a/n [Written for Caesar's Palace Valentine's Fic Exchange for Sally (chocolate-chip-cookie-monster).]

This. Is. Fear.

This is that silent, still moment before everything goes terribly wrong. It takes a turn toward the unimaginable. You lose all hope.

This is fear when the world turns under you. You jumble up inside and are lost and confused and can't get out. Then in one big wave everything rushes up on you and takes you in. There is no escape, and that's when you feel fear.

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Katniss Everdeen has felt fear for herself so few times she can count it on her fingers on one hand if half of it was bitten off. Her problem is that she would have to grow several other hands if she wanted to count how many times she's felt fear for someone else.

She's feared for Prim so many times. When Prim was reaped she froze, she stopped, she couldn't breathe. Her wave was pushing at her, drowning her and throwing her out to sea. Then she feared she'd never swim back to Prim. So she broke her wave and rode it back to shore.

When her father died in the mine accident, she never feared for herself. She feared for him, even though he was so much stronger and braver and tougher than she. She feared for Prim, because her sister could never be able to handle this, and what if she lost part of herself with it. She feared for her mother because this wasn't fair, and she might lose herself too. She didn't dare fear for herself though, because she was too busy fighting back her instinct to carry on with the wave.

Her wave was ignored entirely she saw the boy aim his spear at Rue. It evaporated into a cloud of fury, and after—only after—the boy was killed and her ally lay fallen on the ground did she allow that wave to rush over her and flush her out. This girl had so much life in her, so much more to do, and yet she wasn't feeling fear for herself, only Katniss. So there the two girls waited for Rue's final breath, both fearing for the other and not for themselves.

This. Is. Strength.

This is that pause, when you realize everything's breaking down. You look around, and all you see is grasped hope slipping through gaps in fingers. You lose yourself one by one, inch by inch.

This is strength when you fight against the doubt. When you shout and refuse and fight and tantrum. Then slowly you find yourself again and click the puzzle pieces back in place. You get back up and stand tall, and that is when you feel strength.

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Katniss Everdeen has tons of strength, and it so rarely slips past her. But she's only human, and when she falls, she falls hard. Slowly, she rises again.

She remembers the rebellion, of course. She remembers her struggle to be allowed to fight. She remembers when Coin tried to convince her that she was done. That she was the Mockingjay, she wasn't a soldier, she didn't have to fight. But she fought for her rightful place along everyone else.

The third Quarter Quell called for the victors to be reaped. That wasn't how it was supposed to be, she was safe now, she was (supposed to be) happy now. And she slipped, and fell, and hit the ground. But she gathered her pieces and placed them back, each one click clack clicking into place. And she stood strong and tall and refused to break again because she was strong and nothing could stop her path or move her from her goal.

Her puzzle was scattered when her father died. She was left to take his place, which wasn't right; it was wrong, so wrong. She let herself cry and scream, but never when eyes were on her. When she needed to turn back to life she shook it off, collected a piece, and kept searching for her next one. Never giving up, never letting go.

This. Is. Anger.

This is the initial shock, the gasp, the stun. When a flash of light blinds you for an instant. You are thinking, gears are turning, and then the light burns red.

This is anger when your hands tighten into hard fists stronger than concrete. You feel invincible and strong, terribly strong. Then the burning spreads and this is the bad kind of strong, this is rage, and that is when you feel anger.

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Katniss Everdeen has been angry at so much. It seems the world is against her, and her hands hurt from clenching, and her anger fades into bitterness. But sometimes she pushed back over edge, and that's when you should get out of the way.

She was angry with her mother, so, so angry the pain ripped at her flesh and burned. But she didn't let it all out, because that wasn't fair, was it? But sometimes the red blinded her and she didn't know what to do. She went to the woods and shot anything that got in her way, not looking back to see if she even hit her target.

The Capitol angers her the most. They can do anything, whenever, and without purpose. They never have to worry if tomorrow they will starve, or a family member will pass suddenly, unexpectedly, in the most terrible fashion. The Capitol is in charge of her, confines her, and she can do nothing. She is treated like nothing. Perhaps she is nothing in their eye. She wishes she were never associated with them, wish they never knew her name, wish they wouldn't name her children after her. But than she and Peeta won the Games and now the Capitol can't get enough of her.

Try as she might, she can't get angry with Peeta. He's too kind, too likeable, too sweet that that almost angers her. But it doesn't, because that would be a horrible mistake, and they were a team, are they still a team? Sometimes she's angry that she doesn't know, that they are separated, that everything stops them from having a normal conversation. But she could never be angry with Peeta, even when she tries, she can't.

This. Is. Happiness.

This is the gentle spread from your head to your toes. You fill with warmth, and glow. Then it's indescribable, because you can only know it when you feel it.

This is happiness when you smile and let the bliss roll over you. When you go away to a meadow where the sun shines above and everything is bright and could never get better. You take in a breath and you're a different person, and that is when you feel happiness.

