I was taking drabbles, and after writing a semi-canon compliant fic where Peeta and Katniss get snowed in during Catching Fire, I got an additional prompt for Everlark getting snowed in when only Peeta is a victor, which I thought was a fun concept. Special thanks to Jessa who brainstormed this one with me. Title from the Eagles' song "Lyin' Eyes."
The sun is dipping lower in the sky, and her game bag hasn't grown any lighter.
Today wasn't a good day for trading.
Katniss never thought she'd worry about having too much meat, but trains from the Capitol are coming in with less goods than usual, and the people of Twelve don't have much to spare for the luxury.
Their ice chest back home is already over flowing with rabbit and squirrel meat, and packing the excess in the snow outside their house is only attracting predators. Katniss had never seen a coyote on the other side of the fence before, but she had to chase one off with rocks when it cornered their goat, Lady in the backyard.
She's spent the last week accepting IOUs down at the Hob - a generosity that does her no good. Maybe in the long run. But in District Twelve you never think much farther than tomorrow.
The last stop on her route is to the baker's. He almost always has bread to trade, even if it's day old scraps (or even a few days old, she isn't picky.)
She climbs the back steps and taps on the door, certain she doesn't rouse his unruly wife. His face is already apologetic when he appears on the other side of the threshold, and already, she feels her stomach begin to sink.
"I'm so sorry Katniss, I have nothing today," he says. "Nothing worth one of your squirrels, at least."
She considers the stale heel for a moment. The quality of the baker's bread has diminished greatly in the past few weeks. Ever since the shipments of grain and flour began to fall short. The baker has been improvising to make up for the shortcomings, Katniss has seen the experiments lined across the steel counter top, even tasted a few, but none are as good as the real thing.
She lets out a resigned sigh. "Maybe tomorrow," she says, her game bag still weighing down her shoulder.
She's halfway down the steps when the door swings open again.
"Wait!" the baker calls out, and she stills briefly. "Why don't you go to my son, Peeta? He's back from the Capitol today."
Her eyes widen at the mention of his name alone. The rest of Panem knows Peeta Mellark as the 74th victor of The Hunger Games. One of two living victors in District 12.
But Katniss will always remember him as the kind boy who saved her when she was close to dying. Now he's a world renowned killer.
"We don't get out there very often. I'm sure he wouldn't mind a visitor." Katniss hesitates to respond. "The Capitol stocks him with far more than he needs, and he always did love your squirrels, maybe he'd be willing to make a trade for a taste of home."
It seems odd to Katniss that Peeta's family doesn't go to see him, but she doesn't question it. Nobody's seen Peeta since he won his Games. Not really. They tote him out for the reaping ceremony every year and he occasionally pops up on Capitol television programs, which Katniss only catches if it's required viewing. Other than that he chooses to live in seclusion.
That's not how Peeta Mellark used to be. He was at the center of every crowd. A friend to everyone. That's how he won the Games. He tricked the other tributes into trusting him. He didn't have many kills of his own, he let them pick the others off one by one until he was the only one left, but blood has a habit of staining hands the same way. It doesn't matter how many victims have bled on them. It all looks the same in the end.
That's all District 12 sees now when they look at Peeta Mellark. A ruthless murderer. His charm is like poison. His grin a death sentence. When Katniss closes her eyes, she holds on desperately to the image of the boy with the bread. Kind and generous. He understands survival better than anyone. He must know it comes with a cost.
She's reluctant to trade with the victor though. Not because he's dangerous - she's never thought of him that way at all - but because she owes him a debt that a bag of squirrels could never repay.
She goes to the Peacekeepers instead. Not the low level officers who patrol the Hob like Darius - he has little more than she does. She goes to Cray instead, the head Peacekeeper.
There's already a line formed outside his door. Woman her age dressed in provocative rags and red painted lips. Nobody is here to trade game, Katniss realizes quickly. She's heard talk of girls from the Seam selling their bodies for a few gold coins, but she's never actually witnessed it. She can't judge them for the measures they take - her poaching is no more legal than their prostitution. Katniss may have even considered it herself if she hadn't found other means. She'd take twenty lashes over a baby in her belly any day of the week.
