I've been feeling everything
From hate to love
From love to lust
From lust to truth
I guess that's how I know you
So I hold you close
The first time Katniss climbs into Peeta’s bed, it is six months after he had planted the primroses.
Peeta, on his return to Twelve from Dr. Aurelius’s care, struggles daily with the demons that the old Capital had left him with. He wakes up screaming almost every night, his voice hoarse, the sheets twisted around his thighs and his skin damp with sweat; a vision of Katniss’s hands at his throat still bright in his mind’s eye. Peeta rocks back and forth, with his head in his hand and chants, “Not real, not real, not real” until he believes it.
Digging up and planting the primroses have helped. He looks up once he’s finished, patting the dirt around the flower bed and he sees Katniss watching him through the window. Peeta can see the tears in her eyes and on her cheeks from grief. He nods to her and leaves. Peeta doesn’t trust his voice around her yet.
Peeta feels her presence in the dark, through his sleep-fuzzy mind; she is cold and shivering. He opens his covers and arms for her. Katniss slips easily into both and Peeta feels her curl around his body in a way that is painfully intimate, yet familiar. They spend the remainder of the night this way, silent but for their breathing, awake.
Katniss steals out of his house the same way she came in once the sun peeks through his bedroom window. Peeta’s arms feel suddenly empty and his bed is cold.
Baking helped too. So fully ingrained in him, he remembered clearly how to mix his ingredients, that Haymitch had ordered for him to come on the supply train, along with his whiskey. Peeta took great pleasure in kneading the dough, pounding it with the heel of his palm over and over, until he was breathing heavily.
The first few batches of bread are inedible. Soon, however, his breads are as light and airy as before. He wraps two loaves and leaves them in the early morning light on Katniss’s doorstep for Greasy Sae to find and give to her. Pastries and iced cookies quickly follow the same path. Every morning, he leaves the baked goods. Peeta hasn’t yet spoken with Katniss.
The next time Katniss comes to him in the night, Peeta wakes with a gasp. He can see her eyes, wild in the dark and he knows she woke the same way; perhaps from the same unknown darkness that hinders his dreams. Peeta’s eyes must look as wild as hers, because she hesitates. He reaches for her and she folds under the covers with him, clutching his chest and this time, he curls around her. Katniss drags one of his arms to hang over her waist and his fingers trail the warm skin of her abdomen.
They both sleep this time, but she is still gone in the morning light. Peeta is beginning to remember why he loved her. Loves her.
His night terrors have lessened their stranglehold on his psyche, though he still wakes up breathless some nights, but he can’t quite remember why. He supposes that’s progress. Peeta discusses this with Dr. Aurelius during his weekly phone call and the good doctor proclaims it’s time to test his recovery by seeing Katniss. He tells the doctor he sees her all the time – going hunting, though her window and even once in town. But it is time, Peeta knows after ending his call, to find his voice with her again.
The next morning, his hands tremble over the dough and he burns his fingers taking a pan from the oven. He wraps the loaf and cheese buns and follows his routine path to Katniss’s door in the early morning, the sun only just rising. This time, he takes a deep breath, and knocks on her door instead of leaving the baked goods at her doorstep.
Soon, Katniss is in his bed more often than not. Many nights it’s after working on the book, both their emotions raw. Peeta holds a hand out to her and she takes it. They climb the stairs to his room with warm palms and together, remove their clothes in the dim light. Some nights, Katniss cries into his neck while he kisses her hair. Other nights, he kisses her lips and she kisses him back.
Those are the good nights, that lead to good mornings when Peeta wakes; the sun is up and Katniss is still there, her body twined with his. Those are the nights where their dreams don’t dare to be dark. They excised those images that now live in the pages of a book.
Katniss opens the door and Peeta takes a step back. Her hair is a wild mess of curls that frame her face. Her eyes have dark circles and Peeta knows, then, that she is suffering through her nights as he is. He holds the warm baked goods to her and her weak smile of thanks is encouragement enough for him to follow her to the kitchen to await Greasy Sae to make breakfast.
And so a new routine is born. Peeta and Katniss spend a half an hour every morning alone, waiting for Greasy Sae and eating warm cheese buns with their tea. They eat their breakfast together and leave for their day’s activities. Katniss hunts to put the meat on hers and their neighbour’s tables and Peeta is rebuilding the bakery over the ashes of his father’s store.
Their kisses have become heated over time and their bodies respond. Peeta feels her heat through their thin nightclothes and her skin jumps at his touch. Katniss explores his body and it takes all of Peeta’s strength not to move.
Finally, on a warm, clear night that has the moon shining on their skin through his open window, Peeta and Katniss relinquish their self-induced control and allow their bodies to join. They are careful with each other – too careful – but Katniss cries out, this time with pleasure and Peeta follows gasping out her name, which is nothing to fear and so dear to him now.
So in the aftermath, while they are still clutching one another in each other’s embrace, when he whispers his question to her, he knows what her answer will be.