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Katniss Everdeen has long since given up on happiness. Few make her smile, rare does she laugh. But sometimes she manages to glow and light up, and those around her blossom with her.

She misses being free. She misses her times out in the woods, hunting with Gale. He was her best friend, and he could make her smile and forget that life was so hard. She was happy when the guard over her left and she could be at peace with the wild, and she could move with the trees. Sometimes she'd relax and feel the bliss encase her, because sometimes it's all right to close your eyes and smile.

She was floating up on the roof with Peeta. She was glad to be rid of Effie's pestering, of Haymitch's jabs, of all the tension in the air. The air around her was warm and forgiving. The light shone across her and she glided on it. Peeta's cheerful laugh as they bounced the apple against the barrier until the apple all but fell apart. And then there was the soothing feeling of Peeta's fingers brushing through her hair, and she knew, at that moment, that that was pure happiness.

Sometimes she's just happy she is alive, that she—as worthless as she is—has done good. That she is brave. That she has helped. It doesn't make sense. This isn't who Katniss was a few years ago, was it? No, it couldn't be. She was this tough, stubborn girl who did what she wanted. But isn't she still? Now she's just happier, something she never got to be.

This. Is. Sorrow.

This is that emptiness when the world shakes, crumbles, collapses, buries you. You end up shriveled and nothing, but you can't feel a thing. You embrace the pain. You wait.

This is sorrow when you reach back up and the numbness ebbs away and leaves your carcass dry. You creak and crack and you're a skeleton, an empty shell. When you grow joints and muscles and skin and organs, and you cry, that is when you feel sorrow.

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Katniss Everdeen lives in a shielded case so she can't break. But even the strongest barriers topple. Then she's left in the open and she knows it and she wonders, but then she's left to dissolve.

She was sad when her father died. When her mother left her. When Prim died. When Gale moved on. When Rue died. When Haymitch betrayed her. When Finnick died. When her home was destroyed. When Boggs died. When Peeta thought she was a monster. Maybe she's felt sorrow more than she thinks.

Almost everyone she cared about is gone. Almost everyone she cares about is gone. There are few others who she might care about, she's not sure, but she's not sure if she'd be sad if something happened to them. Other emotions exist for them, but sorrow goes with her close friends and family. Who used to be her close friends and family. It's the past tense that's most painful to her.

Sometimes the aftermath can kill you just as hard as the current moment. It's thinking, just sitting and thinking, when your mind plays the cruelest of tricks on you. You start wondering why, what, who, where, when, how? This is different. Answers. Questions. Give. Take. Forget. Fade. Drown. Cry. This is sorrow and sometimes you give in to it, and sometimes you don't. Her life could be so different if her sister wasn't reaped, if she didn't win, if she didn't go into the Quarter Quell, if the Capitol picked her up after the explosion, if she was never the Mockingjay. Sometimes her mind brings her to hell.

This. Is. Love.

This is that silence, that pause, that initial shock, that gentle spread, that emptiness. Now they're all rolled into one. You are confused, you are standing tall, you are invincible, you are glowing, you are shaking. Now it's all happening at once.

This is love when it morphs into something completely different, unique, inspiring. It's terrifying, it's elating, and you're walking on air. You are beautiful, you are beyond everything, and when you're giving, that is when you feel love.

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Katniss Everdeen never understood this emotion. She deemed it pointless and carried on. But sometimes it plays games with her mind, and she's already had enough games to last her a lifetime, but somehow this pulls her in until she can never get back out.

She loved her sister with all of her heart. Prim was beauty in the dark world. So young and innocent, and Katniss failed to notice when her young sister had grown up. It was sudden and it was heart breaking. Prim grew into so much more, and Katniss still loved her so much. So much, that her heart must have been punctured straight through when her sister died.

She remembers Finnick, and how much he loved Annie. That was entirely different, witnessing first hand how perfect they were for each other. She was so jealous, because she knew she could never have the same. It was unfair, yet she couldn't complain because as much as she deserved to be loved, they both deserved each other more. And it was beautiful, and everything she once thought was changed, because maybe love is worth it after all.

Sometimes her stomach flutters and her heart pounds, and her head floats, and she doesn't understand it, but she knows this is a different sort of love. That's what she feels when Peeta is around. She wonders if that is normal, it is, isn't it? But it's so strange, and she's scared when he tells her he loves her. After all they've been through, can she still love? And she's strong right now, because she knows that she can brave through the past. But she's angry, and she doesn't know why, but perhaps it's because she couldn't love him sooner. And she's happy, in bliss, because it feels so heavenly right to love. Yet she's sad, because what if she doesn't have it in her to love. And she's so confused she's never seen more clearly. So she whispers back, "I love you, too."

She's not sure if the journey is ending or beginning, but she's got no choice but to ride along.