Night is close to falling when he opens his door. He paces slowly, inspecting his pickings like he's choosing a prized hog. He pauses in front of Katniss and jingles some silver coins in his hand. "Whad'ya got for me, honey?" he says with a slurred snarl.
His sharp breath makes Katniss recoil slightly, but she stands firm. She lifts her game bag wordlessly and he laughs in her face. When he hooks his finger in the collar of her wool sweater to sneak a peek, she bats his hand away sharply.
His laugh is as cold as the bitter air when he shoves her roughly, sending her skidding across the ice. She lands on the ground on her hands and knees, the rocky pavement cutting into her palms like glass. Then he spits at her, daring for her to try and stand.
He chooses his company for the night and slams the door behind him.
Katniss picks herself up and shoulders her game bag while the other girls scatter to the homes of the other high ranking Capitol officials. This is the side of town where all the wealthier members of town live, including the victors of the Hunger Games.
It's a long journey's back to the Seam, and although it's begun to snow, she'd rather not have to make the trip back to these parts in the morning. If she's going to visit Peeta, she'll have to swallow her pride now.
She pauses in front of the iron gate to Victor's Village, tracing her fingers along the intricately welded seal. The gate is latched, but she learns it isn't locked when she tests the handle and it gives easily.
There are a dozen houses in the village - most of them vacant, only two have smoke bellowing from the chimney, and Katniss doesn't have to think too hard to figure out which home belongs to whom.
The house with broken windows and empty bottles spilling into the yard must be Haymitch Abernathy's. He won years ago, long before Katniss was born - when her mother was of reaping age in fact. Haymitch is sort of a joke around District 12 (and the rest of Panem too) because he seems to be drunk all the time. Every reaping he manages to make a big show of himself by falling off the stage or knocking Effie Trinket's wig askew.
When she was a kid, Katniss found his antics to be hilarious, like all the other Capitol characters she would see on TV, but as she grows older, she realizes how depressing his life must be. Every year he's paraded around Panem for the Capitol's entertainment, and every year he has to "mentor" two hopeless tributes from District 12 who are basically guaranteed to be slaughtered. It's a lot of dead children to have on one's conscious.
The only one Haymitch has managed to save in 25 years is Peeta Mellark and that almost seemed to be a fluke. If Peeta hadn't been labeled the second coming of Finnick Odair, he probably wouldn't have seen the other side of the arena.
Peeta's smart, there's no denying that, but when it comes to the Games, being easy on the eyes is almost as valuable of a weapon as a knife. Peeta's sponsors were generous, turning him into a desirable ally for the Careers to take under their wing, a rarity for District 12 tributes.
Katniss heads towards the better kept house and taps on the door. Nobody answers. The second knock goes ignored, as well as the third. She decides he probably won't be coming to the door and turns to leave. She's halfway down the steps when she hears it creak open.
"Katniss?" he says. He sounds disoriented and when she turns to face him he's got this fuzzy look about him. She must have woken him, but he looks fairly alert. He seems more confused than anything, and why shouldn't he be? She's never so much as spoken to him before.
"Peeta," she says. She hadn't thought this plan all the way through, and she takes a moment to string together a few coherent words. "I have extra squirrel meat. I was wondering if you'd like to trade. Your father suggested it. I usually trade with him, if you didn't already know."
He blinks a few times and scrubs a hand through his hair, displacing the curls haphazardly on top of his head. "Um, yeah," he says. "Okay. I don't really know what I'd do with it..."
"It's already skinned and gutted," she offers. "I can include the pelt though, if you'd like."
"No. That's fine - it's fine. What does he usually pay you?"
The words die on her tongue. How can she ask him for anything? She should be paying him. She clears her throat and steels the emotion from her face. Business, she reminds herself. This is business.
"One loaf per," she says, dampening the quiver in her voice. "Two if it's a fat one. I've got four right here, and a rabbit too - that's usually three if you're interested."
