There have been more than a few times when, finding no new texts or missed calls on her phone, Katniss has scrolled through her contacts to confirm that he's still in there. That he wasn't some apparition, or a weird fevered dream where every happy expectation collapsed in on itself, which is like a lot of her dreams.
He's still there. Peeta Mellark.
So is the last text he sent.
I'll be over in a few to pick you up. :)
Every time someone catches her looking, namely Madge, Katniss tries to shove her phone under the couch cushion or throw it in her bag, and Madge is kind enough to pretend not to notice. But there have more Netflix marathons and freshly baked muffins in that past few days than is standard for them- a generosity probably borne of guilt after Madge forced a sulking Katniss out of bed the day after her date and coerced the details out of her. But there have been so few pitying looks, practically no pieces of useless advice or fortune cookie wisdom, that Katniss is proud of herself for how wisely she's chosen her friends.
After only a few days, the smattering of hickies have faded, and the soreness has subsided, the latter not even acute enough to require ibuprofen the day after, but there was something about still feeling the presence of it- of him, of what they had done- between her legs, even after she had washed away his saliva and the scent of his skin.
She almost regrets sleeping in his sweatshirt that night, because where it lies hidden under her pillow, it smells more like her shampoo and cedar than it does of Peeta.
On Sunday afternoon, Katniss makes her way sullenly to the library which, a few weeks into the semester, is more a distraction technique than anything else, but she startles at every blonde head of hair that walks by.
What would she even say if she saw him?
I'm sorry, I have to go.
I'm so, so sorry. I don't even know why you asked me out. Didn't I warn you? Didn't Madge warn you? Isn't my entire demeanor warning enough?
I'm sorry I was terrible. I'm sorry it was terrible. I'm sorry I was terrible afterward. That's what was terrible.
It's difficult to even imagine what she should have done differently, what she would have said to smooth the lines on his forehead, to get his body to relax, to coax that easy smile onto his face. It shouldn't be that hard; she's seen it enough from him, even in passing. She is the problem.
Katniss has never been given to deep introspection. Generally speaking, what works for her works, and she doesn't spend her precious time trying to figure out why something doesn't. She simply brushes it away and moves on.
Although, if she were to finally break down and confess the whole story to Prim, something that's taken enormous effort to avoid thus far, she imagines there would be some Dr. Phil speech in response. About how Katniss is too closed off. Something about a fear of intimacy. Deep discomfort when presented with that which she can't control. Sprinkle in a few words of wisdom from the reruns of Sex and the City that Prim's only allowed to watch on TBS, and Katniss can hear the entire thing in her head.
But aside from the weighty, immoveable guilt that comes with knowing that she's hurt Peeta's feelings, she's not entirely sure what there is to fix, certainly not anything she's capable of fixing.
She is who she is and it was just one date. That's all she had agreed to.
And she's never having sex again.
On Monday, Katniss waits in a long line full of similarly under-caffeinated students at the union's Starbucks for her caffe mocha. It's one of the few indulgences she allows herself, and even if she has to run the rest of the way to class, she's not drinking that sludge they sell in the college convenience store. The bitter taste will linger on her tongue all day.
When she moves to the pick-up counter, she bounces on her toes, willing the drink to come up faster. Her eyes scan over the heads of the fellow patrons, trying to spot the giant clock that will tell her exactly how late she's going to be for class. And she spots a blonde head of hair. And not just any head. This one is covered in waves (not quite curls) whose strands are surprisingly soft for hair so thick.
Katniss drops suddenly back down on her heels. But her eyes stay riveted to his form, clad in a sweaty white t-shirt (one she now recognizes as the brand of undershirts he wears) under an unzipped gray hoodie. His appearance reminds her startlingly of the way he looked in high school sometimes when he was making his way out of the gym with his teammates. And she remembers, finally, the way she took him in back then, almost unconsciously.
But the way she takes him in now is hyper-conscious. Because he is sweaty. And standing next to an equally sweaty blonde girl in tight black spandex capris with a purple stripe that matches her top. The kind of outfit someone buys specifically to work out and look good while doing it, unlike Katniss, who hikes in Goodwill work jeans and t-shirts that have paint splatter on them.
The blonde girl is striking. But, more notably, has a sheen of perfectly attractive sweat which implies that the two of them just came from a work out together.
Katniss feels oddly deflated by the idea that the way Peeta looks panting and sweaty is not an image available only to her.
The barista has to call out Katniss' name three times before she hears it, grabs her drink, and peels her attention away from the happily chatting couple before gulping her mocha down so quickly that it scalds her tongue and spills onto her shirt as she rushes to class.
Katniss makes it with 30 seconds to spare. She makes it through two more lectures and a discussion before she goes home and tears up in the shower. Just a little.
Her finger hovers over the 'delete' button on his contact entry on her phone, but she can't bring herself to do it.
She considers skipping class. It's not like the professor even takes attendance in a lecture that big. But she does go over everything that's supposed to be on the tests.
It's not like he'll seek her out, Katniss thinks, remembering her phone that never buzzes, and the last time he heard his voice. "Thanks for coming out, Katniss."
Even struggling to remember the few lectures they've attended together, she can't recall if he was even sitting alone. Maybe she just assumed he was because she is always buffered by two blissfully empty seats, if she has her way.
But that's stupid. Of course he wasn't alone. Peeta is always surrounded by people. Laughing friends. Pretty blonde girls with bouncing ponytails.
He won't be alone and searching for her. He'll probably give her another goofy, happy wave if he happens to notice her and everything will be back to normal. To an acceptable level of awkward.
She waits outside the lecture hall until it's almost full. When the professor clears her throat, Katniss sneaks in with her head down and sits in a front corner seat close to the door.
She's never noticed how hard it is not to turn your neck at all. Which is strange. Because craning your neck around all the time should make it cramp up and get uncomfortable. But the awareness of how much she's keeping her head facing completely forward is torture. It makes the minutes tick by loudly and slowly in her head. It's like being in a movie theater during a tense moment and realizing how loud you swallow for the first time.
