Katniss hunkered down lower in her seat and wrapped her arms around herself, shivering slightly from the crisp autumn air they had just escaped. She noticed Peeta out of the corner of her eye as he leaned forward to turn up the SUV’s heat and switch one of the vents so the warm air was hitting her directly. It was sweet and thoughtful and only served to piss her off more.
She truly didn’t want to be this way. There wasn’t anything satisfying about feeling like an emotional weight for your best friend to bear, and she wished she could just forget all of her hang-ups already and move forward the way she should. But tonight she was in one of her moods, spurned on by jealousy and fueled further by alcohol, and this scowl was not going to be leaving her face any time soon
What should have been a nice night out with their friends did not go as she had planned it. Earlier in the day, she was practically joyful as she left work. She had the weekend off, plans with Peeta, and for the first time in a long while, hope that she was finally ready to move forward in their relationship. She was going to tell him the next evening, while they had dinner alone at his apartment. “I’m ready to label this,” she was going to say, every word already planned out. “I want us to be together and I want everyone to know it.”
Then this evening happened. Katniss was on her second glass of wine when she realized that one of the girls who had joined the group that night was eyeing Peeta. She laughed a little too loudly at his jokes, her hand would linger on his shoulder when she tried to garner his attention, and she kept smiling at him flirtatiously while he told a story that Katniss had already heard three times.
She was torn between her desire to claim Peeta as hers and the mounting urge to run off by herself so that Peeta could finally be free of her. Katniss knew deep down that he deserved someone who smiled at him like that all the time, and not just when they were alone. Not just when she was trying to have her cake and eat it, too.
Instead, she ordered another glass of wine and studied Peeta for any sign of interest on his part. It was both a relief and a burden when she found none.
“Enjoying that Merlot?” he asked after finally making his way back to her.
“I guess,” she replied shortly, but his face scrunched only in concern.
She was about to snap at him again about something else, but she held her tongue and sipped her wine until he began a conversation with Finnick. Things had been so great between them lately, wonderful enough to propel her into planned action for the following night, so she didn’t want to start an argument. It would taint the last few weeks of blissfulness, all because she was cold and distant and simply not built for functioning romantic relationships.
It was bitter irony to realize that her desperate need to preserve their friendship would probably be what destroyed them. Things couldn’t stay as they were for forever; they’d already crossed a line and experienced what it would be like to be together, and it was haunting them. Still, it was possible, many times, to be content with all they had. Sometimes their time together-their phone calls, their laughter- was just like it was before that fateful night nearly six months ago.
Then other times, countless times, the tension was so thick they nearly choked on it. He itched to hold her hand, she was desperate to feel him wrapped around her, and they each wanted to get lost in the other’s kisses and touches.
And sometimes, four times, to be exact, they gave in and did that and more. Whether it was under the pretense of having just one night together again, or something they didn’t talk about at all, it always led to a palpable uneasiness that took days or weeks to heal. Katniss used to resent it, that sudden barricade that kept her from having it all, but now she understood it, as frustrating as it still was.
They seemed to have fully recovered since their latest relapse a month ago. She nursed him through a cold since then, and they had plenty of pizza dates and movie nights all alone in his apartment without succumbing to any temptations.
Of course, it was Peeta who was the one quick to end things before they actually began. He would still allow her to rest her head on him as they stared at the television screen, but he tensed immediately if she tried to take it further than that, and she’d pull back in a hurry, embarrassed.
Now she was still slightly buzzed from her wine, and Peeta was driving them back to his place so they could hang out alone for the first time that night. Suddenly her plans to move this forward for once and for all seemed like a monumentally bad decision. He could do so much better, a part of her screamed.
She stumbled a bit on the way to his door, but he was there to steady her, like always. Once they were inside, he led her to the couch and disappeared to make a drink for himself, and he called out to her minutes later to see if she wanted one as well. She declined, though she knew he wouldn’t mind taking care of her if she got completely wasted again, just as she knew that he would still be perfectly behaved even if he got wasted, too.
