.

"That's okay, Brainless, I didn't need another drink." Johanna throws her empty red cup at her, hitting Peeta instead.

Katniss flushes. "Sorry Jo, I forgot to even ask." Her roommate gives her a knowing smirk.

"Want me to go get you one?" Peeta asks generously, already turning towards the kitchen.

"Aw, so polite," Madge teases. "What are you doing with Katniss, again?" They all laugh, even Peeta.

"I can be polite," Katniss protests, crossing her arms and scowling lightly at her friends. "I invited Peeta tonight, that was polite." Peeta smiles at her in response and she wills herself not to flush.

"Yeah, not sure it counts as being polite when you're trying to laid," Johanna retorts, rolling her eyes. Madge chokes on her beer, unable to repress a laugh.

Katniss feels herself turn bright red; she shifts away from Peeta carefully, moving closer to Gale, who slings an arm around her shoulder and tugs her braid playfully. "See, Jo, this is why we can't have nice things."

Peeta tries to catch her eye but she refuses to look over at him. (Too bad she didn't have the foresight to threaten Johanna with no sex.)

Finnick must sense her embarrassment because after a moment he says, "Hey Kat, wanna go kick some ass in beer pong?"

. . .

Peeta [AUG 31 10:48 PM] Okay, please come save me from Johanna. She's drunk and showing me her tattoos.

Peeta [AUG 31 11:01 PM] OMG did you know she has this weird thing with axes?

Peeta [AUG 31 11:22 PM] How am I not finding you in this tiny apartment?

. . .

Katniss is sprawled out on the couch, the world made hazy by the four vodka cranberries she consumed and the beer from the game, when she sees Peeta again for the first time in hour. (And okay, she is way too tipsy to even try to hide the rush of desire she feels, the way her eyes sweep over his form appreciatively.) "Peeta!" she calls, smiling idiotically when he turns her way. She lifts a hand, curling her index finger to beckon him closer. Not quite Patrick Swayze, but she doesn't even care.

He towers over her as she sits down, looking at her with an indiscernible expression. "I thought you left," she pouts, reaching up and fisting the soft blue of his shirt. She tugs him down and he allows himself to fall beside her.

Peeta smiles at her halfheartedly. "I kind of thought you were ignoring me earlier," he admits. She crinkles her nose.

"Oh, I totally was." He flinches, pulling away, and she frowns, grabbing him again and sliding so close that she is practically in his lap. "I was just embarrassed," she tells him; her hand idly plays with the hem of his shirt.

He licks his lips. "About what Johanna said?"

Katniss nods. "I just — ugh, I told her about this dream I had she won't shut up about us hooking up."

"Uh," he swallows hard, and she longs to lean forward and kiss his throat, his jaw, his everything. "Dream?"

She giggles. "Oh, yeah. I had a dirty dream about you." He chokes a little and she laughs harder. "You showed me the effect I have on you," she explains, waggling her eyebrows suggestively, dropping his shirt from her grasp and trailing her hand up his chest.

He shudders, closing his eyes tightly; when his eyes blink open again they are much darker. "And what effect was that?" His voice is low, like in her dream, and she grins slowly, shifting all the way onto his lap to straddle him.

"Let me show you," she murmurs. She loves the way his breath hitches; her palm rests over his heart and she feels the way it beats faster. She shifts forward and lets out a long sigh — yes, here, this is where she needs to be. He is hard underneath her, and she can feel all of him, even through the layers of clothing.

"I don't just wanna get laid, you know." Her lips ghost over his, teasing; she makes a sound of satisfaction when his hands grip her hips tightly. She rocks against him and he moans. His right hand leaves her hip, trailing across her stomach to trace the button of her jeans.

"Oh, really?"

She shrugs, sliding her hands up and playing with his hair. "It wouldn't suck, though." He pops the button open, slides his hand in to cup her through her panties, and her hips jerk forward at the contact—

She wakes up on the couch in Gale's apartment, sweating and wet all over and alone. It was all a dream.

She should probably be happy.

She's not.

. . .

Katniss [SEPT 1 12:14 AM] I didn't even see you leave :(

Katniss [SEPT 1 12:15 AM] I'm sorry we didn't get to hang out a lot :/ let me know you got home okay!

Katniss [SEPT 1 1:00 AM] Okay but really. You're okay right?

Peeta [SEPT 1 1:27 AM] Okay. Sleeping. I have to work at like 5:30.

Katniss [SEPT 1 1:30 AM] I'm sorry :( goodnight Peeta.

. . .

If Katniss was a crier she would probably spend all Sunday morning watching sad Lifetime movies and throwing chocolates at the screen like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde; instead, she tries to distract herself with the Henry Cavill tag on Tumblr. (But she winds up thinking how hot Peeta would look in glasses and or spandex, and she ends up hating herself even more.)