She's trying to avoid even using her peripheral vision. She's had enough of scanning rooms for hair color.
At ten minutes till the hour, the professor starts to wind down and Katniss tries to be stealthy about hurriedly cramming her things into her bag. But the professor makes her way over to Katniss and she freezes.
"The first few reading responses have been graded. Find yours, pass them on," she says loudly to the whole class, holding out a stack of papers for Katniss to take.
She finds hers quickly, barely noticing the grades written on the back, and shoves them into her bag before passing the stack over her shoulder.
Her shoulders tense at the voice and her heart drops to her stomach. His fingers brush against hers for just a moment as he takes them from her.
She can't not look back. The last thing she wants to see is the expression on his face. Whether it's cool and casual, or still mildly wounded. But ignoring him isn't an option. She's not that cruel.
"Peeta," she breathes, turning around to face him.
"Hey, you," he says.
Her stomach clenches. His voice is warm, his tone familiar. He looks up at her briefly from where he's searching through the papers and gives her a lopsided, almost knowing smile. And she knows he's not going to pretend they didn't do what they did.
They had sex.
They are not two strangers. They are not a drunken one night stand. They're two people who have known each other their whole lives and went on a date- a good date- that ended up with him inside her, and her leaving before the sheets were cold. There will be no semester-long attempts at keeping her face forward.
"Can I walk you out?" he asks. Katniss jumps a little in her seat, so lost in her head that she forgot how close he was.
"Okay," she shrugs.
The professor dismisses them and Katniss slowly stands up from her seat, waiting for Peeta to follow behind her, but refusing to look back.
The hallway is crowded with students hurrying to get to their next classes, but Peeta tugs on her sleeve.
"There's a coffee shop in the basement," he says when she looks up.
"I forget sometimes that you're a Freshman," he teases. She scowls at him and his smile broadens. "Kidding. I only discovered it like, last week, when I got lost looking for the bathrooms."
He walks down the hall and when she hesitates, he just gestures with his head. "Come on."
Peeta's smile is different. It's more confident, but colder, like he's not waiting for her approval. His eyes aren't swimming with hope and a guilelessness that's almost endearing. She hates it.
This should be one of the most uncomfortable moments of her life so far (aside from Saturday night), but he seems to be breezing through, even happily waving her off when she tries to pay for her hot chocolate. There's something discomforting about this man who can hang his head in defeat during one awkward move in bed, but can cope with it so well afterward- getting her to follow after him like a lost puppy, and making the cashier giggle at his lame joke.
So what do they even have to discuss if he's just fine?
When she gets her drink, she swipes it off the counter brusquely, muttering a "thank you," and trying to make her way over to a table in the corner.
"Um," Peeta starts. He looks nervous for the first time since that night, not quite meeting her eyes. "Can we maybe take these out into the hall? It's kind of crowded in here."
The last things she wants to do is discuss sex between two tables of rowdy students.
The last thing she wants to do is discuss sex.
So she follows him out into the empty hallway.
"It's kind of creepy down here," she says, the noise from the cafe receding as they walk.
"Yeah, I don't think they even hold classes down here. This building is like 200 years old. No A/C. There are probably fire hazards."
"Good place for a coffee shop that toasts bagels then."
Peeta laughs and their eyes meet briefly. It feels even more weighty since they're walking side by side. He slows down and leans against a wall.
"So how are things?" he asks easily. Pleasantly.
"Peeta," Katniss says warningly.
"Okay." He huffs out a breath and his entire demeanor changes. He stares down at his coffee cup. His shoulders sag like he's been carrying around a happy persona and he's relieved to put it down. "I don't even know where-"
"I'm sorry," she blurts out. Those words have never flowed so easily out of her mouth before, but this time, she can't contain them. She's been carrying around something miserable, something twisted with guilt, and she knows she'll be relieved to put it down, too.
"What..." He laughs on a breath. "What are you even sorry for?"
"For leaving," she says quietly. "I shouldn't have left. I don't know why- I just shouldn't have."
"I'm sorry I let you leave," Peeta says. "I mean, not that I would have stopped you. You're free to do what you want. You just seemed upset and...God. I don't know. Everything just nosedived."
"No, it's okay," she reassures him, though she's not even sure about what exactly. "I just...I don't want things to be awkward between us every time we cross paths. We go to the same school. We have friends in common..."
Katniss takes a sip of cocoa just to have something to do. But when her eyes flit up, she finds Peeta staring at her carefully, his face guarded.
She hears the disappointment in his "right," his voice falling carefully, just like his face did Saturday night when she lit up at the prospect of going home.
"What?" she asks stupidly. What is she doing now? She's fucking up again, but she'll never know how until it's hours too late.
"Nothing," Peeta says, shrugging it off. He gulps from his own cup, but he must do it too quickly, because his mouth purses up and he struggles to swallow.
Katniss glances away like she didn't see.
"Nothing," he repeats, lifting up his scalded tongue for a second in a gesture so cute she has to restrain herself from pressing up against him. "So I guess we're just gonna...leave it at that?"
That sounds awful. She did leave it at that, and she feels awful. But she doesn't know what else to say. Katniss searches his face, willing him to say more. More than that.
"Katniss," he says pleadingly, staring back at her. He gives up after a moment and scrubs a hand over his face in frustration. "Man, I wish there was a way of knowing what you want. Obviously." He chuckles self-deprecatingly and she feels a flush bloom across her cheeks. "Maybe you can just blink once for yes, and two for no?"
She laughs, shaking her head at him. The smile growing across his face is encouraging, but she speaks before he can.
"You didn't call me."
His smile drops.
"Or text," she adds in a small voice.
"Katniss," he says quickly, "I didn't think you wanted me to. Honestly, I didn't think you wanted me to do any of that. You ran out of there like you regretted it and, fuck. I don't want to be that guy. That guy who pressured you."
"You didn't!" Katniss jumps in.
"I should have called. Who doesn't call after...ya know?"
He looks so distraught, wreaking havoc on his hair. She wants to say something soothing, but every word she speaks seems to make him more worked up.
