Actions

Work Header

Talking Body

Work Text:

She can feel it again. His eyes on her.

Katniss glances up from her computer, her gaze drifting automatically to the desk cubicle diagonal from hers. Sure enough, those familiar blue eyes dart away a second later.

Peeta Mellark is staring at her. Again.

With a small frown, she turns her attention back to her computer, finishing the line of code she was in the middle of before the distraction. Why is he always looking at her? She doesn't know much about the newly hired graphic designer, other than he's fairly quiet and reserved, he eats his lunch alone at the picnic table outside, and he wears a neatly pressed button-down shirt tucked into his slacks every day, despite the office's casual dress code.

And he stares at her. A lot.

It should unnerve her, and it does, a little, but not as much as she would expect. He seems harmless, nonthreatening, like he just hasn't figured out how to chat up a member of the opposite sex yet.

At least, that's why she assumes he keeps looking at her. Because he finds her attractive. Maybe she's being too presumptuous. Maybe he just sees a kindred spirit in her. It's not like she's very outgoing herself; she's made friends at the office, but nothing really beyond a cursory working relationship. And she also eats her lunch alone, in the breakroom. Only because she appreciates the brief solitude and peace before consuming herself in work all over again.

Katniss' hands go still on her keyboard as she stares blankly at her screen, blinking a few times until her attention shifts back to her work. She's already forgotten what she was in the middle of doing. Sighing, she pushes away from her desk and stretches eagerly.

She needs a huge injection of caffeine. Her mind is elsewhere today.

As she hops out of her seat to head into the kitchen, she discretely glances in Peeta's direction again. He's faster this time, barely a flash of blue before he averts his gaze back to his computer, his brow dipped in fervent concentration. Katniss clenches her teeth and shakes her head to herself before disappearing into the kitchen to chug a cup of coffee, taking a second back with her to help get her through the next few hours.


"Great job on that project, Katniss," Finnick Odair compliments her as she eats her sandwich at her standard table in the breakroom. She gives him a small smile.

"Thanks, Odair."

Finnick is one of the strategic advisers who deals with the clients directly, delegating the projects to the designers to code and design. And he's one of the only few people here she actually likes.

"Snow will probably have some edits because clients don't know good design from their assholes," he says as he stirs some half and half into his coffee, flashing her a wry grin and a wink. "But I don't anticipate much pushback."

She just shrugs. She's dealt with Snow before, president of Capitol Industries. She's well aware of how dickish he can be; she's unconcerned. "I just hope he gets over this hideous rose motif he's been obsessed with lately."

Finnick chuckles, putting the half and half back in the fridge before turning to her. "A snake would be a better symbol for him and his company," he jokes, and she smirks in dry amusement before taking a bite of her sandwich.

It's like she can sense him before she sees him; her eyes dart to the breakroom entrance, and a second later Peeta walks through. He falters imperceptibly when he looks at her, glancing between her and Finnick, but then he continues with his task, using the Keurig to fill his mug with hot water. Probably for tea. She never sees him drink coffee, only tea. No sugar.

"Hey Peter," Finnick greets him, tipping his coffee mug at him. Peeta's eyes cut to him cautiously.

"It's Peeta, actually," he corrects, his voice quiet but firm.

Finnick looks at Katniss, raising his eyebrows humorously with Peeta's back turned. She grimaces helplessly, focusing on her lunch. "My apologies, Peeta," Finnick replies; his words are devoid of any derision or malice.

This is why Katniss likes Finnick. If she were him, she probably would have called Peeta the wrong name again simply out of spite.

But she wouldn't have said hello in the first place. She has yet to actually speak to Peeta Mellark since he started working there a month ago.

To avoid any further uncomfortable interactions, she trashes her unfinished sandwich and heads back to her desk, cutting her break early.


Katniss angrily digs through her wallet for change, counting out enough for a honey bun. She needs sugar, badly. Snow has been hounding her all day about the email campaign she designed for him, first through email and then on the phone. And that was after telling her the emails she designed for him looked like shit. He hasn't liked anything she's done, and she's quickly losing her cool. Finnick tried to intervene, to keep the heat off her as per his job, but Snow was adamant about talking directly to her. Yelling at her, really.

He's a condescending asshole, and as she shoves each coin into the vending machine in the breakroom, she imagines stuffing some of those stupid roses he loves so much down his throat.

When the vending machine eats her last quarter, she stares stupidly at the display. It's stuck at 50 cents, leaving her a quarter short of the 75-cent price tag for a damn honey bun. She pushes the coin return button furiously, but it won't spit out her quarter.

"Dammit," she curses, looking through her wallet for more change. She only finds a nickel and two pennies. "God dammit!" she hisses and punches the vending machine. Twice for good measure, oblivious to the throbbing in her knuckles.

"Um, here."

A deep voice over her shoulder startles her, and she whirls around just as Peeta sticks an extra quarter in the machine for her. The vending machine accepts it.

Instead of gratitude, all Katniss feels is annoyance and resentment, which boils over into all-out rage. "What, are you stalking me now too?" she snarls, spitting the words at him. "Don't think I haven't noticed you staring at me all the time. If you don't fucking knock it off, I'm going to HR."

Peeta recoils, shock slackening his jaw, but she just jabs at the requisite combination of letters and numbers, waits for the machine to release her honey bun, then snatches it up and storms out of the breakroom back to her desk without another word or glance at him.

It takes a couple hours for the guilt to set in, but Katniss doesn't fully acknowledge it until after Finnick's managed to smooth things over with Snow and gets him off her back. She stares at the empty honey bun wrapper next to her mouse pad and then looks over at Peeta.

He's not staring at her this time, his head dutifully ducked down as he works. She hasn't caught or felt him staring at her since she yelled at him in the breakroom.

Remorse and shame fester inside her, making focusing on the emails she's working on nearly impossible. Frustrated, she crumples up the wrapper and drops it in her trashcan so she can concentrate again. But she can't help one more glance at Peeta.

He's still not looking at her.

Katniss feels awful by the time she's ready to leave work, the guilt racking her nerves. She packs up her bag and shuts down her computer, watching Peeta from the corner of her eye. He's still working and makes no move to get up or leave. Gritting her teeth, she hesitates a moment, then slings the bag over her shoulder and heads for the exit. As she passes Peeta, she tries to give him a small smile. "Bye, Peeta," she calls out softly, hoping her voice sounds pleasant.

He doesn't look up, but he grimaces and gives a curt nod, keeping his attention and eyes on his screen. Her lips dip into a frown, and with a resigned sigh she leaves.


Katniss tries all week to make amends with him, short of actually apologizing to him. She can't bring herself to do it, instead going out of her way to greet him in the morning or anytime she passes him, and she makes sure to bid him farewell in the evenings. He looks at her now, either with a small nod of acknowledgment or a quiet hello, but only when she speaks to him first. She often finds herself sneaking glances at him from her desk, but she never catches him staring at her again.

She's oddly disappointed. She must have really freaked him out with her threat to report him for sexual harassment.

Or more likely the shine has worn off, and he's realized what an asshole she truly is.

Even Finnick can tell something is off, after observing an awkward interaction between them in the breakroom one day. "Damn, Everdeen, what did you do to scare him? He won't even look you in the eye," he snorts, perching on the corner of the table after Peeta has scurried out of the kitchen.

She shrugs, picking at the crust of her sandwich. "I don't know," she lies. "He's always been weird."

"Funny, coming from the other most anti-social grump in this office," Finnick laughs, flipping the end of her braid playfully. She swats at his hand with a scowl, and he stands up. "Weird or not, he's a damn good designer. So try to play nice, yeah?" He leaves her to stew on his admonishment.

It's not that she cares what Finnick thinks of her, really; she just knows when she has fucked up. Somehow, Peeta actively avoiding looking at her has become more uncomfortable than him staring at her all the time.


She goes to an office Happy Hour at a bar after work later that week, to prove to Finnick that she's not that anti-social. As she's ordering a gin and tonic at the bar, she notices Peeta at the other end, nursing a bottle of beer. She watches him for a moment as he sips his beer, sealing his lips around the mouth and taking a long pull.

"Here you go," the bartender says, making her jump, and she hands him her card as she takes her drink.

"Leave it open," she tells him. She lingers, stirring her drink with the little black straw, then she takes a large gulp and marches toward the other end of the bar, right toward Peeta.

He's alone, of course, their other coworkers stuffed in booths or circling tables as they talk and laugh. She was supposed to join Finnick and Johanna Mason, another strategic adviser, but they won't miss her, judging by the loud calls for shots she hears coming from their booth.

Katniss slides into the stool next to Peeta, whose eyes cut to her in mild alarm; they're hooded with wariness and suspicion, but she ignores it. "Hey."

"Hi," he mumbles, quickly looking away and back to the TV. There's a football game on, but she's not sure if he's genuinely absorbed in the game or just trying to divert his attention away from her.

"I didn't figure you came to these things," she says, drawing his gaze back to her. His mouth tightens, ever so slightly.

"Sometimes." It's dismissive, and he looks away again. His body language screams at her to leave, but she refuses to take the hint.

"What are you drinking?" she asks, a desperate stab at conversation. He just twists his bottle to show her the label. Sam Adams. "Ah." He doesn't say anything more, so she takes a hearty sip of her gin and tonic, stirring the limes around to infuse the cocktail with more of the citrus.

She's quiet for a moment, then looks at the TV. "Who's playing?" she tries again, even though she can just look at the screen and see for herself.

"Ohio State and Oregon."

She watches his profile, waiting for him to give her something else, anything, but after a few minutes of silence, she sighs, frustrated. "Okay, look. I'm sorry for yelling at you the other day in the breakroom." He stiffens, his gaze dropping from the TV and focusing on the beer taps straight ahead of him. She forces an uneasy laugh after taking another hearty sip of her drink, "I wasn't—I wouldn't go to HR over something that inane. I was just in a bad mood that day, and I took it out on you. So. I'm sorry." It's a bitter pill to swallow, but she forces it down, sure her face is red from the effort.

Peeta's own cheeks are pink, and he looks down at his beer. "Don't worry about it," he finally says. But he still won't look at her. It's driving her crazy.

"Come on," she huffs, tugging at his sleeve. "It's fine to look at me. I didn't mean to make such a big deal out of it that day. I'm a bitch. Seriously. I'm mean to everyone, just ask."

He seems confused by her insistent touch on his arm, staring at her hand before finally, finally, glancing at her. "Um...it's fine, really, Katniss," he insists, his mouth pulled to the side in a frown, and he looks back at the football game. But she doesn't let go of his sleeve, tugging again.

"Did I embarrass you that day?" she asks. "By bringing up the staring thing? It's fine that you stare at me, Peeta. It doesn't actually bother me."

His entire face blooms red, and his mouth forms silent words before he can actually voice the sounds. "I don't stare at you," he says incredulously, stubbornly, and she scoffs.

"You do. It's fine. You're attracted to me. I get it."

His head snaps around toward her, eyes wide with alarm. "What?" he sputters, and her spine stiffens defensively.

"You are, aren't you? Why else would you look at me so much?" she demands, and he opens and closes his mouth a few times, sounds sticking in his throat. But he doesn't offer a rebuttal, finally going silent as he averts his gaze again. She feels a small thrill of victory. "I'm not full of myself," she adds as an afterthought. Another sip of gin and tonic. "I just deal better with directness and honesty. So let's just be honest with each other, Peeta."

He offers a weak, perplexed laugh, rubbing his brow as he drops his eyes to the bar and shakes his head. "I just...I don't…"

"You're cute," she blurts, eliciting a blush from him, as if his face could get any redder. She ignores her own bluntness and his embarrassment, swigging her drink before waving it in a vague, gesticulatory manner. "We can be friends. Or something." She struggles with her words, trying to find an appropriate way to phrase the proposition suddenly percolating in her head, but she's never been good at this kind of stuff. "Or more, if you want."

His eyes go wide again. "I—what? What are you...what do you mean?"

"We can have sex. If you want." Katniss looks away at that, jabbing absently with her straw at the lime in her drink. It's mostly ice and water at this point. She gets the bartender's attention and orders another one, and when she finally looks back at Peeta, he's just staring at her, mystified. "What?"

He swallows thickly, his throat bobbing, and he shakes his head slowly. "I'm confused, honestly."

"Do you want to have sex with me?" she spells it out for him. "You look at me like you do."

He turns away, back to the TV, but his eyes don't focus on the screen. "I just...that's not why…"

She scowls reflexively, managing a nod of recognition to the bartender when he gives her another drink. "So are you saying you don't want to?" she presses, and he rubs the back of his neck in agitation.

