I Am Not a Victim

Like an Old Friend

< Katniss>

I've managed to catch three squirrels and a pair of some sort of birds we don't have in 12. They look normal enough, so should be safe to eat. It's not a huge feast, but it'll do for tonight. When I'm close to the cave I collect a few leafy branches for camouflaging the entrance. Once I have enough I go back to the cave and take a few minutes to hide the entrance before going in. Only Peeta is waiting for me. "Where's Glimmer?" I ask.

"She went out."

"Out? Out where?"

"She didn't say."

I frown. "Peeta, what happened?"

"I don't think she and I get along too well." I'd already seen that much before I left.

"And what exactly does that mean, Peeta?"

"I might have said she was a heartless killing machine and she seemed to think I was useless."

I sigh and sit down. I've traded fighting and killing for teenage drama. I miss problems I can shoot. "Peeta, you really shouldn't pick fights with her."

"She picked the fight just as much as I did!"

"Peeta, if we're going to team up you shouldn't do it."

"What do you mean by that?" he's getting angrier fast. "Why would we team up with her?"

"Because she and I are already a team, Peeta."

"So what? We don't need her! We can win on our own! "

"I'm not going to just leave her, Peeta." I sigh.

"Why not? She's a Career, Katniss. A Career. We can't trust them, They're the enemy, remember?"

"She's not like that, Peeta."

"How do you know what she's like, Katniss? You think you can get to know someone in just a few days?"

"Peeta, we weren't just wasting time. It's been a… busy few days for us."

"Yeah, she mentioned something about the girl from 5."

"Finch? What'd Glimmer say about her?"

"I believe it was that she actually did something, unlike me." Oh yeah, he's definitely not happy.

"It's not quite that simple, Peeta. We joined up with her, yeah; I found her by accident actually. We weren't sure what to do, but Finch convinced us she could be useful, had this insane sounding plan. Honestly, it was too nutty not to try, so we took her up on it. We went to a clearing near the Cornucopia and she showed us how to build this catapult type thing. It was sort of jury rigged since we didn't have the right materials, but it worked. On the third shot we hit the Career's supplies and blew them all up."

"Wait, that was you? I heard that explosion! What'd you fire that exploded like that?"

"It wasn't us. The Careers had reactivated the landmines and put them around the supplies, so when we hit the supply pile they fall over onto the mines and exploded."

"So Finch actually is as smart as she looks. Where is she then?"

I shift awkwardly. "Right after the explosion three of the Careers found us. Finch didn't make it. Glimmer's pretty upset about it still, so I wouldn’t push it too much there."

"Katniss, if she's that unstable or dangerous we should just leave."

"Peeta, no. I told you, I'm not just vanishing like that."

"Well why not?" He's almost yelling now. "We're district partners! I love you for god's sake! What's your big attachment to this girl?"

Of course he'd bring that up. "Peeta, it doesn't matter what you said on TV. I'm not interested in a relationship right now; not with you, not with anyone else. Sorry." He shifts uncomfortably and a thought occurs to me, so I ask in a softer voice. "Your leg hurting a lot?"

"Yeah, a lot." He answers, calmer now. "Guess it's making me pretty bad to be around. Sorry." I decide to pass on answering that one. "You're serious about staying with that girl? What if it comes down to the three of us? Is it really going to be easier to choose then instead of now, Katniss?"

I barely suppress a groan. "Try to get some rest, Peeta." Thankfully he takes my advice.

I've enjoyed about an hour of peace and quiet when Glimmer comes back in. She looks at Peeta, then to me. "Asleep." I announce.

She nods and sits down quietly, seemingly thinking over what to say. "We've got a problem here, you know."

"We've got more than one."

"What do you mean?"

"His leg, it's bad. Infected."

Glimmer nods. "Use the disinfectant in the first aid kits?"

"Yeah, but it's not going to matter. My mom's a healer back n 12, I've seen wounds like this. I've got no talent for it so I don't stay for the treatments, but I've seen people come in. That infection's out of control. I'm not sure but he may lose his leg; I think it's starting to rot."

"Gangrene you mean?"

I nod. "I think it's going to set in soon if hasn't already, yeah."

"That means we have to amputate, right?"

"Well, if he were in a Capitol hospital they probably could treat him. If we get him there fast enough he should be ok. Otherwise, yeah, we'd have to amputate."

"That's a problem, you know. There's a major artery we'd be cutting."

I blink. "You know medicine?"

"I know the places that can make a person bleed to death. If we slice his femoral artery he'll bleed out in under a minute."