"I just- I didn't because I felt like we did something you didn't wanna do. And I know Madge was pressuring you about the date, even though I begged her not to," he says frantically, then picks up his point again. "Or maybe it was something you wanted to do, in the moment, and I then I was just…" He trails off, running his fingers through his hair in frustration, and she doesn't want him to say it. "And you regretted it. Maybe you didn't want to talk the whole time because you knew you'd end up telling me 'no.' And, Jesus, you don't owe me anything."
"Peeta," she says, breathing his name out, stretching the syllables, willing them to say something. Something he'll understand, like he can translate her gibberish or the desperation in her voice. If anyone can do it, he should be able to. She doesn't know why she believes that, or when she started to, but she does. "That's just...wrong. You're wrong."
He lets out an involuntary chuckle at this, and she rolls her eyes at herself.
"It's just…it's hard for me to believe that," he ventures, "when you practically sprinted from my room, and now you're talking like, I dunno. Like you want to resolve the tension and just part ways."
Peeta stares at her like he's waiting to count her blinks.
"Well, I-" She stops and turns and throws her cocoa in a nearby garbage. It gives her an excuse to pace, and be able to wring her hands through her braid and her sweater. "We don't work, do we? I mean, it didn't work. Clearly. It wasn't just you. It was me, too." She looks up to find him watching her with raised brows. "God. I know that's a cliche. I've just...never really done this. I don't know what to say. It was just supposed to be a one time thing-"
"Was it?" Peeta asks, looking almost frustrated with her. He's never looked at her like this and she already knows she hates it.
"Well, yeah. Kinda. I don't really do anything else."
She feels cheap suddenly, admitting that. She doesn't even regret her few brief experiences, as unsatisfying as they were. At least they were experiences. And she was able to brush them off as easily as she brushed off those two guys. But everything about shrugging Peeta off feels wrong, and her insides twist.
"It was just a hook up?" he asks. She tries to break eye contact but hers lock on his almost unwillingly, and even at his imploring look, she can't move a muscle. When he finally looks away and blows out a breath, she squeezes her eyes shut till they hurt. "Of course. The thing I finally get a shot at is something I'm fucking terrible at."
"You're not!" she says. Her voice wobbles like she's about to cry, the way it did in school when she was forced to give a presentation and the nerves would creep in. It's humiliating, but for once she doesn't mind, because she doesn't want him to be the humiliated one. She's done enough to him already. And she knew she would.
Peeta just laughs bitterly. "I'm sorry. We don't have to hash this out. I'm just feeling sorry for myself."
A door creaks open somewhere, and Peeta straightens up off of the wall.
"What was it for you?"
This draws his attention from where he was staring down the long, empty hallway, probably plotting his escape.
"You and me?" he asks. Katniss nods. "Um, a chance at something I'd dreamed about since I was 5." He chuckles again, but he doesn't seem as upset this time. She's wringing her hands again in the fabric of her sweater. "Does it make it worse for you, when I say stuff like that?"
"Um, I don't know."
"Shut up." She laughs and he smiles back at her. "I didn't know, that's all. That you felt that way about me. It just feels like-"
"Pressure? Does it feel like pressure? Because I never wanted that."
"Peeta," she says, and without thinking she shoves him playfully back against the wall. "You didn't pressure me. Wasn't it my idea anyway?"
His mouth pulls to one side in a knowing grin, and her skin heats like it has a flesh memory of his, something that flares up in his presence now. And maybe it does.
"Well," he starts.
"God, I invited myself up to your room. I told you to…" she drops her voice, "to take your clothes off. To get a condom. Oh my god." She must have been drunk. Even thinking of it now. It had to be the wine. How had she ever gotten so brave with him? It took her days to even say yes to a date.
"You did do all that." He sounds like he's trying not to laugh and she glares at him. "Honestly? I thought you knew. I stare at you all the time. I know you know that." He laughs again, and even though he laughs at himself a lot, she likes when she can tell that it's lighter, less weighted. "I'd like to think I was subtle, but pretty much everyone we went to school with has assured me of the opposite." He pulls himself up again and takes a step closer to her. "But all I wanted was a shot. I didn't even think I would get one. It was like buying a lottery ticket or something. And I'm going to hate myself forever for screwing it up, probably. But I just want you to be comfortable. And happy. It's all I've ever wanted. So if you want to go back to me trying not to stare at you from across the room, then we can do that."
Peeta's eyes are so blue. They make his ash blonde hair recede even more into the background as she stares up into his face. Katniss bites her lip, unsure of what to say, as ever. But if she doesn't say anything, maybe he won't move. Maybe he won't disappear down that hallway.
"I just think..." Peeta says, reaching up for her necklace, the one Prim made her by stringing up an arrowhead she found. "You and me?" He adjusts the clasp so that it's in the back of her neck where it should be, brushing his fingers against the soft skin over her collarbone. "We could be amazing."
"I'm…not sure," Katniss says stupidly. So stupid.
"Can I kiss you?" Her breathing stops. "Just...one last time. End on a high note," he says with a grin.
If he weren't holding firmly to her shoulders now, she would have stumbled back. She braces herself by grasping to his forearms. The forearms she's thought about every night since he delicately set out each piece of crostini in her kitchen.
She blinks. Once.
Peeta dips down, capturing her mouth quickly, but softly. One of his hands travels up into the hair gathered at the nape of her neck; the other one slides down her back to her waist. It's all perfectly coordinated in one smooth movement that seems to take half a second. But she feels all of it. Why didn't she let him kiss her more?
Oh, right. Because she couldn't breathe. She focuses so much on her breathing this time, that she seems to take him in a little deeper with every inhale.
He focuses on her bottom lip. Then the top one. Pulling it into his mouth, licking the underside. She hangs onto him desperately. When his tongue enters her mouths, hers is there to meet it. He strokes it until her knees go liquid. Everything goes liquid. She pushes up onto her toes, her hands sliding up his biceps, over his broad shoulders, and into his hair. Soft. Thick.
