AN: More of Elsterbird's lovely fic, edited by me. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Three

Peeta brings me back to the train station around eleven in the morning and assures me to get me the same time for pick up tomorrow. I'm glad that we're finished for today. I feel exhausted; physically and emotionally. Peeta has worn me out without doing (almost) anything. I'm pretty sure he feels the same, because after that phone call he fell uncomfortably silent, brooding.

"Thank you for the ride," I mumble when I open the car's door. "See you tomorrow?"

He nods, waves and gives me a smile. It's small, but existent.

The ride train home is short. When I get there I pack all my things and take the next bus to school. I wished I could just go to bed after seeing Peeta, but it's not even midday when I left.

I arrive to Ms. Portia's lesson around one. Usually I'd say I was working but this time I say that I'm feeling sick. Which I kind of do. I don't even have to lie, so I won't feel guilty afterward.

Miss Portia takes it good and tells me to take it slow.

She's a real goddess compared to Eff.

I'm not that interested into textiles and clothes (I think you can tell, since I'm the girl with yellow stains on her jeans. By the way, yeah, I'm going to wear them nevertheless.) but I try to give my best. Luckily I sit next to Cinna, an incredibly gifted student who's got a knack for this stuff. He really is a big inspiration; sometimes I'd copy his design a little – just a little, he never found out until today – and my works are getting close to presentable. Portia likes to exaggerate every now and then, actually claiming that I'm a genius like Cinna, who shoots me a bright and genuine smile every time I get praised. I think I like him the most out of my class. He's cute and friendly and...

Most likely gay.

Not that I care.

When I get home around six tonight, I prepare dinner as fast as I can. Prim's already finished her homework and helps me by setting up the table. Usually, dinner time is pretty short, since my shift starts around seven, so I shovel the food into my mouth like a combine harvester.

Prim looks at me disapprovingly. "You should take it slow, sis," she admonishes me, looking concerned. "Have you taken a break today? Even once? I'm really worried about you."

I roll my eyes. Seriously Prim? We both kind of lost both of our parents and I'm pretty sure that I am supposed to be the mother figure out of the two of us – not her. "Breaks don't fill stomachs."

"Yeah, but breaks can keep you healthy. Overworking yourself can get you ill," she argues. I bring my glass to my lips and give her a pointed look. She doesn't heed it, however.

Instead she suggests her latest idea to improve our lifestyle.

"I could work too, you know."

I gasp and nearly spew the water over the entire table, and her. "Work?! Prim, tell me again how old you are. You can't. Who will hire you? Plus, I'm never gonna allow it, not even in ten years!" There's no chance I would let her work. I imagine her working at Crane's where old men would grope at her, or worse... I feel my stomach drop already. Respect is what she deserves, not that.

"But –" she tries again, desperately.

"No buts! You don't have time anyway, do you? You've got school to worry about. I don't want your grades to drop. You're gonna be a doctor and make me proud, remember? You have other worries than money and food. Let me do this for you, for us. If you want to do something, just promise me that you'll study hard from now on. That's more than enough for me, little duck."

Prim pouts before shoving another spoon of the mashed potatoes in her mouth. "Still..." she says, not able to admit defeat, swallowing contemplatively. But I know her well enough that she won't continue to bother me about that stuff for now. She'll continue tomorrow, though.

I place my spoon down and empty my glass. "I'm off to Crane's," I tell her, standing up. "Could you bring mom dinner and wash the dishes when you're finished? You would help me a lot."

"Yes! I'll do it," she says, jumping at the chance.

I know that Prim wants to do something to assist me, so I give her small tasks to keep her quiet and satisfied. She feels better afterward and not as useless. She's definitely not, for I could never go on fighting without her, keeping me sane and with purpose, but she keeps thinking it, I know.

I feel bad that I can't finish dinner with her – one simple task, really – but at least we got some minutes together. That's all I can offer her right now. I kiss her temple as we say goodbye, check my makeup which I had put on before dinner, and leave – trying not to linger too long.