"Not—not necessarily. I don't...I wasn't thinking of it like that. I just..." he trails off, baffled.

"I like the way you look at me," she admits quietly, staring at her hand on his arm. She squeezes slightly, feeling the firmness of his tensed forearm under his sleeve.

He looks at her then, his lips twitching slightly, his brow creased, but he doesn't look away for once. He seems confused, scared even, and she slides her hand up his arm to his wrist, wrapping her fingers around it and pulling it with her as she gets down from her stool. She doesn't say anything, just leads him to the other side of the bar, away from the potentially prying eyes of their coworkers, to a dim corner where they can rendezvous in semi-obscurity. He follows her obediently, his beer gripped tightly in his free hand, and she eagerly sips her own drink, ignoring her racing heart.

There's a table in the corner, obscured by dim lighting. She sets her glass down on it and does the same with Peeta's bottle as he just stares dumbly at her, then she steers his body in front of hers until her back hits the wall. There's a wild look in his eye, like that of a hunted prey, but when she guides his hands to her hips, he tightens his grip, holding her tightly. She directs his head down to hers, arching her back to meet his mouth.

She doesn't waste any time with tentative, gentle kisses to his lips, instead dragging her tongue across his. He tastes bitter, hoppy, but sweet still, and she sweeps her tongue against his a few more times, growing frustratingly needier, more desperate. Peeta's lips move clumsily against hers, uncertain, happy to let her control the kiss. Which she does, thrilling at how pliable his mouth is beneath hers, how he acquiesces to every touch of her tongue, every scrape of her teeth. How his breath seems to stutter in his throat before filling her mouth when her nails scratch at the little curls at the nape of his neck. How his heart thumps painfully in his chest under her palm when she traces the shell of his ear and pulls possessively at his lobe with her other hand.

Minutes, hours pass, she doesn't know. Her entire body is alive, crackling with heat and fire, smoldering like hot coals between her thighs as she drips with want, and she finally pries her mouth away from his. His lips are red, bruised, and he pants as he gazes down at her. She sucks in a breath in a greedy grab at oxygen, her head swimming, then she presses her shoulder blades back into the wall and pushes her hips out against his erection. He nearly chokes on his saliva, and she gasps quietly, languidly, as the thick material of his fly rubs her clit through her own pants.

"We can go back to my place," she suggests, fighting the urge to buck her hips against his.

His lips are wet, and he licks them. "O-okay," he rasps uneasily, his fingers twitching on her hips, and she all but drags him to the bar to hurriedly close her tab. She doesn't register what the tab is, or how much she tips; she's just in a hurry to get him back to her place, stripped naked in her bed underneath her.

She doesn't let go of his hand as they stand outside on the sidewalk, trying to flag down a cab. Thankfully, it doesn't take long before a taxi pulls up to the curb, and she flings the door open, finally dropping his hand to scoot across the seat and bark her address at the driver. But when she turns to look at Peeta, she realizes he's still lingering outside, his hands braced against the roof of the car as he looks down at her. Conflicting emotions contort his face, and she frowns up at him, confused.

Abruptly, he shakes his head, his mouth pulling down in a grimace. "Have a good night, Katniss." Then he shuts the door, leaving her staring wide-eyed at his back through the window as he walks away.


She doesn't talk to Peeta the next day at work; she doesn't even look at him. Which is apparently fine because he refuses to look at her either. But while her refusal is out of spite, she's pretty sure she can feel the guilt emanating off him in waves from where he sits.

Good.

Because she is humiliated. And she blames him entirely. Who kisses someone like that, agrees to go home with her, and then ditches her in the cab?

The more she thinks about it, the angrier she gets. She's trying to ignore him, to act indifferent and unbothered by his presence, like he doesn't even exist. But by lunch time she's seething. He owes her an apology, an explanation at least, but somehow he's the one acting like she doesn't exist.

Frustrated, she tears into her standard sandwich in the breakroom, angrily chewing it until it's practically a concrete wad in her mouth before she swallows.

Finnick wanders in at some point, tipping his head to her in greeting. But then he grins conspiratorially and sidles up beside her, dropping into a chair beside her. "So, Everdeen. Heard an interesting rumor about you last night."

"What?" she snaps, not even bothering with the pretense of civility.

He's unconcerned with her tone, a grin still plastered on his face, and he lifts his eyebrows suggestively. "Heard you left the bar with Mellark."

Her next bite of sandwich seems to stick in her throat, and she has to swallow hard. She's grateful for the moment to collect her thoughts, to prepare a defense, while she works the sandwich down her esophagus. "No," she says tightly. "We walked out together, but that's all that happened. You should know me better than that, Odair."

He shrugs. "I don't know what your bedroom proclivities are, Everdeen. Johanna was very adamant she saw you two leave together, said you looked very cozy," he needles, and she clenches her jaw together, her pulse thrumming wildly in her neck.

"Did she see us fuck too? No? Because we didn't. We just happened to leave the bar at the same time. I don't know anything about Mellark or what he does with his life or who he sleeps with." Because it's not me, she adds silently.

This time, Finnick pulls back slightly as he makes a face. "Temper, Everdeen, sheesh. It's just a rumor, and I thought I'd get confirmation from the source." He smiles then. "So you didn't get laid after all. Pity." She scowls at him, and he holds his hands up placatingly, standing up. "I'll leave you alone then."

He retreats, and she resumes eating her sandwich with angry bites. If there were anyone she should actually report to HR, it's Finnick. And Johanna. But she likes them, and normally any other day she would appreciate Finnick's bawdy rapport with her. Today, she's just not in the mood.

Thankfully, none of her clients are giving her any trouble, and she doesn't have any urgent projects that need doing immediately. She's definitely not doing her best work today, frequently swept up in mental fantasies of how to deal with Peeta, what to say to him. By the end of work, she's decided to confront him. But somewhere alone.

She knows from previous observation that he's usually one of the last to leave; she's rarely still in the office by the time he leaves. So at 5 p.m., she lingers, waiting as one by one the other designers and SAs leave. By 5:15 p.m., Peeta seems to realize that he's about to be alone with her, so he hastily closes down his work and gets up to leave when the only other remaining designer heads out.

Katniss stares hard at her computer, giving him a head start before she shuts off her screen, grabs her purse and scurries out of the building to the parking deck. She knows about where he normally parks and heads in that direction, catching up to him fairly quickly. All the other cars are gone, but she moves quietly until she's only a few yards from him. "Mellark!" she barks at his back, causing him to jump before he faces her, his face already pinched with apprehension.

"Katniss—" he starts, but she doesn't let him finish.

"What the hell is your problem?" she demands, planting herself in front of him and crossing her arms over her chest. He furrows his brow.

"What do you mean—"

She scoffs. "Don't play dumb, Peeta. You know what I'm talking about," she snaps, glaring him down. "What is wrong with you? Why would you ever think it's acceptable to ditch a girl like that?"

He averts his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck. "I didn't ditch you. I made sure you got into a cab safely."

She gawks at him. "I didn't ask you for that. I asked you to come home with me!"

"Well...technically, you didn't ask."

She bares her teeth, frustrated. "You agreed to, Peeta. If you don't want to go home with someone, don't say okay when they ask you to!" she snaps, her arms now uncrossed and waving wildly between them.

He winces, slightly, gaze still focused on some point behind her. "I thought I did. Want to. But..."

She presses her lips together as she stares at him, her arms dropping to her sides. Humiliation burns in her gut. "But what?" she needles. "What? I'm not pretty enough? I'm a terrible kisser? You think I'll be bad in bed?"

"No, that's not what I meant," he sighs in exasperation, finally getting worked up.

"Then what? Please let me know what's so repulsive about me—"

"You're not repulsive, Katniss!" he yells, cutting her off. Frustration has colored his neck and cheeks a blotchy pink. As she stares at him, waiting, he scrubs a hand through his curls. "I just didn't want a pity fuck, okay?"

Her expression goes blank before morphing into one of abject confusion. "What?"

"If you were just going to sleep with me because you felt bad for yelling at me or for being a bitch before, I didn't want—"

"That's insane!" she interjects, her anger reflaring. "You don't know anything about me, Peeta. I don't fuck people out of pity. I fuck people because I want to fuck them."

He's quiet for a moment, his throat bobbing as he swallows a couple times. He finally shakes his head, looking away again. "Look. I'm sorry about last night. I just...I don't think this is going to work."

Her face contorts disbelievingly. "Work? What are you talking about? What is this? Nothing's even happened yet. How can you say it's not going to work?"

"I just know," he mutters.

"What is going on? Why are you so closed off and secretive?" she asks, gesturing to him. "You don't make friends with your coworkers. You stare at me all the time and then reject me. Why?"

"It's not a big deal, just let it go," he says, his voice strained, and he turns back around to unlock the driver's side door.

"I think I deserve an explanation," she hounds him, following him to his car.

"Katniss—"

"Otherwise, you're just an asshole. Are you an asshole? Is that it?"

Swinging the driver's side door open, he whirls back around. "I don't have a leg, okay?!" he yells, his face red.

She jerks back, her mouth clamping shut momentarily as she digests his words. "Huh?" she wonders out loud. He angrily lifts up his left pants leg.

Revealing a steel-gray prosthetic that extends from his shoe and disappears beneath the cuff of his pants.

She's never noticed before, the way his pants pucker around his left leg just barely, hanging limply in the extra space where his calf and shin should be. At least, she's never put two and two together until now. She blinks at his prosthetic a few times, swallowing thickly, before she turns her eyes to his face. "So?"

With a huff, he drops his pants leg. "Don't you play dumb, Katniss," he says in agitation, throwing his messenger bag into his car.

She curls her lip. "What does your leg have to do with anything? With you and me—"

"Girls don't want to have sex with an amputee," he answers, his voice tight. "I've dealt with this since I was a teenager, okay? The looks of disgust, of pity, anytime they see it, god forbid if they have to touch it."

"Fuck you, you don't know me, so don't put your hang ups about women on me," she snaps, arms akimbo as she glares at him.

He exhales raggedly, running both his hands through his curls and tugging. "I'm doing you a favor, okay? If I'd gone home with you, you would've seen my leg and changed your mind. I'm tired of seeing the same look on every girl's face before she suddenly remembers she has somewhere to be or has to be up early. I'm giving you an out now so you don't have to be the bad guy."

She glares at him before she shakes her head violently. "You know, the only unattractive thing about you, Peeta, is this whole martyr act." He sighs, and the sound is tinged with frustration, but she doesn't give him the chance to respond.

She kisses him.

She consumes him, really. All lips and tongue and teeth. She must catch him off-guard because he stumbles slightly, slumping against his car, and she falls with him, forcing him to sit down in the driver's seat. Kneeling between his parted legs, she breaks the kiss and reaches for his pants.

"What are you—what are you doing?" he gapes at her as she unfastens his pants and works the zipper down.

"Showing you you're wrong," she grits out, slipping a hand into the slit of his boxer-briefs to pull his cock out. He gasps, his shaft thickening as blood rushes to his groin with the quick pumps of her hand.

"I told you I don't want pity—"

She pauses only briefly to glare up at him. "It's not pity."

His eyes are wide and disbelieving, his mouth parted but silent, and he just watches her as she takes him into her mouth as deep as she can before she gags slightly and has to pull back. "God—Katniss," he chokes out. "Someone—someone could—what if someone sees?"

The parking deck is empty save for them, but she doesn't care either way. She'll work fast.

She lets the saliva pool in her mouth before she begins sucking earnestly, bobbing her head up and down. His only response is a guttural groan that he must try to stifle with his hand because the sound stops suddenly, his hard, pained breathing drowned out by the noises of her mouth moving on his dick. She wraps her hand around his base to pump him, pulling back on his cock with her mouth so she can look up at him through her eyelashes. He's watching her, his face red, his nostrils flared, his black pupils swallowing his irises. She moans and slides him farther into her mouth, her own arousal leaking out of her as her clit throbs.

She swirls her tongue around his head, before teasingly catching her bottom incisors on the underside. She hears him inhale sharply and pant out a curse, but she doesn't realize he's coming until the first spurt of semen hits her uvula without warning. She coughs around him but tightens her grip, pushing her tongue up to stop the passage of his cum before she can swallow it just yet.

There is a lot of cum. She dutifully swallows it with each pulse of his cock, her fist pressed to her lips to catch any errant semen she can't. Once his cock begins to soften in her mouth, spent, she finally releases him, running her tongue around her lips and wiping the back of her hand across her mouth. She leans back on her shins to look at him, slightly annoyed he didn't give her a warning before he came, but he's staring at her wide-eyed, flustered and reeling, like he's not sure what just happened.