"I can take it all if that's what you want, but I don't have any bread right now. I've been out of town for the past week..."
"The Capitol," she says carefully, unsure if the detail the baker passed along was a secret.
"Yes," he confirms after a hesitant pause. "I've got the ingredients, I could make you a batch." Then he pats his pockets as if remembering something. His tentative smile falters. He pulls out a wad of bills and extends it to her. "Unless this is enough." Only the larger values of Capitol Credits come in paper form. Judging by the size, there's probably close to a thousand credits in his hand.
Katniss has never seen this much money in her life and her jaw slackens at the sight. "That's too much," she says.
"Take it," he says, and he waves the money in front of her for good measure. "I don't want it."
He's mocking her with his charity and she doesn't like it. She picks a single bill from the stack and dumps the contents of her game bag at his feet. "Pleasure doing business with you," she mutters before turning on her heels.
She marches away defiantly, ignoring the blinding snow that now falls in her path. Her sense of direction is unparalleled, and she's walked every inch of the district so many times, she could do it with her eyes closed.
She zips up her hunting jacket and pulls the collar up over her ears. Snowflakes cling to her eyelashes in blurry clumps faster than she can swat them away. She trips over her boots and stumbles to catch herself from falling. The snow is falling so heavily now she can't see the boot prints she's left behind.
She keeps on walking, determined to get home, but when the sky clears enough for her to gather her bearings, she realizes she's still in Victor's Village.
The cold has seeped through her jacket and boots, soaking her toes and leaving them frozen. She can't even feel her fingers anymore, they're completely numb.
She manages to find her way into one of the vacant houses. It isn't locked, and she makes herself at home, bringing the fireplace to life and stripping off her soggy clothing to dry.
The cabinets are empty - not even a canned good to sate her hunger, and she quickly regrets her act of defiance on Peeta's porch. She could really use the game right now, but instead is only left with a useless paper bill. She holds it up to the flame in the fireplace, dangling the corner dangerously close to the spark.
A knock at the door startles her. She's dressed only in her underclothes and she picks up a knitted blanket from the sofa to wrap herself in before she answers it.
"I saw the light," he says, gesturing towards the fire.
"I got turned around in the snow," she admits. "I was going to wait out the storm someplace warm."
"Fire's the quickest way to attract a predator," he says somewhat ominously, his eyes still flitting between her and the flames.
Only if they're human, she thinks. She smiles at him uneasily. "I'll be sure to draw back the curtains then."
He must sense her earlier predicament because he glances towards the empty kitchen, noting the cabinets she left open, then says, "Are you hungry? I've got some fresh squirrel and rabbit. More than I need, really."
She scowls at him. "I'm fine, thank you."
His smile is too friendly and she finds herself feeling guarded again. "I was just kidding. Katniss, please come to my house. I've got heat and electricity too. Besides, I'm not sure they've ever cleaned the chimney in here, so you're bound to suffocate if you'd rather be stubborn."
Her stomach betrays her and growls loudly before she can refuse him. She let's out a resigned sigh. "Fine," she says.
She gathers her drying clothing while he extinguishes the fire. Her feet protest the soggy boots, and her clothes are still too damp to put back on comfortably.
"I've got a dryer," he says. "For your clothes. My house is only 25 yards away, the blanket should be fine."
She self consciously tightens the blanket around her body and gasps when she feels the weight of her hunting jacket draped over her shoulders. Peeta is standing directly behind her now and the proximity makes her heart beat a bit faster. But it's not from fear, as it should be - Peeta's an unpredictable killer after all. She feels her neck, flushed with heat, and reminds herself it's probably from the fire.
"Thanks," she mumbles then hurries towards the door. The cold hits her lungs like a punch in the gut. She can see the lights from Peeta's house in the distance and sprints towards it with him on her heel.
Inside, his house is a burst of welcoming warmth. There's a fire roaring in the hearth, and nearly every light in the room is glowing bright as day. She releases the breath she'd been holding and inhales the sweet, delicious scent of yeast and flour. Her eyes dart to meet Peeta's in surprise.
"I may be able to pay you properly after all," he says. "Unless you prefer the cash."