I can't wait for holidays where I will get more of a chance to work throughout the day. I'd love to get the opportunity to tuck her in, like dad used to do before our life became ...complicated.

Work is bad as usual. Not as bad as yesterday, but still degrading.

I wonder if I should keep my eyes open for a new job. I heard that SOCCO plans to buy Crane's, too, and this could become dangerous quickly if Peeta's words could be believed.

I shake my head. Peeta.

I can't deny that he left an impression on me (and I don't mean his body... not entirely, anyway) and I still need to figure out what kind of impression it is. First I thought that he just felt sorry so he decided to model for me in spite of everything. If it weren't for the ring, I would have thought that he'd just tried to pick me up. But clearly those aren't his motivation. So I still wonder why he's being this nice to me. Didn't he primarily tell me that it was impossible; that there'd be no time to help me? Didn't he also ask me how much I would be willing to pay him for his services? He wasn't going to do it for free at first, obviously, so what made him change his mind abruptly?

There must be a reason.

Well, I don't think that he thinks very well of me, especially when I remember our first meeting.

My ass was covered in yellow paint, for fuck's sake!

Was it because of something I said?

He surely is not interested in me or my looks, since he's got that fiance or wife waiting for him at home. (He would be a really young husband, but honestly, if I were his girlfriend I'd probably commit him to be mine immediately, too. Also, the ring really looks like a wedding band.)

I replay our conversation from yesterday in my head, hoping to find something to work with. I told him about dropping out, which made him frown. I told him that I would look for work.

I told him about considering SOCCO.

Realization hits me.

It took me some time to find out (but I finally did) that he immediately agreed to help me when I mentioned going to SOCCO. He'd jumped and said that he'll help me with my exam, no pay.

He clearly didn't not want me to join this company, and I'm pretty sure that he didn't do it for just me – he'd have done this for anyone. That's how much he dislikes the company, I supposed.

With what he'd told me about this establishment earlier, it made perfectly sense to me.

Peeta's far too nice and selfless, I decide.

I can't help myself for being honestly impressed.

Early next day (Wednesday), 1 a.m

Cato calls again. And again. And probably just for kicks and giggles, again.

I really wish he would cut it out; it's not impossible to ignore, of course, even this late at night. I know I won't answer the calls, because I still haven't figured out what I should tell him. Still, the constant vibrating of my phone draws him and the problem of finding words for him into focus.

Sorry Cato, I won't join you?

I know what's going on with SOCCO and I don't want to get involved?

And not with you of all people in this world?

Cato, I'm so sorry all of this happened to you?

I should have noticed that you were in trouble?

I should have helped you when you needed it the most?

Cato, stop calling me already?

I frown. I don't know what to do. None of them seem like the right thing to say – all having the potential to lead to dangerous places. So I let him ring, and ring. He'll surely shut up soon.

My shift at Crane's ended at one, but taking the bus home I get there around one-thirty (Cato still ringing along inside my bag). Immediately, I toss myself into bed. Not to sleep (I need to see Prim) but to take a short break that my legs definitely need. My feet hurt because of those damn heels. And Cato can't seem to understand the meaning of nighttime. Because he calls me again.

For fuck's sake.

After some time I get up and go on my way to the kitchen. I need something to drink because my throat hurts from all that smoke. Surprise, surprise. We're out of milk and honey. We've been out for a while now, actually, and it's the best for sore throat, but I don't want to spend all the money for me. If I can afford a new pair of socks for my sister, I'll gladly endure that ache forever.

I go back to my room to change into my pajamas, when my phone rings again.

It's not a call, but a message. Seriously? It's around two in the morning, and there's no way Cato would be writing messages now, is there? He never writes, anyway. It's always a call.

I take my phone because I'm curious and gasp when I see the name of the sender.

It's not from Cato but Peeta. I hadn't expected it.