"Can't we stop the bleeding? I don't know, cauterize it or something?"

"Katniss, that's a lot to have to cauterize and we don't have a ton of tools. I'm not even sure how we'd remove his leg."

"Can you sword do it?"

Glimmer shifts uncomfortably. "I'm not sure. Maybe. But it's not something I've practiced or is really taught. I don't know if I'd really want to attempt it."

"We might have no choice, Glimmer. He could die."

"Katniss, if we do this he might die a lot faster."

"Then we have to win before it gets to that point." I state firmly.

"Well that gets us to our first problem. One too many people to win."

I nod slowly. I really don't want to choose. Making it to the end sounded impossible enough at the start, now it's not just that, it's how I make it that's the issue. As if just surviving wasn't a tall enough order. Though now that I think of it, I wonder… "Glimmer, if for some reason I didn't make it…"

"No." It's simple, but iron in its resolution.

"What do you mean? You didn't even hear what I was going to say."

"Katniss, I'm not winning with him."

"What do you mean you're not winning with him?"

"I mean if somehow he and I are the last two standing I'll make sure he's dead before they get through the victory announcement."

"What? Why?" How can she say that? I can't believe this! "But if it's just the two of you there's no need, you'd both get to win! How can you just say you'll kill him? That's murder, Glimmer!"

"Because he doesn't deserve to win."

"What the heck is that supposed to mean, Glimmer?" My anger is starting to outweigh my confusion.

"You think he deserves to live more than Rue did? Has he earned it more than Finch did? All he's done is lay around and do nothing! He joined the Career pack out of some weird unrequited love, but when we found you he didn't do a thing to help you, himself or anyone. All he did was lay there all night, staring up into the tree. And then days later what do we find him doing? Laying around some more! Maybe he's a nice guy and has all sorts of great friends and family back home, but here he's worthless."

"That doesn't mean he deserves to die, Glimmer!"

"Most people in here don't, Katniss. Deserve's got nothing to do with it. That's just how it is here."

"But it doesn't matter if he deserved it or not, if he got to the end…"

"And what, I just assume you didn't commit suicide? Or maybe you fought, but not quite your best. Good enough so we'd win, but not so good that there'd be three of us left at the end. I'm not going to go through life wondering about that. And I'm not going to just let him walk out after so many better people didn't. No. I'm walking out of here with you, Katniss. That's my plan."

"Sounds like someone's a bit brighter than they let on." Glimmer and I snap our gazes to Peeta What? He's awake? I didn't think he was listening in on us.

"Yeah, that's right." Glimmer answers coolly.

"So you were lying the whole time in the Career pack? The whole acting like some dumb dress up doll who only knew what dress to wear with which heels?"

"That's right. Oh, don't get me wrong, I have plenty of dresses and I love high heels, but I know a bit more than just that."

"Hmpf, so this was your grand master plan all along? Just act dumb then when no one suspects you kill them all?"

"More or less; though obviously it didn't work out quite like that. But just the same I'm happy with how it's gone." No lack of pride in Glimmer's voice now. "Though to be perfectly honest, as much as I love to boast, I'll give credit where credit's due. It wasn't my plan, I stole it."

"What?" I blink. "From who?"

"A few years back there was a girl from 7 named Johanna Mason. She acted all meek and helpless until near the end, when it turns out she was a brutal killer. Once she dropped the whole scared little girl act the Games were over in just a few hours. She got away with it because she just acted like people expected: a meek helpless little girl from 7. I saw that and realized it could work for a Career too. So I acted like the dumb blonde, all hot and empty headed. I even made sure I got a perfect score in training."

"Uh, you got an 8, same as me." Peeta states simply.

"That's right, an 8. Good enough to get in the Career pack with no questions asked, but not so good they'd see me as a threat. The perfect score for what I wanted."

"Sure you didn't just try your hardest and now you're making excuses?"

"Uh, Peeta, trust me, she's better than an 8." I say.

"How do you know, Katniss?"

"After we blew up the Career's supplies, she took Clove on, one on one. The same Clove who got a 10. It was over in seconds."

"I see." Peeta states. "I suppose I should be sorry for her, but I can't really say I am. She was… not a nice person."

"That's right. She was every bit the sadist you figured she was." Glimmer replies.

It's weird talking about the dead like this. You're not supposed to take satisfaction in someone being gone, but here we are. None of us are sad Clove's gone. Certainly other tributes, but not her.

"So where's that leave us then?" Peeta asks. That's a good question.

