It was understood by most that merchant’s kids had a better life in District 12. For most it was probably true; merchant’s kids didn’t sign up for tesserae, they had warmer clothes, and they always had more to eat. All of those things applied to Peeta and the mayor’s daughter, but none of those things really mattered in the long run.
After the games, Peeta watched helplessly as Gale and Katniss resumed their friendship; it was obvious to anyone who bothered to look that they were in love. One day he realized that he wasn’t the only one who watched.
“Does it get easier?” Madge asked him hopefully one day in winter when the snow quit falling. They took long walks together now and talked about everything but their mutual heartbreak.
Peeta shook his head and squinted at the grey sky. “Every day I hope it will.” He tried to keep his voice light and happy but knew he was failing.
This is why they didn’t discuss it. Her crush on Gale and his unrequited love for Katniss. At least Madge didn’t have to relive a fake love affair in front of cameras for the entertainment of the Capitol. She would never second guess if the person she loved really meant what he said to her or was performing for a crowd. Peeta thought it might be better to never have to pretend at all, and he was glad Madge didn’t have to experience it.
“It’s cold, let’s go inside. I’ll make you a cake.” Peeta shoved his hands in his pockets and smiled, thinking that something sweet might lift their spirits a little.
Madge grabbed his arm to keep him from walking away. “She doesn’t deserve your devotion, you know?”
And that was the thing; it wasn’t about her deserving his love. It wasn’t something he could control. Peeta loved Katniss and always would. It was a part of who he was, as fundamental to him as breathing air and being the baker’s son. A battle he had lost before he even had a chance to fight the war. But he understood where Madge was coming from, how losing something that was never yours in the first place left you hollow and alone.
He pulled her into his arms, waiting for resistance or a word of denial. When none came he kissed her, cold lips and warms mouths, opening her up with a flick of his tongue. Madge responded with her whole body, her hands worked their way up his back pulling him closer until there was no space between them.
Peeta thought about taking her inside to his room where they could strip and spend the afternoon exploring each other’s bodies until they both hummed with pleasure. He might want that. Madge might want that too. It was something he filed away for later and continued to kiss her, listening to the hitches in her breath and the soft moans coming from the back of her throat. It took considerable effort to get his hand beneath her coat, but his reward was the shiver of her skin when his cold hand slid across the heated surface. Her hips moved against his when he palmed her breast, her nipple pebbled at the caress of his fingers.
“Don’t move.” He barely recognized his own ragged voice.
“Why?” Madge whispered in his ear. “Don’t you like it?”
The laugh that bubbled up his throat surprised him; it had been a long time since he'd thought anything was funny.
“Isn’t it obvious?” He moved against her, lifting her leg to his hip so she could feel for herself how hard he was. Thankful that the house they were leaning up against in the Victor’s Village was empty and that no one could see them when he thrust against her again. This time she moved with him, rolling her hips so that he could feel the heat of her through their clothes.
Peeta ached for more, and Madge held on, gripping his lower back as they continued to rock in a slow pace that left them both breathless and staring into each other’s eyes. He climaxed first, resting his forehead against hers as he cried out. It only took her a few moments more and she was there too, biting her lip and closing her eyes.
Their combined weight was going to be a problem for Peeta’s leg, but he stayed motionless until he was sure she could stand on her own. Not sure what to say, he didn’t say anything at all, waiting to take his cue from her.
“I could go for some cake now, if the offer still stands.” Madge glanced away from him shyly, a blush staining her cheeks.
Peeta reached for her hand and intertwined their fingers. “It’s one thing I’m pretty good at.”
“Not the only thing.” This time she was the one laughing. And Peeta thought it was the best sound he had heard in years.