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It starts innocently enough one day, hunting in her father’s woods; she crouches in a tree, eyeing a fox. She slides forward on the branch, looking for the perfect angle when—oh. She is so surprised by the feeling that she drops her bow, scaring the fox away. She rocks back and forth experimentally on the branch, but the feeling is not recreated and she shrugs it off as her imagination.




Later in the afternoon though, when she is home alone and losing herself in a nap, she touches the same spot again, the one that jolted her so much in the tree. She is fascinated and horrified and embarrassed and she wonders ‘What would Peeta think?’ and then, oh god, what would Peeta think, and then she thinks about Peeta more and more and more. She knows people did that, she went to school with teenagers, but she’s never—the only time she’s ever felt anything akin to this is on the beach.


The beach. Oh god. And then she thinks about Peeta more. And the beach.  And Peeta.


The more she thinks about it, the easier it is to slide her fingers around and she wonders if this is normal, if this is how her body is supposed to work, if she is supposed to be wet and trembling and blinking fast and breathing faster and and and—


Her body trembles and her hand stops moving, and for a fluttering second everything is as fast as her heartbeat. Then the world slows again and her fingers are sticky and between her legs is stickier still, and she has never been so ashamed.


This can never happen again.




But it does. Again and again and again, and she gets better at it, if it’s something you can get better at. Which she thinks she can, because she feels more and she feels faster. But the shame doesn’t fade, and every time she washes her hands after she makes sure to scrub them hard, harder, hardest. She scrubs them raw after a particularly vivid afternoon. Peeta sees them shiny and red and raises them to his lips, brushing them against the soft skin there.


“Did you burn yourself?” he asks gently, examining her hands. And she thinks she did burn herself, and she is burning still, growing hotter the longer his breath softly dances on her fingertips.


She feels herself growing wetter, knows her cheeks are burning. She snatches her hands away, and mumbles something about the kettle.


She wishes she was still as pure as he used to think she was.




That night she lies beside him in bed, burning with shame and something else. He is asleep, breathing softly, not plagued by any nightmares at the moment. She can’t stop thinking about the way his lips felt against her fingers, and she wonders with a horrified kind of curiosity what he would say if he knew where her fingers had been hours before, what they had been doing and what she had been thinking while they had been doing it.


(She had been thinking of the beach again, the way his hips rest against her sometimes when he rolls over in the middle of the night, the way his fingers curl against the dough when he makes cheese buns just for her, the soft sounds of approval he makes when he stretches his back after a long day.)


Oh. She recognizes the feeling now, the shiver that sets low on her spine and the heat that threatens to consume everything.


She thinks about touching herself, right here. Peeta is sleeping deeply, and she can be quiet. And before she even thinks it through, her hand travels down over her slick skin, moving gingerly under the sheet. The thought of Peeta waking and finding her hands between her legs is horrifying and thrilling, and it doesn’t take much time at all.


She doesn’t have any nightmares that night.




She comes home early one day to Peeta in the shower; he is loud and clumsy and doesn’t hear her enter. Through the fogged glass door she sees him, hand wrapped around himself, leaning against the wall with one arm. She sees him pump methodically, back and forth, hears the grunts and moans rising with the steam. And then she sees him feel the release that she has become all too familiar with, sees his shoulders slump with a boneless kind of relief.


There is no name for the ache in her stomach and between her thighs and under her eyelids, and she runs out of the room as quietly as she can.




The next morning, hours after Peeta has left to help with the construction on his new bakery, she takes a shower, standing under the hot spray and placing her hand on the same spot on the wall that his rested.


She wonders why she has been so ashamed; watching Peeta was — god, just thinking about it makes her shudder and close her legs tightly together. She wonders what he was thinking about. Her?


 She reaches up and adjusts the shower head to a harder spray, lays down on the shower floor, letting the water pool around her. And then she shifts her hips, spreading her legs. The position is awkward, half sitting and half sprawling, but when the stream of water hits her she moans, letting the water hit her clit until she is so sensitive it hurts a little. When she stands, her legs shake in the best way possible.


She doesn’t even have to wash her hands after.




She is so caught up in herself one afternoon that she doesn’t even hear Peeta enter the house until the bedroom door swings open. The summer day is hot and she has forgone the sheets that used to make her feel so much more secretive, so there can be no question in his mind what is happening when he sees her hand underneath her underwear, sees her red cheeks and hears her uneven breathing. He is kind enough to turn around and shut the door behind him, expression unreadable as he leaves.


She is too mortified to finish, too horrified to leave her bedroom for hours, until she smells the bread he has baked and she is too hungry not to go down.


He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even blink an eye at her (not that she would know, she avoids looking directly at him). And when she mumbles an early goodnight, he just smiles softly at her retreating back.




She pretends to be asleep when he comes to bed that night, ignores the way the bed dips and he scoots closer beside her than he normally does. But her eyes blink open of their own accord when his fingers trace circles on her side, breaking so many of their unspoken rules. His eyes are darker than she has ever seen them, pupils fat and full of something that she can’t put a name to. Wordlessly, he moves closer, hovering over her and leaning closer, pressing his lips against hers. He hasn’t kissed her this way in so long. He tongues her bottom lip gently, allowing his weight to press against her. And although it isn’t the first time she feels him hard against her, it is the first time it’s on purpose. The thrill of it makes her moan softly.


They sleep very little that night.




When he asks to watch one night, she swallows hard and looks away. She can’t.


But then she feels him moving beside her, sees his hand slip under the waistband of his pajamas and begin to rhythmically move, hears his breath hitch and feels his eyes focus on her. Her heart beats faster to match his breathing, and when she finally moves her hands to mimic him she feels his groan in the core of her being, feels the way he moves faster in response.


It’s easier to not be embarrassed when he smiles at her afterwards, sleepy and blissful with pleasure, slipping off to the bathroom for a moment and then curling in beside her, holding her tightly in his arms.




It is even better not to be alone, for her fingers to grip her sheets tightly instead of working furiously against herself, to hear ragged breathing that matches her own.


Real, real, real.




. . .