He returned a few moments later with a dry scotch and settled on his designated end of the couch. “Want to tell me what’s bothering you tonight?”
Ugh, she didn’t even know at this point. She was just a mess, simple as that. Then the image of the cute brunette resting her hand right on his shoulder popped into her mind, and she scowled reflexively.
He tipped back his glass, swallowed, and then stretched forward to set it on the coffee table. The Merlot and Chardonnay she tossed back all throughout the night was still running through her veins, mingling now with that intense draw she always felt toward him, whether she was drunk or stone cold sober. And now she was staring at him, her muddled thoughts trying to work out her feelings while her body reacted to the way his thin sweater stretched across his back as he moved. She might not think now that it was a good idea to commit to him the way he undoubtedly wanted, but she definitely didn’t want anyone else to be able to have him, either
She mumbled something about just being tired, and her voice sounded so far off and dreamy that he bought it without argument. Then she bit her lip as her eyes trailed down along his body, and she stretched out her leg so that her toes could rub against his thigh.
“Are you tired?” she asked suggestively, sliding her foot higher and making her intentions clear.
He bristled at her touch, and she knew the battle was waged. Oh why did everything have to be defined? If they started something, it could end. But if they just continued as they were, and allowed themselves their nights together, too? That, she reasoned, would be the perfect relationship.
She saw him grit his teeth in annoyance as he stared straight ahead, and then he pushed her foot off of him and reached for his empty glass. She sat up straight as he left the couch to return it to the kitchen, and she played with the hem of her short, black skirt as she tried to regain her bearings. It wasn’t surprising that he was upset. It always started out this way, but it always ended the same way, too, and despite the million thoughts racing through her mind, she was confident that he’d give in soon enough.
When he returned, she was stretched out on the sofa, her legs crossed at the ankle as she toyed with the buttons of her dark green cardigan. “Hey you,” she said teasingly, the wine easing the way.
“We’re not doing this again, Katniss,” he told her sternly just as she popped the first button. His eyes went straight to the glimpse of her cleavage, but then he caught himself and shook his head disapprovingly. “I’m serious.”
She held his stare as she continued to work them, and then she opened her sweater to reveal her lacy black bra, which he had gaped at in awe the last time when they were together like that. But she wasn’t getting the same reaction now. He wasn’t breaking as easily as she anticipated, and after a tense moment, she faltered at his stony face.
“So this is what I am to you? The friend you fuck?”
She gaped back at him, shocked by the anger with which he spoke to her now. He knew better than that. “Peeta,” she said, exasperated. “Why are we making things difficult?” She held out her hand, beckoning him to her. “Come on.”
He ran his hand through his hair in frustration as he gathered his will to rebuff her. “No. I meant what I said. I’m not playing this game anymore.”
“What game?” she asked defensively.
“The one where you get to make all the rules and set all the parameters and I’m supposed to settle,” he huffed. As mad as he sounded, his eyes still softened when he saw her face fall.
“That’s not what I’m doing,” she told him sincerely. At least that’s not what she meant to do. But she frowned as she absorbed his words again and realized how selfish she must seem. Everything had to be on her terms? She was forcing him to settle? The more she thought about it, the more she hated herself.
Then, aided by all her conflicting emotions and the seven glasses of wine she downed throughout the night, that self-loathing transformed into something else. Now she hated him too because he saw her for exactly what she was.
“It’s just a step back, every time. You agreed, too,” he reminded her, naively oblivious to the fire he had just unleashed inside of her.
“Fine,” she snapped, straightening abruptly. She smoothed her skirt and black tights as she tried not to look at him. “Maybe you should go find Clove. She seems like such a nice girl.”
“You have got to be kidding. Because there’s no way you can be pissed at me for that. I didn’t do a damn thing to lead her on.” She opened her mouth to reply but he cut her off with another withering look. “You know it’s ridiculous, what we’re doing. Right?”