'Sorry, it's me. Are you still up? –Peeta'

Peeta. Why would he write? Is this really okay to stay in contact beyond our arrangement? I feel like he's doing something forbidden, unethical. He's my nude model! Not my... texting friend?

I mean it's not even like we were friends, actually, so...

'Yes, I'm up. How can I help you?' I type, but I get the feeling that my wording is too formal, too polite... and I don't want to appear so cool and plain. I delete the message and retype.

'Yea, wazzup?'

I shouldn't try to write like Johanna does. Okay... how about being little more myself?

'Yeah. What's up?' is what I actually send. It's better being casual, but not too much either.

I wait a few minutes (wondering why the hell he would actually contact me and scolding myself on why I shouldn't be so concerned on the manner in which I text) until my phone buzzes again.

'Could you come by earlier tomorrow? I'm really sorry for changing plans, but I need to finish some business around noon.' Business? He's a nude model. What sort of business?

I wonder who else he might be stripping for.

I read it again and I'm kind of surprised how long his message is (which makes me smile). Gale would have written the whole text shorter, like 'come earlier 2mrw. som business'.

'It's okay, don't worry about it. What time do you want me to come over?' I reply and wait. It takes some minutes again and I almost expect him to send a long, really long answer (I mean, his answer comes seven minutes later, that's quite a time) but his reply turns out to be very short.

'8:30 a.m.' the message says.

Well, it's still better than Gale's stupid '8300'.

Is he busy? Or thinking about what to write? Because it definitely is what I'm doing right now.

Anyway. Half past eight is completely fine with me. I'd now miss the first lesson in the morning, too, but seriously, I'm sure I wouldn't go anyway. 'Kay.' Before I can push the send button, another message comes in. I quickly send my answer to Peeta and open the next short message. I raise my eyebrows in confusion because it's from Peeta, and the message is a bit upsetting.

'And I must apologize for not keeping our promise. I looked at your painting, I'm sorry.'

It was enough to rub the stupid grin from my face. Why the fuck did he do that? I didn't want him to see! Especially because I tried so hard to not look at his crotch - so I never drew it.

He must think I'm so very prude like a boring little wallflower. Who is up at two in the morning?

I don't answer him after that. I'm pissed and embarrassed; I just don't know which one outweighs the other. I decide to put my phone away for a second since I'm tired, still annoyed by Cato and kind of disappointed that Peeta did not keep his promise. It's not the best combination of feelings to write back with, so I let it be. Best let him think I'm uncaring, instead of sulking at him.

I finally get around to checking on Prim and sigh when I find her; she's sleeping slumped over her desk, her hands still on her biology textbook. To think I told her to do it earlier, too.

I wake her up gently.

"Hey, little duck. You're supposed to be sleeping in your bed, remember."

She blinks and smiles at me lazily. "Welcome back," she says and wraps her tiny arms around me. She doesn't say it but I know she had been waiting for me.

I stroke her hair. "How's mom?"

"The same as usual, I guess," she mumbles. "She ate some mashed potatoes."

At least she's eating. "That's good. You should go to sleep, you shouldn't be up this late."

Prim is so different from me, I think, watching her crawl into bed. She was born so far off from me, I was convinced that I'd be a single child forever. I'm twenty-one now and Prim is twelve.

Nine years difference... so sometimes I feel more of a mother than a sister, really.

I tuck her in and kiss her forehead and cheek.

She falls back to sleep immediately. Prim is such a good girl.

I fear the time when she'll be older and start to act like a real teenager. I won't have enough time to guide her all the way through to adulthood... through drugs and drinking and drama. Also, I need to be the one who talks to her about boys, too (as if I were the best choice for this job...).

I would have done it before, if Prim wasn't kind of a late bloomer. She never showed any interest towards the opposite sex at this time and I'm perfectly fine with that. I hope she'll never grow up.

I hope she'll never notice how Rory Hawthorne looks at her.