There's amazement layered in there too. Awe.

She softens and tucks him back into his pants. "Next time, let me know when you're about to come."

He breathes hard, his eyebrows lifting weakly. "Next—next time?"

She climbs to her feet, still leaning over him halfway into his car. "Next time we do this."

Licking his lips, he swallows thickly but eventually nods. "When...?"

She straightens up. "I'll let you know," she says simply, before snatching her bag off the ground and crossing the parking deck to her own car.


She feels it again. Peeta's eyes on her.

This time, when she looks up from her computer, his eyes don't dart away. They make eye contact briefly. The corner of her mouth curls up, just barely. His ears turn red before he finally looks away, staring unnecessarily hard at his screen.

Later, she tracks him down to the break room, waits till they're alone before she stands next to him, preparing her cup of coffee while he makes his tea. He watches her from the corner of his eye, not speaking.

After a moment, she addresses him, tossing her stirring stick into the trash. "You need my number, right?"

He turns his head toward her, his forehead wrinkling as he raises his eyebrows. "What?"

"My number. If you want to meet up again," she clarifies.

He clears his throat, absently dipping his tea bag into his mug of hot water. "Um, yeah, I guess so. I mean, if you want me to have it."

She bumps his elbow and waits for him to pull his phone out, reciting her number for him. Once he has it programmed into his phone, she picks up her coffee and takes a sip. "Text me tonight," she tells him then exits the break room with no more said.


Hey Katniss, it's Peeta.

She gets the text later that night when she's curled up on her couch, eating a bowl of pasta as she watches TV. She adds him to her contacts before she replies: Hi.

He doesn't respond right away, and she finishes her dinner by the time he finally does.

Peeta: Did you want to hang out?

Katniss: And do what?

Eyebrow quirked, she watches the ellipsis appear and disappear a few times before she finally receives his reply.

Peeta: We could talk or something somewhere.

Katniss: Like a date?

Peeta: Yeah?

Katniss:  I already had dinner.

Peeta: Oh okay

She presses her lips together to stymie her amused smile and types out, I have alcohol here though. We can have a drink.

Peeta: At your place?

Katniss: Yeah. Come over.

Peeta: Right now?

Katniss: Yep
1213 Mockingjay Ln
Apt B

There's another delay before he responds. She imagines he's staring at his screen, sweating nervously about what to say.

Peeta:  Okay. I'll come over.

She gets up to put away her dishes and straighten up her apartment. To his credit, he doesn't take too long getting over; she hears a knock on her door 15 minutes later, and when she opens it, he's standing there, his hands shoved in his pockets. He looks different in jeans and a gray v-neck shirt instead of his usual slacks and button-down, but it's a good different. It's nice to see him more casual, relaxed. Arousing even, she thinks fleetingly as she eyes the wide expanse of his chest and shoulders. He seems surprised by her wardrobe too, her small lounge shorts, a loose tank top and an oversized cardigan. It's more skin than she shows at work, and he just stares at her legs for a moment before he clears his throat.

"Uh, hey."

Cinching the cardigan around her waist, she nods and waves him in. "Hey."

"Nice place," he offers, looking around. She smiles at his back. It's really not, but she shrugs the compliment off and heads for the kitchen.

"What would you like to drink?"

He turns back to look at her. "Uh, whatever you're having is fine with me."

She saunters into her kitchen to make them both a high baller of gin and tonic each, squeezing some fresh limes into them. When she returns, he's still standing awkwardly in her living room. "You can sit," she tells him as she hands him his drink.

They both settle on her couch, and she hides her smile behind her glass when he sips his and winces. He doesn't complain though. "Not a gin fan?" she asks, licking the tangy libation from her lips.

He looks down at his glass, cupping it in both his hands. "I guess not. It's not bad though. Thanks for the drink."

She nods. "I'll remember that for next time." She pauses a moment before adding, "It's okay to tell me what you want or don't want."

He looks up at her, studying her, then eventually nods. He glances away again, and she observes his profile. They sit in silence for a brief interlude, the only sound the clinking of ice in their glasses as they drink, and finally she asks, "Do you want to have sex with me?"

She can actually feel him tense beside her, and she leans back against the couch cushions, allowing him time to think. "Uh...right now?" he coughs out, his eyes darting to hers.

"Tonight," she says with a shrug, staring across the room. "I just thought I'd get to the point. I said it's okay to tell me what you want, or don't."

He's silent for a beat, his face red. "I mean...I do. I just..."

"You're nervous," she fills in for him, seeing the way his right knee bounces anxiously, rattling the ice in his glass. He finally nods. She can see how uncomfortable it is for him to admit that.

She's not used to having this kind of effect on a guy. She's not used to having to be the aggressor, really.

Reaching for the control, she turns on the TV and settles back against the couch. "Okay, whenever you're ready. We can watch a movie or something."

He nods again in acceptance, and probably relief, and swigs his drink while Katniss surfs through the channels, settling on some terribly campy B-movie on the SyFy channel. They don't talk, and after a while he leans back in his seat, finally getting comfortable. She watches him periodically from the corner of her eye, and when he downs the dregs of his gin and tonic, the ice cubes clinking against his teeth, she stands up. "Would you like another? Or I have beer," she offers, and he mulls it over briefly before shaking his head.

"No, I'm okay."

Katniss makes herself another drink and brings him back a water, for which he smiles gratefully as he takes it from her. "So, did you grow up around here?" she tries her hand at stoking conversation.

He looks at her and shakes his head. "No. I grew up in Washington. Near Seattle. I, uh, went to Panem State here and stayed, found work."

She lifts her eyebrows over the rim of her cup as she takes a sip. "I would think there'd be more job opportunities in Seattle," she points out after she swallows.

He shrugs, turning his eyes back to the TV. "Less competition here, I guess. And...I was just tired of Seattle."

"I can understand that." She's lived here all her life. "I went to Panem State too. When did you graduate?"

"A couple years ago."

She frowns as she cocks her head to the side. "Really? Me too. We had to have been in the same program then."

After taking a sip of his water, he brings the cup down to his lap and glances at her. "Uh, yeah, I think I remember seeing you in one of my classes."

She frowns again, further confused. "Weird. How did I never meet you in school?"

He shrugs again, his face contorting with a mild grimace. "I didn't really stand out. I kept to myself, I guess," he says quietly, like he's embarrassed. "With the leg and everything." Her lips drift shut at his confession, and she studies him silently. That's probably why she never met him before—she kept largely to herself, too.

It's amazing she ever did anything to attract his attention—back then, and now.

Suddenly, she's struck by a realization. "Is that why you stared at me at work, because you recognized me?" she asks, her eyes widening.

He glances at her again. "Yeah, kinda."

She groans quietly to herself, pinching the bridge of her nose. She's an idiot. How full of herself is she? She was so sure he was attracted to her, she even sucked his dick in a damn public parking lot banking on that assumption.

"Well, I feel stupid now," she grumbles with a sigh, looking away, and he shifts uncomfortably.

"You're very pretty, Katniss," he says, his voice quiet. He won't look at her now. "I guess that's why I remember you from school. Why I noticed you then."

She turns back to him, watches him nervously run his thumb nail along the lip of his cup. Setting her drink down, she leans across the couch and presses her hand against his opposite cheek so he's facing her. His breathing shallows instantly, hot against her mouth, his pupils expanding, and she draws his lips into a kiss, capturing them between her own. She licks the seam of his lips before slanting her mouth over his, dipping her tongue in to taste his. He's hot, wet, tart from the gin and lime, and she sucks eagerly on his tongue, moaning softly.

Tentatively, he responds, more aggressive in stroking his tongue against hers than before. When she drags his bottom lip between her teeth, he reciprocates by doing the same to her top.

She leans into him, pushing him down against the arm of the couch. His torso is twisted at an awkward angle, his hands still clutching the drink between their bodies, and when she shifts on top of him, she bumps into his arm and trickles some water on his shirt and the couch. He gasps from the shock, breaking the kiss. "Shit, sorry—" he begins, but she just moans against his mouth.

"It's okay," she breathes, dipping her tongue in to taste him more as she blindly directs the cup out of his hand and onto the side table behind his head. She straddles his waist and sits up, hurriedly shrugging her cardigan off and tossing it somewhere behind her. Peeta gapes at her, and she pushes his shirt up past the damp patch and ducks her head down to lick up the moisture that seeped through to his skin, warming the area with her tongue. A groan sticks in his throat; he's rock-hard beneath her, and she bucks her hips against his groin, causing them both to moan at the friction. Straightening her back, she rotates her hips a few times to grind down on his erection. Delicious fissures of pleasure ricochet up her spine, and she sighs blissfully as she watches his face contort, his eyes clenched shut. His face is flushed red, blotches forming on his neck, and he sounds like he's struggling to hold it together, fighting not to embarrass himself with too-loud groans.

She drags her teeth across her bottom lip, her hands fisting in his shirt against his chest. "Ready to move to the bedroom?" she asks, the request a gasping moan as her orgasm builds steadily. She forces herself to stop, though, and his eyes snap open, bulging. Something tells her he wasn't far behind her there. "There's more room on my bed."

He stares at her for a beat, warring internally, before nodding curtly. "Okay," he says hoarsely, and she pulls them both up to their feet. He's shaky, his cheeks blooming with blood when it takes him a moment to find his footing on his prosthetic. She pretends not to notice, leading the way to her bedroom. She flips on the light, momentarily regretting the disarray of her room—unmade bed and rumpled sheets, dirty clothes and shoes strewn across the floor—but she just kicks things out of the way to make a path to the bed. Peeta's behind her, but when she doesn't hear his tread follow her inside, she turns to find him frozen at the threshold.

He's either still freaked out about the prospect of sex with her or disgusted by her filthy living habits. "Sorry for the mess," she says flatly, perching on the edge of her mattress. He just shakes his head and steps into her room, his movements halting.

"It's fine," he mutters, his eyes never quite landing on one spot, and definitely not on her.

"Do you want to keep going...?" she prods, searching his face. He eventually nods and rubs the back of his neck. Grasping the hem of her tank, she pulls it over her head and drops it at her feet, then she lifts her hips to shimmy out of her shorts, leaving her in just her underwear. She stops to look at him again. This time his eyes are riveted to her half-naked body. It isn't anything special; she's thin, but that barely leaves any room for curves, aside from the slight swell of her hips and butt, and her small breasts just barely fill the cups of her bra.

But Peeta's expression is like he's looking upon Venus herself.

"You've seen a naked woman in person before, right?" she blurts out, and she immediately knows it's absolutely the wrong thing to say because he shuts down. His expression sours, despite the angry blush that colors his cheeks and neck.

"I should go," he mutters, turning away, and she jumps up from her bed.

"Peeta!" she yells, exasperated, and she grabs his arm to stop him. "Come on, I didn't mean it like that, I just—you just seem so pure." Again, she realizes it's the wrong thing to say, and she backtracks, "I mean, you can't honestly be that amazed to see me naked. You've had sex before, right?" He's silent, not meeting her gaze, and she studies him as realization sets in. "Haven't you?"

He shrugs his arm out of her grasp, an embarrassed sneer tightening his jaw. "Let's just forget about it, okay? I'm letting you out of this pity fuck or whatever—"

Suddenly, she's annoyed, and she emits a strangled, frustrated growl, crossing her arms over her chest. "Stop. I'm not rehashing this martyr complex you have. I'm not pitying you, so just be honest. Have you had sex before?"

His throat constricts with a hard swallow, and his arms lift at his sides slightly before dropping helplessly. "I told you. Women don't want to have sex with a cripple."

Her lip curls as she stares at him, waiting until he grows anxious from her silence and finally meets her gaze, then she shakes her head. "Honestly, I think it's all in your head," she says bluntly.

He exhales a throaty growl, his own frustration peaking, and he hurriedly unfastens his pants and drops them before he gestures to his fully visible prosthetic that ends at his knee, where the suction attaches. "There. Okay? Take a look at my grotesque leg," he snaps, and she's almost rendered speechless by the level of vitriol in his voice.

Not for her, but for himself.

She just shakes her head. "So? I'm not fucking your leg, Peeta. All I care about is your dick right now, and, trust me, you've got nothing to worry about there," she grinds out, stepping closer to him so she's right in front of him. She tips her chin up defiantly, their noses almost touching as he stares down at her warily. "You've got me standing here in my underwear, practically begging you for sex, and you still think women don't want to fuck you?" she challenges.

His expression wavers, doubt flickering in those wonderfully blue eyes, and she lets her breath fan hot across his face. "Do it," she whispers urgently, and he only hesitates briefly as he lets his lips ghost against hers. Then he crushes his mouth against hers as she presses her body to his, kissing her as desperately as she first kissed him in the bar. By now he's more acquainted with her mouth, more confident, more adept at figuring out how to make her tremble and sigh around his tongue.