She really fucked up. Because hello, obviously Johanna was going to make jokes at her expense, it's the very core of their absurdly hateful friendship. Instead of freaking out and avoiding him all night she should have just told her to fuck off and kissed him right there. She is just sobad at this guy stuff, so weirdly protective that it's terrifying to think that he would know how into him she really is, maybe always has been. Even though she knows he likes her (and she hasn't exactly been subtle either), the moment had been too much and she had ruined it.

Sometimes she is just a hopeless idiot. But maybe it's not too late.

. . .

Sunday at noon is apparently a completely inopportune time to have a heart to heart at Mellark's bakery judging by the ridiculously long line that actually ends outside of the door, but she waits determinedly anyhow, shaking with anticipation for thirty minutes until she finally reaches the register.

Mr. Mellark looks at her understandingly, him smile a little less effusive than the first time they met. "What can I get for you, Katniss?" he asks cordially.

"I need to see Peeta," she pleads quietly, hoping she looks just the right amount of desperate and hung over to win his sympathy. And apparently she meets the standards for the pathetic girl requirement because he sighs, looking at the line behind her with a frown and gestures for her to step behind the counter.

"Right through that door," he tells her. And so she goes, her heart pounding in her throat.

If she had ever had a baker fantasy, this is what it would look like: Peeta Mellark, dusted in flour, sweating from the heat of the ovens, his tongue poking out in concentration as he ices a tray of cupcakes. She stares at him for a moment (this is what guys mean when they talk about a spank bank, huh?), her hands trembling. And then he looks up at her.

"Shit," he swears; the icing pours thickly from the piping bag as he squeezes too tight, ruining the cupcake he was working. His blue eyes are wide and startled and he doesn't look all that happy to see her.

She winces. "Sorry. Your, uh, your dad told me I could find you back here."

The closest thing she has ever seen to a scowl crosses his face for a brief second before his expression turns neutral. "I'm kind of busy," Peeta says blandly. He scrapes the frosting off of the ruined cupcake and starts again.

"I know, I'm sorry," she apologizes again. "But I just have to — can you look at me, for a sec?"

He lets out a sigh and looks up at her. His blue eyes connect with hers and she realizes for the first time how much she might have royally screwed up.

After she is silent for a few moments he asks, "Well?" She swallows hard.

"I'm not really good at words," she says softly, walking close enough to smell his shampoo. He sighs again.

"I'm sorry, Katniss," he says, closing his eyes and frowning. "I'm being a dick. I — I guess I just…I just really like you. I have, for a long time. Like, since kindergarten. I know that sounds dumb, but with everything that's been going on recently I kind of just thought…maybe you liked me back finally."

"Peeta—"

"I guess I just read things wrong. So last night it kind of," he groans, wiping his fingers nervously on his apron, "I mean, completely sucked that you blew me off, but I shouldn't have left like that. I get that you don't want your friends to think there's anything going on between us, I just—"

(The nicest way she can think of to tell him to shut up is to kiss him and apparently that's not too rude because he is kissing her back, pressing her hard against the metal table he's been working on and kissing her like he never wants to stop and his hands are everywhere and his dad is totally going to know what happened because now she's all floury and she's pretty sure there's a little frosting on her ass but she doesn't even care.)

"I think I've liked you for a long time too," she says breathlessly after he pulls away, moving to kiss her neck as if he as watched all of her dreams like a TV show and memorized what she likes. "I didn't mean to avoid you last night, I was just so freaked out that Johanna was going to tell you about my dreams—"

"Dreams?"

"Kind of like this but more—"

And then there is more kissing because apparently he gets the drift.

. . .

By the time she emerges from the back room she is an utter, grinning mess and Mr. Mellark looks as if he's not sure if he should hug her or hose her off and call her mother.

. . .

Peeta [SEPT 7 9:14 AM] Any dreams about me last night? ;)

Peeta [SEPT 7 9:14 AM] Because you know, I would be happy to reenact them later.

Peeta [SEPT 7 9:15 AM] For your sake.

Katniss [SEPT 7 9:19 AM] Now that you mention it, I totally had a dream about you.

Peeta [SEPT 7 9:25 AM] I hope it involved frosting. Because I wouldn't hate that.

Katniss [SEPT 7 9:27 AM] Actually it involved rubber duckies. Still up for a reenactment?

Peeta [SEPT 7 9:28 AM] :( rude.

Katniss [SEPT 7 9:30 AM] Don't worry.

Katniss [SEPT 7 9:30 AM] I'm sure we'll come up with something better tonight ;)

Peeta [SEPT 7 9:31 AM] You are…the best girlfriend ever.

Katniss [SEPT 7 9:35 AM] I know :)

. . .

. . .

Notes:

For my old readers: I'm working on completing Normal Again for tumblr's Finish Your Fic challenge; as soon as that is finished I will focus soley on Reaping. It is not abandoned! This is a piece posted a couple of weeks ago on AO3. As usual I forgot to cross post.

Come find me on tumblr: swishywillow, for drabbles, ramblings, and future fic info.