Back in my room, I brush my teeth and this time I actually remember to remove my makeup (I'm going to meet Peeta in a few hours) before I stumble into my room. I'm so tired and exhausted that I know that I'll fall asleep even faster than Prim did. I just throw myself into the blankets and reach for my phone to set the alarm (not going to be late!) when I notice another text from Peeta.

'The owner of the studio accidentally knocked your canvas over. I needed to make sure that it was unharmed. I'm sorry, please don't be mad. Goodnight. - P' Oh. Oh. Thank god.

I'm glad I hadn't answered him before. Because I wouldn't have been nice to him at all.

Peeta – so unlike me – is. Of course, I accepted his apology and didn't spend another minute thinking about it, or reply. I'm just too exhausted to deal with anything other than sleep. And I slept well tonight, almost too well. I didn't even notice all those calls that usually would have kept me up; Cato. When I wake up the next morning (still tired), I count five missed calls.

I really should pick up and tell him to fuck off, but I don't.

I need to deal with other (more important) things first.

I get out of my bed, swiftly jumping into the shower to wash my hair. I use a little bit more shampoo than usual (because we almost never buy some; too expensive...) so I look at least a little bit more presentable than I have in the past two days. I even decide against my stained, yellow jeans and settle for black khakis that Johanna gave me once. I don't like them, because the waist is too low for my liking, but they're definitely the best pair I own (without stains or holes).

Oh, even in my cleanly state I look like nothing. I decline the makeup; I need to save it for work. Clove would throw a right fit I showed up without wearing it, and it's fairly expensive itself.

Who cares.

I do.

I pretend not to, though.

Wednesday, 8:32 a.m

We meet again on the train station. This time Peeta waits for me directly at the track, in person, which makes me frown a little. He's not supposed to do that, right? Meeting in front of the station in a car is perfectly fine to me, and it should be fine to him, too. It would be professional.

Well, it is why I'm pretty unprepared when I see him standing there all of a sudden.

There was no time to brace myself for our second meeting.

"Hey!" he calls and waves at me while flashing me his best smile. His hair still looks as unruly as I remember it; soft golden waves that stretch over his forehead and part of his eyebrows, too.

Today he wears a pair of washed out jeans and a white shirt that hugs his well-sculpted chest (I can tell) just perfectly. Altogether with his intense blue eyes and his beautiful, soft stubble, he's nothing more than an eye candy. He's hot. He's beautiful. And he's married, married, married.

I'm definitely not going to fall for a married guy.

"Hey…" I mumble back, not sure what to make of this situation. I mean, this Adonis look alike was waiting for me, here, and I'm not extremely comfortable with that, or the texting last night.

When he gets closer, I'm not even sure how to greet him. I'm happy that he's far more used to... well, being social and that he is less uncomfortable. He extends his hand without another thought – and thank god he's taken the initiative. Being open and outgoing is not something anyone could expect from a social pariah like me. Like the moment I touch him, I realize just how real this is.

That he's not just a thing to place on paper, he's physically real. Skin, bones and everything.

I let go of his hand as if he'd burned my palm. He looks confused.

"Well..," I say, my voice definitely too loud. "Um.. thanks for getting me?"

He somehow understands that I meant to ask him why he'd come.

"You're welcome. There was no parking lot near the main entrance, so I brought my car to the back. I figured that I should get you instead of texting... I was early anyway."

Oh. Okay, that figures. And makes me feel slightly better.

We get to the car in silence. Well, I am silent for my part. Peeta chatters on and on and tries to keep some small talk going, on one thing to the next. He grows a little frustrated though when he realizes that I don't plan on making big conversation with him, so he stops eventually. I cringe.

If we were being honest, I'd like to hear more of his voice.

I'd really like to talk to him, too, don't misunderstand me. I'm just bad at saying something, anything. I'm tired, too, and kind of agitated, so I decide to stay mostly silent. I wouldn't be able to say something intelligent anyway, and most likely I would come off worse than I already do.