She sucks on his tongue and he groans. She wants to hear him groan more. She should have counted them on Saturday, each and every one that she drew out of him, like she could get lost in the gravelly nooks of his voice being pulled out of his throat almost painfully. Torturously.
One of Peeta's hands dips to her ass, and he pulls her tightly against him. She gasps against his mouth, but doesn't stop him. They fit like puzzle pieces and she ignores the burning in her calves from reaching up for so long.
"Oh," she breathes on a moan when his wet mouth travels from her bottom lip down to her chin, giving her a playful bite and moving back up. If she had the presence of mind to be conscious of every little thing, it might seem strange. Chins and saliva and loose pieces of hair hanging out from her braid. But she's blissfully unaware of all of it. She could keep hers eyes shut like this forever.
"So here's what I'm thinking," Peeta says in a deep, close voice, before she even realizes he's pulled away from her mouth. She whines pathetically. He bites her lip. "You didn't let me talk the whole time. On Saturday?" She opens her eyes reluctantly, staring at his mouth, entranced by the feel of it and the way it moves around the vowels and consonants created by his deep, perfect voice. "And that's kind of my thing." She snorts, but he stops the noise by grabbing at her backside again. That shuts her up. "I know the things I say freak you out."
Katniss finally meets his eyes, and while his pupils are large and his eyelids are drooping, she can feel how serious he is. "It can be a lot. To put this all on you. All these feelings. All these years."
As if he knows he's losing her to the recesses of her mind, Peeta nudges her nose with his and draws her in for a brief, soft kiss. "But you still went out with me. You still let me be inside you." Katniss is lost for breath again. "So I think…" His eyes travel up and down her face, almost heatedly, like the sight of her pert nose or her freckled cheekbones turns him on as much as the rest of her body. "I think maybe it's a good thing it freaks you out, you know? At least it'll never be boring." He smiles roguishly. "So I'm just gonna keep talking, and you're just gonna keep freaking out. But we'll deal with that. I like getting you to say yes."
She wants to smack that knowing grin off his face.
Instead, she pulls him into a nearby classroom before he can utter a protest, and that seems to do the trick just as well.
There's a small basement window high on a far wall that lets in some errant light, and footsteps pass by every so often from the hall. But other than that, the room is dim and secluded. The air is stale and there's a haze in the room like there's dirt and chalk dust floating around, but neither of them stops to notice. They merely toss their bags to the ground and come back together immediately.
"Fuck," Peeta says.
"Mmm," Katniss moans in the back of her throat, pulling him in for another kiss. But Peeta pulls back.
"Yeah?" His eyes are wide and hopeful.
"What?" She blinks at him, clinging to the soft cashmere of his gray sweater. She could live in his clothes. The way they feel and smell.
Peeta's arms snake around her waist again and draw her closer. He dips his head to her ear. "You like when I talk. And when I swear." His voice practically vibrates against her ear, like a deep, ticklish buzzing.
"Maybe you talk too much," she protests unconvincingly, pushing at his shoulders to get distance. But he merely dips his tongue into her ear before catching the lobe between his teeth.
"Maybe," he says. She fails to suppress a shiver. "I'm very willing to go to any length to find out, though."
He leaves off his attentions to her ear to look her in the eyes again, but before she can fully manage a scowl, his hand travels into the hair gathered at the nape of the neck and gently pulls back until the length of her neck is exposed to him.
Katniss gasps and Peeta licks up the line of her neck.
"Fuck, your skin tastes so good," he says when he reaches her ear again.
Her answering whimper is pathetic, and she shudders again. His hands on her hips are forcing her to walk backwards, something she doesn't notice until her backside hits the desk at the front of the room.
Peeta lifts her like she weighs nothing and sets her on the desk before stepping between her legs. Her hands are immediately in his hair again, trying to draw him back to her mouth like she requires his oxygen, but he stops her with a steadying hand on her jaw.
"I'm gonna need you to say 'no' if it's no, okay?" Katniss merely stares at him, because that's never been the issue. "Or just...'bad,' 'good,' whatever."
"Like you're a dog?" she teases, her hands restless in his hair.
"You can hit me on the nose with a newspaper. Maybe I'm into that," Peeta says, kissing the underside of her jaw. Katniss chuckles and runs her fingertips down his neck to grasp at his shoulders. She almost misses his follow up, he's so quiet and intent on avoiding her eyes. "I really want this to be good for you."
"Peeta," she starts, her chest heaving. She rests her cheek against his hair and his head settles in the crook of her neck. "You were lovely," she says, because it's true, and really, it's the only thing that matters.
Peeta pulls back and straightens to his full height so she has to look up at him again, even perched on the desk. His answering smile is a small, shy one that goes straight to the pit of her stomach.
"Well, let's aim higher," he says.
It's hard to know who moves first, because Katniss' legs wrap shamelessly around his waist at the same time that he reattaches himself to her mouth, finding her tongue with his own and sucking on it. Peeta moves his hands under her sweater and sweeps them up and down her sides; she squirms against him every time they near her breasts, her hips moving restlessly against his.
When he thrusts lightly against her, she feels the hardened length of him right against her throbbing center, and even through two layers of thick denim, it makes her breath catch.
"Ah!" Her breath hitches when his hands dip to her ass and bring her even closer.
"Jesus fuck, keep making that noise," Peeta says, panting into her mouth and moving between each of her lips like he doesn't know which one to suck or nibble on more.
Katniss moans again, turning her head so she can feel his voice vibrating in her ear again. "Don't move," he whispers before pulling away.
Immediately, she feels cold without him pressed up against her and she watches him move toward the door in horror.
Peeta locks the door and turns back to her, his eyes hooded and his erection clearly straining at the front of his pants.
"It's okay," he says with an easy smile, crossing the room in a few long steps. "Come here." Her mouth opens and her body yields to him so easily, like a flower petal being coaxed by the sun. His hands are firmly on her jaw, his thumbs running across her cheeks in a way that makes her feel both safe and completely insane. Her hands are everywhere. In his hair, which is well beyond fixing now, under his shirt, grasping at his hips over that thick leather belt.
