The Stone Cries Out

By Anesther

Drama / Thriller

Amethyst


Amethyst


I find myself waking up to darkness.

There's nothing in front of me.

Everything fades into more black.

Then fire.

Blazing, smoldering, becoming softer until it glows a gentle yet harsh orange.

I move my hand to rub my aching head—

I can't.

No movement.

I'm looking out at the dark and find I can't move—neither away or toward it. The orange recedes, a sun being swallowed by a black star.

Silence crushes me. Pushing down, down, down until I feel trapped by quiet shadows.

I make no sound anyway. Trying to figure it out.

I think, and think.

Then there's white.

Blurred faces and distorted voices. Light above them, blinding my vision, and there's this distant sound, like screaming…

If my eyes could snap open, they would. That's it. I was dragged under by pain, insurmountable and vast.

But where am I?

I try to reach out, touch something physical. Still no luck there.

There's no point in looking around since it's all black.

White flashes before me; an orange hue grazing its outer edge.

It flickers out.

My arms twitch—

They moved?

I'm sure I wasn't imagining it; they moved. I felt it. Even if I couldn't see it.

I try to will myself forward, connect my body to myself and fail. A panic settles into me, being disconnected from my body.

But I see the light come back.

It comes closer, and all I can do is watch it approach at a slow pace. It stops when it's in front of me. Looking glass.

I peer out, or making a motion to what seems like seeing outwards. There's an orange hue still surrounding my vision, and it makes me angry, both from the distaste of the color and what it reminds me of.

I see movement out there and there's a man approaching my sight, tall and blue, sharp things in hand, his head a contrast of white and black.

"You ready?"

Ready for what?

I find myself nodding, the movement almost imperceptible but I know I did. I nodded even though I gave no indication of doing it, didn't even think to.

Then my gaze rises, staring out, and I see the man's face from the corner of my eye. I hear a footfall, soft and confident and it's mine.

I don't know what's going on and I know my heart would be pounding with adrenaline, ready to battle but my body only moves. I try to look down, see my own hands and feet, find them for a sudden need for comfort, but find I cannot control the movement of my eyes.

What…?

A door slides open, an echo in my mind.

Then she's there, dark and etched in stone in front of me. She turns, her gray eyes wide and angry and something else. Katniss… The girl I love.

I try to move forward to reach for her and curse my immobility. But my body moves a few seconds later and I find my voice, but I'm not speaking.

"So, you're the Girl on Fire."

She doesn't speak and I desire to kiss her and hold her and tell her how much I want to be with her.

"You're not much but you'll do."

That was me. I said that.

Then I find my body lurching forward and she falls beneath me in an almost sickening thud against the headboard, onto the bed. She squirms and her hands are both tugging on my shirt and pushing me away. And my hands are roving her body, soft and firm beneath my touch and it's so surreal, so dreamlike, that I can barely understand her words—why the murmurs sound like screams, and her moans are mingled in both pleasure and pain.

There's that faint bright orange glow, like soft bubbles set on fire, and she jerks me to her, breath heady and rushed and my body reacts, feeling her pressed against me, hips grinding as I groan. Lithe arms wrap around my neck, legs tangling and she feels so good and amazing and shockingly in tune with me, like her body was meant to be this close to mine.

Yet when she yells, bloodcurdling cries, I find the darkness and sunsets pulls back just a little, revealing a world and scenario I don't understand and I find myself scared, absolutely fucking scared, as to why she sounds so much in pain, why she feels a little rough, why her body arches this way and that, contorting before my eyes.

In the back of my mind, I know it's inhumane, horrifying. Yet, to me, there's something beautiful about the way she falls.

She's always beautiful.

But something in me twists. A painful knot tugging my being—like a hook dug into my stomach and yanked—and I find myself trying to move away, out of the nightmare she got thrown into because of me. I try to break away from the sunlight and curl into the black again, where I don't have to see anything, where I'm numb and listless and not doing anything wrong.

This feels so wrong.

Yet I find myself kissing her harder, deeper, and I can't help it, not when she's here, not when she consumes every inch of me in every way and I don't want to pull away because I want her near me but I have to, I have to! I don't know what's happening and it's frightening and oh God why is she still screaming?

The faces come back in a crevice of my mind, etched in white and blue, and it hits me, like I suddenly hit a solid wall and I almost want to cry out.

I'm under their control.

Something was injected into me, when the fire was poured into my veins and sent my mind into a scattered frenzy, wondering why they were burning and charring, nervous system shot to the point I passed out.

Then I'm here, torn between wanting to make love to her and running far from her so I don't have to listen to her cry out, and there's tears leaking from the stones that remind me of home so much. She's breaking and I'm the one doing the breaking, with each thrust, making me feel sick and complete at the same time…

I'm raping her.

Oh God, oh God, oh God!

I promise I won't hurt her.

Snow's voice echoes suddenly, sending me into a rage, the bastard—

Katniss!

She can't hear me. She just keeps crying, her bare back arching—

Katniss!

But I hear me, and her name is a low, sweet, loving moan from my mouth. Filled with everything and nothing I want her to hear.

She whimpers; hate spilling from her lips as I watch her neck bend in a way that it makes me want to vomit.

Everything hurts.

Everything hurts…

When I leave I hear her sniffles and feel her shudders still, ghostly flitting around my ears and on my skin.

My body slumps as I head into a bare room, knees suddenly collapsing beneath a heavy invisibly weight.

Snow comes before me and pats my head, "I kept my promise."

I want to cry so badly, heave sobs and curl up somewhere to die.

The love of my life lays dormant in my heart and I can't call to her myself. And she wouldn't want me to now—not anymore.

And it goes on for too many long arduous nights, where my actions aren't controlled and I find my hands fisting into her hair, bruising her skin, making her bleed and watching her enter that eternal feeling called hatred.

She had fought back once, her lips biting into my skin, and it elated me that she hurt me deep inside because the girl I love can still burn. And I tried so hard not to let myself beat her for it.

It just keeps going.

And going.

And when I finish ravaging her for the night, I lay in the darkness of another room, listening to the sound of my breathing and not wanting to breathe anymore while people flit in and out the room.

They drag me to an empty table and there's the all-too-familiar-now nettling in the back of my skull.

"Hmm, running out…" their voices are muffled murmurs.

"We'll take it out and replace it…"

There's this sudden prick—the removal of a splinter—

I curl my hand into a fist—

And it does

Without a second thought, I leap from the table and throw their medical supplies at their faces, their shocked cries filling the room with the clatter of instruments and metal. Running out of the room, I head immediately for Katniss' room and I'll be damned if she tries to claw my face off, I will get her out, this is my chance, even if I die at her hands because she's right there, right behind that door—

A shot shatters my eardrums and I shout, a rupture in my shoulder causing me to trip. Having not been nourished I should've known better but Katniss became the only thought at the forefront of my mind.