The drive seems longer than yesterday. It might have something to do with the tension that hangs heavily over our heads. Am I imaging things? Could just be me. All I know is that it's even worse than yesterday. I need to say something, I realize, no matter if it's petty or stupid. I can't stand this silence after the second longest red light in the history of long red lights you can sit at.

"You texted really late... ummm early..." I say.

He chuckles a little. Oh, this might be my favorite sound.

"Yeah, I'm sorry. I just remembered it too late that I needed to write you."

"Not at all. It's alright. I'm just glad my horrible ringtone woke me up," I lie. It wouldn't be very beneficial if I told him I'd been at work or, more accurately, just getting home from work. Logically he might not believe me since I've got dark circles under my eyes, but on the other hand, when have I not? I don't think he knows they're dark circles and not just how my face is.

Peeta simply nods and smiles while turning onto a one-way street.

Like I thought, he can't tell. He doesn't know me, and even if he did, I look like this for more than over a year. He would not notice. I shouldn't be so pessimistic and doubtful all the time.

He interrupts my train of thoughts.

"Sorry for breaking my promise," he says. "It wasn't right of me."

I shrug. His explanation the other night had been satisfying enough, so I tried to not think about it much. He tried to help me after that guy, the owner of the studio, who had knocked my work over, so I can't get unfairly angry. Still, I hadn't written back so he might still think I'm upset.

"It's okay, really. It couldn't be helped, could it? There's no need to apologize, and apparently, you do that a lot," I say. I haven't heard (and read) that many apologies for maybe three weeks.

"Sor– ...I mean, yeah. You're right." He scratches his neck. "Force of habit I guess."

I smile when he tried to apologize again. It was funny, indeed. And kinda cute of him.

"Well, just don't break your promise like I did. Okay?" he starts again.

To never talk about SOCCO's way of keeping and getting new workers.

"Don't worry. I'll keep it a secret," I say to soothe him.

"Have you called that guy?" he asks, before flushing hard. "I know I'm not in the place to ask but..." I shake my head to tell him that it's okay before he can finish his sentence.

"No, I haven't and I won't," I say. "He on the other hand is calling me all the time, though." Unnecessary detail? I shouldn't share this with him, I don't even know why I did it. But I know he'd be interested, which I guess is odd, but at least it's not dull to him? This can't be normal...

"How about changing your number?" he suggests.

"I might just do that." I laugh halfheartedly. I can't. He'd find me again anyway.

When we arrive to the studio, the tension returns full force. He steps out to change and I try to get all my paints ready. When I look at the canvas I feel like I want to cry. Why can't the floor just open under my feet? I'd welcome it. The painting looks worse than I remember it.

I think I got the proportions right, but the pose and the colors are a different story. Something is clearly wrong, but I can't figure it out at all. Sighing, I put my phone into silent mode and then back into my bag. I wouldn't pick it up for god even. The only exception being Prim of course.

I need to work it out today, the sketching, so I can finally move onto the actual paints.

Peeta reemerges from the other room, wearing nothing but his bathrobe. I feel self-conscious, as if I were the one exposed, again, and I can't exactly put a finger on this strange feeling.

"Are you ready?" he asks, quickly glancing at the backside of my canvas.

I wonder what he's thinking.

"Yes. You can start," I reply and damn, it feels like I'd told him, "Go and strip for me already!"

Of course I wouldn't ever tell him that. And I'm happy he can't read my thoughts.

As soon as the fabric leaves his skin, I'm encountered with many difficulties.

Looking at him.

Matching the colors.

Bring him down to canvas as beautifully and sexy as he is.

It doesn't work, though. For the first time I wished that I could ask Effie for advice. She's a bitch, really, but she knows her stuff. As I look up at Peeta, I try to recall her lessons. Effie says that we need to understand what's before us. I need to understand him, not just his body. He's not just an object but actually human. He lives, breathes, feels. Not something I need to picture, but capture.

I've never looked at him properly. I mean, I never tried to understand him. I never tried to think about him, since it's so hard looking at him. And hell, yes, I want to look at him so badly.