She tugs at his shirt until she's got it over his head, and they both push his boxer-briefs down, using their feet to kick them and his pants all the way off. But he has to interrupt the kiss to carefully remove his shoes, particularly from his prosthetic, and he does so with an embarrassed clenching of his jaw. He leaves the sock on his prosthetic though, and she decides not to question it, instead taking the opportunity to discard her bra and slip off her panties. She then pulls him to the bed with her once he's naked as well.

She should take a moment to take him in, admire what she knows is an amazing body, as the way his button-down shirts that frame his broad shoulders and solid torso already hint at, but she can't get herself to slow down, driven by an unquenchable fire that he ignited in her the moment she first caught him staring at her.

There will be time for admiration later.

He collapses on top of her when his prosthetic hits the bed, and he struggles to push his weight off her. "Sorry," he says sheepishly, but she just pulls him back down on top of her, undulating her hips so his erection slides through her slick heat. He gasps, and she mewls, wrapping a leg around his thighs to trap his cock against her, pressing against it for the exquisite pressure on her clit.

"No, this is good," she assures him, unable to resist rocking against him a few more times before she forces herself to stop and twist underneath him to find a condom in her nightstand.

She only has one. They'll have to make it count.

She rolls out from underneath him and pushes him onto his back to straddle his waist. He looks absolutely astonished as he watches her open the condom, and his stomach tenses reflexively when she unrolls the prophylactic down his cock. He's thick and hard in her hand, and she strokes him once before stilling her hand, careful not to stimulate him too much. Positioning him between her thighs, she rubs the head between her folds to lubricate his cock with her arousal, and then she sinks down on him with painful deliberation.

He stretches her fully, almost to the point of discomfort, but she watches his face, mesmerized. It's like watching the sun set in fast forward, every emotion of pleasure and disbelief contorting his features.

She's never been with a virgin before. It's like she forgets what to do, how to move, and it takes her a minute to orient herself before she begins rocking on top of him. She inhales deeply when she's rewarded with his low groan, and she braces her hands against his firm chest as she undulates her hips in slow, measured revolutions.

"You can touch me," she encourages him, and he hesitantly unballs his fists from the sheets and rests them on her thighs. With an amused smile, she bites down on her bottom lip. "I mean my breasts."

Sliding his hands up her stomach, he cups her breasts in his palms. When she hums her approval, he squeezes gently, experimentally. Her hips move a little faster, and, emboldened, he strokes his thumbs over her pebbled nipples, rolling and pinching them, earning pleased gasps and moans. Katniss leans down to kiss him, nipping at his lips, then she sits back and lifts her hips, dropping them down again, and again, so his cock slides into her and back out, up to the head before her walls engulf him entirely once again. Peeta hisses, his hands dropping to grip her thighs, and he presses his head back into the mattress as he thrusts up into her.

"Oh fuck," he groans, his eyes flickering open and closed, like he can't decide if he wants to watch her or just lose himself to the sensation.

"Yeah?" she pants as she rides him. "Is that good?"

"Yeah—yes, fuck," he grunts, bruising her hips with large fingerprints.

She slows down, resuming her back and forth rocking motions when she senses he's close. "Not yet," she commands, grinding down on him to rub her clit against his pelvic bone. Prying one of his hands off her, she guides it between her thighs and has him press his fingertips against her clit. A white hot spark ignites, and she moans. "Fuck. Just...just hold it right there," she begs, and he complies, as if he has any other plans, letting her thrust against his hand jerkily until she comes a few seconds later. Tipping her head back, she moans as her body spasms and tenses, and her walls flutter around his cock. His amazed gasp is lost in the haze of her orgasm, but when she looks down at him again, she resumes moving, up, down. The slickness from her release eases her thrusts, and she moves faster, arching her back before she leans down to kiss him.

"Tell me when you're gonna come," she breathes against his mouth, biting at his lip, and he pants into her kiss, his hands sliding under her ass to assist her movements.

"I—I'm gonna come," he grunts out, and she clenches her walls around his cock. He thrusts up into her a few times with a quiet groan, and then he goes still. She stops moving to watch the effects of his orgasm wash across his face, feeling his cock pulse inside her as he fills the condom. She flexes her splayed fingers on his chest, absently clawing at the light dusting of blond hairs there, and she rocks her hips on top of him ever so slightly, like she's milking the last of his orgasm out of him.

His heart jumps erratically beneath his sternum, beating out a gradually slowing rhythm, and as it abates, she slides her hands up to his shoulders and leans forward. "Done?" she drawls, and he flutters his eyes open. Once they focus on her, he nods.

"Yeah," he croaks out, and she runs a hand through his sweat-dampened hair, pushing the short curls off his forehead.

"How did it feel?"

Peeta sighs, shutting his eyes again. "Really...really good," he exhales. Satisfied, she nods and then angles her hips to let him slip out of her, stretching out beside him on the bed. Reclining on her back, she stares at the ceiling and strokes her abdomen with her fingertips, then lets her eyes drift shut.

She's not sure how she feels about being his first, but she's too tired to dwell on it.

"Uh, what should I do with this?"

His voice forces her to open her eyes, and she glances over to him to see he means the condom he's already removed.

"There's a trashcan in the bathroom," she yawns, and he gets up to do so. Katniss crawls to the head of her bed so she can climb under the covers. She lays her head down on a pillow and makes to get ready for sleep, but she hears Peeta return a moment later and start shuffling around her room. Cracking her eye open, she frowns at him when she sees him picking up his clothes. "What are you doing?"

He freezes and looks at her. "I, uh...I can't...I don't sleep with my prosthetic on," he answers her in hushed tones, a faint blush brightening his cheeks.

Her frown deepens. "So take it off then and go to sleep," she tells him, burrowing deeper into her pillow. Sleep is close.

Peeta stares at her uncertainly, glancing down at his leg. "Are you sure?" he asks solemnly. She nods, humming her answer, then rolls over to get comfortable.

"Just go to bed," she mumbles, and he hesitates for a minute before dropping his clothes and climbing into bed. The bed dips as he lies down behind her. He doesn't spoon her or reach out to her, and she falls asleep almost immediately after that.


When Katniss wakes up the next morning, she's briefly stunned to find Peeta asleep next to her as she struggles through the fog of unconsciousness. But then she remembers and sits up, careful not to disturb him while she pulls the sheets up to cover her breasts, rubbing her eyes. She shouldn't have told him to stay. It's been a while since she's slept with someone and had to deal with the awkward morning after.

Which is made even more awkward that they're coworkers. And they have to go to the same office in a couple hours.

Stealthily, she slips out of bed and tiptoes into the bathroom to shower. She rinses the sex off her and tries not to think too much about the impending conversation and discomfort awaiting her when she gets out. But when she exits the bathroom 20 minutes later, Peeta is already gone.

Inexplicably, she's almost offended by his leaving without saying anything. But she knows he spared them both the awkwardness, so she brushes it off and heads into the kitchen to make some coffee.

She gets to work an hour later and finds Peeta already there at his desk. He looks up when she walks past, and they briefly lock eyes until she gives him a nod in greeting and ducks her head, sitting down at her computer and immediately immersing herself in her work.

She can feel his eyes on her many times throughout the morning, but she ignores him because she has no idea how to handle the shift in their relationship. Or non-relationship. It was just sex, she tells herself acidly. They are still just colleagues, and that is the extent of their relationship.

At lunch she sits at her usual spot in the breakroom and eats her sandwich. Finnick pops in to grab a bag of chips from the vending machine, and he sits down at the table across from her. "Did you watch 'American Horror Story' last night?" he asks as he tears into the bag.

She makes a face and shakes her head. "I forgot," which is mostly true. She and Finnick bond over their mutual love of terrible TV shows and often spend a good portion of the work day ranting about whatever show was on the night before.

He assumes a wounded look. "What? How the hell could you forget, Everdeen? This is our ritual!" he chastises, crunching noisily into a chip, and she shrugs.

"Sorry. I was tired and passed out early," she lies. Again, kind of true. She just omits to mention the reason why she was so tired.

He tuts disapprovingly at her, shoving another chip in his mouth. "Well, tell me you at least DVR'ed it so you can watch it tonight. I need to talk to somebody about that episode. You know how much Annie hates gore," he says of his wife.

Katniss rolls her eyes. "Yes, I'll watch it tonight. You need more friends, Odair," she quips, sipping her soda, and he just waves the suggestion off.

"Between work and a newborn, you know all I have the energy for is parking my ass on the couch for some mindless media consumption."

She smiles at that, shaking her head, but she stiffens when Peeta enters the break room then, tea mug in hand. He glances at her, something flashing in his eyes. "Hey, Katniss," he greets, and he nods at Finnick. She presses her lips together, but her heart sinks when Finnick turns his eyes to her, his eyebrows lifted curiously.

"Hi," she forces out in a mumble and resumes an air of indifference as she eats her lunch. Finnick gives her another knowing look before he engages Peeta in a short, superficial conversation, but once Peeta ducks out, after another glance at her, Finnick turns his gaze on her.

"Well. Well, well, well."

"What?" she snaps, her frustration at Peeta zeroing in on Finnick in his absence, but Finnick just grins.

"I didn't know you two were friends."

"We're not," she answers defensively, but then she shrugs, searching for a believable lie. "We're colleagues. I just...had to help him with a javascript issue on one of his pages, so I guess we're...friendly now."

"Hmmm," Finnick hums doubtfully but nods anyway as he squints at her. She ignores him, like she doesn't understand his point. "Javascript issues, is that what kids are calling it these days?" She scowls at him, and he laughs, standing up from the table. "Fine, fine. But I'm sure there are other...issues...you could help him out with. As his colleague." With a wink, he's gone, and Katniss scowls, pinching the bridge of her nose.

It's her fault, she supposes, for not talking to Peeta about discretion before he left this morning.

She decides to talk to him after work, before any more rumors and suspicion can spread around the office. When she falls in step with him as he leaves for the day, after everyone else has already left, he looks at her in surprise.

"Hi," she says, and he regards her warily, holding the door for her to the parking deck.

"Uh, hey."

She adjusts her bag on her shoulder and shoves her hands into her coat pockets. "Did you want to come over later? To my place?"

He stops in the middle of the deck, and she turns around to face him. His expression is skeptical. "You want me to come over?" he repeats, and she nods, not understanding his confusion. "Why?"

She stares at him dubiously. "Did you not enjoy yourself last night?" she asks him brazenly, and he drops his gaze to the ground.

"Yeah...I did. But you've given me the cold shoulder all day, like nothing happened, so..." he finishes with a shrug, which contradicts the bitterness in his tone.

Her mouth stretches to one side in a frown. "Well, I don't exactly want our coworkers gossiping about us. Do you know how much Finnick and Johanna get off on sordid details of workplace liaisons?" She shakes her head to herself, and he lifts his head.

"Why does that matter?"

She sighs, a frustrated growl roughening the sound. "I don't like people talking about me. And my personal life. There are some things I like to keep to myself. Can't you understand that?"

"I guess..." he mutters, and she chews on the inside of her lip.

"It's nothing personal," she adds. "I just...think we should be discrete. Right now."

Peeta mulls over her words and eventually concedes with a nod. "Okay. I get it."

Satisfied, she inhales deeply then releases it quickly. "So, tonight?"


Peeta comes over to her apartment around the same time as the night before. This time, Katniss foregoes the gin and tonic and gives him a Sam Adams, what she remembers him drinking at the bar, and grabs one for herself as well. He seems less nervous tonight, but he's still a little reticent, so they sit down on her couch.

"Do you watch 'American Horror Story'?" she asks him, and he shakes his head. "Do you care if we watch it right now? Finnick is going to kill me if I don't catch up so he has someone to talk about it."

"No, that's fine," he replies with a slight smile and sips his beer. She starts up the saved episode on her DVR and settles in beside him. He doesn't ask questions as they watch, which is good, but she explains a few plot points and some of the characters to him anyway. He just nods and drinks his beer, watching the TV raptly.

Eventually, Katniss stretches out on the couch, propping herself up against the arm and resting her feet in his lap. She doesn't ask him if she can, and he doesn't object, only giving her a quick glance. After a moment, he rests his hand on her bare foot.

"Would you like a massage?" he offers, and there's a mild blush on his cheeks, like he's embarrassed to ask.

She raises her eyebrows. "Do you know how?" He just shrugs modestly, and she shrugs, too. "Okay, if you want."