Even so as a guard comes up behind me, I swing my left arm into their face and knock them backward, some teeth falling out. Grabbing their baton from their belt, I fend off another guard by slamming the butt of it into their head, blood covering their face—

I'm tackled from behind and squirm on the floor, screaming frustration and anger. My hair is pulled and there's a knife at my throat—

"No," says Snow from the atmosphere, "Don't kill him."

The knife is lowered an inch but not removed.

"My dear boy, you're only making this difficult."

Oh, I'm being difficult? Stupid fucking asshole—

I try to break from the multiple grips but they are relentless as they haul my pathetic, traitorous body back onto the operating table, latching me down and there's the fiery sensation on my head again, digging deeper, crawling straight in and I lose myself in the sound of my screams and drilling noises…

There's just darkness for a while and, in a cowardly way, I'm relieved. I can simply sit here and feel disgusted and vengeful and heartbroken, things I've never felt before. I don't have to watch myself hurt her, I don't have to listen to her screaming and want to kill myself over and over for the many times I've killed her over and over.

But I've never liked self-deprecating thoughts for very long. It's one of those things my parents have always said is both a good and bad thing—I'm bad at giving up.

So I sit in the darkness of my soul, trying to find it, trying to find a semblance of myself I can latch onto.

And, then, one day, when I'm alone, I do.

It's something so miniscule it's nothing but, for me, it's everything.

I moved my mouth.

I don't know what new creations they've made, but whatever venomous brainwashing they did… maybe I can beat it.

It's unlikely. But I can always try—so long as I can regain movement. I don't mind fighting myself.

The door blinds me with light, though I have no control over my eyes.

"You're requested, come,"

I rise without thinking, body still under another rule.

"You are to act the same as always. We had situation today and you'll play the part."

I'm shocked to find Katniss outside her cell, and it breaks my heart to see her. Her black hair is long and wet—good they're at least giving her decent hygiene. But the bruises all over her face and body make my heart lurch again, knowing that I did those things and I can't tell her how sorry I am—

"What the hell were you doing?" It's my voice and I find my eyes no longer on her but another girl with blue skin and light green hair.

"I-I'm sorry!" she stammers, "I thought… I thought she might, uh, n-need something."

The back of my hand connects with her face. I'm surprised at the remorse I feel, with this Capitol girl I don't know, with this suddenly fearful girl who probably knows just what is going on between the Girl on Fire and me…

"You leave her alone! She hadn't meant to let me out!"

Her voice shatters my mind and heart, head whipping to face her and I know this time it's not the brainwashing—it's genuinely me responding to the sound of her voice, hoarse and scratching her vocal cords.

"Take her back, I'll deal with her later." my voice says and I scream inside that it's not me anymore, opportunity gone too fast.

I watch them drag her away, falling in love again and further, because she's still there, underneath the pain.

"You will see her in a few moments," says the man who escorted me, thin and skeletal, "Make sure you do what you do."

The venom-me nods, I just try to keep my eyes on her for as long as possible.

It's not long and my body jerks, wanting to perform its command but I don't want to, not after seeing her as herself for the first time in so long as actual self. I resist and lightning flashes in my mind, at war with myself.

She only stares, body tense, dark and anxious.

No, not now…

I step forward and I try to step back, battling an empty shell.

She pulls back, withdrawing, both my Girl on Fire and the broken one I and the Capitol both made. Both my woman and another one completely…

My hand rises and it begins to curl into a fist, her face blanching in anticipation—

No, no, no, no

I suddenly feel a physical pang, like grasping a surface so cold it burns. I hold onto it, hoping it's what I need.

I lower my hand to touch her face, caress it for myself. And while I feel it with an almost phantom-like sensation, I continue to brush her face. She stares at me with such fear it hurts.

I move my mouth and lightning strikes my mind as I push through the burning ice. "Katniss…"

She wants to move, I know, but I need her to feel the real me, remind her through softer touches that I love her and I would die for her. She has to remember. And this is stupid and selfish and a bad idea and horribly manipulative—because this is true, she'll be thinking what cruel psychology games I'm playing. I would if I was her. But I'm not her. I'm me. And this is the only way I can remind her that I'm here under lies and brainwashing venom. I didn't betray her.

I leave and I'm punished.

Antonia came into the room with Snow and she drags her fingers through my hair, my body unmoving while I shudder inside from the unwanted contact.

"Make sure not to damage him too much," he tells her before leaving.

She kisses me while she digs into my skin, dragging a knife up the curve of my shoulder, and I can only lay unresponsive while I try to fight back. She pours molten fire into me, the pain in my head intensifying and I nearly black out before a soothing coldness swathes the wound. The skin is fixed, like it was never damaged to begin with, the scar only remembered by the person who got it.

"You really shouldn't have come back not smelling like sex, hon," she tells me, finger trailing down my chest.

God, these fuckers are sick. Was the Capitol always this depraved? What the hell did we do to them? This goes far beyond quelling pathetic rebellion and small riots. This is almost similar to a personal vendetta, one none of us knew about except the Capitol. And, strangely, I don't think even they know.

When she leaves I just shake internally. The Dark Days are long gone, and I've been a fool to think that the Hunger Games were a glorious celebration for the Districts of Panem as well. My district never questioned it, being one of the stronger sects. But were we always so blind? Fighting against the Capitol now, I realize, would truly be pointless—they know no bounds of torture and manipulation, even though any human could stoop so low if they truly wanted to.

I don't fall into black before I go back to Katniss. And I scream inside, wishing Peeta had killed me, or someone else had, that I had never been born at all.

Yet there's still that gross horrible feeling inside me that wants to get closer to her, even under these horrifying circumstances. Love really is a dangerous thing.

I find I can't control my body again. Frustrated, I try when I'm alone. I do small things—blinks, pointing with my index finger, smirking, wiggling my toes, anything that can be undetected enough. They keep me clean, showering and dressing me, a true plaything meant to do their bidding.

Then, one day, my mind reeling from the latest rape, I barely catch my own voice, "Get ready."

Get ready for what?

Oh God, it's not going to be some sadomasochistic shit is it…?

Feeling nauseous, my feet move on their own accord. I panic inside, wondering what they're going to have me do.

I'm not told anything. I am cleaned in a hurry but thoroughly. Then they shove me onto the Capitol train, the elongated cars and elegant furniture that once held such appeal to me making me want to tear the whole behemoth apart with my bare hands.