Okay, calm down Everdeen.

This is for yours and Prim's future.

I decide to catch up on everything; taking in all the details.

Not only his beautiful hair or his deep eyes, but more of him, beyond superficial means.

I glance at his face and notice a tiny scar on his right eyebrow that splits it in half. I know guys who would shave some lines into their brows because they think it looks sexy (it does not!), but Peeta is an entire different story. It looks good on him; almost too good. Natural? Or fake?

He's got some very light freckles on his nose and his left cheek, which seems to be very smooth. He's got stubble, yes, but his skin looks really soft and touchable to me. His oh-so-blue eyes are framed with dark (I mean darker than his normal hair) eyelashes. They're actually pretty long, I guess many girls would feel jealous over it. (I might actually feel a bit of twinge myself.)

His plump mouth is through and through kissable, very kissable, and I wonder who that damn lucky girl is who claims it every night. This is more of a reason to get jealous over.

Then: his jaw. Fuck me, his jaw. It's almost too much for me to bear, whenever he bites down hard, his temples would stand up a little and... yeah, it's pretty enough to say that he does it all the time.

And it might be doing things to me.

I bite my lip. I shouldn't. I look away. I need to concentrate on other things.

I decide to start again, the whole 'details huzza!' technique. Downstairs.

I notice his ankles, which are extremely thin compared to his calves. He did or still does sports, without a doubt, and I'm sure that he didn't start it just recently but maybe since he was a kid.

His feet are (god, thank you, hairless!) average sized, his toenails neat. His big toe is shorter than the second one and I can see the veins and sinews on the back of the foot. Easy to see, harder to sketch, I might add. (Oh, and he's actually sporting a thin scar on his knee that stretches over his thigh. It's almost invisible. I haven't noticed it until now. Definitely want to included that.)

His thighs, strong, lead me to his glorious manhood. Well, I guess he's a little bit shorter than Cato's, but that says nothing at all. Cato's did not really grow – if you know what I mean.

Peeta however, mhhhh… I wonder how Peeta's would be… How delicious...

I almost slap myself, a telling heat pooling in my lower abdomen. Fuck, Katniss! Ring, remember? Dangerous way of thinking! Very, very dangerous place to let your mind go to!

I let out a shuddering breath, realizing that as I was staring, I had been biting my lower lip. Hard.

Suddenly, I hear Peeta clear his throat. Shame washes over me as my eyes shoot up to meet his immediately and I'm surprised that I'm not the only one who seems to feel embarrassed. His cheeks are surprisingly red and he looks like he's really trying to keep his bearings together.

Before I can say anything to apologize (should I?) he turns away and picks up his bathrobe.

"I... I need a break," he breathes and storms out of the room within seconds.


How long had he been looking at me gawking at him? How long did I not notice his gaze? I know I looked at him like a raw piece of meat and I did exactly what I primarily didn't want to do. I'm not like the others. I don't want to be like them. I don't want to be a creep to him!

But still, here I was, practically eye fucking my model.

Cato used to always say I'm too obvious and that it's too easy to figure out what I'm thinking. My face always betrays me. Peeta might know exactly what I was imagining just moments ago, and I can only think that I've offended him. I would be offended – to offer someone my body to help them and then to be so violated and ogled. The least I could have done was wait until he was gone. It's been less than fifteen minutes of his posing and he's already in need to get a break.

I'm so stupid, details? Pft. More like a pathetic excuse to eyes fuck.

Peeta does not return for another fifteen minutes. Maybe he just ran off. I would understand that, since I'm being a big jerk. I'm sure I would have ran away if I found myself in his situation.

He reemerges, however, still wearing his bathrobe instead of his clothes (which gives me a little bit of hope that we'll continue.) His forehead is damp and so are the tips of his hair as if he'd washed his face. His cheeks are reddened still, though less so, and his eyes are full of an emotion I've never seen on him before. He's fidgeting nervously and plays with his ring (wedding band).

