When I reach the room Peeta is in I feel lightheaded with giddiness. What will he look like? Will he be as bad as Johanna, or worse?

Somewhere in the mass of doctors surrounding him I see a halo of blond hair that could only belong to him. The doctors see me and step out of the way. I make my way around the bed, he can't see me yet. When he does, a shocked and confused look crosses his bruised face.

He stands up slowly and pushes past the doctors and comes toward me incredulously.

"Katniss?" He asks as he looks me over with wide eyes.
"Peeta," I whisper, choking back my sobs.

"Is it really you? Are you real? Are you really alive?"

Tears fill my eyes at his words. What did they do to him? What did they do to my Peeta?

"Yes Peeta, I'm here. I'm real and I am alive."

He takes a few more steps forward and he's close enough to touch me now. He reaches forward and touches my face, caressing it; he brushes his hand over my hair, my mouth, my eyes, seeing if I'm actually real.
Tears are streaming down my face now and he brushes them away with his thumb. "What did they do to you Peeta?" I whisper.
Then I'm crushed in his embrace. I hug him back, I can't believe he's here, he's safe, and he's with me again.

We hold each other for a long time, just drinking in the other's presence. Then he does it, he kisses me. I kiss him back. It's one of those kisses, the kind that spreads a hunger throughout me and warms me to the very tips of my being, the kind we shared on the beach. Our kiss is filled with joy and sorrow, reassurance and longing. It's a kiss full of promises. When we finally pull away he rests his forehead on mine and we just look into each other's eyes.

"They told me you were dead," he finally says, and I realize he's talking about his time in the Capitol. "I had to watch you die over and over again."
I hug him tighter and say, "I'm not dead, Peeta. I'm here with you and we're safe, and I'm not losing you again ever."
He raises up slightly to look at me better. "I'm not leaving you, either." And I know he means it. And I mean it too.

Then I finally realize Peeta should probably be in bed, considering the condition he's in; He's beaten and bruised all over, he's much too skinny, he's extremely pale, he has bags under his eyes, and he walks with a worse limp than before. I come to a horrible conclusion. He's half dead. We rescued him in a nick of time, he would've been dead in a week.
I shudder and hug him as tightly as I can as we walk back towards the bed. When he's finally sitting again, the doctors take over once more, but I refuse to let go of his hand. I have him back, and there's no way I'm letting go of him again.

After the doctors are finally done with him for the time being, Peeta and I are alone again. I settle on the bed next to him and we wrap ourselves in each other's arms.

"I missed you, Peeta. I couldn't function without you," I say. " I was so mad when I found out the Capitol had taken you. I wanted you to be the one rescued instead of me. I kind of flipped out and...attacked Haymitch."
Peeta looks at me. " Katniss, I'm glad it was me taken by the Capitol and not you."
Of course, he is. He's Peeta. Kind, sweet, Peeta.
I don't know what to say so I don't say anything back. Instead, I kiss him.
It's at that moment that I realize I do love Peeta Mellark. He is what I need to survive, to bring me hope. He's my dandelion in the spring. I pull away from him and loom into his blue eyes which I've become so familiar with over the past two years. "Peeta, I...I love you," I say. There, now he knows. He looks at me, completely surprised at first, and then completely and utterly happy. "You said you loved me, Katniss, real or not real?"
"Real," I say. " I wish I had realized it sooner, but being away from you, not knowing each day if you were alive or not made me realize it myself. " Finnick's words play in my head.
"Say it again," he begs incredulously.
"I love you, Peeta Mellark," I say with a laugh.
"I love you too, Katniss Everdeen," he replies, his blue eyes sparkling. "Always."