"Oh my god, how many layers are you wearing?" Katniss whines into his mouth, having to feel through soft cashmere and cotton, just to get to skin softer than any expensive material he could afford.
"Way too many," he says absently, moving to her neck to suck at the skin there. "Do you hate it?" She catches the teasing glint in his eyes.
"Ugh, yes. Put on a hoodie like every other college boy," she complains, pulling the gray sweater over his head to be met with a red flannel shirt. "Who are you trying to impress?" She starts undoing the buttons, sighing in frustration when they don't give way immediately. His hands leave her body to work on the buttons she hasn't gotten to yet.
"Is that a serious question?" he asks, pausing to kiss her and distract her from her task. "You think I wear this to every class?"
Katniss works on the last button, thinking of his sweatshirt in the student union and the blonde girl who is most definitely not the one he just kissed into incoherency in an empty hallway. She bites her lip to hide her smile.
"Don't do that," Peeta says gruffly, using his thumb to free her lip, "if you want me to concentrate."
She's about to ask, concentrate on what, when he peels the flannel shirt off his arms and pulls his undershirt over his head in record time. Before she can take in the wide expanse of his muscled chest, he's reaching for the hem of her sweater.
"Peeta," she starts nervously, taking in their surroundings with clarity for the first time.
"Please," he whispers, and that undoes her right there. "I want to feel you against me. Washing you off my skin was like the worst thing I've ever had to do."
Katniss immediately lifts her arms and the static cling of the sweater going over her head causes her hair to crackle with electricity. But Peeta doesn't seem to notice. He merely groans and takes her in, inch by inch.
"Wow, this doesn't get old," he says. He immediately gathers her to him again, but instead of pulling her in for another drugging kiss, he presses their skin together chest to chest and plants sweet kisses on her forehead along her hairline. "I'm crazy about you, Katniss." She stiffens only for an instant, and immediately scolds herself for it mentally, forcing her limbs to relax by sheer force of will. Of course, Peeta doesn't miss this. He studies her face with that same hooded, penetrating gaze. "Just deal with it." He smirks.
Her jaw drops in shocked annoyance. She tries to form a snarky come back, but she's not able to get any words out before he's pushing her back onto the desk. The cold Formica against her skin makes her gasp.
"Fuck, you're beautiful," Peeta says, hands running over her stomach and making it tremble. "I'm going to tell you for as many times as you made me shut up that night." Again, her jaw hangs open to answer the smug challenge in his eyes. She's never wanted to smack and kiss somebody so badly in her life. "Can I?" he asks, and she has to blink a few times before she realizes where his hands are and what he's asking.
She nods after a moment and feels his hands opening the front clasp of her bra. He peels the cups away and his head falls to her chest in near agony. Katniss holds her breath and tries to ignore all the light filtering into the room.
Peeta lifts his head after a moment but instead of pulling back and staring at her like she expects, she feels his tongue against her skin. He drags it from her collarbone down between the valley of her breasts to her navel before dipping it in briefly. Her legs lift up immediately and wrap around his hips, pulling him closer in desperation.
"Oh god," she breathes.
This time he does look up at her, boldly resting one hand over her breast. The line he licked down her chest is now cold from the air in the room, but her nipple pebbles from the feel of his hand against her.
Peeta's eyes meet hers and she sees uncertainty battling with lust. "I'm not so good at this," he says quietly. Katniss feels unsettled at the nervous undertone in his voice. She can't go back to this. Mostly, she can't go back to him feeling inadequate when she knows he's right- this (they) could be so, so good. "Lav never- well, my ex..." He huffs in frustration before forcing an easy smile back onto his face and continuing. "Sorry, it doesn't matter. I just mean, the experiences I've had- they kind of wanted to go straight for home, and I didn't really get a chance to...perfect the other stuff."
She's not stupid, she realizes finally. They were. Those girls who wanted to use him, or race toward the finish, and didn't care about cataloging all the different expressions he could make in a split second, or the way his callouses felt, or the earnestness in his eyes. And she hopes she's the only one who's seen the latter in these circumstances- those fierce, determined eyes intent on pushing through the nerves to find something greater.
Katniss covers his hand with her own. "Just- like this," she says, moving his hand so it cups her breast and caresses without squeezing too hard. "And...and my-"
She can't say it, so she nudges Peeta's fingertips down to her nipple. He studies her face intently and runs the pad of his thumb over it. She sucks in breath and bites her lip again. He pinches lightly and her hips lift up against his.
Peeta looks at her nervously, but she merely nods quickly. "Good," she urges.
His ministrations continue while his head dips down to her other breast, laving her nipple with his tongue. Her answering moans sound like a yes- or really, a series of them, of affirmative chants of "mms" and "ahs" that match the rhythm of her pulsing blood.
When he bites down gently, her lungs fill with air she doesn't release, and she writhes shamelessly against the desk. Peeta's hand comes to her hip to hold her steady.
"Good, too?" Peeta asks.
Her mind is too hazy to judge whether he's teasing her, or he's genuinely curious. Her hands go to his belt.
"Um, Katniss…" he starts, stilling his motions, and she curses herself for distracting him. But it doesn't deter her motions; she frees the hook and starts in on the button of his pants. "Don't you wanna go slower, or...?"
She almost laughs at this suggestion, but then she remembers what he said about the other girls. The other girls she hates for making him feel used and inadequate. But also because they got to touch him first. She'll do it better though. She will go slow. Over every inch. Just-
"Later," she says firmly, in promise. "We can do all of it later. But we're in a classroom right now."
His eyes light up and he bites his bottom lip to hide the smile spreading quickly across his face. "Good point," he says, then leans over to suck at her nipple again, worrying it lightly with his teeth. Katniss' hand pulls his zipper down with almost violent force. "I just thought maybe...you liked my tongue."
"I...I do," she says shakily. As embarrassing as it is to admit, she can't deny it. She really fucking loveshis tongue, even when it's not on her body. Even when it's just poking adorably through his teeth sometimes when he smiles, or peeking out to wet his lips when they get dry from talking for too long.