So he does, slowly, methodically rubbing her feet. His thumbs rub firm circles on the balls of her feet, then the arches, and then the heels, and she sighs in pleasure, relaxing further into the couch. His eyes shift between watching the TV and watching his work, and she ends up focusing on him instead of the show, studying his profile, the slope of his forehead and nose, the strong line of his jaw and chin. After a while, she speaks up.

"What happened to your leg?" she asks curiously. His hands still for a moment, and he looks at her. "If that's okay to ask."

His hands resume rubbing her foot. "Yeah...it's okay. Um. I was in a car accident when I was 13. My leg was crushed in the wreck." He pauses for a moment before adding soberly, "My mom was driving. She had been drinking. She was fine though."

Her mouth parts soundlessly as she processes his story. "Oh," she says quietly, her mouth curling into a frown, and her brow furrows. "That's awful. I'm sorry." She's not sure if she should inquire more about his mother or not, but she decides not to, for now.

He just lifts his shoulder dismissively. "I lived, at least."

They watch the rest of the show in relative silence, finishing their drinks. It's not uncomfortable, though Katniss finds her mind wandering to Peeta's mother and that car wreck. During the credits, Peeta sets her feet down in his lap, squeezing them and looking over at her. "Was that okay?"

Shaking from her thoughts, she nods and gives him a small smile. "Yeah. Thank you." Another silence follows as she observes him tip his bottle up to suck down the last dregs of beer. Wordlessly, she flexes her left foot, slipping her toes between his legs to rub his groin. His back stiffens, his eyes darting to her questioningly, but as she continues to rub his hardening cock through his pants, he sighs and closes his eyes. When he feels sufficiently hard under her toes, she beckons to him. "Come here."

After he sets his beer down, he complies, lifting her feet off him so he can shift on the couch, and lies halfway on top of her, tucked against the back of the couch. She pulls him down to kiss him, and he's eager to do so; she angles her body toward his so he's cradled between her thighs, and she can feel his insistent erection pressing into her core. His tongue is hot, persistent, and she yields to his lead, letting him explore and taste every crevice before she grows impatient, dragging his bottom lip between her teeth.

"Bedroom," she tells him, palming him through his pants and sighing when her own knuckles graze her clit. He nods, and it's an effort to get off the couch and to her room, but they manage. There, she pushes him down on her bed and directs him to undress while she grabs a condom.

As soon as she yanks her nightstand open, however, she remembers they used the last one the night before. She forgot to replenish her supply. "Oh fuck," she swears in disappointment.

"What?" he pants, his shirt already off and his hands unbuttoning his jeans.

"Do you have a condom on you?" she asks, and he freezes.

"Uh, no, I didn't—I didn't think about it," he says doubtfully, and she practically collapses backward on her bed, covering her face.

"Dammit," she sighs, but after a moment she rolls over to face him. "Oral?"

His eyes go wide. "Oh—okay. But, uh—you mean, both? I don't—ah..."

Shaking her head, she lifts herself up on her hands and knees. "Just wait," she tells him, and she reaches for his pants to persuade him to finish taking them off. He does, and she piles her hair up on her head in a hurried, messy bun, tying it off with an elastic from her wrist.

Once naked, Peeta lies back on her pillows, his cock hard and resting against his abdomen. His eyes dart nervously between her and his prosthetic, as if she's even paying it any attention. Crawling over his legs, she wastes no time taking him into her mouth, already well acquainted with his length and girth by now. He groans as she sucks on him, bobbing her head enthusiastically until she's got his shaft well lubricated with her saliva. Then she slows down, leisurely bathing her tongue up and down the veins, along the ridge of his head, in the slit to lick up his precum. His fists grapple at the bedsheets, "oh gods" fumbling from his lips like he's reciting his own last rites.

When she's tired of teasing him, she sucks him into her mouth again, her cheeks suctioning around him mercilessly, and she pulls up to his head with her lips and tongue and just a little bit of her teeth, her fist working the rest of his shaft every time she retreats before descending back on his cock. And when she grabs his balls with her other hand to paw, he loses it.

"Fuck, Katniss, I'm coming," he gasps. She appreciates the warning this time, but she swallows his cum anyway, more familiar with the taste now, actually craving it in some weird way. He strains against her face, surprising her when he palms the back of her head to thrust into her mouth a little as he fills her mouth and then her throat. Once he's done, she uncurls her tongue from around his cock and lets him slide out.

She watches him revel in his orgasm, an arm slung over his face, and she uses the moment to undress herself. Then she crawls up his body, prying his arm away so she can kiss him. He's hesitant at first, reluctant to taste his semen on her tongue, but he gives in, pulling her flush against him. He's already showing more initiative in just a day, more assertiveness. She's not sure she can be any wetter right now.

Actually, she knows she can.

She tips her chin away to break the kiss, looking down at him. "Do you want to return the favor?" she asks, and he stares at her, still breathing hard. There's apprehension in his eyes.

"I've never...are you sure?" He swallows, embarrassed. "I don't really know—it probably wouldn't be good..."

She sits up. "It'll feel good, even if I can't get off," she assures him. "I'll help you." She slides the pillow out from under his head and then positions herself over his face, her thighs spread around his head and her feet propped up behind her on his chest. It's an awkward position, not one she's been in before, but she's surprisingly not ashamed or uncomfortable, not like she knows she would have been before with men in the past. She's never been the aggressor in any relationship, always just laid there and let the guy lead and do what he wanted. It's oddly easy to push herself with Peeta.

He's staring up at her, just his blue eyes visible, and she reaches down to comb a hand through his curls. "Just use your tongue. Lick me. I'll do the rest," she directs, and he takes a deep breath, jolting her when the tip of his nose brushes her clit. Then his eyes flutter closed, and he touches his tongue to her folds.

It's electric, her body jerking again. He does it again, less tentative this time, and he experimentally trails his tongue up and down her lips a few times before flicking it over her clit. She moans, her head falling back. "Shit, yes, that's good," she encourages him, already panting from the pleasure coursing through her, and he redoubles his efforts.

Katniss begins rocking her hips, just small revolutions against his face to match the rhythm of his tongue and to aid his efforts. She tries not to grind down on him, but it's difficult, each pass of his tongue over her clit causing the throbbing in the bud to intensify, begging for more pressure. He even dips his tongue inside her, probably by accident the first time, but when she keens eagerly, he does it again until soon he's lifting his head off the bed and pressing his mouth to her pussy, sucking and licking urgently. His hands have locked around her thighs, and she's riding his face thoughtlessly now, her palms flat against the wall in front of her as she moans, shrieks, probably.

"Oh fuck don't stop, I'm coming," she wails, and he doesn't, his tongue aggressively swirling around her clit even as she climaxes, almost lurching off the bed if it weren't for his grip on her. Her orgasm sparks through every synapse of her body, and she slumps forward against the wall, her hiccups of pleasure dying in her throat as her vaginal walls flutter then cease after everything is done. He's still licking her, and she has to stop him, everything too raw and sensitive. He looks confused as she climbs off him; she tries to assure him it was good, but she can barely talk at the moment, trying to collect her breath as she curls up beside him.

"You really haven't done that before?" she asks breathlessly, not sure if she's being serious or not, and he sits up a little, wiping his mouth off.

"No," he says gruffly. "Was that good?"

Rolling onto her side, she pushes him back down to the bed. "Really good," she admits, smiling even, but she notices his renewed erection, and she takes him in hand, gingerly stroking him. "You want to go again?"

He raises his eyebrows. "Like...again, you giving me—?"

She thinks about it, her fingertips dancing around the smooth head of his cock. "You've really never had sex with anyone else?" she asks softly, not because she doubts him but because she needs to be sure. He frowns at her, shaking his head.

"I told you—"

She kisses him, because she can tell he's getting indignant, frustrated even. With her tongue in his mouth, she rolls him over top of her so she's on her back and he's in between her legs. He falls on top of her, unprepared to put his full weight on his prosthetic, but he finds his balance after a second. Then she reaches down to grab his cock and slide it between her slick folds, causing him to choke on a groan.

"I thought there were no condoms," he grits out, like he's trying not to push into her because he's bewildered, but she angles her hips, plants her heels on the bed and pushes her hips against his so his head slides into her, just barely.

"I'm on the pill and I'm clean, so I'm okay with this if you are," she tells him honestly, and he whimpers, letting himself sink the rest of the way into her, stretching her out as his cock fights the resistance of her walls. She moans at the sensation, and she bucks against him to encourage him to move; he does, thrusting shallowly until he finds a rhythm, trying not to succumb so quickly to the new feeling of her barrierless. When he begins to move faster, his breathing hard, she moans again and braces her hands above her head against the wall, meeting his thrusts with her own.

"Does that feel good?" she asks, squeezing his cock inside her, and he moans and presses his forehead against her cheek.

"Yes," he hisses out, pistoning inside her with harder thrusts now, and she gasps.

"It'll feel even better when you come inside me," she all but purrs in his ear, feeling possessed, and she doesn't mean to do it, but her words must be his undoing because he grunts in surprise, whipping his hips against hers a few more times before he stops, arching off her.

"Fuck, Katniss," he groans, and she clamps down around him, feeling him spurt inside her with each pulse of his cock. He rocks slightly, his head bent forward, and she reaches down to cup his ass, pulling him deeper into her as she sighs.

After, when she's cleaning up, she offers to let him use her shower too, but he shakes his head. His entire face turns red. "I can't get my prosthesis wet. I should probably just go home and shower."

She doesn't push it, lets him leave without objection. But before he walks out, she tells him, "I'll see you at work tomorrow."


Peeta heeds her plea for discretion at work. She doesn't ignore him, because it feels weird to act like she doesn't know him at this point. So she greets him in passing, and if Finnick ropes him into conversations when she's around, she doesn't clam up and tries to participate in the discussion. Peeta has started watching "American Horror Story" now, and he tells her, and Finnick, that he's caught up on all the back episodes of the current season. Finnick is so excited to have someone else to talk about the show with that he doesn't even wonder when she and Peeta already discussed the show.

Peeta comes to her apartment a lot, and she even goes to his, because she feels bad that he won't use her shower after sex. She doesn't spend the night, however, not quite comfortable with that arrangement, so they mostly spend their time together at her place.

He's slowly getting more aggressive, more assertive with her, like a man possessed, like he's trying to make up for all the sex he missed in the years before. She doesn't complain, quite enjoys it actually, pushing him to this point. The first time he flips her over in the bed and fucks her from behind, with no prompting from her, she nearly comes from him penetrating her alone. There are fumbles still, awkward moments and sparingly unimpressive climaxes, but overall it's the most she's ever enjoyed having sex with someone.

They're lying in her bed one night, their skin still cooling from sex, when Katniss realizes how hungry she is. She forgot to eat before he came over.

She turns her head to look at him. "Do you want pizza? I feel like ordering some."

"Sure," he agrees, and she rolls over to the edge of the bed to find her clothes. But she finds his t-shirt first so she snatches that off the floor and slips it on, then gets out of bed to call the pizza place.

Forty minutes later, they're sitting on her bed, the cardboard box opened between them as they devour slice after slice of veggie pizza. She's too bloated afterward to have sex again, so they just lie in her bed and talk.

"What's your favorite color?" he asks randomly, fluffing a pillow behind him to lean back against the wall. She rolls over and eyes him oddly.

"What?" she laughs, folding her arms under her pillow and propping her chin on it.

He shrugs, smiling shyly. "Just trying to get to know you better. Is that okay?"

"And favorite color is a pertinent piece of trivia to know about someone?" she asks dryly.

"Yeah, what if we're ever on a game show and that's the final question? I'd be screwed because you never told me."

She shoots him a look. "Sounds like the most boring game show ever," she says, rolling onto her back to focus on the TV. "It's green." She looks down and tugs on the hem of his hunter green shirt she's wearing. "Kinda like this color. What's yours?"

"Orange."

She laughs incredulously at that, shooting him a glance. "That's not quite what I was expecting."

"Why does everybody say that?" he mutters to himself with mock indignation.

"What's your favorite animal?" she inquires in the same vein.

"Uh, well, domestically speaking, dogs. But if you mean of the more exotic variety, sharks are pretty cool. Sharks get a pretty bad rap," he answers, and she smiles. "What about you?"

She hums thoughtfully. "I like tigers, I guess. But otherwise, I really fucking hate cats."

He laughs gruffly, and she feels his fingers thread through her hair to play with. She freezes for a moment, the gesture so tender and foreign to her that it catches her off guard. But gradually she relaxes into it, her gaze settling on his prosthetic foot. His sock is still on. He never takes it off during sex. After a moment of silence and the drone of TV conversation, she speaks up hesitantly, "Can you have sex with your prosthetic off?"