She feels her fists burn at the continued evaluation of debt, like he's flaunting his ability to meet his while she never could. She sets her jaw and silently fumes at his arrogance.
"Sorry," he says with a disingenuous grimace. "It's obviously a sore subject. I should probably recognize where humor is warranted. I have this habit of using humor as a coping mechanism. Deflection and all that. At least that's what one of those fancy Capitol textbooks tells me." He laughs uneasily. "Now I'm probably making you uncomfortable. I'm sorry, I'm rambling. It's just been a while since I've had someone to talk to."
She perches herself on the edge of the sofa, her resolve melting along with the clumps of snow that have clung to her blanket. "Nobody talks to you in the Capitol?" she says carefully.
"They mostly prefer not to," he says shortly. He moves to the kitchen and pulls the bread from the oven, leaving it on the counter to cool.
"What's the point of sending you out there then?"
"I've got some very important investors - sponsors, for the Games to keep happy."
She thinks about the footage she sees of the Capitol when the viewing is required. Peeta is usually cavorting with Finnick Odair and his string of Capitol mistresses. Probably the same types of women who paid Peeta's way through the Games. He owes them his life, she supposes, but she doesn't want to think of how.
"The Games aren't until the summer though," she say. "They don't know what they're paying for."
He doesn't answer.
There's a stew simmering on the stove and he ladles it into two bowls along with a slice of bread, which he balances on the edge.
"Squirrel stew," he says, handing a bowl to her. "It's what my father usually makes. I may fry one too. That was always my favorite."
"Thank you," she says and accepts the steaming bowl. She stirs it until it's cool enough to taste. It's salty and savory and the squirrel meat is perfectly cooked. Her thoughts sour the taste though, and she frowns. "Why doesn't your family come to visit?" she says. "Your house isn't very far."
"It's not," he agrees. "I'd rather be alone sometimes, I guess."
"You weren't like that before."
He sets his stew aside even though the bowl is full. "How about a game?" he says, standing from the couch. "Do you play chess?"
He moves to the other side of the living room where there's a small table by the window with a crystal set. Katniss recognizes the board, but the pieces are all wrong. Horses and towers instead of flat disks.
"Is it like checkers?" she says.
"Not at all," he chuckles. He considers it more. "Maybe a little. It's sort of complicated." He spreads out the pieces and removes a few from the board. "Here, we can play checkers this way, although I'm not sure how the whole king rule will work."
She blushes slightly. "I don't really remember the rules."
"It doesn't matter, you'll still probably beat me. I'm no good at this game," he says, smiling warmly at her.
She melts a bit, but her guard quickly returns. Katniss has seen that smile before. The sly twinkle in his eye. He's playing her, she can tell.
She refuses to take the bait. Instead she arches an eyebrow and scoops a heaping spoonful of stew into her mouth. "So what's Finnick Odair like?" she says coolly.
He snorts with laughter. "Not you too."
Sure Finnick is attractive, but he's never piqued Katniss's interest the way he has the rest of Panem. He seems more smarmy than anything.
"He's your friend, isn't he?" she says.
"Something like that," he says, pushing a chess piece around with his finger.
"He's awfully friendly," she notes, the implication heavy in her tone.
She finishes her stew and picks up the slice of bread to clean the remnants from the bowl. It's then she notices the type of bread it is. The dense one with nuts and dried fruits. It's the same kind he threw to her in the rain.
She feels a heavy weight in the pit of her stomach, forcing her to look away.
"Is something wrong?" he says, noting the pallor her face has probably taken. "I can bring you something else if you don't like that kind."
She shakes her head and sits tall, forcing herself to take a bite even though her stomach is in knots. Her eyes linger on him critically while she chews. "Thank you," she says.
There's a knowing look in his eye and she doesn't like it. He's not the same boy who threw her that bread all those years ago, and the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes that the monster he played in the arena wasn't entirely an act.
"So you'd like to know more about Finnick?" he says.
The bread really is quite good and she finishes her slice in a few hungry bites.