"But later," he says in answer to her silence, like he's reading her thoughts again. His hands reach for the button of her jeans and he whispers in her ear. "Later sounds really good." She can feel him smile against the skin of her neck.
They help each other pull their pants down to their knees, and Peeta gets to work on the laces of her boots. His hands are quick, but she still squirms for every second it takes. When he pulls them off her feet one at a time, it's with a force that makes her ass slide to the edge of the desk and she can't stop the laughter that bubbles up in response. He glares at her, but he can't hide the playfulness in his eyes, and draws her face close to give her a tender kiss before helping her shimmy her pants the rest of the way off. Peeta grabs them before they can reach the dusty floor and lays them carefully over a chair, more than he did for his own clothes.
Katniss pulls him back by the waistband of his boxer shorts and he sucks in a sharp breath, almost tripping over the pants pooled around his ankles.
"We can leave those," he says, gesturing to them. She laughs again, and he huffs, affronted. "I may look ridiculous, but this is your doing. When I woke up this morning, I didn't expect to be corrupted and dragged into public spaces to fulfill your every need."
Instead of scowling at him, like she knows he's hoping for, she teases, "Aww, do you feel used?"
"Not right now," Peeta says, holding her gaze. "But I'm hoping to in the next 30 seconds."
He doesn't even have to reach for them before she's lifting her hips and shimmying her panties down her legs. When she looks back up, Peeta is bent over, fiddling with his pants.
"What are you-"
Before she can tell what he's looking for, she sees a flash of gold foil as he tosses his leather wallet carelessly to the side.
"I thought you weren't expecting to be corrupted today," Katniss teases, but she can't hide the tightness in her voice.
"I wasn't," he says sweetly, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her neck. "I just have trouble letting go of things. Clearly."
He laughs at himself, but she doesn't let him get away with it.
"You," he says immediately. "Hope?"
Her body turns to liquid in his arms. "Fine," she huffs, "but most people don't carry their 'fire extinguishers' around with them 24/7."
Peeta cringes at the echo of his words from the other night. "I'm really smooth sometimes," he laughs. Upon seeing the blush on his cheeks, she steals the condom from his hands and rips it open. "If this keeps up, it might not be a bad idea though," he says, his eyebrows lifting hopefully.
"Mm, safety first," she shrugs, and reaches for his erection before he can think of a retort. Peeta's mouth forms a perfect 'o' and he watches her with wide eyes. Her instinct is just to get down to business, and she doesn't particularly like the feeling of the lubricated condom sitting in her other palm, but she does like the expectant, awed look on his face. So she runs her hand up and down his length until he moans. Her thumb caresses over the head of his cock, spreading the moisture there, and she's so mesmerized by the softness of his skin that she almost misses his reaction. But in her peripheral vision, she can see the muscles jumping in his flat stomach. Her eyes lift to his and she's caught in his intense gaze, feeling powerful upon seeing the way he tries to bite his lip and stifle his noises.
A sound from the hallway snaps both of them out of their daze. Peeta takes half a step back, like he's just now realizing where they are, but her hand on his cock stops him. She knows she should probably feel more concerned, embarrassed, exposed. But for once, she's enjoying being in the moment and feeling nothing but his heartbeat and his skin against her own. So she starts to roll the condom down over his length while he watches her in astonishment.
"Am I doing this right?" she asks quietly.
"Yeah," he chokes out. "Just pinch the tip."
Once it's all the way on, they share a look of nervous anticipation, matching smiles tugging at their lips.
Katniss leans back on her hands, and draws him close with her legs around his bare hips. Peeta takes his erection in his hand, eyes flitting between it and her face. The head of his cock drags along her folds and she whimpers. Before he can even ask, Katniss nods her head emphatically.
He pushes in slowly, inch by inch, and it's not until she sees her thighs trembling that she remembers to breathe and let some of the tension out of her muscles.
When he's fully inside of her, she lets out a huge breath and his head drops to her shoulder.
"Holy shit," he groans. "C'mere." He pulls her chest against his and her hands leave the desk to wrap around his shoulders.
Peeta kisses up her neck, along her jawline and up to her mouth. He plants a soft, tender kiss to her lips, but she grabs the back of his neck before he can pull away. She runs her tongue across his bottom lip and in seconds, they're kissing hotly, open-mouthed and swallowing each other's moans and it takes her a moment to realize his hips have started moving. Or maybe hers did first.
At this proximity, he can't do much more than grind against her, but she feels it against her clit and whines. Peeta brings one hand to her back to draw her closer. Her heels dig into the skin just above the curve of his ass.
"You feel incredible," he says into her ear, bring the lobe into his mouth and sucking. She shivers.
He spends long minutes working the skin of her neck, the soft patch behind her ear, the line of her jaw, all the while grinding against her as she whimpers and holds onto him for dear life. But she realizes, reluctantly, that the last thing they should be doing in a public classroom is having slow-burning sex.
Katniss brings her arms from around his shoulders and drags her palms down his smooth, hard chest. He watches her in fascination, and when she moves to lean back again, bracing herself on her hands, his own return to her hips and grip them tightly. In this position, he starts to fully thrust into her, watching her face carefully in that penetrating way he has.
She reaches up to stoke his jaw, and he smiles at her so sweetly, her chest aches. Before she realizes what she's doing, she reaches for one of the hands on her hips. He squeezes her fingers affectionately, but without even hesitating, she brings his hand to her breast. His jaw drops open and she feels triumphant. With every thrust, her breasts bounce lightly, and he squeezes one while watching the other with rapt attention.
"Oh, fuck," he groans, his eyes rolling back briefly before returning to her, re-focused. "Is this okay?"
"Yeah," she breathes, tightening around him purposefully to get his eyes to roll back again. Truthfully, he feels wonderful, but it's hard to focus on anything but his blissful face and the way her ego blooms and her comfort level rises at knowing she's making him feel good.