She curled back up on her side of the couch, bringing her knees to her chest and trying to deflect the sting from his words. “We don’t see other people,” he continued, undeterred. “But we’re not together. We spend all of our free time with each other, but we’re not together.
“We’re in love, but we’re not together.”
“You said you’d wait,” she said, her voice small. She knew this arrangement would be difficult for someone as sensitive as Peeta, but his outburst really drove home how messed up this all was.
“I did,” he said simply. “And I will. For as long as you need. But I have to have boundaries. Otherwise it just screws with my mind and I can’t handle it.”
He sat down next to her, getting as close as possible without actually touching, and gently tugged at her sleeve. “I want us to have a real relationship, Katniss. When you’re ready. But until then, we’re friends, okay? Not fuck buddies.
It irked her, even if she understood it, because she was spoiled when it came to him and she wanted it all. And the truth was, the largest part of her still wanted to continue on just as they were, but with all the physical intimacy as well. It was the perfect situation as far as she was concerned. She’d get to have Peeta, all of him, and no one else would, but she would still be able to keep up the lies she fed herself to keep this anxiety at bay.
“Okay,” she agreed begrudgingly, eyeing where his fingers bunched the fabric of her sweater. He was being careful to not actually touch her, and it was bothering her immensely. She was still feeling a little light-headed, but in a good way now, and she curled up in her seat and continued to watch him out of the corner of her eye as he settled in on the opposite end of the couch.
It killed her how unaffected he could seem by her current presence. She knew, deep down, that he was, but the fact that he had an easier time rebuffing her advances was infuriating. Sometimes Katniss felt like she was no longer in control of her own body, her reaction to him was so overwhelming. It was never like that with Gale. Gale was intense, but her feelings toward him, specifically her attraction to him, was never like this. She never felt like she’d lose her mind if she didn’t touch him. Her body never demanded more from his kisses. She never craved him this way.
Yet she had been attracted to him, and she cared deeply about him, and the dissolution of their relationship was harder on her than she ever anticipated. So she could only imagine how it would feel to lose Peeta in that way. A part of her didn’t think she could survive it.
But fuck, she wanted him right now. On her terms, too, just as he had accused. She wanted him to break, to kiss her and touch her and to screw her senseless. And after, she wanted him to whisper how much he loved her as he held her tight, all while they kept up the pretense that this wasn’t actually a committed relationship yet.
He could be so stern, which is why they hadn’t relapsed as much as she anticipated or wanted. But she was confident she could get him to cave. It would just take a little time...
They decided on a movie and he leaned back in his seat, bringing his foot over his knee to get comfortable. He was still wearing his Rockport shoes, which was ridiculous. Katniss had slipped off her flats as soon as they entered his apartment, but apparently he couldn’t risk any state of undress with her.
Now it did feel like a sort of game, and it was one she was determined to win. His foot jiggled nervously as he kept his eyes trained straight ahead on the flat screen television, and she stretched out as far as she could to rub her toes against the top of his jean-clad thigh.
“Stop it,” he said with a gritted jaw, pushing her foot away.
“I’m just trying to get comfortable.”
He was as far away as he could get, and he tensed uncomfortably as she inched further down the couch, cornering him even more. “I’m serious,” he told her, refusing to look at her as he spoke, probably because her sweater was still unbuttoned. “Don’t touch me.”
The rational and completely sober part of her was horrified by her callousness in the moment, but the other emotions, particularly hurt, won out. She returned back to her spot and glared at him, more determined than before. He had to give in now, if only so she knew he still wanted her.
The black tights she wore underneath her skirt had done their job warding off the chill, but now inside his warm apartment, they felt too binding. She sat up on her knees and started to tug them down her thighs, and she could see his jaw flex in agitation as he tried to pretend he wasn’t paying attention to her actions.