Oh, oh..

My heart sinks. I know the emotion is not anger, but I'm damn sure he's not happy either.

He's troubled. He's disturbed. I expect him to throw me out of here.

But, being so very Peeta, he apologizes instead.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have... I mean... well," he says, scratching his neck and looking mortified.

He mirrors my feelings exactly.

"D-don't apologize. I... I was... ummmm.." Taking in all your details? Staring? Salivating? What the hell do I plan on telling him? I'm not good with words. They'll come out wrong and make the situation even worse. It's better to say nothing at all. So I do exactly that. I bite on my lower lip again and turn my eyes away entirely. I wait for him to finally throw me out, but he just sighs.

"Let's just... continue, I guess?"

He's still willing to work with me after I chased him out of this studio? (Slightly exaggerated.)

He's far more forgiving than I ever imagined.

If I was in his shoes, I would have ended this session ASAP.

"Okay..." I breathe, trying to regain composure. "Thank you..."

He raises his eyebrow in question.

"Yeah? Ummm.. thank you… umm… too?" He clears his throat anew, avoiding my eyes.

I can't shake the feeling that we're at cross-purposes. He looks perplexed and I feel so, too.

I frown. He frowns. Somehow something seems to dawn on him because he shakes his head and ruffles his hair before saying, "Let's just forget that, shall we?" And that's that. I don't get it at all.

I really don't.

We start over again.

The next hour goes pretty smooth. I'm not talking about the painting, but the tension between us. Peeta seems to be relaxed again, far too relaxed. I, on the contrary, feel like a wreck, still wondering what had happened this morning. I know I could never ask Peeta for forgiveness again once this session is over and he drives me back. He's trying so hard to forget everything.

I might not be the first one to look at him like this, after all. I shouldn't feel so bad.

When he picks up his bathrobe again, I know that it's time for another break. Peeta held out for forty minutes and I'm seriously impressed with this achievement. I tried to stand like him at home the other day, hollow back and all. I couldn't do more than probably five minutes.

"How's it?" he asks me out of the blue. My head shoots up.

"I'm still not content. The others in my class did studies on nude models before, but it's my first time. It's so hard… I mean, difficult to…yeah."

He blushes heavily.

Agh, fuck's sake. Who knew you had to be so careful with wording with nude models? Since I'm looking at Peeta, I have tons uncareful words on my tongue. It's hard. I won't leave you hanging.

My fingers feel so stiff…

"Just ignore me, please?" I plead, and he's grinning again. Oh man, we're such an awkward pair.

"Coffee?" he asks me instead and I shake my head 'no'. He leaves the room anyway and returns with a cup for himself and a bottle of water which he hands me when he walks over.

"At least drink something. It won't do you any good if you're not taking a little break at least."

He sends me a shy smile and I'm melting already. How could I say no to him?

Everdeen, this has to stop.

Don't act like a teen meeting Justin Bieber.

That's not you.

Peeta walks around again, stretching, and before I realize it, he stands behind me, studying my unfinished painting with great interest. "Wait!" I exclaim and jump to cover it. "You can't look!"

It's too late though, he's already seen it. Fuck.

"I saw it yesterday, remember?" He chuckles. "I thought I'd wait with my comments first so you could find your mistakes by yourself. They're easier to find if you observe your work from some distance or after a day or two." Well? All I see is that it's still bad! And I don't think a model's comment would be really helpful. If he asks me to paint him better defined abs or something, I don't know what I'd do to him. Because this kind of request is something I really, really hate.

"What would you know?" I mutter, slightly affronted. I know I have mistakes, thanks.

A small smirk tugs on the corners of his mouth, but he tries to hide it.

"Well, can you keep a secret?"

"I'm sure you won't believe me if I promised you I could," I deadpan.

Smooth, Everdeen, smooth.