I'm allowed to wander. Or as wander as much as an immobile prisoner is able.

Then I'm told to move, and quietly my brain responds, almost sluggishly today. Is the venom wearing off?

No, it's not. I tried to move my limbs a different way.

And the orange is still there.

I don't know how Peeta could stand that nasty color.

The pang of losing his friendship still sits with me as I enter the compartment where she is held. She stares out the window, sunlight dancing in her ebon hair, brightening her skin. It looks shinier than last I saw it in the light—we're both so often in dark rooms. The bruises are fading, I think. I peer closer. No, they're all gone. For the cameras, no doubt; I'm sure no one knows what's going on.

I observe her curl into herself, distressed at how much she's changed in such a short span of time—if it's been short at all, I don't know the days. I stare at her back, though my gaze is directed above her at the window, staring out at the sun. I haven't seen it in so long, the sunlight. Yet all I want to look at is her for as long as I can. She doesn't move or respond to me.

Fighting back the pain that comes with trying to control myself, I push; searching for that cold feeling I get with freedom, to have her notice me

"It's good to be leaving," I did it! I strained but I did it, jolted back into my mind. I saw her jump at the sound of my voice but it was something, wasn't it? It had to be. The fact she's not trying to claw my eyes out is encouraging—though a little part of me worries that she's too broken to fight back and I don't want that.

I struggle, managing to let out a sigh. How is something so small so tiring?

All I can do is stare at her now. I want to touch her…

Then I'm moving and I'm shocked by the easiness of it, like gliding into something smooth. Why is that?

The orange quickly overtakes my vision and I scream at it, hoping nothing will happen, not here. It hurts to fight through it, feeling fire, but the orange breaks to cold white. I'm suddenly staring at her face, impassive, fearful, and my hands are at her face. They're still but I manage to move them—I, with no venom— and I kiss her. I go further, "Girl on Fire."

And she doesn't realize the why of what I'm saying, but maybe she'll piece things together. Maybe? I want her to so badly. But it's nothing, since she remains motionless. Before the venom takes me back I withdraw from her warmth—the only warmth I want—and leave. My body makes no evidence that I'm struggling but internally I shake, and shake. It's wearisome, fighting yourself.

There's a loud noise that explodes in my ears. I turn—the venom-me, responding to commands I don't hear, I think. I see a crowd of people and it's home. Home.

My home, the one I never thought I'd see again.

And it'll be my prison.

I know it will be. The people cheer, not knowing what's happening. No one knows of the girl I love who I rape every night. No one knows I'm under Capitol control because I dared to love someone more than I thought I could ever want or hope to.

I see my family in the crowd, proud of the son who was cunning and fearless and enough to win.

Nobody knows.

My body moves, waving. I feel a smile stretching the muscles of my face, fake. I'm angry and hurt and so fucking frustrated—does no one here notice? No one here from home, of all places?

I glimpse Clove's family in the distance, clapping, smiling, but maybe they're fake too. I killed their daughter, who I wound up caring for, too. If they killed me in my sleep, I wouldn't mind. But then who would keep Peeta's promise?

Suddenly I'm flying into the crowd and I feel a weight pressed on me, familiar and strange.

I hit the ground with a thud, my body gasping though I don't know what's going on. Maybe I am being assassinated—do I want it quick or slow, I don't know—but it's only her. Grays eyes piercing mine-yet-not-mine. She's still in there.

And while my voice shouts with ire, telling guards to take her, I whoop inside my head, full of glee that she hasn't given up yet. She'll keep fighting me and that's good. One of us has to from outside.

She's taken away and I yearn.

I watch my parents walk forward, their smiles plastered on and it makes me yearn in a different way. One I haven't felt since I was little. I want to cry in their arms but I know they'll tell me to grow up, be strong. The feeling doesn't lessen.

They take me by the arms, one on each side of me.

"Cato," I hear my father, "you've done well."

No I haven't.

"We're so proud of you," my mother says.

You wouldn't be if you knew.

They take me further from the crowd and I'm hidden from the cameras, from the people. Their faces fall a little.

"Who is she?"

They don't know who she is?

"No, son, we don't know who she is. We just know she's the girl from the Games."

Did I speak without meaning to? Or was that just the venom in me responding?

"She's Katniss Everdeen," Definitely the venom talking.

"She's…pretty," my mother suddenly says. I don't know how to feel by all of this.

"The Capitol has rewarded our district, Cato," my father says, patting my shoulder, and I can't revel in his gesture. "You've done us much good. You fought so hard…"

No, no, no. Not like this. I didn't want recognition like this. Oh God, not like this…

"Not hard enough!"

It's only a whisper, barely breaking the air. But it's there. My true voice heard.

My parents blink and my father asks, "What do you mean?"

I fight to get myself under control, to just have myself for myself and no one else. But it doesn't happen. I scream without knowing why, and my mind is torn between two people—me and the Capitol—so I can only scream incoherently. My parents are disturbed, hearing them in the very distant background.

"He's just had a long day," there's a voice and I want to tear into that person's fucking face.

I'm led away. I scream for my parents to notice what's wrong, to come to me and help me.

No such luck.

I'm thrown where Katniss is.

The lock clicks and it's just me and her, where only the moon watches mad things in the dark. This is dangerous because I think the reason why controlling myself is so hard is because all I want is her. When I think of her, it's where I go. When I think of touching her, it's what I do.

I have no other explanation. What happened back at the train is a theory but it's all I have to go on.

And I'm in this room with her alone, mind wanting and needing her in all the darkest and sweetest ways. There's rage still not quelled in me, I can feel it—the body is warmer than usual.

How do you stop yourself from wanting someone to keep from hurting them?

Because she's all I want to hold, to protect, but she's not safe with me. She never will be again.

The body moves—

Shit, no, no, no—

It's standing by her chair, her eyes gazing out. Fire courses all around me, making it too hot to breathe but I'm not breathing. I'm possessed despite being a ghost.

The body kneels and it reaches for her. I fight through sunsets and horizons. Phantom-fingers probe through flame and reach, searching for the cold, for reality—

I find it. But it's warm.

It's her lips, parting for the ones I just managed to get. And it's so surreal, the feel of her, and me being able to feel it for real, that my body—me, in the body, just me—moves and I moan into her mouth. She swallows the kiss I don't deserve and she's beautiful in actual sunsets. I find a hand of mine is on her breast, from before I took over. I don't keep it there. She doesn't notice its sudden absence. But I move my hand onto her thigh, and I pray she'll notice, that her own body will remember the truth of mine; because these are only seconds ticking by and I'll be hurled back into darkness soon. She has to notice this is me—a person who won't hurt her intentionally, who wants to love her and be trusted for it.

