In her more lucid moments after learning Peeta was taken, Katniss wondered if he still loved her. Yes, it was an incredibly selfish thing to wonder, but she couldn’t help herself. She wondered, as she lay in her bed at night with Johannah beside her, if he thought of her still. What he thought of her if he did. Did he hate her for causing him whatever pain he was going through, pain she couldn’t even begin to fathom and if she tried, would make her more useless to the revolution than she already was? For it was the hope of finding him that kept her going. She didn’t care what condition he came back to her in, so long as he did and was alive. Peeta, alive. When she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend it was him who was breathing just a little bit away. It was this trick that made sleep come easy.
When they would inject the morphling into her veins, it running through her body with little streaks of fire, everyone would turn into Peeta. Finnick was Peeta, Johannah was Peeta, Gale and Prim and her mother and everyone from District 12 and Coin and everyone, except Haymitch. Haymitch was the only one who stayed the same. She wished he turned into Peeta too. She’d rather be surrounded by a thousand fake Peeta’s than one real Haymitch.
Of course, when they got him back, she almost wished the Capitol still had him. Almost. Then, at least, she could have a reason to fight. Then, Katniss could hold on to her imaginary Peeta, no matter how much it hurt to wake up and realize he wasn’t there. But at least her imaginary Peeta didn’t want to kill her, didn’t hate it. It was the latter, she thought, that made her return to the morphling. Because one Peeta who hated her was worse than a million fake ones that didn’t.
Being around him was torture. She was constantly reminded, with that stupid game of “Real or Not Real” of what was and what would never be again. At times she would play the game with herself. Peeta used to love me, real or not real? Real was the obvious answer. But then she’d argue with herself, saying that whatever had happened to him at the Capitol could not have taken away so deep a love as he could, should, had felt. So he must have felt nothing for her, nothing at all. That destroyed her more than the revolution.
At the end of everything, the revolution, the death of Coin, everything; they would spend long hours away from the rest of the world. She no longer questioned whether he loved her or not, she no longer questioned anything. She would simply place her hand over his heart and feel the steady thump, thump, thump beneath her palm. Because in this, she knew, he was real. Always real.