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It begins with a spark, one that brings color and heat to her fingertips while the rest of her remains grey and cold.

It quickly escalates into a game, one in which Peeta is completely unaware of being placed at the center.

Two weeks after his return, he leans over her shoulder to grab the last bread roll on his way out of the kitchen. A faint whiff of vanilla permeates the air where his hand cuts through, and she impulsively draws towards him. He pauses, hand frozen in the air.

“Did you want this?”

She doesn’t, but can’t think of any other reason to give him. So she nods, and he hands over the bread. She clasps her hand around the roll, deliberately brushing his fingertips with hers.

It’s the first time they’ve touched since she bit him. Since he saved her life.

She doesn’t dare look at him, but she certainly hears the slight exhale of breath.

He’s gone a second later, mumbling see you later as he strides towards the exit.

Alone, Katniss smiles, the very tips of her fingers still tingling.

*

He doesn’t seem to notice for weeks – not until she becomes bolder and lets her touches linger.

He’s sketching in his little notebook after breakfast when he finally asks her. Her hand has been on his shoulder for half a minute as she stands behind him, taking in his artwork.

“What is this, Katniss?”

She’s confused by his question. “You mean the drawing?”

“No,” he replies, a hint of frustration creeping into his voice. “What’s with the affection…the caresses?”

She takes a deep breath before speaking. “I like touching you.”

“You like touching me,” he repeats in a neutral tone, not quite an inquiry, but more in disbelief.

It’s enough to make her want to pull her away. He moves quickly to grab her hand, before turning carefully to look up at her from his seated position.

Beneath his fingertips, her skin tingles – but she has no idea how to explain this to him.

They hover in this impasse for a few minutes, before she finally finds some words to say, even if they’re not quite precise. “I feel alive when I touch you.”

She hurries away before he can respond, snatching up her hunting gear and hurling herself through the door, not daring to glance back.

*

Six weeks after his arrival, the weather turns and she opens her windows for the first time. The sound of her screams carry all the way to his house, bringing him crashing into her bedroom. He doesn’t hesitate to clamber into her bed, pulling her towards him.

She sobs quietly, not just from the agony of her nightmares, but also from the relief of finding herself in his arms again. He’s also breathing heavily, and she wonders if he ever thought they could be here once more.

He arrives the next night, and the night after that. After the fifth time, she timidly suggests that he could keep a set of nightclothes at her house. He doesn’t answer, and leaves after their evening meal as usual.

But he returns after ten minutes, a small bag in his hand and a soft smile playing on his lips.

*

Two months after he first showed up outside her house, she kisses him. She places her lips on his with the lightest of touches – he probably wouldn’t even feel it if he had been asleep. But he’s not. They’re standing in the kitchen, in broad daylight, and he can have no doubt of her intention.

He freezes, and she thinks that she’s made a mistake.

But then he whispers her name, strained and desperate, and it’s enough to make her pull him towards her. Their mouths meet again, and this time neither holds back.

They’re frantic at first, as if they might never get another chance to do this. Eventually, she pulls away to breathe, resting her cheek on his shoulder.

“You have no idea…the effect you can have,” she says, echoing his words from a lifetime ago.

Their lips come together again, and this time they take it slow, savoring the touch and taste and sound of each other.

After this day, Peeta enjoys their game just as much as she does, placing his hands and his mouth on her at every opportunity.

*

A few days of stolen kisses during the daytime lead to heated encounters as they lay in bed at night. His touch never wanders to where she needs it though, and she can’t bring herself to take the plunge alone. So they grind against each other, filling the room with the sound of their rasping breaths, giving one another the ripples of pleasure that they desire but never entirely suppressing the hunger.

In the morning, he always wakes before her. After these nights, she’s glad of it, knowing that she can avoid the awkward discussion about what they’re doing to – and with – each other.

But on this particular morning, he doesn’t greet her with his usual small talk when she enters the kitchen. He moves swiftly to cross the room, takes her head into both hands and delivers a heated kiss. She guides them awkwardly to the side, lips never leaving his, so that she can rest against the counter. He presses against her, hands roaming wildly up and down her body as his mouth devours hers.

Before long, they’re grinding against each other with much more vigor than they ever have during the night. She tilts her hips upward a fraction, and they gasp into each other when his erection hits exactly the right spot.

But he pulls away a moment later, leaving her confused.

“I should go,” he mutters as he turns away.

She catches his wrist at the last moment. “Why?”

When he looks at her again, his expression is almost apologetic.

“I need a shower. Preferably a cold one.”

She grins, her eyes involuntarily drifting to his groin, and a moment later he laughs awkwardly.

“Not so pure now, huh?”

“Not when it comes to you.”

His smile disappears, and the sheer want in his expression makes the breath catch in her throat.

He leaves without another word. The memory of his gaze keeps her body warm and her perspective full of color for the rest of the day.

*

A week later, they’re in the same situation, and he seems almost reluctant to leave.

The words spill out of her mouth before she fully realizes their implication. “I have a shower here.”

“True,” he admits. “But, um, I’d be a little more comfortable in my own house right now.”

She bites her lip, unsure of whether she should continue with this, or to just let him go. He makes the decision for her when he starts to pull his arm away – and she tightens her grip.

“But I wouldn’t be in your house. Or in your shower.”