His fingers still in her hair before resuming. "Uh...I don't know. I've...never tried that."

"Do you think it would be more comfortable for you? Maybe you could move more easily?" she suggests delicately. She's never sure what's going to agitate him in regards to his leg.

"It wouldn't bother you, me taking it off during...during sex?" he asks uneasily, and she shrugs.

"No. Why would it? If you're more comfortable with it off or with it on, it's up to you."

He's quiet as he thinks it over. "Okay...maybe I can try taking it off when we…next time, maybe."

"Okay," she agrees nonchalantly, but she's already on another line of thought. "Do you hate your mom for what happened?"

She's not even touching him, but she can feel his entire body go rigid at her second question, and she angles her head to look up at him. "That was a loaded question, huh?" she asks, and he chuckles anxiously. "Sorry. I was curious...since we're talking about it."

"Uh, yeah. I get it." He clears his throat. "It's a complicated relationship, I guess. It was always pretty contentious when I was growing up, and it just got worse after the accident."

Katniss wrinkles her nose. "Really? She didn't even feel bad for being the reason you lost your leg?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. I think she did, but the guilt just made her hate me more or something. Like looking at me just reminded her every time of what she'd done. So she started drinking more, and that kind of...made me feel guilty, like I was responsible for the accident."

"Wow," she murmurs, staring past him as she contemplates. "That's a heavy burden to bear as a teenager." She wonders if that explains why he's had such a hard time relating to women.

"I guess. What about you?"

"What do you mean?" She looks up at him, and he tips his chin down to meet her gaze, a wry smile on his face.

"How's your relationship with your mom?"

She snorts. She doesn't normally like to share that part of her life with other people, but she supposes it's only fair. "It's a little tenuous, but not quite as Lifetime movie as yours." After he laughs darkly, she elaborates, "It's fine now, I guess. But my dad died when I was 12, and she kind of checked out for a few years. Depression and all that. That's a lot to deal with as a kid, so I was mad at her for a while."

"I'm sorry," he offers, and she shrugs it off, wanting to end the discussion.

"Everyone's got a fucked up childhood, right?" she yawns, the sensation of his fingers scraping her scalp completely unwinding her. She feels boneless, relaxed, and she inadvertently snuggles up to his side. "I think I'm gonna fall asleep soon, just a heads up."

"Okay," he says softly, still finger-combing her hair. Eventually, she falls asleep just like that.


Katniss awakes the next day late in the morning to an empty bed. It's Saturday. She assumes Peeta left earlier like he normally does, but when she pads out into the living room, she finds him seated at the dining table, bent over the newspaper.

"Oh," she croaks, her throat raw with sleep. "Thought you'd left."

He looks up at her, his face creasing sheepishly. "Uh, yeah, you have my shirt still. I felt bad waking you," he explains, and she glances down at the shirt that hangs loosely on her, halfway down her thighs.

"Oh yeah, I forgot," she laughs sleepily, rubbing her eyes.

"I made you coffee, if you want any," he offers, looking over his shoulder to the kitchen. She's finally aware of the aroma that fills her apartment, and she nods as she shuffles into the kitchen to pour a mug for herself, filling it with cream and sugar. She walks back over to him and peers over his shoulder at the newspaper.

"What're you doing?"

He glances up at her. "Crossword puzzle. Is that okay? I'm sorry if you normally do it—"

She shrugs and sits down in a chair beside him. "Not normally, no. It's fine." Sipping her coffee gingerly, she leans over to study the puzzle and the clues. They're both silent for a moment until she finally pipes up, "47 across is Saar."

"Hm?" he hums in question.

"German coal site. S-A-A-R."

Searching for the boxes, he jots it down and flashes her a grateful smile. "Thanks."

She continues to sip her coffee and watches him do the crossword in relative peace, offering answers occasionally when she knows them and he doesn't.

"I don't have any tea here," she apologizes after a while, as if she's just realized it. He shrugs.

"It's okay."

But when he comes over again, she has a box of assorted teas in her pantry for him.


The next time they have sex, Peeta takes his prosthetic off. He's hesitant, scared even, because he doesn't otherwise let her look at the stump, even when he takes the prosthesis off to sleep, and she can feel his eyes on the side of her head, waiting for a reaction. The skin is pink, raw from the suction of the knee joint and from rubbing against the socket, and there's an intricate pattern of white scars that decorate the flesh. When she looks at him, his eyes are questioning, but her face is passive, unconcerned.

"Do you wanna be on top, would that be best?" she asks, and he looks surprised, but she pulls him between her legs carefully, waiting for him to position himself, to find a comfortable balance on his full leg and his knee. His erection has softened some, and she reaches down to pump him, to get the blood coursing again. He groans lowly, and she grabs his ass to pull his hips closer, guiding his cock between her folds, and she slides him through her arousal to lubricate him, to arouse him further.

"Fuck," he grunts, planting his hands outside of her head on the bed, and as he thrusts through her folds, she rocks against him, keening every time he rubs her clit.

"Feel ready now?" she gasps, and he nods, pulling his hips back so she can position his cock at her core. Already, he's pushing into her when she purrs, "Fuck me, Peeta."

And he does so, moving a little slower than usual, likely adjusting to not having the aid of his prosthetic, but once he's acclimated to the loss, he moves easier. His thrusts and movements are more fluid. Katniss lifts her head to kiss him, their moans mingling as their tongues meet, and she nearly bites his lip off when he snakes a hand between their bodies to rub her clit.

"Oh god, yes," she hisses, dropping her head to the pillow. His thrusts slow as he focuses his attention on her clit, circling it faster with his slick fingers, but eventually he finds a rhythm again, moving in and out of her harder.

It doesn't take her long to come, her pussy spasming around his cock, but she keeps rising to meet him, opening her body to him every time his hips surge forward, until he comes too, his throaty groan reverberating in her ear.

He collapses on top of her, and she doesn't even mind the sweaty, sticky feel of his weight pushing her into the mattress. She lets him stay there, enjoying the lingering aftershocks of her orgasm, until his cock softens and she can feel his cum leaking out of her. She gets up to get a towel before there's too big of a wet spot on the mattress, and when she returns, he takes the towel to clean it up for her.

"Do you think it was better for you without your leg on?" she asks afterward, when they're going to sleep. He looks over at her and nods.

"Yeah, a little. My foot didn't get in the way this time, so that helped."

She just nods and snuggles under the covers, against his side. He's still shirtless, and she rests her head on his bare chest, instantly soothed by the strong, steady thump of his heart. He's always so warm and solid. They're silent for a while, and she turns on the TV out of habit, for something to watch until she falls asleep.

"Did you ever have Professor Abernathy?" Katniss asks him after a while, a stray thought popping into her head. "For Digital Media Ethics or Interactive Multimedia?"

"Both," he replies. "In the same semester."

She snorts in amusement because Professor Abernathy wasn't the easiest professor by any means. Or the nicest. "I'm sorry."

Peeta chuckles. "He wasn't that bad, once you got past his prickly demeanor. He actually threw a pocket knife at me once though, when I went to see him during his office hours. Just barely missed my head, stuck in the door."

"What?" she laughs, craning her neck to look at him, and he's got a crooked smile, but he makes a somber face.

"Pretty sure it was a flashback. PTSD. He fought in the Gulf War."

She sobers at that, her mouth twisting sympathetically. "I didn't know." She turns to the TV again in thought. "He was a good teacher though. A good mentor."

"Yeah, sometimes we email still," Peeta adds quietly.

The mood's somber now, though not uncomfortable, and they fall asleep.


Her body shudders with each pass of Peeta's tongue over her slit, around her clit, and she opens her thighs wider for him.

"Don't—don't stop," she keens, pulling at his hair, even though she knows he won't. Pleasure blooms and curls through her, and her abdomen quivers as she sucks in air, expels it as warbling moans. She's at that point where inhibitions are shrouded by a warm fog of lust and need and base instinct. She swivels her hips, grinding her pussy against his face obscenely, wanting more. Suck more, lick me faster, fuck me harder: her reckless movements and desperate sounds say more than her words could. And he doesn't complain, doesn't ease up; he just gives her what she wants, lapping at the slickness that runs down her thighs and over the swell of her cheeks, that coats her folds, before he shoves his fingers inside her to fill her so he can tongue her clit wholeheartedly.

He's gotten so good at this. His oral skills might even eclipse hers now. If she weren't completely out of her mind with pleasure at the moment, she might be annoyed.

Instead, she comes so hard and so loud, Peeta jerks away, startled, but then keeps licking her when she yanks his face back to her until she's done quaking from the euphoric tremors.

After, since they're at his apartment tonight, he gets up to take a shower, attaching his prosthetic back to his knee to traverse the few feet into the bathroom. It's probably unnecessary, but she's sure he does it just so she doesn't witness him hopping or limping on his one good leg. She wishes he would stop worrying about stuff like that.

Normally, at this point in the night, Katniss starts pulling her clothes back on to head home. But she feels sluggish and weighed down by a pleasant, gratifying buzzing in her limbs and skull, and she struggles to get out of bed. Still naked, she shuffles to the bathroom door and cracks it open to pop her head in. "Peeta?" she calls out over the running water.

"Yeah?" His voice sounds jumpy, guarded from the other side of the shower curtain. Probably because she's never bothered him in the shower before.

"I'm gonna use the bathroom," she informs him, but still she waits for his permission.

"Okay," he agrees hesitantly, and she plops down on the toilet to pee. His prosthetic is leaning against the wall. She wonders how he showers, if he just balances on his other leg, or if he sits down.

After she flushes the toilet, she draws the curtain back to peek in. Peeta's body jumps when he sees her, and he leans back out of the spray and hastily swiping at his face, which flushes red. "What are you doing?" he forces out, gripping the sides of the bench he sits on in the middle of the tub. Her eyes flit over him curiously, and she notes the tenseness in his body, how he tries to angle his amputated leg away from her. He's embarrassed for her to see him this way, though she's already seen him without his prosthetic on. Maybe because in here, on this bench, he's more vulnerable, more clearly disabled.

She rolls her lips together then shrugs her shoulders. "Can I shower too?" she asks, but she doesn't wait for his response, just steps into the tub and snaps the curtain shut. His eyes widen.

"It's kind of...there's not a lot of room in here," he mumbles as she turns her back to him and angles the shower head so the spray cascades down her face, down her breasts and stomach. Once her hair is wet, she grabs the shampoo bottle and turns back to face him.

"Did you already wash your hair?" she asks. His eyes linger on her breasts before he lifts them to her face. His cock is half-erect now, but he's still sitting stiff-limbed on his bench, his back ramrod straight.

"Yes."

She refrains from rolling her eyes. The correct answer is no. "Well, let's wash it again," she suggests with an emphatic squirt of shampoo into her open palm, then she begins to methodically massage it through his damp curls, building a slow lather. His eyelashes flutter against his cheeks, and his lips part with a soft exhale. She watches his cock jump and swell until it's thick and hard, the tip nearly kissing his abdomen. The sight prompts a throbbing between her thighs, and she can feel the slickness already trickling out of her, just from the act of threading his soft hair between her fingers.

Katniss moves closer, in between his parted legs, and, very cautiously, she rests one knee and then the other on the bench outside thighs. His eyes snap open when she presses against his chest, hovering over his lap. "What are you doing?" he asks, mildly alarmed as he glances down.

His stiff cock grazes her belly, and she inhales shakily, her sudsy hands slipping through his hair. She tightens her fingers into fists around his curls to hold on, resting her elbows on his shoulders. "I feel like I'm gonna slip off. Hold onto my waist."

His throat constricts with his swallow, and his mouth dips into a confused frown. "I don't—I don't know if this bench is made for, for two people..." Still, he wraps his arms around her and holds her against him. Katniss arches up to rub his erection between their stomachs, and he groans, a gasping, surprised sort of sound.

"I'll go slow then," she whispers, angling her face toward his. "Just hold on." Then she kisses him and reaches down between them to grasp his cock, position it so she can sink down onto it. He groans around her tongue, and she bites down on his lip, exhaling hard through her nose as he stretches her to a delicious fullness. It hasn't even been a half hour since he was inside her last, but the fit still feels tight, almost uncomfortable.

The hot water pricks her back like little, insistent pinpoints, and she moves slow, carefully lifting up on her shins before sinking back down his length. Another groan, another sigh. His cock pushes and pulls against the snugness of her walls with each agonizing drop of her hips down on his thighs. Katniss dips her tongue into his mouth, languidly stroking his. His head tips back slightly to meet her kiss, keeping the shampoo from trickling into eyes.