He fishes a pencil out of my case and scribbles something on my canvas before I can react. "HEY!" I yell, and actually yell at him, before trying to bodily push him away. He's faster though, easily dodging my hands and stepping back. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

No one's allowed to write or draw on my pictures, except maybe my tutors. But Peeta? He's just a model. A nude one at that. This is may be the rudest thing he could have ever done to me.

Glaring, I open my mouth to really mouth him off for it – has he not worked with artists before? has he forgotten this is for a exam? – but my eyes fly over the canvas for a second and I gasp.

Two lines. He drew two fucking reference lines over his hips and shoulders.

And it looks finally right.

I turn and stare at him, dumbfounded. How the hell did he see that? He's not even seeing himself! He's posing, and there are very few mirrors around here, might I add.

"What... how?" I say. "How would you know..?"

"It's easy, really. When I stand like this," he says and poses again, "my hips and shoulders are never parallel to each other, but more like a rotated V. The reference lines are pointed, you see?"

He shows it again using my pencil as a bar, but never touching the canvas again.

"You need to concentrate on the supporting leg. You also need to find the axis of my body, here." He takes some paper and starts sketching it out; his whole, damn body. Skilled hands fly over the paper and in matter of seconds, he's constructed an entire map of his own body.

I don't even know how to close my mouth.

I stare at the paper, then at him, and then back to the paper again.

"Wh…what?" I ask, but my voice fails.

"Well, you said you'd keep it a secret, right?" he says. "I usually don't tell anyone, so please, it stays between us, okay? I'm an art student of the University of Zürich. Third semester."

I hate to admit it, but Peeta is amazing. I'm not sure if it's against the rules of the exam, but he takes his time and explains to me how to do this and that right. He's a better teacher than Gale.

After some time, he just takes a chair and sits next to me, pointing out what I need to change in the picture. "The proportions are really good, you have an eye for that. You're just missing the basics like you said. Actually I was model for your class about three months before, for study. I thought you'd seen me then, but I guess you were absent those days?"

I sigh. Three months ago, yeah. Prim had been pretty sick for a few days. And when she was better again, I needed to work more to pay the bills of her medicine. Cinna told me about a model that had come for sketching. Yes, now that Peeta mentions – it might have been him.

I remember that I was pretty happy (I mean, I just got out of a really bad relationship and I was so fed up with guys) when I heard Cinna say it, where as he, however, sounded a little bit sad, since the model was already taken. It was Peeta, now that I thought of the description. Damn, it had to be Peeta! I would have made acquaintance with his glorious body even sooner if…

I shake my head violently.

Don't go there, you know what happened earlier.

"I remember," I say. "Damn Effs. She gets to decide the topic of our exam. She knows I'm bad with painting and she knew that I've missed all the studies. I don't think it's just bad luck." That bitch! Just because I kicked her son's ass to the curb! Well, I'm not surprised in the least. Like mother, like son. And I'm happy if I don't have to be with or endure Cato anymore…

Peeta raises his eyebrow.

"Miss Effie is a strict person, but I don't think that she'd choose this topic on purpose...?"

Oh Peeta. Cute little Peeta. Of course you wouldn't know. "She totally did. She hates me, Peeta. I was dating her son for a short time and dumped him. She's still angry with me for that."

"Sounds like trouble," he observes and I snort loudly.

"Yeah, pretty much."

Peeta decides to teach me about warm and cool colors, too. I understand now why he wanted me to come over in the mornings, because we'd get the same contrast as my classmates had in their exam: the cold lights outside. "Morning light is often described as cold. There's a rule that says if your light is cold, you need to use warm colors for shadows." He points out some shadows. "You mixed too much blue in here, you see? Have you tried ocher? The results will be far better."

I understand what he's trying to tell me. It also dawns on me tat he tries to stand as clearly as he can when he's modeling, and I remembered that he'd even changed his supporting leg yesterday when I decided to switch places, so I won't make any mistakes. He's thoughtful, perceptive.

And he's clearly trying to get me through that exam.

I don't know how I can possibly thank him after all he does for me.

I wish he wasn't married.