When they were down past her calves, she laid back and used her feet to push them off the rest of the way before kicking them off her foot. They landed next to Peeta, and he shifted away from them, turning slightly in his seat to avoid her further.
It didn’t deter her. She slipped the cardigan off next, leaving her in just the bra, skirt, and panties. He still wasn’t allowing himself to look, and she reclined back further, her head now on the armrest and her body stretched out along the length of the couch. Maybe she didn’t need him to touch her right now, after all. Just the act of watching him, even if he was pissed off at her, was enticing enough. The challenge also turned her on a little, too, and seeing his handsome profile bathed in the glow of the television screen was all her fuzzy mind needed to ignite her further.
Katniss wasn’t touching him; her feet barely met the edge of the middle cushion, thanks to her petite frame, so there was no infringement on his personal space, she reasoned. And, she thought deviously, if he gave in and watched the show she was about to put on, that was his prerogative.
She hitched her skirt up, her tongue darting out to lick the corner of her mouth as her fingernails scratched along the smooth skin at the top of her legs. He glanced over, and then whipped his head away as his fist clenched against his knee. The glimpse of the crack in his resolve spurred her on, and she used the tip of her right index finger to trace along the seam of her panties. She looked down to watch her hand move below her bunched up skirt, and when she looked up again, her eyes met Peeta’s.
“Katniss,” he said thickly. “Stop it.”
“I’m not touching you,” she pointed out like a petulant child.
He still seemed unwilling to play her game as he turned away again, and he was so tense that there was no question about how pissed off he was. In that moment, though, she didn’t care, and she tilted her head back further as her fingers slipped underneath her cotton underwear. She sighed in contentment, but she wasn’t really seeking any physical pleasure for herself. It was easy to pretend that she was enjoying the slow traverse of her digits, but her focus was still on Peeta and his reactions. She listened intently for any hitches of his breath, or the feel of the couch shifting as he moved, or-most importantly-the burn from his stare as his eyes found their way back on her.
There was something about driving him to the brink of frustration that got her going right now, and that was doing more for her than her own hand ever would. He tried to seem unaffected, knowing that any show of emotion on his part was playing right into her hands, but she knew it was getting to him, and she was terrible enough to want just that.
“Do you want me to drive you home?” he asked flatly, and that was the only thing that could give her pause.
She tried to hide her hurt as she slowly shook her head in reply, but it was a lost cause as he still wasn’t looking her way. There was no give in his stern posture, no indication that he was going to play this game and fall into her arms. It infuriated her. In the rare moments when Peeta had been the one to decide that he wanted to hold her, or kiss her, or fuck her, he was never met with an ounce of hesitancy on her part. She was supposed to be the one setting their speed, but she always acquiesced. Or, more accurately, fell into him with relief, savoring every connection.
They could be watching a movie and his hand would find her hand, and she’d grasp onto it as if her life depended on him. They could be joking while they made drinks together, and his eyes would shyly meet hers as their laughter trailed off, and then she would be pressed against the refrigerator, holding him just as tightly as he gripped her, returning every hungry kiss.
But now he wouldn’t budge, and as much as it enraged her, it also stirred something inside of her. Maybe there should have been a hint of shame that it was turning her on, but as her thumb finally brushed over her clit, she gasped in pleasure and couldn’t be bothered to care about anything else.
The moan garnered his attention, and finally he relented, hitting the mute button on the remote and peering over at her. She dropped her chin to her chest and stared back at him, ignoring his poor attempt at disinterest even as his eyes were riveted to her fingers.
The panties were in her way, so she tugged them down and off, allowing them to drop beside the sofa. Then she brought up her feet and spread her legs, giving him a full access view, and he slumped further in his seat, one hand frozen at his side while his other tugged at his curls as he leaned back with his elbow on the armrest.
He didn’t even bother pretending he wasn’t taking it all in, but his face remained impassive as he tracked the rhythm of her swirling fingers. She was slick and swollen as she circled her clit, and she couldn’t stifle a moan when his tongue darted out to lick his lips.
