Disclaimer: I own nothing.

I quoted some words straight from the Catching Fire book, or made very tiny modifications to them. Those words are denoted with an asterisk.

Beauty Out of Pain

I stare at the tiny white ball and roll it around in my palm. Sometimes the light catches it, and it glimmers, the white seemingly turning into a thousand different colors. I'm sure there's a term for this, but I don't know it. Peeta probably would though. I can picture him now, holding it in his hands, studying it, figuring out how to paint those rainbows, just like he had told that dying Morphling from District Six. I watch as my fingers tighten around the pearl, thinking how wrong this picture looks. It was supposed to be Peeta's hands holding the precious stone, not mine. After all, that is what I had planned on. That my mom would give this to Peeta after my body was returned to District Twelve. After Peeta had won the Games. Instead, she had given it to me.

There's a sound at the door and I hastily shove the pearl into my pocket. There are only four possibilities for my visitor: Gale, Prim, my mother, or Finnick. They're the only people I will speak to; by now everyone else has given up. That's why when I see Haymitch, I'm too shocked to do anything but stare back. I haven't seen him since that day. The one where I found out Peeta had been taken by the Capitol. I still don't regret raking my nails across Haymitch's face, and there's something satisfying about still seeing the angry, red marks run down his cheek. He deserved it. And when I think of Peeta being tortured by the Capitol, Peeta, who after Prim and Rue is the kindest person I have ever known, I decide again that Haymitch deserved much worse.

Haymitch sits next to me on my bed, but I refuse to acknowledge him. What could he possibly say to make this situation any better? At least now you won't have to marry him. But I would marry Peeta a thousand times over if it meant his safety and happiness. Because, I'm just starting to realize that Peeta's happiness is my own. But then, I was always slow about these things. I didn't realize he loved me, and when I did I fought against his feelings tooth and nail. And as for my own feelings, I rejected the very idea that I needed him. Even my body and soul knew it before I did. They wanted him beside me, night after night, the only peace from my hellish nightmares. At least Peeta knew I needed him. Even in my stupidity, I had figured out that my life would be permanently ruined without him. And this had led to those kisses on the beach, the few that have made me want more. And I can't even take any joy from them, because there aren't going to be any more.

In those minutes where Haymitch and I sit next to each other, saying nothing, I think of all the things he could say. And every possibility is horrible, because they're all true. You never did deserve him...That lovesick idiot would have wanted this…Still being selfish, sweetheart. There's a whole rebellion that needs you, and you're pining away for the one person you can do nothing for. But Haymitch doesn't say anything like that. He doesn't say anything at all. Just thrusts a letter at me.

I let it fall to the floor. Written or spoken, Haymitch's words will be ignored. He lost whatever right to be listened to the minute he betrayed me by lying about protecting Peeta. Expecting Haymitch to swear at me and storm from the room, I'm surprised to see him pick up the letter. He turns it over in his hands, as gently as I had been turning over Peeta's pearl.

"Katniss, I know you hate me. And believe me, if I could, I'd switch you and Peeta any day. But I didn't come here to offer any apologies, because I don't owe you any. I did what needed to be done, even if you're too blind and stupid to see that."

His insults don't even register. And you can trust that I'd gleefully trade Haymitch for Peeta too.

"Thanks for letting me know, Haymitch. Now leave."

He crumples the letter in his hand, then for some reason smoothes it out on his thigh. "I didn't come here to trade insults with you either…You'll be wanting to read this. Maybe not now. But later."

"There is nothing you can say that will make this better."

"This letter isn't from me. It's from Peeta. If it were up to me, I wouldn't even be giving this to you…" The words, 'you don't deserve this' hang in the air, but I'm too confused to care about Haymitch's loathing. Hope instantly catches in my chest, and I look at Haymitch, my eyes searching his face for any confirmation that my nightmares are over and Peeta has been rescued. There isn't any. Haymitch looks as dead as I do. Whatever benefit he had gained by training with me and Peeta before the Games seems to have disappeared. His eyes are bloodshot, but not from drunkenness. They won't give him liquor here in District Thirteen, so I know he is as helpless as I am in drowning out his dreams.

"But—" I stop, remembering Peeta's words to me after we'd been forced onto the Tribute Train without getting to say our goodbyes…*We'll write letters, Katniss. It will be better, anyway. Give them a piece of us to hold on to. Haymitch will deliver them for us if…they need to be delivered.*

Haymitch doesn't try to give me the letter again. Just puts it on the bed before he walks away. As soon as the door shuts behind him, I snatch at the letter, smoothing it out, just as Haymitch had done before me. No wonder he had felt bad. These are Peeta's words. And even though Haymitch won't apologize to me, I know he feels bad about Peeta. And I have no trouble believing he is angry with me about Peeta as well. Haymitch might not have been able to save him, but he had never rejected Peeta like I had. If I hadn't, he'd probably be as easy with me as he is with Finnick about Annie. But no, Haymitch hates me. Can't say the feeling isn't mutual.

I turn the envelope over, and Peeta's familiar scrawl becomes blurry. Swiping at my eyes, I open the letter.