She can't move too fast, afraid of tipping both of them over. But the feeling's too good, too enticing; she can't maintain this pace, this measured rhythm. Her clit swells, throbs in the absence of any friction to stimulate it, and she whimpers against his lips, rocking her hips against his the next time she sinks down onto his length. He swallows her gasp as her clit rubs against his pelvis. She does it again, and again, with less precision and care, wriggling against him enough that he finally has to reach out and hold onto the handrail running along the tub, one arm secured tightly around her back.

"Katniss," he warns, wariness lacing his voice, but it's thick with gruffness, with desperation, and he keeps kissing her like he's not too concerned after all.

"I wanna come on your dick," she breathes against his cheek; she's reckless, grinding down on him and clenching her walls around his cock. He grunts and swells impossibly bigger. "And I want you to come on this bench so you think about this every time you're in here."

"Fuck," he swears, hisses really. His large hand presses on her lower back so she arches against him more, grinds against him harder, and he ducks his chin to draw her pebbled nipple between his teeth. She cries out, and with just a few more revolutions of her hips, a few rough pulls of his lips and tongue around her breast, she comes. Her walls spasm around him, pulling a gravely groan from his chest, and she begins riding him even as her orgasm is still rippling through her. Bucking, rutting wildly, she just holds onto his shoulders for dear life, and he holds onto her and the wall, trying to meet her thrusts without rocking the bench.

His hand grips her hip tightly, flexing and digging into the soft curve of flesh. "I'm—oh fuck, Katniss, I'm gonna come."

At the last second, she climbs off his lap, prying his hand off her so she can drop down to the tub between his legs and pull him into her mouth. He curses again, the sound thick and wild, and she lifts her eyes to meet his, round with shock. Her musky juices coat his shaft, and she swirls her tongue around him once before she sucks in. "Fuck," he grunts one more time, coming hard under the suction of her lips and cheeks. His cum fills her mouth, and she swallows, never looking away from his face. His blue eyes are dark and hooded, and he just pants and heaves with shuddering breaths, his thighs trembling beneath her hands.

When she's sure he's done, she releases him from her mouth and stands up, angling the shower head back toward him so she can rinse his hair out.


They're sitting at her dining table one morning, drinking their respective morning beverages while they work on the crossword when he asks her.

"So...do you want to get dinner tonight or something? Go out to a restaurant or a bar for food?"

Blinking, she lifts her head to look at him. He doesn't quite meet her gaze, glancing between her and the crossword. "Go out—like a date?"

He shrugs, his knee bouncing under the table nervously. "Just thought we could actually go out and do something."

She stares at him, not quite able to comprehend his sudden desire to change what they're doing. "I...uh, I'm pretty okay just hanging out at home. I don't—I don't think I'm ready to, to be, like, dating or..." she trails off at his bewildered expression.

"Wait, we're not dating?" he asks incredulously, and her mouth parts wordlessly before she can gather her thoughts.

"No, we haven't discussed that," she replies adamantly, trying not to flush with irritation or get angry. "You can't just decide that you're dating someone without talking to that person. That's not fair."

Dropping his pen, he rubs his forehead. "Okay," he sighs, though his voice is still thick with confusion. "I guess that's fair. I just...I didn't know. I thought we were. It's been a few weeks, you know, and it just, it seems like we hang out a lot."

"A few weeks isn't that long," she argues, grabbing for the pen. "To me, dating implies exclusivity."

He gives her a look, his forehead scrunched deeply. "I'm not seeing anyone else, so—"

"I'm not either," she snaps defensively, dropping her gaze to watch the pen as she scribbles furiously on the edge of the newspaper. The corner bleeds with blue ink. "I wouldn't be having sex with you without a condom if I were seeing multiple people."

He looks utterly perplexed and slumps back in his chair, defeated. "I just, I wanted to go out and do something with you, that's all I was asking."

"Well, I'm not ready for that," she says bitingly, throwing the pen back down petulantly as she stands up and stomps into the kitchen with her mug. "If you can't accept that, you don't have to be here. You can see other people. Have sex with them, whatever."

"Do you want me to do that?" he calls out to her after a beat.

"I don't care, you don't have to ask my permission. We're not dating," she repeats, angrily jerking the fridge open. She's not even sure what she's looking for. "Just bring condoms with you next time if you want to have sex with me again."

He laughs abruptly, the sound tight and disbelieving. "This is—this is ridiculous. I've never even, I've never been with anyone else, and you're telling me I should just go out and-and find another person to fuck, like I can just become this-this womanizer overnight or something, like I even have any interest in doing so—" He stops himself suddenly, shaking his head, and she shuts the fridge.

"I didn't mean that," she replies cagily, walking back to the dining table with halting steps. "I just...This is how I am. This is what I'm comfortable with. I don't...I'm not ready to date. I'm not going to apologize for that. I was up front from the beginning about us having sex. But you don't have to feel obligated to be with me or continue to have sex with me just because...because I was your first or whatever. I know people can get attached."

Peeta groans to himself but falls quiet for a moment, squeezing the bridge of his nose. His neck and cheeks are flushed red, but she's not sure if it's from embarrassment or anger. "Okay. Fine. I should—I'm just gonna go home," he grumbles, swallowing the rest of his tea in one gulp and taking the cup to the kitchen before he heads for the door.

"Fine," she mutters, her arms crossed as he brushes past her. She doesn't budge until the door shuts behind him, then she stalks into her bedroom just for the satisfaction of slamming a door, too.


They don't talk the rest of the weekend. She tells herself she doesn't care, and she doesn't acknowledge him when she walks into work on Monday. She assumes him storming out of her apartment on Saturday means they're done. Fine. She'll miss the sex, but she can live without it.

However, Peeta approaches her on her break while she's eating lunch. "Do you want to hang out later at your place?" he asks, and she regards him dubiously, her sandwich paused halfway to her mouth.

"Is that what you want?" she returns skeptically. He gives a small shrug.

"I'm fine with the, um...arrangement, I guess," he replies, looking away. She narrows her eyes at him just slightly, searching his face. Then she shrugs as well.

"Fine. Come over." She bites into her sandwich, and he nods.

"Okay. And I guess if I start dating someone else at some point, I'll let you know."'

She pauses mid-bite and stares at him before snorting, swallowing the food in her mouth. "Okay, Romeo," she scoffs, shaking her head, and he sighs.

"I didn't mean—I just...Isn't that what you told me to do?" He drops his voice, glancing at the entrance way like he's worried someone will walk in. "You don't want to date me, okay, but I'm not...comfortable being with two people at the same time. So if I were to date someone else at some point, I wouldn't want to...I would tell you, that's all I mean."

"Got it," she snaps, not sure why she's suddenly so irritated and pissed. He just sighs again, more gruffly, and shakes his head.

"I'll just see you tonight."


They're both in pretty bad moods when he comes over later, still aggravated from their previous conversations. They sit on her couch and watch a movie on Netflix in relative silence, a palpable tension between them. Katniss offers him beer, but he declines with a curt shake of his head, and she petulantly refuses to drink as well, curling up on the other side of the couch.

After a while, when it's clear he's not going to speak, she grows agitated. With an aggravated exhale of air, she sits up and twists her body to face him. "Do you just want to have sex now?"

His eyes widen and dart to her. "What?"

She sighs and gestures vaguely. "That's why you're here, right? You're not gonna talk, so let's fuck already," she bites out, and he gapes at her for a moment, his cheeks darkening. He always gets these red blotches on his cheeks, under his eyes, when he's flustered or angry.

"Jesus, Katniss, fine," he spits, but they sit there still, neither sure how to proceed until he finally reaches for her, scooting closer on the couch. His hand slides around the base of her skull, tangling in her hair, and he pulls her face to his in a rough, jerky movement. His nostrils flare with a ragged inhale as he looks down at her, and she peers up at him through her lashes, challenging him.

His mouth bruises her the next moment, lips crushing against lips and tongues probing angrily as he kisses her. She bites down on his lip, sucking it into her mouth, and her teeth nearly pierce the delicate flesh there. He hisses against her lips, and she inhales the sound, relishing it, yelping in excitement when he fists her hair and yanks, just enough to tip her head back and expose her neck. Which he punishes with his teeth and tongue, sucking a possessive trail along the sinews of her neck to the pulse point beneath her ear and then down to the hollow of her collar bone. She knows she's going to have a hell of a time hiding those bruises tomorrow, but in the moment, she doesn't care. She moans, curling her fingers into the front of his shirt and pulling him against her, but he pushes away from her and forces her down onto the ground between the couch and the coffee table.

Peeta sinks to his knees as he lays her on her back, and he wastes no time reaching under her ass to hook his fingers in her shorts and panties and ripping them off her legs. She shimmies out of her shirt and twists around on the floor so she can unclasp her bra and toss it somewhere over her head. He opens her knees, his fingers digging into her skin, and she feels no shame or modesty as he stares at her bare before him. He shakes his head, his jaw tight. "Of course you're already fucking wet," he mutters, and she tips her chin up defiantly.

"I'm not going to apologize for what I like," she shoots back and aims a pointed look at his dick, which is bulging his jeans. "Looks like you like it too."

He scowls a little, a telling blush inflaming his cheeks, and he stares at her body for a moment, like he's struggling with something. Then, after swallowing, he says, "Touch yourself."

She lifts her eyebrows, surprised. That's new. She hesitates before reaching her hand down between her thighs to tease her clit, inhaling sharply at the stimulation. She raises her eyebrows at him in question, and when he nods to encourage her, she begins to rub her folds and circle her clit, sucking back a moan.

Peeta undresses while he watches her, whipping his shirt over his head and unzipping his pants to push them down. He leaves them and his boxer-briefs around his knees, his cock hard and straining upward, and he grasps her knees when she begins to whimper and writhe on the floor, her orgasm building. "Wait. Stop, not yet," he tells her, his voice raw, and she complies with a disappointed groan.

But she waits for him to make the next move, and he finally turns her over, pushing her onto her knees and elbows, her back sloped down so her ass is presented to him. She tenses, anticipating the thrust of his cock inside her, but she jumps when his thumb rubs her slick, swollen lips, grazing between them to tease her entrance. Then his mouth follows, his tongue dipping inside her and licking until he's swallowing her arousal, and she rocks back against his face with rasps of pleasure. "Peeta," she gasps, trying to angle her hips up more, trying to open her thighs wider so he can reach her clit, but he ignores it as he eats her out, his tongue fucking her pussy relentlessly, his hands massaging her ass. She begs, pleads. "Peeta, please make me come!"

He pulls away from her, though, and she can hear him breathing hard and wiping his mouth off. "Not yet." She thinks she's going to cry, can actually feel tears of delayed release building at the corner of her eyes, and she drops her face into the carpet to muffle her frustrated shriek, which quickly morphs into a surprised moan when she feels the head of his cock parting her folds. She tries to push back on him, but he grabs her ass and stops her, only thrusting shallowly inside her, just enough to coat his head in her slickness.

He sighs, his hands sliding under her hips to hold her in place while he fucks just her entrance. "You're so wet," he murmurs. His words thrill her, because he normally embarrasses too easily to talk such explicit things to her during sex. She groans, her skin hot and sweaty at this point.

"I know! I know I'm wet, I know you're doing this on purpose, I know you're mad at me. Please fuck me already. Please, I need to come, I need your cock inside—ahh!" she cries out, both in shock and relief when he slams his cock into her then, with too much ease from her arousal. He begins thrusting hard, jerking her hips back against hers as he fucks her, letting his cock slide out to the ridge of his head before pushing it back into her, all the way to the base of his shaft, where she can feel the soft downy hair of his pubes and his balls slapping against her thigh. She's too aroused, too wet, there's almost no friction, and he's moving so fast and so deep, his thrusts inching her across the carpet, that he has to stop a couple times to yank her back to him. Her elbows and knees are scraping against the rough fibers of her floor, tearing at her skin, but she just closes her eyes and presses her face against the back of her hand, screaming deliriously every time he enters her. She has a fleeting thought about a noise complaint from her neighbors, but right now she doesn't care.

Peeta stops abruptly, and her eyes fly open in alarm when he pulls out of her, but he just flips her over onto her back, pushing her legs open again and shoving his cock into her. She reaches out and latches onto his forearms, and her nails cut into his skin as he sets a new blistering rhythm. His face is flushed, his jaw clenched, and he pants as he thrusts, his cock sinking into her repeatedly. She can feel the swelling crescendo of her orgasm, the beginning flutters of her pussy around his shaft, and she moans. But he comes first with a gasping grunt, fuck, fuck, Katniss, and he empties himself inside her as he goes still.