She's almost forgotten what she was prying at before and dismisses him harshly. "Hardly," she says. "You've certainly embraced his lifestyle though. Do you plan on being as wealthy as him someday?"
"I doubt it," he says with a faint smirk. He rearranges the chess pieces in their standard formation then makes a move as if playing an imaginary opponent. "He's got a lot more on the line than I do."
"What's that's supposed to mean?"
"You know that old saying 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer'? Finnick's got a lot more friends than I do, so he keeps a lot more enemies."
"You have plenty of friends," she says.
"You could have plenty if you wanted them." That's what Peeta's getting at by accepting her trade and reminding her of the bread. That she'll thank him with her body like he does with his Capitol "investors." She doesn't know why he bothers. He could talk any girl behind the slag heap if he wanted to - before he won the Games, anyway. "Cray's good at finding friends if you need any tips."
"I'm not looking for those types of friends," he says shortly.
"Then why are you being so nice to me?"
His laughter is cold. "I enjoy your company."
She doesn't believe him. "Everything comes with a price. You must know that by now."
"More than you know," he says. He moves around the chess pieces some more and snatches the tallest piece from the board. "You're the one who came to my door, Katniss. I never asked anything of you."
He's right. She bows her head, feeling ashamed for judging him.
"I'm sorry," she mumbles. "It's hard for me to accept things without giving back in return. I've never had enough before to give away freely."
"It's not any easier. Being a victor. Everyone thinks it's glamorous. That I'm lucky. But everyday I wake up in a new kind of hell." he says, his voice rising. She must have struck a nerve, because there's a vulnerability to him now that was absent before. A pain in his eye that even he couldn't fake.
"Sure I have more than I need, but I don't want any of it. It takes away everything. You keep giving away every part of yourself until there's nothing left, but hey at least you know the people you care about are safe. For now anyway."
"Safe?" she says, narrowing her eyes.
"The point of chess is to capture the King," he says, wrapping his fingers around the chess piece and trapping it in his palm. "But people always go for the Queen first. All the other players on the board are expendable to get to the King."
"They don't send people like me and Finnick to the Capitol to entertain their wealthy for fun," he says harshly.
They sell them. Like the Seam girls who wait outside of Cray's door. She'd already assumed, but she hadn't really thought about what it meant. She had joked so flippantly about the girls in Cray's yard as if they were squirrels to be traded.
But they're not. He's not. They're only trying to survive, just like she is.
"You could refuse them. It's not like you need the money," she say.
"It's not the money," he says. He presses his lips together abruptly to silence himself, and she wonders what he can't tell her.
She moves to sit at the table across from him. She's still only dressed in a blanket, and she has to adjust it around her shoulders to keep herself covered before she can reach out to place her hand over his.
He flinches and pulls it away. "I'm not a good person to get close to," he says.
Compassion has never been Katniss's strong suit, but she knows it's something Peeta deserves. That it's the least she can do. "I want to," she says.
"You don't have to do that." He smiles at her sadly then stands to distance himself by crossing back to the kitchen.
"I enjoy your company," she says stubbornly, parroting his earlier words.
"I thought you hated charity."
"I'm dangerous, you know," he says.
"Because you won the Games?"
"That's part of it, yes."
She follows him into the kitchen defiantly and lifts herself onto the counter top. "I'm hungry," she tells him.
He lifts an eyebrow and flashes her a disbelieving look. "Still?"
"I thought you liked feeding me," she says shyly.
His eyes darken in a way that makes her breath hitch and her cheeks feel warm. "Have you ever had hot chocolate?"
He heats milk and sugar and chocolate over the stove, stirring the mixture until it's steaming and frothy. He fills a mug for her and presses it into her hands.
She brings the cup beneath her nose experimentally and inhales deeply, her bones melting from the deliciously sweet warmth. She blows on it gently to cool and then chances a sip of the molten liquid. Sweet and creamy with a muted hint of bitterness, she can't suppress the approving moan that escapes her throat.
"Good?" he says.
She blushes at the embarrassing noise she made and can only barely muster a nod. She could drink the entire pot in one sitting, but her stomach is already turning. "It's very rich," she admits.