"No!"

The slap rings in my ears, and it's so sudden I'm back in darkness before being taken over by orange flames.

I'm dazed, upset that I can't control myself longer. But I'm elated. She fights still.

The venom returns and the body hisses.

"Do you have any idea what you did today?"

I do. She was fucking awesome.

"Aside from destroy your image, no I don't see what else I could've done to make you angry with me."

The venom surges with such intensity I'm thrown back. Behind the flickering fire, I see hands outstretched, reaching for her throat—

Without pause I burst through, not thinking about thinking. A chair is flipped in her stead. I breathe heavily, or is that the body?

It's just like her to piss people off. But the motive is new. She is trying to get killed.

I understand the why, and I don't blame her, but the thought of her dead—truly dead, by my hands, even if not under my control, sends me into a sinking sadness so new and large I'm astounded by the intense feeling. And I promised. But she wants to die. Who am I to deny her freedom from this pain I inflicted because I loved her too much?

Everything is horrible. It only gets worse and worse.

The body moves, I don't feel the steps and it's frightening. I pant heavily, trying to pull it back, keep it from her. I don't want her to get hurt! It's in vain because the hands are at her head, nails digging into her scalp and I tug. Fire throws me back.

"You think you're high and mighty, don't you?" I hear the voice that sounds like me.

"You seem to think so," She rolls her eyes.

Damn it! The body pins her to the bed, pulling her hair and suddenly the orange burns brighter, a smoldering star and I can no longer see, no longer feel. I scream alone in hell.

I don't know if I'm awake or not in the black. I'm always here.

But it's different right now.

"Get up,"

The body gets up.

"Time to keep up appearances,"

It walks, carrying my grace, my skill, yet none of me.

My father greets it and I'm put into more darkness, in the side of a mountain. Both home and not anymore. The body does as it's told obediently. Keeping up appearances… Huh.

It's more exhausting today to try to respond and control myself. The body works in the mountain, going, going, and going. My father doesn't notice. I wonder if he ever did notice me.

I try to find the cold reality that breaks through burning illusions but I can't find it as the body moves in motions that distract me, looking out at the home that I can't belong to. Senses are flooded even though it's limited to me in this state; trapped inside a box with no physical walls.

I'm tired and I sink into the nothingness of me.

It's sent to Katniss' room with ease, the perfect puppet.

They must've done something new—I never felt so sluggish from the flames. They didn't like what I did a while ago and Antonia smiled sweetly as she dug into my brain. I wonder how long it will take until I'm so fucked up in the head I don't ever come back…

Tonight is different, too, of all nights. It's quick; it's pathetic, unlike and like her.

She responds.

To the body.

Not to me.

I scream inside, listening only to me but I'm also not screaming. It's like I'm screaming inside myself inside myself. Somehow, this non-physical me is too numb to her movements, how she pulls the body I'm in closer and I wonder why I feel emptier, why she suddenly responds tonight…

It's home.

It hits me and I come to life.

The dust from the mountain—she's from 12. It has to bring her comfort. Is this a new tactic to torment her with?

She suddenly pins the body to the bed and she jumps out. I anticipate her making it to the door; maybe she'll get there—

She lands headfirst on the floor. I yell at the unfairness of it all, the body tightly gripping her ankle.

Fire surges before eyes I don't have. I hear it question where she's going. Toying with her. Crying out, I shove through it—a burning stone—and keep it from damaging her.

Gripping it, I mold myself with it, gaining motion in the arms. I pull the covers overhead and keep it still.

"You're being difficult,"

Snow.

He always says that to me. I don't want her to hear that—

Fuck! With me putting so much effort into controlling the whole body, arranged thoughts can filter out. I stay put, hoping it'll be a night where no violence is done, no rape. I've never wanted peace more in my life.

"You're not going to do anything?"

The hell if I'll let it touch you.

"Too tired…" I make it yawn. "Working all day."

Briefly, I have to wonder how it says the things it does.

"Don't bother trying to escape though," it says, stretching. I hold it back again, aching nowhere, everywhere, "I still locked the door…"

Of course they did.

I catch her curse aloud and my heart clenches from hearing her sound defeated.

It chuckles and it begins to move—

Tighter I hold onto the cold feeling, making it sit up only, fighting the sensation of the hook in my gut trying to yank me back where I can't protect her at all. I hear it tell her, "Told you."

"I don't understand." Katniss says. Her voice hurts, makes it easier to breathe.

"Understand what?" Does the stupid damn thing respond to questions now? Has it always done that?

"The— The work. Why do you have to work?" She stammers, face flushing in the dark, I bet. Wish I could see it—

It moves an inch—

No, no, no— I hold on.

"I felt like it. Being a Victor is kind of… boring." It shrugs.

Dammit!

"Boring?" she hisses, "You call having a sex slave boring?"

It smirks and corners her into a wall, against a dresser. The fire comes back and reaches through the flames, getting scorched. I can't find her.

"Why? Did you want to have sex with me tonight?" I hear.

"I want you to stop fucking with my body and head!"

I feel sick and heavy. Flames lick at my phantom limbs. I still try to reach through but nothing comes, no cold truth.

It takes her to the bed and roughly pounds into her, teeth biting the tender dark skin and I cry, scream, wanting to kill myself. It hurts to see her suffer and I can't change the fact this is my fault.

I'm in the dark a long time. I reach out for something other than fire but nothing comes. It goes on and on. They fiddle with my brain, probing, testing, having me keep up appearances and no one wonders.

Snow comes and pats my head, one of the few times I feel and see no endless vicious sunset, "You were really so promising, Cato."

Even if I do nothing, they'll hurt her more and more. But I don't risk it, don't tell him to suck it, don't say anything.

It's all in vain. Like always.

But I continue to try.

There's screaming down the hall as the body goes forward and booms, "What is going on here?"

People explain and it doesn't ease anything. The body remains alert to it all while I only stare at her, looking worse than I've seen.

"I don't need it to be explained from anyone but her. Leave us."

Its command is obeyed.

Then, "You're pregnant."

She nods.

It laughs, long, low, and viciously.

The antithesis of how I feel.

Oh God, she's pregnant.

The dosage of flame is increased. Venom is poured and I fear for her and the child now growing inside her body.

A child.

That's both hers…and mine.

I fall into shadows and wake up to cold water on my face—I can feel it. The scent of vomit hits my nostrils, powerful and acrid. It makes my stomach heave. I wretch onto the floor. More water is thrown.