After a few moments, she realizes she's struggling to keep her legs around his waist, her muscles aching slightly and her feet slipping on the growing perspiration on his lower back. Peeta seems to notice her struggle and moves his hands to her thighs to hold them up. Her mind flashes back to their first time and she can't quell the desire to stretch her legs out, to steady them against him. She licks her lips nervously, and brings one of her feet around to settle against his stomach.
"What-" Peeta stills his movements, looking at her like she's about to push him away, and the idea is so ludicrous, she forgets any hesitations she might have had, and moves her foot up his chest, stretching her leg up and over his shoulder.
"Oh my god."
Katniss brings her other leg up, too, and Peeta's hands slide to the front of her thighs, gripping the skin tightly.
He stares at her in awe and chants incoherent curses under his breath. He's so deep inside her it's almost overwhelming, but she can't help the smirk that graces her lips. Her hips lift, encouraging him to continue.
"Is this- are you okay?" he asks, looking concerned, but also like he can barely believe his luck. "Last time I was worried...I mean, I've never-"
"Me neither," she gasps at his deeper thrusts. "But you're fine. Perfect. Just...not too hard." He's big- bigger than she even remembers, and it's not that she has much to compare it to, but in this position she can feel every inch of him and if it weren't Peeta, she'd be intimidated.
"Okay," he says, nodding seriously, turning his head to kiss her ankle. Katniss' cheeks hurt from holding back her smiles, but everything he does makes warmth bloom in her chest until it fills her whole body, and she feels herself being dragged deeper.
They continue like this, his tentative thrusts growing more confident until she feels herself moving on the desk. His hands are everywhere, caressing up and down her legs, searching for her nipples and pinching them until she whines. Her eyes close and she can hear him even better like this, every groan and curse that leaves his mouth. Her toes curl in response.
Her eyes flutter open when she feels his thumb dragging against her lips, and without thinking about it, she draws it into her mouth, sucking lightly. Peeta moans and his thrusts pick up speed.
"Fuck, I love your mouth. I've thought about your mouth every day. For years."
"Peeta," she moans, unable to finish her thought. Any thought.
He pulls his thumb from her mouth suddenly and brings it down between them to her center, dragging it through her folds until he reaches her clit.
"Ohmygod," she breathes, clenching unconsciously until he moans again, but she can read the uncertainty in his face. "Just-small circles." He nods. "No tapping."
He lets out a tight laugh and looks sheepish, but she brings her hands up to his chest, right over his thumping heart, and he finds a steady rhythm. One that makes her delirious.
Their panting moans fill the air, but every time one of them gets too loud, the other remembers their location and shushes the other, until they're both laughing through their frantic movements.
As she gets closer and closer, his thumb pressing deliciously against her clit, his cock dragging against her walls, she realizes that he's too far. Not enough of their skin is touching. Peeta seems to realize this at the same time. As soon as she begins lowering her legs, he leans down over her, pressing her back flat against the table and helping to wrap her legs around his waist again.
They kiss with open mouths, his thrusts never losing speed, and he swallows every moan. Katniss can feel him fumbling between their bodies, so tightly pressed together.
She realizes he's trying to move his fingers to her center again, but she shakes her head, panting into his mouth. "No, this is okay. This is good. This is-oh!"
He's moving so quickly she can barely catch her breath, and once again, the way his hips press against hers makes it so that his cock grazes her clit every time he pushes inside, and she doesn't need it, doesn't need anything but him, and his skin, and his lips, and his cock that keeps hitting a place deep inside her.
"Oh fuck, oh fuck, Katniss…"
His voice trails off in a pleading question and she nods against his cheek. "I'm there," she says and bites his earlobe.
His gravelly groans mingle with her high-pitched moans, ones that stutter with her breath and her attempts to stifle them. With a muffled shout, Peeta finishes inside her while her muscles flutter around him, tingles shooting up her spine and fire spreading out to her belly until she's sagging underneath him, holding his weight.
Peeta kisses from her ear, over her cheek and to her lips, where they both pucker lazily and share breath. When he finally stands up and draws back from her, he forgets that his feet and still bound together by his pants, and he stumbles backwards into a desk. Katniss laughs until the sweat finally cools on her body.
"Well, that was different."
Katniss sits cross legged on his bed, the sheets pushed to the end of it where they dangle precariously. She's working knots out of her damp hair when he reaches over, picks up a chunk of hair, and attempts to help her with it.
"Both times," Peeta responds, giving her a sheepish half smile.
After they had both pulled on their wrinkled (and in his case, dusty) clothes, they'd fled from the building, holding hands and laughing like guilty children. Katniss was done with classes for the day, and though Peeta had another lecture, he swore he could miss it for once, claiming there was no way he could show up like that anyway- disheveled hair and swollen lips and, frankly, reeking of sex. Katniss didn't protest too hard.
They showered in his shared bathroom, which was thankfully empty in the middle of a weekday. She had smacked Peeta's roaming hands away, but as soon as they returned to his room and he dropped his towel, she had dragged him back to the bed and found his box of condoms with ease. Which is why she's currently cursing her long, tangled sex-hair.
"Why…" she gives up on the knot and thunks her head against the wall. "Why was it so difficult the first time?"
"Probably because of me," Peeta says, his eyebrows pinched while he works at the difficult knot, and refusing to meet her eyes.
"Stop," she says shortly. "Don't be ridiculous. Nobody likes a martyr."
Peeta lifts his eyes and gives her a small, rueful smile.
"So what was that?" Katniss nods toward the tangled sheets.
"Besides amazing?" he asks. She scowls through her blush. "I don't know. I think it was good that this time we were so...frenzied. I wanted you too much to be nervous."
"You didn't want me last time?"
Peeta barks out an incredulous laugh. "God, no- that wasn't it. I can't remember a time when I didn't want you. I just wanted you and I wanted it to be perfect. That's such a bad combination." He shakes his head woefully and uses his free hand to caress her bare thigh up to where it meets the hem of his sweater, which hangs loosely on her small frame.
She doesn't realize she's biting her lip until he reaches up to free it with his thumb again, dragging it across until he coaxes another smile out of her.