He cuts her another slice of bread. "Here. This helps balance the sugar."
"Thank you," she says. She dips the corner into her cup, mimicking the way Peeta eats his. It tastes even more wonderful, and again she's humming sounds that make her feel foolish until she notices the way Peeta's watching her. "Sorry," she says sheepishly.
"No. It's okay," he says. His cheeks are a bit ruddy and when he swallows, his Adam's apple bobs visibly. "I'm glad you like it. Would you like more?" he asks when she drains her cup.
She licks the sugary remnants from her lips, noting the way his eyes follow the drag of her tongue.
"No thank you," she says.
"Can I get you anything else? I could make you something else. Anything really."
"This was good, thank you."
He seems nervous, fidgeting about the kitchen to keep himself busy, maybe from the sugar, but it seems like something else is bothering him. "Your clothes are probably dry, I should get them."
"Peeta, wait," she says, stilling him simply by touching his arm. "Slow down."
"It's no trouble," he says, smiling at her in earnest.
"Do you ever do anything for yourself?"
Katniss always thought she was generous with her trades, but she could never be this selfless, only with Prim, maybe, but she's her sister. Katniss is virtually a stranger to Peeta - rude to him at that, yet he treats her with such kindness.
"It's not necessary," he says. His eyes flit to where the blanket dips across her chest and he looks away quickly.
"There's nothing you want?"
"Like I said before, I enjoy your company."
She feels her fingers tremble. "Why?"
"I don't know," he says, letting out an uneasy laugh. "I guess seeing you again reminded me what it was like to feel something again. It was nice."
He fixes her with a gaze that drains the breath from her lungs. "You know why," he says. "You must."
A million stolen glances flash behind her eyelids. She never realized how often she'd noticed him, but she had, and he had been noticing her too.
Her heart pounds in her ears and she can feel a rush of heat to the tips of her fingers.
"What do you want, Peeta?" she asks, but her voice no longer sounds like her own.
He takes a step closer and plays with the edge of the blanket for only a second before he draws his hand away.
"I really, really like you," he says huskily, and her entire body seems to respond to the growl in his voice.
She moves her hand to his chest and presses her palm flat against where his heart is beating wildly.
"How does that feel?" she says.
His eyes slip shut. "Good," he says, nodding eagerly.
She traces the hardened planes of his chest, fueled by the heady smile that slants his mouth. It feels like something foreign is pumping through her blood. It heightens her senses. Her skin tingles, begging to be touched. Her mouth waters, hungry for something she can't describe.
She slips off the counter and moves to close the distance between them until their toes are touching. He's holding his breath, his hands hanging stiffly at his sides. "You don't owe me anything, Katniss," he say tightly.
She touches her lips to his hesitantly at first. Her fingers brush his cheek, rough with the day's stubble. He murmurs a protest and she presses her mouth against his more firmly. He yields after a few kisses, his lips plying to hers and his hands snaking around her waist.
"That was nice," he whispers when they part.
And it is. Their kisses are the type that leaves her feeling dizzy, and lingering this close, she's hungry for another. She kisses him again, rolling forward on her toes so that their mouths are aligned and she can kiss him deeper. She shivers when his tongue touches hers, her fingernails scraping against his chin. He does it again, coaxing her mouth to open wide.
It feels like they've been kissing for hours, but only a few minutes have passed. The heat that has pooled in her chest begins to spread, flushing her neck and cheeks. There's a pleasant buzz that's settled just beneath her belly and it drives her to press her body flush against his.
He peels the blanket from around her shoulders, which she sheds eagerly, and then his hands are exploring her curves over her underclothes. She feels him push insistently into her hip, catching her off guard. She shouldn't be surprised that kissing him this way would have that sort of effect, but she's never been this close to someone before, and although she understands the mechanics, she's never contemplated the details.
She brushes her fingers against the bulge in his pants experimentally. The approving sound he makes vibrates against her lips, and she strokes him again, more boldly this time. His erection swells in her palm and he begins to thrust shallowly into her hand while they kiss.