I turn to look around and there are people in white and blue, always white and blue. And orange. How I long for other colors…

"Don't even think that this will change anything," a genderless voice, disembodied.

My eyes close and imagine greens and soft earthy browns. Better.

It gets stronger. The venom.

It dwarfs my intangible shape into the darkest part of what's left of me. I push. Reach for cold, for air, for reality.

Nothing comes.

Nothing but her screams.

And mine.

No one hears.

I catch glimpses in sunsets, visions in the dancing fire. Her dark hair; her olive skin; her empty expression suddenly lighting up with too many broken and negative things; her protruding belly…

And that breaks me so much I fight harder.

It slows, the body, and I grip, grip, grip; pull it away from her and my child. Lightning burns, shockingly blue, and voices I can't locate command it to continue. It goes further. I don't let it. I prop the body that was once mine into a black corner, tying it with invisible chains for as long as I can.

She cries often, clutching her stomach, where something new, and foreign and fragile dwells in her.

The body goes to her one night, her wrists tied to the bedposts. I think the venom was given to me less tonight or the sight of me pangs me with such ferocity I take over and free her from the bonds. Either way, she's released.

Rubbing her wrists, red and raw, she looks at me in the dim light, "Do they know about how you treat me?"

I walk, dragging a chair and sit, the back of it to my front so I can lean toward her; and fight off myself. "Yes. And no,"

She looks at me with confusion, "What do you mean?"

"Some are bribed—with all the money I have now," Talking is still hard to maintain, "The others don't ask because they know better," I tell her.

"You're a sick bastard,"

I laugh quietly, agreeing, "You threw quite a tantrum today." Dammit. Too casual. I guess even with the venom I still want to talk to her like a friend. She won't like that.

She doesn't. "Of course I did—I'm being held here against my will and you don't expect some sort of retaliation?"

"I do, believe me I do, Girl on Fire," I say, using the moniker that destroyed her life but brought her to me; I move my eyes to her stomach, "But I also know that if you were compliant, they wouldn't have to restrain you. Think of the baby,"

"I am! I'm thinking about how death would be better for the two of us!" she shouts, standing in rage.

I rise slowly so I don't surprise her, her movements animal-like, quietly staring. But because I feel the venom too. It burns, and I struggle to find the cold I associate with freedom. It's not enough. The body goes on its knees and touches her protruding belly, caressing it and even plants a chaste kiss upon my child, "Mommy's being silly, isn't she?"

I scream murder, ire coursing through me, heat rivaling the orange flames. They stopped looking like soft glowing bubbles a long time ago.

She backs off, breathing hard, because it's understandable. But since I half-control it still I've no doubt she finds my gentleness disturbing. I stay beside her regardless, fighting the body's need to follow commands. And I need her to remember this isn't me. So I murmur affectionate words, gripping her hand to keep me in place, the other gently patting.

The baby kicks.

I'm so shocked I laugh softly. Inside myself, there was still a part that wished the child didn't exist—not because I don't want it, but because circumstances aren't fair. Children never seem to have fair chances.

"Going to be a strong one," this is the only time the body and I say something together.

I take hold of her face and kiss her, working my way into her mouth, into her soul, and it frightens me how much I still love her; how much I still want to love her.

Before it gets worse, I grip the body, finding the cold an easiness I never felt, and leave, not wanting her to hurt tonight. Not the night I feel our child move.

It'd be better if I didn't love her; we'd all hurt less. Too, I had a nightmare the other night when the venom was removed. I dreamt of being near her, her body soft and inviting, reaching to touch me. And I fled, not to protect her, for some reason; but to protect me. As though I believed if I ran from her I wouldn't know all the pain I know now.

I woke up hating myself for my selfishness, even though it's not me.

But nothing is really me anymore, not even the one talking.

Every night it goes, after I make staged appearances to the district and family I know and don't know, love and love less, the venom is put into me.

Every night she cries, and it's always when I see her stomach, gradually growing day by day, that I find it in me to go one extra length to battle this monstrous machine I'm in; rein it in and banish it to other empty voids. I've become the ultimate weapon.

It's not what I wanted.

They noticed.

And they let me have what I want—no rapes.

But they control what this stranger with my face says.

"You're stupid; you should've stabbed yourself in the gut when you had the chance,"

"You're worthless,"

"Nothing good can ever come out of you because you're filthy."

They're speaking to us both, breaking us at the same time; always at the same time.

We're linked on a level I never knew I could connect to another human being. In a way I never thought possible.

She and I, I think, were born to meet. Nothing just happens by coincidence. Or was it really just a coincidence? Do I even believe in that, if anything anymore? I doubt my existence sometimes now, too. I was raised to believe in grander destinies; that I was meant to be someone great. Look what that got me. I rose and fell, like a mountainside collapse, and anyone below got crushed too.

Clove rose but not as far as me and she shattered; Marvel and Glimmer died from expectations.

Rue would've died, eventually, but maybe she could've lived longer if I hadn't met her—my little Rue.

And Peeta loved a girl who can sing. I loved the same girl. We're both gone.

But I'm the one who is trapped remembering, alive in my own broken memory. Undead but never having died in the first place.

I simply vanished.

Yet nothing has hurt more.

But I'm wrong as I watch from television screens the birth of my child.

I hate them even more, these people I once idolized. It's sick, they're sick. The body is rooted to the spot, under command. I want to run, run away from it all but run to her and to our child, too. They keep me here, for what I don't know.

Once it's over, the body is told to go.

The door opens and though I cannot sense as strongly while the body is possessed, there's blood everywhere, her blood.

The body walks and I fear—fear what it has been told to do.

"A healthy baby boy!" a woman says.

It moves to touch the soft baby skin—

"No!"

For a moment I thought I spoke what I felt, but Katniss did. She startles the baby, causing him to cry.

"You're being ridiculous," it says and shoves her back. She falls, exhausted from labor and blood loss. I reach for her with fingers I can't control. The fingers move and two tiny fists wrap around one. The heart is still but I imagine what it'd sound like if it was mine again—beating rapidly, in dread and excitement. My son looks so small, so small… I love him instantly.

"Very healthy… he has your eyes," it says, killing me; he really has her eyes, then, "You're going to be a fine Victor—I'll see to that."

Katniss and I cry out together in too many emotions. It's a whirlwind as the emotions blur, her screams echoing what I can only yell in silence. The door shuts, cutting me off from the only voice that speaks for me in the outer world.

The body holds my son close, and it's horrible how I want to pull my son close to protect him and push him away for the hands could wring the life from him instantaneously.