And finally, finally, as his climax subsides, he touches her clit, and that's all it takes for her to snap, to unravel and puddle around him, her broken wail a distant buzz in her ears as she comes. Flies, really, her perspective on reality distorting and fading briefly until she comes back to herself, still panting and quivering in the aftermath, her thighs still splayed over his.

They don't speak as he pulls out of her, and she can feel his cum seeping out of her as he rests her ass on the floor. Then he pulls his pants back up and tucks his softening cock back into his underwear.

"You good?" he asks hoarsely, and she nods. He stands up but collapses on the couch, too exhausted to do anything else. Katniss presses her legs together and curls up on her side for a moment while she collects her bearings, then she scrounges for her clothes to put her shirt and panties back on. She sits back on her heels and looks around her living room before settling her eyes on him. He's sprawled out on his back, but his hands are covering his face.

Silently, she crawls up on the couch with him. He rubs his face and drops his hands, looking down at her as she curls herself around him on the confined space of her couch. The bed is too far away. Eventually, he positions his arms so they're wrapped around her, and they drift off to sleep.


When Katniss awakes a little later, somehow she's in the comfort of her own bed, but Peeta is already awake, seated on the foot of the bed, fully dressed and staring pensively at the floor.

"Hey," she says quizzically, and he looks back at her. He smiles tightly, but his brow is furrowed in consternation. "What's wrong?"

He exhales raggedly and runs a hand through his disheveled curls, then he shakes his head. "I just...I feel weird about everything. About earlier. About the way things have been. I don't...I don't think we should have had sex tonight."

She blinks stupidly at him. She's not awake enough for this conversation. "Why not?"

"I was upset, and you were upset—"

"I wasn't upset," she interjects stubbornly.

"Well, I was. Everything just feels weird and off since Saturday, after we talked. Or fought. I don't know..." he trails off, looking away, fixing his eyes to the wall across from him. "The things you said, I don't think I can do. I thought I could, but I can't be that kind of person. I like you, Katniss. I haven't...I haven't really done this before—I mean, obviously, but also I haven't...been in a relationship either. But I want to be. I want it to be you, but you don't, and I just can't do this arrangement. I don't want to feel this way."

She stares at him. "What do you mean, feel what way?"

He shrugs. "Like I care about someone who doesn't care about me. I don't want to be used this way."

She frowns and pulls the covers up to her chest. "I'm not using you, that's unfair. I was upfront about what I wanted out of this, and you agreed."

"I know. Guess I'm changing my mind now," he says, dropping his gaze back to the floor. "I want to date you, to be in a relationship with you."

Her grip tightens in the blanket, her stomach sinking. "I told you I can't do that."

With a solemn nod, he stands up and faces her. "I get that. Just thought I'd put it out there one more time in case..." She doesn't speak, watching him warily, and he sighs and moves toward the bedroom door. "I'm gonna go. I'll, uh, guess I'll see you at work in the morning."

Her mouth tightens, and she lets him leave without objection.


This is why you don't date coworkers, Katniss thinks to herself.

Because it's awkward as fuck when things end. And they always inevitably end.

She and Peeta ignore each other at work. They avoid looking at each other and don't speak unless forced to when work dictates it, and even then, she's cool and he's barely cordial.

At night, she watches TV and Netflix alone. In the morning, she drinks a cup of coffee and sits down at her dining table to do the crossword puzzle. Not because of Peeta, she tells herself; it's just habit now, routine, and it helps relax her before the rest of the day starts. It's not like she never did crossword puzzles before Peeta, anyway.

Eventually, though, she realizes how hollow it all feels now. She moves about her apartment listlessly, and she can't deny how her stomach flips in hope when her phone rings or pings with a text alert. And how it drops in disappointment when she sees that it's just her mom or her sister Prim or her friend Madge. Sometimes, she looks at her phone and thinks about texting him, but she's too stubborn to be the first to break.

She just misses the sex, she tells herself as she lies sleeplessly in bed one night. Her body is in withdrawal, threatening to make her do something stupid, like call him and plead for him to come over.

With a defeated sigh, Katniss gets up and pads into her kitchen to find something to eat, anything that can somewhat distract her from the cravings of her body. When she opens the pantry, her eyes scanning the shelves, she pauses when she sees the box of teas she bought. For Peeta. Unconsciously, she picks it up and stares at it. Then she selects a bag and pours a cup of hot water to make herself some tea. Inhaling the relaxing, pleasing aroma of chamomile and lemon—it was a favorite of his, she's pretty certain—she retreats back to her room and curls up on her bed.

She sips her tea, and thinks.


Finnick sits down across from her in the breakroom.

"What's up with you and Peeta? Did you two break up?"

Katniss chokes on her bite of sandwich, coughing and then swallowing once she's cleared her windpipe. "What?" she gasps, her eyes watering slightly as she gapes at him. His face is creased with concern.

"You two have been acting weird for weeks now. Something's off."

She continues to stare at him, her heart thumping wildly. She tries to find the words. "Wh...why do you think we—I mean...what—we're not—we weren't...together…" She can't even convince herself.

Finnick gives her a pointed look. "Come on, Katniss. You're not a good liar, and you're an even worse actor. It's been obvious for a while now that you two have a thing going on."

Averting her gaze, she sets her sandwich down. After a moment, she speaks up quietly, "You didn't say anything sooner."

He shrugs. "I figured if you didn't bring it up, you didn't want to talk about it. So I was trying to respect that. I didn't even tell Johanna. But you've been so mopey lately—"

"I'm not mopey," she objects, but he continues.

"—and he looks like a kicked puppy these days, more so than usual. So I figured something was up. What happened?"

Katniss picks at the crust on her sandwich. "It just didn't work out. He...he was into me more than I was into him, and he wanted to date, but I wasn't—I don't, so..." she trails off, shrugging uncomfortably. Finnick doesn't respond for a moment, and she eventually looks up. His expression is dubious, and she bristles. "What?"

He shakes his head, smirking knowingly. "I told you you're not a good liar."

"What does that mean?" she snaps.

"Let me ask you this: if you two weren't dating, then what the hell were you doing all this time?"

She flushes red. "I mean...we had sex."

"Just sex?" he presses, and she huffs at the indignity of his question but answers anyway.

"More or less. We hung out at my place, or his place. And...we talked and watched TV and...I guess that was it."

Finnick laughs, quirking an eyebrow at her. "Sounds like dating to me."

She scowls at him. "No because we didn't go out. We just stayed in." He shrugs.

"Annie and I just stay in, too."

"That's different. You're married," she argues, and he grins at her.

"Yeah, but you were definitely having more sex than we are, so…I don't know, sounds like you're plenty ready to date."

Annoyed, Katniss tosses her bangs out of her face. "Either way, he likes me more than I like him, and I don't want to lead him on," she quibbles uselessly and grits her teeth when she notices him still grinning at her. "What?"

"It's pretty obvious to me that you like him. And I mean, really like him."

She can't handle this. "That's—I don't—"

"Katniss. In the entire time I've known you, you haven't dated anyone. I haven't seen you with any other guy, I haven't seen you get all caught up in a guy or get all fluttery and defensive, like you're doing right now." She falls quiet, pursing her lips together, and he laughs lightly. "Why does this bother you? Why does it scare you to like a guy?"

She swallows thickly. "Because," she says quietly, but she doesn't really have an answer. She doesn't know why.

"Well, I think you're being ridiculous," he declares, and she glowers at him. "I say this because I care about you. But if that's the best reason you've got for not being with him, then...you're an idiot. I like you, Katniss, but you're an idiot."

"Thanks, Finnick," she grumbles as he stands up, and he pats her shoulder.

"I know you're stubborn, and you're not gonna do something just because someone tells you to, but for what it's worth, I think, if you can figure out a way to fix this, you should."

With that, he leaves her to stew on his words.


She's not sure what she's doing here at Peeta's door, but she makes herself knock before she can talk herself out of it.

And she doesn't stop knocking, the rapping of her knuckles on the door growing louder, more insistent, more desperate the longer she's standing there, the more time that passes without him answering. Suddenly, she's struck with a thought: What if he's not home? What if he's out with someone? Like with another woman, on an actual date? He was already talking about dating someone else, at some point, wasn't he?

She's almost worked herself into a panic over the thought that when the door finally opens, she's startled and jumps back. Peeta's face appears through the opening, and he squints at her, disbelief slackening his jaw.

"Katniss?" he asks "What are you doing here?"

She stares at him soundlessly for a moment, trying to work through the flurry of emotions storming inside her at the sight of him. "I was, um...can we talk?" she whispers, rubbing her tender knuckles. He's quiet for a moment, a frown dipping the corners of his mouth, and she starts to worry he's going to turn her away when he shakes his head to himself and opens the door wider to let her in.

"Uh, yeah, you wanna come inside?"

Relieved, she nods eagerly and walks past him into his apartment. "Thank you." He shuts the door behind her, and she feels regret the second she looks at him and notices for the first time that he's dressed for bed. The same pair of gray sweatpants and white T-shirt he wore the nights she would come over. "Were you asleep? I'm sorry."

But he shakes his head, running a hand through his mussed curls. "No...no. I mean, I was starting to doze off, but I was just watching TV." He clears his throat, tucking his hands into his pockets. "Um, what did you want to talk about?"

She exhales nervously, brushing some hair out of her face. She was in such a rush to get here, she didn't even braid her hair like she normally does. "Um...how have you been?" she asks weakly, stalling. Now that she's here, she doesn't know how to start. She's never had to do this before.

He shrugs. "Okay, I guess," he says quietly. She frowns, not really sure how she was expecting him to answer. "You?"

She mimics his shrug. "Okay," she says on reflex, and then she sighs. "That's not really true. I guess I've been kind of out of sorts since...everything." He doesn't respond to that, looking away. She suddenly feels sick, because this is not going well, and she has a sinking feeling in her stomach, like there's a pit opening up inside her. "I'm sorry about...being me, I guess. I know—I know I'm pretty hard-headed and stubborn and—I realize those are just different ways of saying the same thing," she rambles, folding her arms over her stomach as if that will ease her nerves. "But, um...I shouldn't have been so dismissive of—of what you wanted, what you were trying to say—"

"Katniss, what are you trying to say?" he interrupts, studying her intently, and she sucks her bottom lip between her teeth anxiously.

"I miss you," she says softly, staring at a spot on his floor.

He's silent for too long, and she risks a glance at him. He actually looks pained. "I miss you too," he finally says, and she raises her eyebrows.

"Yeah?"

He nods, looking away. "But I'm not...I haven't changed my mind about, about dating—"

"So let's go on a date," she offers hurriedly, and he glances at her sharply.

"What?"

Licking her lips, she steps closer to him. "Let's go on a date. Dinner. Or whatever you want to do. A movie or miniature golf or a picnic—I don't care. I can do cheesy stuff with you."

Peeta narrows his eyes at her skeptically. "Really? Last time we talked, you said—"

"I know," she interrupts. "I was being stubborn. I got scared. This is new for me, I guess."

"New for you?" he reiterates in disbelief.

She inhales deeply, wringing her hands. "I've never really...I mean, I've dated, but I've just...I've never been in a relationship before, not with—not with someone I really like. I got scared."

He raises his eyebrows. "You—does that mean you like me?"

She looks away, heat filling her cheeks. "Finnick knows," she says instead.

"What?"

"About us. He figured it out a while ago, I guess. But I talked to him about it, about what was going on with us. He got me to rethink things." She turns back to him, a tight, wry smile on her face. "It's not as bad as I thought it would be, having our coworkers know about us."

"Okay..." He scratches at his jaw.

When he doesn't offer anything else right away, she stupidly blurts out, "I bought you a shower bench."

"Huh?" he grunts, confused. This time, she flushes. This is dumb, it was a dumb idea and incredibly presumptuous and sappy and over the top.

But she told herself she would be honest with him. "I got you a shower bench for—for my place. So you can take a shower now when you come over and not have to worry about your leg..." she falters at his dumbstruck expression.

"You got me a shower bench…" he repeats, amazed, and she coughs, embarrassed.

"Yeah because—you wouldn't shower before because you said you couldn't get your prosthetic wet, and I thought this would help if you—well, if you want to come over again, I mean, if you want to—to date me. Still."

He doesn't answer her question directly, instead crossing the distance to her in one step and grabbing her face as he draws her mouth to his. The kiss is hot and needy, bubbling with pent-up aggression from weeks of denial. But there's such an unexpected warmth and sweetness behind it, that Katniss melts against him, her knees weakening.

When they break apart, she looks up at his smiling face. It's contagious, and she feels her own mouth stretch into a smile so wide, her cheeks hurt. "I take that as a yes then."