<Haymitch>

Well the kids are right on this one; they're in a confused mess. Unfortunately they're also right on the medical front. I'm no doctor, but the TV has done a plenty detailed analysis of bread boy's condition; infected, going gangrenous soon. They seem to love talking about if an amputation could be done safely or not; I think people are even taking bets on it. Christ. Bunch of god damned vultures, every last one.

I check the price list for sponsor gifts yet again. Oh, look, the price of the antibiotics the kid needs have gone up even more. Fun! They were out of reach before, now it's just mocking me. I've never had this much money to work with before. Hell, every year before this combined isn't as much as I've got sitting in my account now, but it's still not enough. No accident either, I'm sure.

The good news is since the catapult thing the price of food has skyrocketed too. Between paying for 3 meals a day for 3 careers plus shit to heal that beast from 2's shoulder they've got to be tapped out. In fact, I know they are. I can hear them bitching about it across the mentor room. Good. I hope the fuckers enjoy poverty. About god damned time they had to watch the Games rather than just buy a victory.

It all points to a quick end to the Games. The Careers will start to starve, probably fucking cry if they miss two or three meals in a row. And bread boy, well, another day and people will be collecting on those bets about if he survives the amputation. It's the sort of setup the Gamemakers force a dramatic finale from. Somehow or other they'll drag that giant from 11 in too.

Wonder how… The kids aren't likely to move much any time soon. I suppose they could have the Careers 'happen' to find them, but that doesn't drag the giant in. No, it's going to be something that'll lure everyone out at once, probably a banquet. They'd dangle all the food the Careers can eat, antibiotics for bread boy and whatever the hell the giant needs all to get one glorious orgy of violence. The perfect end to the Games.

Hmm, I can't afford what bread boy needs, but maybe I can get something else that will help. Ah yeah, here it is. Perfect. It'll almost totally wipe me out, but it shouldn't matter. It's not a cure, but enough to fake it for a little bit at least. Great. I knew saving all that money for so long was the smart play.

<Peeta>

We all hear the chiming at the same time, coming from just outside. A parachute. Glimmer goes to retrieve it, with Katniss covering her with the bow. A few seconds later they come back inside with our prize. They sit near me (since I can't very well go over to see what's inside in my condition) and open it. Inside is a bottle of pills and several objects that look like pens or markers of some sort.

"Markers?" I ask.

Glimmer picks one up and reads the label. "Morphling autoinjector pen. For temporary relief of significant localized pain. Warning, do not use more than four injections in an 8 hour period. Coma and/or death can occur."

Katniss picks up the pill bottle. "Some name I don't think I can pronounce." She shrugs. "Sounds like a general pain killer. No dramatic warnings about death on these though."

"Mind if I try the pills?" I ask. She hands me the bottle and I take one of the pills, washing it down with some water. I wish I could say it's cool and refreshing, but like all the water here that's not from the Cornucopia or a parachute, it's purified with iodine. Even with just the few drops per quart of water the wretched taste taints it all; it may be safe to drink, but I hate the taste.

I was lucky to grow up with plentiful food; it's a real luxury in 12. Even if we sold most of the bread we made, it was always around. The sight of bread loaves, the scent of it cooking, the feel of dough under my fingers, I've always loved it. But best of all was the taste. I'm no glutton (no one in 12 is. No one has enough to be one even if they wanted to be) but I do like food. It's like art to me.

Iodine though, that's just poison; that's its job, it kills things. Just because I can drink it safely doesn't change the fact it's poison. I hate the taste of it. I understand we need it, but it's a constant reminder to me that I'm a prisoner here; I can't have what I want, I can't do what I want, I can't go home, I can't sit down somewhere nice and eat, I can't lay down somewhere soft and sleep, I can't even let my guard down because nowhere is safe.

I'm not even safe in my own mind. Sure, I can put on a brave face, get into shouting matches with Glimmer, trade insults and all that, but I'm not an idiot; I know my odds are bad. There's only seven of us left, and it's a safe bet I'm in the worst shape of us all. Katniss says my leg isn't bad, but she's a terrible liar.

I don't know a thing about medicine, but I've seen how much blood has seeped out of my leg; at first when I was first wounded it practically poured out. Now it seeps, but the total is a lot more than I think is healthy. I also know the sickly colors around the edges of my wound aren't good. I can see the blood vessels around the wound, they're odd red colors I've never seen on my body before.

At least my head is better after I took some of the stuff from the first aid kits Katniss and Glimmer have. I'm not entirely sure, but I think I was getting a bit loopy. It felt like I had a fever. Maybe it's that?