My son and I are in a room where only one light emits glow, obscuring anything beyond its border.

Snow steps forward, white against the darkness.

He makes a motion to come and the body obeys. I scream and fight to grapple with it.

The body kneels and my son, looking smaller than before in hands that are mine yet not mine, is offered before him, looking too much the sacrifice.

"Beautiful boy," he says, voice low. It never goes above a murmur, "You must be very proud."

I never thought there would a point where I'd want to cry harder; I'm proven wrong, again.

"Take him,"

A person materializes from the right and reaches—

"No!" I whisper a scream.

The person only pauses because Snow waves a hand. He peers intently at me, "Why Cato, I didn't know you could speak. I thought you'd gone mute."

They know my secret; or they've always known. It's confirmed now for them. That I've been alive this whole time inside my shell; it's a foolish mistake, done out of love and fear for a loved one—one I just met, no less—but still. If they torment me, let them. But I have to plead for my son, who has done nothing to deserve this. Even though I have failed to save lives of others—Peeta, Rue, Katniss, and myself—and I'm cursed to fail here, probably…

But I want, need, have to save his life.

He had murmured something to the person because the individual is now behind me, whitish blue clothing peering out from the corner of my eye.

Then—

Freedom washes over me in a cool relief but now I've never felt colder, the fear sinking into my chest, like a heavy stone. I pull my son forward, feeling his newborn warmth seep into the heart I feel again, pounding fast, so fast it hurts and, distantly, I wonder why I wished for this heart to begin with. The pain is keener, fresh and new.

For my son and the woman I love, I remember: pain is fine.

I hold my child close, and look up into the cold eyes of the man I once called leader, once called wise, once believed would never betray me; I lick lips I've forgotten are rough.

"Please…" I beg, "He's just a boy…"

"You're just a boy, too, Cato,"

"He's a child—a baby. Barely minutes old. Please… I beg you, leave him be."

Snow is whiter in the glow, this frightening specter, death itself contemplating the choice of a father or son.

He chooses me.

Fathers would want nothing else.

My child is taken to his grandparents and great-grandmother; I hadn't seen her lately. She looks frail. She'll die soon. She gives me a kiss on my cheek that lingers. I'm relieved that they welcome him with no questions, smiles in place. He leaves me out here, without venom, to explain things to them. With something like this, I think he realized only my true speech patterns and persona can calm and put to rest any questions they have. I find myself lying with ease, keeping it simple.

I leave him with them, in a lighter location, where rooms glow with inviting colors and voices are softer for the sake of his ears, not to hide from the world. He'll be put to sleep soon. My family was always adamant about getting children rest. I hope he sleeps well. Babies should be with their mothers.

But his mother is in another world, where she knows nothing but demons, and I have to go to her—I am the true tormentor. No one lets me be anyone else.

A hand touches my shoulder; Snow smiles, "I am not without mercy, my boy, remember that."

I nod as they cut into my skin. I barely notice the fire this time; not sure why…

I don't see the sun, or light. It's been days and they feed me in the dark. They slowly put venom back into my brain, taking care not to damage the nerves and tissue.

Strange, they've never cared before.

It's a lie, though. The pain intensifies as soon as the venom is completely in my system. I'm unaware of movement but I know I'm writhing on the ground, screaming, trying to will the hurt away.

Groaning, I push myself up with my hands. I feel the cold tile. Hear the voices around me. I'm not totally under yet.

I don't know if they notice. They simply command me to go to her—a man's torture is never done.

I enter her room and see her shivering on the bed. I approach with caution, enough to combat the venom. If I move or strain to much I'll fall under, and she'll be prey to the body.

There's a bowl of water on the dresser, a cloth halfway dipped in.

So she takes care of herself. Figures. Prisoners don't get good treatment.

She jolts upright in bed, a harsh whine creeping around in her throat.

If it wasn't for the venom, and me fighting it, keeping the body still, I would've jumped from her sudden scream. She looked at me and it came out. She must've had a nightmare. Maybe it was about me. Maybe she still thinks she's in it. But she is in one, thanks to me.

Even so, I struggle to speak, to remain in control. Orange fades and I break through it, "Hold still. You're catching a fever."

I get the washcloth and ignore her violent jerk from it, though it pains me. I inch closer, tempting danger, but I keep grip on it. She slowly opens an eye, and I look into bleak gray. She used to have such life in them. But it's buried under an endless avalanche of suffering. I carefully wipe some sweat from her brow.

"You should lie back down."

She doesn't answer or lie back down.

"How do you expect to get better if you don't do as you're told?" Both the venom and I speak. It blocks out the concern in my question but I can still say it.

"Why do you care?" It's such a bitter sound, raspy. I long for her to be where we used to be.

I glance at her, remembering something, "The wet nurse isn't enough. But I won't allow the child near you when you're ill," Not sure if the venom was part of the last part. It might have been. But mothers who are sick can't be near their children. And I want her to get better. I don't want our son with some random woman either.

"My child has a wet nurse?" She's jealous. I am too. I haven't seen him since placing him in my parents care.

"The child can't be in your care—you're sick right now," The venom surges without my control—

"And it doesn't help that you're very dangerous and unstable—"

"I'm dangerous and unstable!?" She shouts, rising to her knees. She is naked and shaking from rage, "You are no one to talk to me about instability—!"

I reach through the flames, "Katniss, calm down—"

Her hand finds my face, "Don't you ever say my name—ever!"

There's a burning sensation I barely feel on the body's skin. The Girl on Fire lashed out from the flames and it was foolish of me to think she wouldn't. I'm angry, at everything, at myself, maybe a little bit at her for getting under my skin, "It's your name isn't it?"

Sunsets blind my vision, venom controlling the lips, "And since you're mine, I can say your name as much as I want."

The body does own her, in a sick, horrible way. It possesses her in a way I'll never know. She's never been mine—it's always been that she owns me. Since the beginning, since I saw her on fire.

"Remember that…you're mine."

And it possesses me too.

I fall as it delves into her, and I try to ignore that rough, dry feeling as bodies slide on one another. Even after all this time I still fight the urge to puke, even though I know I wouldn't be able to regardless.

But something's different.

She kisses back.

And it's frightening, seeing her give up. Like she allows herself to be swallowed alive and it hurts. Hurts, hurts, hurts. She just kills herself in these arms that look like mine, and there are little moans leaving her mouth.

All I can do is despair at how much I'm owned by everyone else except myself.

Days wander, nights slip.