“Touch me,” she begged as she pulled down the cups of her bra with her free hand, pinching and tugging her nipple as her fingers sped up.
He shook his head. “No, I can’t.”
She gritted her teeth in both frustration and pleasure, only stopping to completely remove her skirt and unhook her bra. All she wanted was to feel his mouth on her breasts again, because he liked to take his time with them, thoroughly worshipping each one with that tongue and his amazing hands. Hers were a poor substitute, but for now they’d have to do.
Katniss trailed her hand from her breast to the juncture of her thighs, and then she spread herself for him, relishing the intimacy of the moment. She could see the bulge in his jeans as he watched unapologetically, and the reassurance sent another jolt of pleasure through her center.
“Peeta,” she whispered, tipping her head back and pumping one slender finger inside of herself.
She stopped at the sound of rustling clothing, and her body tensed in anticipation as she looked back to find Peeta pulling off his sweater and unbuckling his belt.
“I can’t touch you,” he repeated as he stepped out of his shoes and socks and pushed his jeans down his legs. Her focus was on his tented boxers, but she felt the thrill of victory quickly slipping away. He sat back down opposite of her again and lightly stroked himself once through the thin black material, adding, “And you can’t touch me.”
“So touch yourself,” she commanded, and he pushed his shorts off his hips and settled back on the couch.
Both sighed as his hand wrapped around his freed cock, and now Katniss licked her lips as she watched him. They were completely naked and in sync, panting and pumping in time with each other.
She arched her back, her hips lifting from the cushion in anticipation. The way Peeta’s arm muscles flexed as he jacked off was intensely erotic, and her mouth practically watered at the sight of precum at the tip of his cock. Fuck, she wanted to taste him. She wanted him in her mouth and completely at her mercy. She wanted to be the one making him feel this good.
He used that moisture to ease his way, and she moaned again, louder, as she felt herself closing in on her climax.
It didn’t happen, though, and her face twisted in agitation as she kept rubbing herself, desperate for release. Peeta hadn’t looked away from her since he joined in, and his beautiful mouth hung open as he silently urged her to finish.
Still, she couldn’t. As much as she wanted it, as well as she knew her own body now, she wouldn’t settle for anything less than Peeta’s touch to get her off.
Her short intakes of breath punctuated her frustration, and she whimpered through her gritted teeth as she moved faster, her fingers aching from the exertion.
“Fuck it,” she heard Peeta say, and then he was in front of her, his hands hooking under her knees to pull her closer to him. When his tongue replaced her digits, she practically screamed, and then she was thrusting against his face as she fisted his silky hair in her hands.
“Yes, yes, yes,” she keened, and this was all she wanted, all she needed to help get her there.
Her feet were pressed flat against his back as he licked enthusiastically, and when he stretched his arm out to palm her breast, she lifted her hips higher and tensed. His beautiful blue eyes met hers as she started to come, and it sent her careening over the edge, crying out his name as her body vibrated.
He continued to pepper gentle kisses on the inside of her thighs as she recovered, and it was crazy how quickly she could go from feeling amazing to awful. But with the wine and lust clouds lifted, she realized how she was acting and immediately felt remorse.
“Peeta,” she said softly, her fingers still twisted in his hair. She gently scratched his scalp as he rested his chin on her tummy, and her reward was his sweet, solemn smile. “I really love you,” she whispered.
“I really love you, too,” he replied, moving up her body to capture her lips.
She could feel him hard and ready between her thighs, but she knew that he wouldn’t have condoms here when he had been so steadfast about their arrangement, and she hadn’t had the foresight to bring any herself. Still, she needed to feel him inside of her again, and it was probably going to be another foolish thing she did that night, but nothing could stop her from wrapping her arms and legs around him and telling him to just pull out as she nipped at his ear.