"I wonder why your mentor sent painkillers rather than big time antibiotics?" Glimmer wonders aloud.

"It must be because it really isn't that bad. What we already have should be enough." Katniss lies. She doesn't believe it, neither does Glimmer; none of us call her on it though. The truth is, either one of two things happened. Either the medicine that would cure this is too expensive, or I'm already too far gone for even Capitol medicine to work.

It's a strange thing, to think thoughts like that; to just be so calm about the end of your own life. It's a very real possibility for me now after all; the likeliest possibility in fact. Either whatever infection I have in my leg or a Career's weapon, odds are one of those two will kill me. I suppose it's possible that huge guy from 11 or Glimmer will kill me, but I don't really believe either will happen. After all, how would we run into that guy from 11 and not the Careers? And Glimmer, well, I suppose if all three of us make it to the end it might happen, but seriously, what's the chance of that?

Or it could be that somehow Katniss doesn't make it and it's Glimmer and me left at the end. She said she'd kill me if that happened; claimed I didn't deserve to make it, not after others have died. Now maybe it was all a big act for the cameras, or maybe it's part of some scheme aimed at Katniss, but I think she's serious; if it's just us left at the end she'll kill me.

It's weird, but the worst part of all this isn't the pain, it isn't knowing I'm probably going to die, it's that the accusations Glimmer flung about me being useless and just lying around are painfully true.

My effort to join the Careers and somehow throw them off was pretty lame. I didn't really think it through, I just had to try something to help Katniss. I knew in a fight I couldn't really pull my weight, so I thought I could resort to trickery. Glimmer says no one was fooled. Now maybe that's true, or maybe she's just trying to sound smarter than she really is now, but I'm starting to think the girl really is pretty darned bright. After all, her act in the pack worked; I never suspected a thing.

Then there was that night under the tree with Katniss in it; I spent almost the entire night just laying and staring up into that tree. Even when it was dark and I couldn't see her up there, I knew Katniss was still there. I tried, I tried so hard to try and think of some way to help her. Maybe I could have just killed Careers in their sleep?

I had a spear at the time, but I'm not sure I could have done it. I mean, killing a person who's trying to kill you is one thing, but a helpless person in their sleep? Even if they're Careers, and I know they'd do it to me, I still don't know if I could have done it. Maybe I could have killed one, maybe two before the rest stopped me. Well, killed me.. I think I'd have killed Cato first, then if I could Clove; they seemed like the most dangerous. With them dead and the others dealing with me them maybe Katniss could have a chance to either kill the rest or get away.

But it was all just a fantasy. What really happened is that after hours of staring and dreaming I finally fell asleep and it was Glimmer who acted; Glimmer who helped Katniss out of that damned tree; Glimmer who saved the girl I love. Katniss needed me and I wasn't there for her. My big dramatic declaration of love looked just like some cheap ploy as part of the Games. And partly it was that.

Don't get me wrong, I really do love Katniss; I just never had the guts to tell her. When Haymitch called me on it I couldn't even deny it with any real conviction. He was the one who came up with the idea for the big interview reveal. He said if I loved her that was all fine and good, but this way I could tell her and help her at the same time; said it would make a big splash and maybe even set up a story for the entire Games.

Of course it didn't work out like that. I hoped Katniss would blush, tell me she'd watched me from afar and was flattered, or any one of a hundred other ways I'd played it out in my head. My imagination never threw me against a wall like she did.

I wish I hadn't said anything now. Looking back it just feels so cheap, so fake. If I'd been there when she needed me things might be different, but now I just look like some love struck weakling; basically exactly what Glimmer called me. I wish she'd just hit me instead.

Physical pain I can deal with. Since Cato stuck his sword in my leg I've been in pain nonstop. It's strange, but it's almost like an old friend now. I can deal with it; it's not a big problem. And Glimmer, yeah, she's a big strong girl, I'm sure she could beat me up, but I could take it; it's just more pain. I know it, after all. It's a lot easier to handle than looking at what I've done since I came to the Capitol and regretting almost every single thing.

Katniss and I spoke before the games, late at night. Neither of us could sleep that night, and we ran into each other and talked a while. I told her that no matter what I didn't want them to change me into something I'm not. Maybe they have, maybe they haven't. Maybe the guy who uses love like a chess piece is me, maybe the guy who tries some lame lying scam is me, and maybe the guy who just lies there while someone else saves the girl he loves is me, but I don't want to go out like that.

"I think those pills are starting to work. Everything's hurting less." It's actually true. The pain is dulling to more of an ache than the sharp friend I've known for days now.