There are the rare occasions where I go to see my family, venom optional only by Snow himself. They take care of him there. Watching them all interact is fascinating, especially since I wonder if they would do that with me. All I can remember from childhood is rough play and training, fighting, always fighting. Because my life depended on it. And it's fascinating, too, because I see so little of other people anymore. I don't know what Snow tells them to keep them from wondering. Or what he does to them, more like. But none of them appear hurt.

In their eyes, though, neither do I.

They play games and treat him like part of the family. I don't why it surprises me that they would. Maybe I expected them to say something about his mother but nothing comes. He's loved there and they spoil him a little too much. But I don't mind. He's not in the dark and that's more than fine with me.

Sometimes Snow lets me go without it but the venom has taken its toll: my body jitters, I randomly jerk around, eyes darting about. There's little to no control of the nerves. So my family questions and I blame recent bouts of insomnia, which is not totally untrue.

But their questions are not liked, so the venom is often just allowed to stay.

My family and district 2 are safe. From what I know. I sacrificed a lot for them so I hope that's the case.

Snow came in the other night and patted my head, smiling gently. I saw red in his mouth and wondered how I never noticed how much crimson was on him before.

"You've been a good boy, Cato. You should be rewarded for that."

I don't hesitate, even though I know it won't be good, "I want Katniss to see our son."

He nods.

Another form of torture. I know better than to believe him of kindness. Even though it would be wonderful to hold my son and have his mother see him, I know there's something involved in our son's outing. It's to break us further.

But I do as he says. His mother and I have been wounded enough. What's one more scar?

I know she'd think the same thing.

Our son is the only good thing we've seen in such a long, long time.

The door opens and I hear it locked from outside. Our son gurgles in arms I'm slowly trying to control.

She whirls around, mouth parted in surprise. Then pure joy crosses her face and she reaches out. She cries softly as she holds him. I feel the heart in the body. It twists.

It's beautiful, watching them.

Our son squirms, though, and I worry why he's not responding to her. Though it's been days since he'd seen her, surely he hasn't forgotten his mother.

"No, wait, hey, it's alright—"

The body reacts to the screams and I push through before it can do anything further. I hold my son as much as wariness would allow. The body slowly succumbs to my will. I don't harm him but the body harms her, "You scared him, the boy doesn't know you yet."

I hold him long enough so he can stop crying, knowing she'll break. They must've known that she would find this too painful. I listen to her breathing, the quiet before a storm, a mother's fury.

Our son calms and I hand him to her gently, "Here, just try again."

She doesn't catch my sincerity that I squeezed out for her. She becomes enraptured with our son quickly and who could blame her?

I watch them, fighting fire and trials and deeper desires. She coos softly, our baby responding. He nuzzles into her, drowsy. She feeds him and I watch two pairs of stone replicate movements, thoughts. They're lost in another world. Content.

I'm glad.

"He makes you smile easily," I tell her.

The smile disappears but I know she's still happy.

"I thought you might like to see him."

Something in me stirs when she turns her face to me. Her eyes meet mine. It's unfair—how broken people have a beauty about them. It makes no sense. She's like the earth. In its natural state, it's fertile, and lovely, nourishing. Then, say, metal, this refined form of earth. It's only a polished form of earth but it's in that state from being beaten, in a sense. In being battered to take another shape, it becomes something sharper, stronger. Purer.

It's not fair at all.

She turns from me and I feel cold.

"Hyacinth…"

Her voice breaks my thoughts, "What?"

"His name," she looks me in the eye.

In my lax guard—or it surged up like the tide—the venom prods her soul, "I've named him already."

"You can call him whatever you like, but I'm not stopping from naming my son," Fire surged up in her, too. It battled the sunset and the sun didn't like to be outshone—the orange floods my eyes, rebelling, taking over me. It hurts, and the lightning flashes again. A storm in broad daylight, I battle the forces of nature, manmade though they are.

It's a brief triumph but it's enough; I ignore the fire behind me.

"I like it."

She beams. It's brighter than stars.

It takes my breath away. She gave to me what I haven't seen in an eternity.

Her smile haunts me long after I've gone.

They inject more venom to block it out but I cling to it like it could save my life. A parachute with treasure. Yet it's more valuable than all the sponsors I could've received. It sticks out in my mind that is no longer my mind. Her smile flashes, her dark skin beckoning and her gray eyes shined with pleasure. Like she was truly glad I approved of her choice.

She's still in there, somewhere; just like I am.

We're both here still.

As I hope and ponder when we'll be rescued—if we're thought of at all—I cling to her smile. I just cling to the memory of her.

Time passes through hell with agonizing slowness.

It's horrible, how much venom and brainwashing they did recently.

She woke up from a nightmare, screaming loudly enough to wake the dead; if Rue and Peeta could respond anyway…

The venom took over completely, with only one of a few actions I could give to comfort her was handing our son over to her shaking arms. She calmed down and felt relief.

After the body claimed a need to 'take a piss' it returned to her; she was sobbing and I knew it was from the body mentioning Peeta. I don't know how much she knew him when he was alive but I know how much he loved her. And maybe she missed that—his constant easy manner, his gentle nature and that unconditional love she probably hadn't felt for a long time.

Struggling, I won, eventually, and stroked her hair, murmuring, "Hey, I didn't mean that… Nightmares are pretty frightening, I know…"

It calmed her and there was hatred burning in her eyes. Scorching deeply into me. Through me and into a part of me I can no longer feel. But I held her anyway. Wanting her to be at peace. She burrowed into me, head on my shoulder. I felt her warmth and clung. Held her and our child close. I held her until she was still, until she fell into the vastness of sleep. Our son laid there in her arms. Both a picture of serenity in this madness. They looked so out of place in the dark…

I cried later in my own cell. Loud, harsh and violent sobs, nothing quiet about them. They were ugly chokes that echoed in my ears. They allowed me to wallow in humiliation, in self-pity, in everything I've been trying so hard not to feel. I threw up in a corner, soiling myself. I cried harder. Buried myself in my hands and just let myself be human. It felt so good to be human. It felt so horrible to be human too.

My heart just lurched and clenched and palpitated. My mind was dizzy and, I think, some of the time of that, I blacked out from the constant thoughts, the feelings, and the pain. It finally took a true toll on me and they loved watching me break myself for a change. Though I'd been the biggest enemy of myself since I volunteered for the Games.

I let myself die numerous times by myself. I dreamed, imagined and wished of killing myself. I hadn't seen so much red since the Games. I dreamed of Peeta, face blank, posture defeated and he looked me in the eye, voice broken, "You broke your promise."

I woke up screaming and rammed my body, then in my control, into a wall. Men and women filed in with their stupid damnable white and blue clothing, a blurred sky, and sedated me to sleep.

