[…] the Capitol has not killed or even punished him [Peeta]. For right now, that exceeds my wildest hopes. I drink in his wholeness, the soundness of his body and mind. It runs through me like the morphling they give me in the hospital, dulling the pain of the last weeks. (2.26)
It's also hard to tell if Katniss and Peeta are just friends, or if they're in love. Here, it sounds more like Katniss loves Peeta. She compares the discovery of him being alive to receiving a drug like morphine. Finding out he's somewhat "whole" is the best news she could receive in this moment, and, it sounds like, more than she ever expected.
"You're alive," I whisper, pressing my palms against my cheeks, feeling the smile that's so wide it must look like a grimace. Peeta's alive. And a traitor. But at the moment, I don't care. Not what he says, or who he says it for, only that he is still capable of speech. (2.65)
This seems like proof that Katniss loves Peeta, even if she can't admit it to even herself. The mere knowledge that Peeta's alive is all Katniss wants to know. It makes her grin like an idiot and she doesn't even care about the details, like about why he is alive. All that matters is that he is.
"I doubt they'll ask for details. They saw it [District 12] burn. They'll mostly be worried about how you're handling it." Gale touches my cheek. "Like I am."
I press my face against his hand for a moment. "I'll survive." (2.12-13)
In moments like this one, it's hard to tell if Gale and Katniss are just friends, or if they're something more. The way Gale touches Katniss and the way she responds both seem to suggest that they draw some kind of comfort from being physically close – and might even be craving that closeness.
Gale, who I have never seen cry, has tears in his eyes. To keep them from spilling over, I reach forward and press my lips against his. We taste of heat, ashes, and misery. It's a surprising flavor for such a gentle kiss. He pulls away first and gives me a wry smile. "I knew you'd kiss me."
"How?" I say. Because I didn't know myself.
"Because I'm in pain," he says. "That's the only way I get your attention." He picks up the box. "Don't worry, Katniss. It'll pass." (8.69-71)
What kind of relationship do Gale and Katniss have? Based on Gale's comments here, it seems like an unbalanced one. She only expresses love or care for him when he is "in pain." Otherwise, at least in his opinion, she doesn't appear to notice him. And it does seem like Katniss is more inclined to reach out and give physical comfort when Gale is obviously hurting.
"[…] I knew I'd misjudged you. That you do love him. I'm not saying in what way. Maybe you don't know yourself. But anyone paying attention could see how much you care about him," he says gently.
Anyone? On Snow's visit before the Victory Tour, he challenged me to erase any doubts of my love for Peeta. "<em>Convince </em>me," Snow said. It seems, under that hot pink sky with Peeta's life in limbo, I finally did. And in doing so, I gave him the weapon he needed to break me. (11.19-20)
Finnick helps Katniss realize a wonderful and terrible truth: that she loves Peeta, somehow. But her love for him is also what's put him in terrible danger. True, it might be keeping him alive, but at what cost? Something that should be private and emotional has become a public weapon.
"We were outside at the end of the day. I tried to catch your eye. You looked away. And then... for some reason, I think you picked a dandelion." I nod. He does remember. I have never spoken about that moment aloud. "I must have loved you a lot."
"You did." My voice catches and I pretend to cough.
"And did you love me?" he asks.
I keep my eyes on the tiled floor. "Everyone says I did. Everyone says that's why Snow had you tortured. To break me." (16.83-86)
In this poignant moment, Peeta struggles to recapture his feelings and memories after being hijacked. Yet he seems more ready to admit those feelings than Katniss, who <em>wasn't</em> hijacked. When asked directly if she loved him, Katniss sidesteps the question and explains that "everyone" else "says" that she did. The words and actions of all the people around her point to and explain this love. But she herself is unable to admit it.
"You're still trying to protect me. Real or not real," he whispers.
"Real," I answer. It seems to require more explanation. "Because that's what you and I do. Protect each other." (21.79-80)
No matter what, Katniss and Peeta are a team. They started out as unlikely allies and yet their relationship has evolved into a complex love/friendship arrangement based on keeping each other alive. Despite all the odds and everything working against them, they can't let go of that.
"I wonder how she'll make up her mind."
"Oh, that I do know." I can just catch Gale's last words through the layer of fur. "Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can't survive without." (23.89-90)
In the next chapter, we find out that this statement really hurts Katniss's feelings. Outside of that, though, it's hard not to wonder if it's true. Every decision Katniss has made up to this point, not just in <em>Mockingjay</em> but in all the books, has related to survival: her survival and the survival of the people she really cares about.
Trying to shout her name above the roar. I'm almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think she hears me. Because for just a moment, she catches sight of me, her lips form my name. (24.76)
Romantic love isn't the only kind of love in this text, nor is it perhaps the most powerful. The single event that makes Katniss feel most deeply is this glimpse she has of her sister, Prim. Katniss's whole journey started with an attempt to protect her sister. She's been through Games after Games because she volunteered to take her sister's place. That might be the greatest display of love throughout the books.
He waits for me to deny it; I want to deny it, but it's true. Even now I can see the flash that ignites [Prim], feel the heat of the flames. And I will never be able to separate that moment from Gale. My silence is my answer. (26.35)
Let's face it: Katniss's love for Prim supersedes her love for Gale. And the doubt she has about whether Gale contributed to Prim's death is enough to keep him away from her forever. Whatever they had before is lost, because Katniss can't separate him from her understanding of Prim's death and what/who might have caused it.
[…] what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that. (27.62)
When Katniss finally chooses between Gale and Peeta, she chooses Peeta. In doing so, she chooses peace instead of revenge, nurturing instead of ruining, and "rebirth instead of destruction." Gale would feed her need for revenge and perhaps for power. Peeta helps her to be free of that, and that's part of why she loves him so much.