"That's great, Peeta!" Katniss smiles, really meaning it.

I'm glad to see her smile. It might be the last time I see it. I try shifting positions, partly to get more comfortable and partly to see if the painkillers really are working. It turns out they are; the pain really is getting duller. But as it gets duller, my mind's getting sharper. I haven't been able to think this lucidly for this long since before I had a hole in my leg.

Maybe Glimmer's right and I am the useless loser she sees me as. Maybe not, but really it doesn't matter anymore. If I have only a short time left to live, I'm going to spend it being who I want to be; I'm not going to be that bum she sees. Whether I really was like that or not, I'm going to face the end on my feet.

And that must be why Haymitch sent the pens, not just the pills. There's enough morphling in there that I can get back on my feet, walk, even fight probably. Oh, it'll be bad for me, but I can do it and probably not feel a thing. Haymitch sent me a gift, but not the one Katniss thinks it is. It isn't so I can get away from pain, it's so I have the choice to be who I want to be. Even if all I can do is thank him in my head like this, I'll do it just the same. Thank you, Haymitch.

<Prim>

These Games are really hard to watch. I knew they would be, it's my sister there after all, but I thought I was getting used to it. I think the secret was trying really hard to not think too far ahead. If Katniss was ok at the moment, that's great. If Glimmer was helping her, that was great too. I worked really hard to not think about how the Games would end, but I can't really do that anymore though. The end is almost here, and I'm really confused.

Of course I want Katniss to win, that goes without saying; she's my sister; I love her. She's kept me safe and warm and fed for as long as I can remember. In a lot of ways she's as much a mom to me as my real mother is. But now there's a second winner that can win along with Katniss and I can't figure out what's right here. Usually it's easy for me. I don't really understand how a lot of grownups can have such trouble with what's right and wrong. It's all really obvious to me. I guess all I can do is ask someone.

I look away from the TV and over at Gale. "Gale, who are we supposed to be cheering for?"

"We're cheering for your sister, silly girl." Gale answers warmly. He always does that; finds a way to calm me down and make whatever seems scary or that worries me silly and not a big thing at all.

"I know that. I mean who else. Who for the second victor?" The warm look on Gale's face falters. It's only for a second, but I still see it. I can tell he's trying to think of an answer, but isn't finding one. I guess if he doesn't know what to say I can say more. "I'm not sure who I should cheer for. Peeta's from here, and he's nice. He's given me cookies when his mother wasn't looking. The whole loving Katniss thing was kinda weird, but Peeta's not a bad guy."

Gale nods. I think Peeta's saying he loves my sister is much more of a sore point for Gale than me. "On the other hand Glimmer's been nice to Katniss. They actually seem like friends, and I could tell Katniss really didn't want to fight her. She's not like Careers usually are. I just don't know what I should hope for."

Gale looks at me a moment longer. "Prim, just cheer for your sister. Whoever gets out with her is who gets out with her. It'll work itself out. That way you don't have to deal with maybe getting your hopes up for someone who doesn't make it, or looking a person in the eye you were hoping would be dead."

Wow, that's good advice. It's not like it'll matter what I want here. And Gale's right, if Peeta wins and I cheered for Glimmer I'm not sure I could deal with seeing him again; I'd feel so guilty. Like I was cheering against my district and hoping a guy who came home died. I probably wouldn't see Glimmer until the victory tour, but I'd still feel bad. I mean she helped my sister out a lot, I shouldn't want bad things to happen to her. I'm glad I asked Gale; I always feel so much better after talking to him.

Anything further is cut off by the TV. It's an announcement from Claudius Templesmith. "Attention tributes. Attention tributes. At dawn tomorrow there will be a feast held at the Cornucopia, and you are all invited. But in case some of you are thinking of declining this invitation, think carefully. Each of you needs something. Badly. And we are prepared to be generous hosts. Each team will find a package labeled with their district numbers on it. So think hard about refusing this most gracious invitation. It may be your last chance. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor."

I look back at Gale. "This is going to be the end, isn't it?"

He nods stiffly at me. "Yeah Prim, I think it will be. One way or another we'll know if she's coming home by lunch tomorrow."

Wow, just like that it'll be over. I can point to a time, probably almost to the minute when my sister will either be coming home to me, or be killed. I look back to Gale again. "If you want to stay here tonight, I think it'll be ok. I'm… I think I'm going to just stay up. You know, and watch. Just in case…"

Gale reaches over and hugs me tightly. "Yeah, just in case."


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