“Katniss…”

She can’t let him overthink this, or she will too. So she twists her wrist to take his hand into hers, and pull him behind her as she makes her way to the stairs. There’s a split second where he hesitates, and she stops breathing, but then his arm goes limp and he follows willingly.

They avoid eye contact as they undress, and she fumbles for the controls. She waits a few seconds for the water to heat before stepping under the steady stream of water.

Once they’re both inside the small cubicle, she forces herself to return his watchful gaze. She can imagine which words are rolling around in his brain, and she knows that she doesn’t want any of his doubts or concerns being voiced out loud.

“Can I turn around?” she asks shyly.

He frowns. “If you’re not comfortable –“

She cuts him short. “I want this, I do. But…I don’t know if I can handle you looking at me at the same time. It might be too much.”

He smiles in understanding. “I guess it could be a little overwhelming for me too.”

So she turns carefully, biting her lip when he immediately presses against her back. Instinctively, she lifts an arm to lay it across the wall, resting her forehead against it.

Behind her, she feels Peeta raise his own arms from his sides. His hands slide smoothly around her waist, holding her for a moment like he had done so many times for the Capitol’s benefit. But now, it’s just the two of them, and he must realize that she wants this just as much as he does.

She knows the second that he lets go, that he truly commits to this, because his body is flush against hers, his erection trapped between them. His hands wander, teasingly at first, but deliberately a moment later. He takes a breast in each, massaging them before clasping her nipples between his fingers and rolling them in a circular motion. It feels good – great, in fact, and she’s about to tell him so. But he stops before she can speak, his hands moving south over her stomach. She tenses in anticipation, gasping loudly when he finally reaches his destination. The pressure of his fingertips between her legs feels impossibly good, and she clamps her free hand over his as her way of telling him that.

He traces circles around the sensitive mound, slowly at first, but increasing in speed when she digs her fingernails into his wrist. His voice sounds so distant when he asks her how it feels, and she can only moan in response.

He pulls away, and she barely stops a whimper from escaping her lips. Her disappointment quickly turns to surprise and then to anticipation when she feels him gather up her hair in one hand and swing it over one shoulder. The first kiss that he places on the base of her neck sends a shiver down her spine.

And then his mouth follows that trail, placing soft but insistent kisses and luscious licks along her backbone, and it takes nearly all of her energy just to stay upright. When he gets to the small of her back, she feels him grip her hips for balance as he drops to his knees. She gasps when he bites her ass cheek, moans when he moves to the other side to repeat the same action. But it’s the feel of his nose nudging between her legs that makes her cry out.

He stills, and she knows the silent question that’s being asked of her. She answers by spreading her feet, giving him better access. He doesn’t hesitate, and she cries out again when he pushes the curled tip of his tongue inside her. When he pulls out, she becomes dimly aware of him speaking, but only manages to make out the words taste and long above the sound of the running water.

She’s almost glad when he moves away to get to his feet again, the sensation and knowledge of his tongue being inside her nearly too much to handle.

He resumes his original position, pressed up against her back, one hand reaching over her abdomen and down to her clitoris, the other reaching up to twist a nipple between his fingertips. Her head falls back to rest on his shoulder, back arched, and she’s faintly aware of his whispered words in her ear as he brings her to breaking point. She cries out as he takes her over the edge, the sound echoing around the cubicle. She’s done this by herself, many times, but it never felt as intense as it does now.

He holds onto her tightly, surrounding her, until her breathing slows. When she feels strong enough to straighten and lean back into him, the presence of his erection hits her like a wave. “What can I do for you?”

He chuckles, somewhat nervously, against her back. “Anything you want.”

That doesn’t really help. She starts to turn, but he places a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “Might be too much for me,” he explains, recalling her earlier words. She’s still thinking about what she can do for him in this position, when she feels his forehead fall forward to rest on her.

His hands move to her ass, and she feels him apply enough pressure to separate the cheeks. Her eyes widen when she feels his cock push into the gap that he’s made.

“Do you mind if I do this?”

It feels good, and she can imagine how hot it must look to him. “I don’t mind.”

He moves carefully at first, pumping slowly between her rear cheeks. It’s nice, but it’s not enough for her, and she slips her fingertips between her folds once more, her mind’s eye recalling the image of his hand between her legs. When a wave of pleasure causes her to jerk her hips back onto him, he groans and starts to move faster.

His cock slips, and suddenly he’s thrusting between her legs, the tip brushing tantalizingly close to her clitoris. It feels too good for her to lose, and she swiftly moves a hand down to trap him there. Now he’s thrusting into the tight gap that she’s created between the apex of her legs and her cupped palm, and he moans his appreciation into her hair.

His hips start to move erratically after a few minutes, and she tightens her hand around him, knowing that he must be close. He groans against the crook of her neck before jerking against her one final time. His cock throbs as he spends himself against her, his semen dripping down the wall in front of her.

He’s still breathing hard when he shuffles to one side to mimic her stance against, pillowing his head against a raised arm. It seems that he can’t quite let her go however, his other hand pressing gently against the small of her back.

“Can we do that again?” she asks tentatively, eyes fixed on the stream of water flowing around her feet.

She feels his shoulder heaving against hers in laughter.

“Now?”

She smiles to herself. “No. But soon.”

The answer is emphatic. “Definitely.”