Tonight, I will go to her and the body will do what it's been told to do. I'm so tired of fighting…

She's having a nightmare. Whining in the dark. I can't bear it and rush over, finding it easy to do it right then. Maybe because I didn't think. I'm not sure. I only tell her, "Wake up."

She does and I'm relieved.

But it's short-lived. The body asks, "You're not getting sick again, are you?"

"No," she replies, "But I am bleeding."

My concern is overshadowed. "Again?"

"Yes, again."

It sighs loudly, crossing its arms, "That's perfect. You'll use up all the medicine in our cabinets before they're even necessary for the rest of us—"

"Where's Hyacinth?"

The body is cut off and is, I think, a little in a stupor. I take my chance and answer, "He's right there on the bed,"

The Capitol are sick people. If I beg hard enough, I can get little things. Since Hyacinth's birth, if I'm an accommodating prisoner, they'll give me things I need for him. They recently gave me a nightlight that, after examining to make sure I can't use it for a weapon, is used for Hyacinth when he's here.

"He was looking for you."

"Really?" she sounds so pleased, so surprised and happy that I wish I could smile back.

"Yeah; he was with me all day."

She croons across the room. Too weak to stand. I feel sick and desire to make her happy.

I remember something, "Antonia tried to sing to him last night. Didn't work so well,"

She snorts. It doesn't make her happy. But it fills her with pride and a snide superiority to hear the woman fail. It makes me happy, though. Antonia has been too leisurely with my person too…

"Can you sing to him?"

She doesn't answer and I wait for her to respond. Even if she doesn't, I don't mind.

But the venom speaks, "Being difficult won't get you anywhere."

"You don't even know if I can or not."

It's true. The venom doesn't know that. But, "I know you can."

"What?" She looks startled.

In my own mind, I'm startled too. She doesn't know that I've heard her sing? She doesn't remember or is she…?

Before I can latch onto her question with one of mine, the venom responds, telling half-lies, "I've watched the reel of our Games. You sang to your little friend from 11. Why can't you sing to our son?"

She doesn't answer and I can't break through the fire. It burns. Too much. Like…it's trying to hide her from me. But for a different reason.

"Well?" it prods.

No answer from her and I push, trying to get to her. The Girl on Fire remains unreachable. Suddenly she asks where it's going. I didn't realize the body started walking away.

"I'm going to the courtyard. I'll be back to pick him up."

But it lied to her. I hear her begin to sing and it destroys me inside. She sings with all the loveliness I know her to sing with. It lilts and rises, lulling our son into places unknown but not dangerous, like experiencing a new, beautiful thing.

The body stands near. It reveals itself to her and it makes my mouth grin, "Gotcha,"

It broke her. I see it. She falls. Farther and deeper than when it rapes her. It listened to the most private part of her, going beyond the body.

I lay in my cell, feeling dead. I can't cry because I simply can't. I want to. Desperately. Yet nothing comes.

She is weeping by herself. I can feel it.

I dream of her singing sadly, moonlight everywhere. It's always her in the moonlight and I wish the dream would be different. That I could see her in the sun. Even though it hurts my eyes. Even though it leaves me burned, she looks better in sunlight.

I wish I could just see her in a place she loves, with people she loves.

Even if it's no longer me.

So, I'm here. Listening to her and our son breathe. He's asleep, gurgling softly. She remains wide awake, glancing furtively between the two of us, love on him, hatred on me.

I fight the fingers that dig into her skin. I tug on the body and it grapples harder—or is it me?

"Stop it!"

I make it stop.

But the body moves right after and reaches for our son.

"No, please…!" she says. Her voice is low. Like she's fighting for her life. Funny, she's never fought harder…

"It won't be hard to take him, you know that." It tells her with all the coldness of machine. But machines don't hurt people. People hurt people.

"I know, I know," she answers, "But you won't do it."

"Why not?"

"Because… he's your son, too,"

It pangs me. How she said it. Like she didn't want to admit it. Like she really wanted to admit it. She stares up at me with those gray eyes that don't remind me of home anymore, the home I grew up in.

I lean through the fire. Orange recedes and I think Peeta would cry a little.

"Katniss…" I murmur her name. My hands are on hers and brushing our son's head. She's quiet, unmoving. Her mouth is a little parted and I keep the distance. Just barely teetering the edge.

Then there's a deafening sound. It shatters our dark little world. Debris and bits of building crumble. I hear Hyacinth above the din and she is gone from my arms.

I'd been pushed back and I whirl around, or the body does. I don't know but my vision really is struggling to find what's up and what's down.

There's a man in front of me now. The body is torn between what I want and what they want. I naturally desire to take a defensive stance but a part of me is relieved because I know, somehow, he's here for her. He has the same shade of skin, of hair, and, probably, the eyes.

But they want him dead and the body moves—

"Cato!"

The shock overwhelms me. I root the body in that split second of peace and incredulity.

She stares at me. Grays eyes beseeching, asking me things, too many things.

There's sudden pain shooting up my leg. It burns and I think I'm finally able to scream in front of her.

Through bleary vision, I see a dark figure loom and he's above me, something pointed at me—

"No!" I hear her shout, "Let's go, Gale, let's go!"

The body filled with venom lunges to grab them, but I break through. There's pain everywhere in my skull. They're trying to keep me still, make the body do what it wants.

But I won't let them—not when she's so close to being free!

So it intensifies and I'm shocked. The body crawls from the wound in its leg and I feel it now as I dominate the body, making it mine again.

"Katniss!" I shout at her, trying to tell her a lot of emotions and condensing it into her name.

Venom courses through me, like fire, and it burns. I lay there, scorching and shout, "Katniss!"

It's pointless, because I'm not calling her back to me, and I don't know why all I want to do is say her name. I just want her to hear me say it. While I can. I want to tell her I love her, despite everything.

It hurts to breathe, smoke and ash filling the air. I choke on it, laughing a little, reveling in feeling. The sun is bright on my eyes. I see it full in the sky. It's so pretty, and a lot better than the suns that have burned me for all this time.

I might die right now but I don't care.

Katniss and Hyacinth are safe.

They're safe now.

I don't know whether to be happy for them or hate myself for not being the one to protect them, in the end.

I decide to be both.

I failed Peeta, and Katniss, after all. I broke promises and didn't fight hard enough. I never seem to fight hard enough.

Huh.

I guess your future is never what you expect…

Death is though.

It always comes eventually. I realize it's a nice consistent thing.

So, I sigh, and wait.

To everyone I know I've been dead a long time ago anyway.

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