"Should I..." she answers her own question by unfastening his pants. They fall loosely from his hips, pooling at his feet, leaving him only in his undershorts, which are tented by his straining erection.
She wraps her fingers around him and pumps lightly over the fabric. "Do you like this?"
He chuckles and pinches her hip. "I like everything you do," he says.
"Would it be better if..." she begins to say, but she's too embarrassed to say it out loud. She should take off his underwear, but then he'd be naked down there, and then what?
She kisses him instead to calm her nerves. It relaxes her almost instantly, and the buzzing in the pit of her stomach dips lower, settling between her legs in a dull ache. She craves his touch more and more and she sighs audibly when he palms her breast through her thin tank top. He rolls her pebbled nipple between his fingers, pinching until she yelps, and then, without warning, his hand strokes down her stomach and slips between her legs.
He begins to stroke her, and the delicious friction against her cleft causes her knees to buckle. He expertly locates the small bundle of nerves that seem to crave attention most, and he presses two digits against it, circling it with tight circles.
Her hips buck against his hand to keep up with his tempo. Every part of her being seems to be connected to where his fingers touch her, and her arousal builds in a damp heat that slickens her folds. He pushes the elastic band of her underwear aside to dip a finger inside her.
The invasion isn't exactly pleasant at first. It's an odd sensation that feels infinitely better when he stretches her with a second. He pumps his fingers inside her, coating them with her arousal before finding her clit again. He presses the bud more firmly this time, his deft fingers circling her with such fervor she can hardly stand.
"Say my name," he says when her eyelids grow heavy. "Please."
She's dangling so close to something just out of her reach. She bites her lower lip, worrying the flesh between her teeth as she focuses her attention on this growing pleasure.
Her grip tightens around his shoulders and her eyebrows knit in concentration. The pressure continues to build and it's impossible to locate where it begins anymore, it all feels so good.
She comes with a languid sigh, her breath ragged from holding it too long.
She opens her eyes slowly, her gaze locking with his out of focus.
She's half laying on the counter now, using her elbows for support, since her legs are a useless puddle. He's looking down at her with silent reverie, one hand cradling her face while the other stays nested between her legs. He bends down to kiss her. "I want to make you come again, okay?"
"Okay," she says on the edge of a shuddering breath. "What about you?"
"I'm fine," he says, hoisting her off her feet and wrapping her legs around his waist. "I just want you."
He lays her across the dining room table and swats aside the trinkets that litter the center, sending them toppling to the floor. He strips off his shirt and discards it on the floor. Katniss remembers Peeta getting a few wounds during his Games, including a deep slash across his chest, but his skin is polished clean, with only a few patches of freckles blemishing it.
He toys with the hem of her tank top next. "May I?" She sits up and lifts her arms over her head to help then lays back. His eyes are so dark, they're no longer blue. He admires her like she's a meal, and already she can feel that pleasant pooling at her center.
He hovers above her, their bare chests flush as they kiss. His lips trail down her neck to the valley between her breasts. He's looking up at her when his mouth covers her breast, and their eyes stay connected when his tongue flicks over the tightened peak. She keens, her back struggling to arch off the table, but he pins her firmly in place. He licks the dusky bud again and smiles around the mound at her approving sigh.
He moves to her other breast, replacing his mouth with his hand to work them both in tandem. He groans when she combs her fingers through his hair to urge his ministrations. Then he kisses down her stomach, pausing at the waistband of her underwear.
Her breath hitches and her toes curl in anticipation. "Shouldn't we - don't we need..." she says. She's not on any sort of pill or shot like they have in the Capitol to prevent pregnancy, and she refuses to take any chances, regardless of what her body is currently demanding.
"It's okay, not yet. Not yet," he says. He slips off her underwear then settles between her legs to position his face at her entrance.
Her hips buck wildly and she clenches her thighs together tightly when his tongue first touches her folds. He eases her legs apart and affectionately kisses the inside of her thigh.
Her body relaxes and this time she welcomes his tongue when he kisses her there. A moan escapes her when he sucks her sensitive bundle of nerves between his lips, and she covers her mouth to muffle the next one.