There's a drawing inside. It's of me, from that day on the roof. The sun is setting in the background, lighting up the sky in all those shades of orange that Peeta loves. I know some of the details are inaccurate. He had awoken me before the sunset. And if he had been drawing, he wouldn't have been able to hold my hand, like he is in the picture. I wish he had drawn more of himself in, but it's clear I'm the focus of this drawing. And I look beautiful. Completely at peace. The sun glints down, and my hair is shining around my head, like a dark halo. My lips are curled in a small smile. I hope this is how Peeta remembers me. Not as the cold and callous girl who was too stupid to know her own heart. But as the girl who holds his hand and smiles at him in her sleep. The girl who told Peeta she needs him.

I finally flip the page over to read Peeta's last words to me. It's dated two days before the Games. He probably wrote this while I was sleeping on the roof, my head in his lap. Or maybe while I was sleeping in bed next to him. I pretend he's there next to me now, patiently waiting for me to finish reading the letter.


If you are reading this, it's because I've died in the Games. While that might not bring you any comfort, I hope that in time you will accept that this was for the best.

I can picture you now, squirming because you think I'm going to confess yet again my undying love for you. Sometimes, you can be so predictable. But just so you know, I never wanted to make you feel uncomfortable because of my feelings. It's probably the main reason I stayed away from you after we returned home after the last Games. I was hurt, and even though I might have been angry at you, I had no one to blame but myself. I wish I could have kept that in, because then I could have spent more time with you, but I couldn't, so I kept to myself. You didn't deserve to have my bitterness hanging over your head, not after you had done so much to protect me. I'll admit that there was another part of me that felt miserable because you should have been able to enjoy winning the Games. Instead you had to deal with the guilt you had for hurting me. And I know it was there. You're too good, Katniss Everdeen, not to have felt bad about this, even though it wasn't your fault. And that's the main reason I'm writing you this letter.

I do not want you to feel guilty for outliving me. I plan on telling you this in the arena, but if I don't get the chance, you need to know something. *You're my whole life. If you died and I lived, I would never be happy again.* There is nothing, not painting, not cake decorating or spending time with my family or whatever good thing that would come into my life that could make up for your loss. Certainly not Haymitch. If anything, you're doing me a huge favor. If I had to deal with Haymitch all alone, I think I'd kill myself. In any case, my family are well provided for, or at least as well provided for as living in District Twelve allows. And as long as you live, those you care for are in good hands as well. There is no one who needs me, and I can die knowing that you, your family, and my family will be alright.

I don't know how you feel about me, but I know that you care for me. That you consider me one of your friends. So even though you aren't in love with me, I know you will be hurt, probably even angry that I've died. I can't ask you not to feel that. I think that admitting it will help you to heal that much faster. What I will ask is that you let yourself heal. Don't think that you are doing me any favors by holding on to your anger and grief. You aren't. I didn't (hopefully) sacrifice my life so you could feel guilty for the rest of yours. You're family needs you. So when you have stopped mourning, don't tell yourself that you need to go on doing it, just to honor me.

Besides, I already consider myself honored. I can assure you that when I died, I went to the grave thinking how lucky I was to have been known by you. And that you liked me enough to be your friend. Seriously, I've been watching you my whole life, wanting to be noticed by you. I was too much of a chicken to even speak with you, and yet somehow, you are right now lying in my arms, trusting me enough to let me help you through your nightmares. And if you are having nightmares, I hope that you will read this and know that I would want you to be comforted. I'm happy when you are. You might not believe it, but it's true.

Well, you're starting to stir, so I should probably end this. Please let my dad know that I love him. And be nice to Effie. I know she seems shallow, but I think she actually likes you and me. I won't tell you to be nice to Haymitch, because I know that is impossible, but try not to kill him, alright? I also left some drawings under my bed at home. Could you see that they are given to the proper people? Thanks!

I love you,

Peeta Mellark

Of course I'm a sobbing mess by the end. Naturally Peeta knows the exact words to say to make me feel better. I want to feel guilty, but he won't let me. I want to be angry, and he says that's ok. So I let go. I'm furious. At the Capitol, at Haymitch, at my situation, at myself. But there is also this indescribable ache in my chest. My heart still feels empty, but at least it can feel something. I can't make much sense of it, but I know it won't go away until he's with me again. And then I realize Peeta's words have done something for me that no one else has. They've given me hope.

I put the letter away, not wanting my tears to smudge one word of Peeta's. That and his pearl are the only things I have left of him. For now. Because I've decided that Peeta isn't dead yet. I know that the Capitol is keeping him alive because of me. And if Peeta's alive, he is stubborn enough to make it through to see me again. When given the choice, he'd always choose life. And me. In the arena, my life could only go on if his didn't. But outside the arena, even in the dank of whatever dungeon President Snow has placed him, he'll fight for me. He's already died three times and returned to me. He's much stronger than anyone's given him credit for. Certainly me. And if he can hold on for me, I can do the same.

I get up from my bed and leave my room for the first time in days. It's time for me to go about fulfilling Peeta's wishes. Well, as much as I can anyway. Even if Peeta's house made it through the firebombing of District Twelve, the people who his pictures were meant for probably did not. I don't even know if Effie or Peeta's dad are alive, but Peeta would surely want me to find out. I suppose I can promise not to kill Haymitch. One thing I can work on for sure is myself. If Peeta says my happiness is his, then so be it. I'll speak with Plutarch and Haymitch. Make them realize that the only help they'll get from me comes after we rescue Peeta. Because there is no way I'm ever going to be happy without him.

The End

A/N: Thanks for reading. Please review.