They had done this once before, and as irresponsible as it may have been, it felt too incredible to care. That was another side-effect of their situation, the temporary insanity. Peeta, again, was too far gone to protest, and she grabbed his biceps as he slid inside of her without a barrier. Once they were officially together, Katniss knew they would never be able to go back to that extra layer between them, and she never wanted to. She’d have to use something else, because even now it was hard to not beg him to release inside of her.
“Mm,” she said, nuzzling his cheek. “Tell me when you’re going to come.”
“You feel incredible,” he panted as he thrust slowly.
She held him tighter, pressing her breasts against his hard chest as her hands trailed down his back. Then, suddenly, he flipped her over, and she squealed in surprise as he sat up so she could straddle him.
There was no better feeling than riding him, and it felt like his hands and mouth were everywhere as she bounced in his lap. He looked so blissful, and in that moment she was sure of all her next moves.
“You’re mine,” she said, rising up on her knees and slowly lowering herself down again. “And I’m yours.”
Their pace alternated between frantic and tortuously slow, and he gripped her waist as he told her that yes, she was his. “I’m close, Katniss.”
She kissed him languidly and pushed off of his broad shoulders before settling in front of him, on her knees. His eyes widened in surprise when she took him into her mouth, but she wanted to do this for him, something she never did for anyone before, and her silver eyes reflected her steely determination. She could taste herself on his cock, and it sent a thrill through her.
“Oh fuck,” he muttered, tangling his fingers in her hair. “Fuck, please don’t stop.”
She released him for only a second, her hand taking place of her mouth, and told him to come. Then she descended again, her nails digging into his thighs, and he cried out as the first spurt hit the back of her throat. Nothing was going to prepare her for it, but his obvious pleasure and her intense need to prove something to him helped considerably, and she swallowed easily, coaxing more from him with her hand.
When he was finished, she licked along his shaft, trying her best to seem seductive as her eyes stayed locked with his. He gave her a soft smile, and lovingly brushed the hair away from her face. She could have kept her mouth on him forever, she was sure, but soon he was laughing lightly and pushing her away, as if it tickled him.
“Okay, okay,” he said happily, even as he gritted his teeth. “Ahhh, I’m really sensitive right now.”
“You told me not to stop,” she reminded him teasingly, kissing the head one last time.
“Since when do you listen to me?” he retorted, though not unkindly.
Her face must have fallen at that, because he was urging her up and into his arms. “It’s okay, Katniss. I wanted it just as much as you did.”
“I’m sorry for how I acted tonight,” she said, hugging him tightly. They were both still naked and pressed together, but now it was only the intimacy she craved. It was amazing to her, how she could nearly lose her mind with want for him in one moment, and then in the next be sated and needing only his embrace.
So why was she fighting it? This was Peeta. Her Peeta.
All her planned words felt a million miles away in that moment, but as she curled up against him, she didn’t need them. “I’m ready,” she said simply. “Peeta, I want to be with you. Really with you.”
He knew that if she was saying it, she meant it, and he broke out into a wide smile before he tilted her head back and kissed her. And yes, a part of her was still scared that she could lose him one day, but she was determined to enjoy this hard fought moment with him.
“This is the start of the rest of our lives,” he told her, and maybe that should have scared her a little more, considering they’ve technically been dating for a whole thirty seconds. But it was just the assurance she wanted.
She pressed her forehead to his. “It is.”
They shared another lingering kiss, and then they stretched out on the couch as she reached for the remote. “House Hunters?” she asked, because as much as she wanted this, she also needed to lighten the moment.
He laughed and pulled her tighter against him as she flipped through the channels. “Sure.”
“What?” she asked, confused.
He was still smiling as he shrugged. “Nothing. It’s just funny that things are the same between us. Except that we’re naked.”
“Nudity is a definite perk, though,” she said, turning to HGTV.
He pressed a kiss to the back of her head as they settled in comfortably. “Damn right it is.”