"No, please," he says. "I like to hear you."
She remember his earlier request and tries to stifle the embarrassment she feels at making a show. "Peeta," she moans when he pumps his finger inside her. He licks her more furiously, thrusting in a second finger and then a third.
"Fuck, Katniss," he murmurs against her folds.
She can't stand it anymore and her hips begin to roll with abandon. He pins her against the edge of the table and hitches her leg over his shoulder to bury his face deeper.
"Peeta," she nearly screams, fighting the edge of her orgasm.
He replaces his tongue with his thumb, swirling her clit until she plummets, boneless against the table.
"Thank you," he pants, his cheek resting against her thigh.
"Why are you thanking me?" she says. Suddenly she realizes the extent of her nudity, and she uses the corner of the tablecloth to help cover her.
"I've never really wanted to do that to anyone else before. But I really liked it with you." He sits on his knees so only his chin is above the table. "Honestly, I've only wanted to do any of this with you. Sometimes I pretend..." he says, but quickly stops himself. "I'm sorry, that's weird."
She sits up, pulling the tablecloth along with her. The thought leaves her feeling uneasy - he barely knows her, but after what he's been through, she can't fault him. She's held onto a fantasy of him after he tossed her the bread for a decade.
"It's not," she says. He sits up to kiss her, the taste of her still lingering slightly on his lips. She wants to be disgusted, but there's something exciting about it. "What else do you want, Peeta?"
He groans and drags his mouth to her neck, chuckling against her throat between kisses. "Keep doing that."
She hasn't done anything for him yet, and he still wears his arousal obviously on his lap. She should touch him or something, but she hesitates.
"Can I take you upstairs?" he says.
He carries her to his bedroom along with the tablecloth. She's starting to feel tired and his plush mattress isn't helping her fight sleep. She awakens when he begins to kiss her again, his hand idly playing with her breast to reignite the fading hunger.
He leaves her briefly to retrieve a foil packet from a fancy silver box. In the Districts, birth control is hard to come by, but in the Capitol they have more forms than she can keep track of.
Peeta removes his undershorts, leaving them both naked. Her eyes are drawn to his erection, although she tries not to look at it. The skin is a deeper red than the rest of him, and when she touches him, he almost feels like velvet.
He offers her the packet. "Do you want to?" he says. Her eyes widen and she shakes her head, quickly dismissing the idea. He rolls the condom down his length and climbs onto the bed to position himself between her legs.
She gasps when he brushes her entrance. "I've never done this before," she finally admits.
His face falls. "What?"
"I haven't - any of this."
"What?" he repeats. He blinks a few times. "Why are you doing this?"
"I don't know," she says honestly.
"Do you want me to stop? I will," he says and begins to roll away.
She cages his hips with her knees. "No. Keep going. I want you to."
He stares at her with uncertainty for a moment, his gaze hardening in the dim light. He balances himself above her and sinks into her slowly. It pinches at first, her body resisting his girth. She stretches to accommodate him, spreading her legs and angling her hips until the discomfort begins to wane.
She tries to match his rhythm, rolling to meet every thrust, letting the movements of their bodies drive this new found pleasure. It's not as intense as when he used his fingers or mouth, but she's still cresting something wonderful. His pace quickens and his thrusts grow less study.
It's odd. Although he's inside her, he feels impossibly far away. The moments downstairs seemed so intimate, but now she's left feeling cold. She gives up on finding release, and can only tighten her walls around him to coax his own escape. He comes after a few erratic thrusts, and pulls out of her almost instantly to discard the condom.
She's not sure if they're supposed to talk afterward, and part of her doesn't want to. All of her clothing is downstairs, so she slips beneath the covers, naked, and pretends to sleep.
At some point the mattress dips beside her, but the bed remains cold.
When she wakes, her clothes are dry and folded at the foot of the bed, and his side is empty. It's only when she's dressed that she notices the fold of Capitol Credits on the night stand, and knows that they're for her.
As always, you can find me on tumblr as absnow.