"Plus," he continues, winding her hair around his fingers, "it's not like I've really had all that much experience. Or, I guess...I mean, it's quality over quantity, right?"
"Okay!" Katniss says quickly, cutting off his train of thought. "You really don't have to explain."
"No, but..." he tries to continue, his eyes large and earnest, but she won't let him.
"Really, Peeta. You don't need to tell me about all the other girls. I'm all set with that."
His eyebrows furrow as he studies her face, and she stubbornly lifts her chin and studies the artwork on his walls.
"Oh my god, are you jealous?!" It bursts out of him with almost gleeful excitement, and she answers him with a roll of her eyes, crossing her arms defensively against her chest. When he continues to laugh, she smacks his hand away from her hair and pushes his chest so that he falls back on the bed. "Wow," he says, and he's so busy staring dreamily at the ceiling that he misses the scathing look she gives him.
"This is so sad and immature," she says primly.
Peeta pops back up on the bed, reaching for her, but she leans away from him.
"I'm sorry," he says. "You're right, it's stupid. I just never even thought you knew I was breathing. I didn't think you'd care about any of the-"
"Bouncing blonde girls who follow you around?"
"If you mean Lavinia, she was more strawberry blonde. And we dated for like, two months tops."
He scoffs. "I think my story pretty well established that I've never been with Delly that way. She pretends I'm her brother."
"The girl from the gym," Katniss adds. When he continues to blink at her, she adds in a mumble, "I saw you together at the union."
His whole forehead wrinkles in adorable confusion, and after a second, smooths out again in comprehension. "Gym girl? You mean Cashmere?"
"For fuck's sake, tell me that's not her name."
His laugh is so cheerful, she almost misses the way his hand makes its way back to her leg.
"Well, that's what she told me, anyway. I don't actually know her. She follows me around the weight room sometimes, offers to spot me." He waggles his eyebrows obnoxiously and she huffs, her fingers turning white where they dig into her biceps.
"Do you take pleasure in teasing me?"
"It's like my second favorite thing to do, yes," Peeta answers immediately. When she doesn't respond, an impish smile forms on his lips. "Aren't you going to ask me the first?"
"I know the first," she says dryly.
"Yes, you do," he says in a low voice, prying her fingers off of her arms one by one.
"Maybe you should take her up on it," Katniss says, unwilling to relent too soon. It takes him a second to catch onto her implication. "It seems like she's your type."
It's his turn to roll his eyes, an action that must look infinitely cuter when he does it. "Sometimes I think you just act oblivious to make things easier on yourself," he says in exasperation. "You invented my type. I don't have type without you."
The tension seeps out of her muscles slowly, like his voice is a magical instrument used to lure her into a trance. If she didn't instinctively trust him so much, she'd never believe a word he said.
"Okay," Peeta says, oblivious to the way she's moving subtly closer to him. "You're embarrassed about being jealous."
"So you wanna hear something embarrassing in return?"
She lets out a slow breath, letting go of the bitter retort she was preparing. Because she does want to hear something embarrassing. Or funny. Or vulnerable. Anything, really. She just wants to hear him tell stories, especially about himself, because secretly, she will always regret that she wasn't paying attention sooner.
"So, part of the reason that I was just so bad, apart from being terrified-"
"Stop saying you were bad," Katniss says sternly.
"Okay, just hear me out though!" he says with a laugh, squeezing her knee. "My brothers were...disgusting. They used to tell me all this stuff about sex. And I blocked most of it out. But sometimes they'd try to give me tips." He shudders dramatically and she laughs. "And you know, I was young and stupid, and somehow they got girls to hook up with them, so I figured they must be doing something right."
"So that's where you got your moves from?" Kantiss teases, pushing her foot into his lap and running it up his thigh. He stops her before she reaches the edge of his boxers, gulping before continuing.
"No, that's where I got the opposite of my moves," he laughs. "They skipped all the basic stuff, and just gave me weird, kinky tips. And to this day, I don't know if they were purposely trying to sabotage me, or if they really thought they were being helpful. But the...tapping…" he trails off, a flush blooming across his cheeks and spreading to his ears so that she wants to chase it with her tongue, "the other stuff. That was just me going into desperation mode. I just threw everything but the kitchen sink at you when I thought the rest wasn't working."
"The rest was working, just…" she trails off, searching for words to explain it.
"We're like dough," Peeta says, nodding seriously. "We just needed time to rise."
"Oh my god," she groans, "you're awful."
He grins shamelessly, and in some sort of complicated wrestling move, he manages to pull her leg closer to him, around his hip, and then shifts her entire body so she's underneath him.
"You like it," he croons, kissing her neck softly. She moves her bare feet down his calves, and he sighs softly. Until she uses her toes to start pulling the socks off his feet.
"Hey!" he shouts, shifting on top of her, but she clings to him like an octopus, and his socks dangle halfway off of his feet.
"You know what I like?" she says lowly into his ear, and he stops squirming. Peeta eyes her heatedly. "Pizza."
He groans and collapses on top of her.
"I'm starving," she whines. They didn't even get anything to eat at that coffee shop and that was...centuries ago. It feels like it, anyway.
"Fine," Peeta says, reaching for his cell phone on the nightstand. "I have this local place on speed dial."
"My kind of guy," Katniss says softly, running her hands through his hair and considering whether or not to get breadsticks.
"Only the best for my girl...friend?" Peeta finishes casually, but when her eyes jump to his, she sees the nervous hope in his expression.
"Fine," Katniss says after a moment. "I'll allow it."
Peeta smiles so wide that all of his perfect white teeth are on display, dimples showing in his cheeks. But she won't let him kiss her until he finishes putting their order in.
Madge is never going to shut up about this.
Firstly, thank you all SO much for your patience and your support. I'm behind on everything, including answering reviews. But I read and appreciate every single one. You guys are wonderful.
Special thanks go out to misshoneywell and didntheramble for letting me constantly bug them for story advice, and to annieoakley1 and amelia-day for pre-reading, and to all of you for just generally being awesome and supportive.
Come hang out on tumblr. I'm at dirtytalkingpeeta...what else?