The Caged Bird Sings



I wake up to find them both gone, and Peeta's standing in front of me.

My heart stops, his face so healthy and glowing, body strong. The sight of him fills me with joy and dread. I don't understand the latter but my joy is enough to override it. He's here, with me, right before me, my boy with the bread.

"Peeta!" I whisper. And before I know it, I'm leaping off the bed, throwing myself into his arms, arms around his neck, my fingers digging into golden hair—

He's screaming, howling shrieks that make me immediately jump off and away from him. He looks at me, clutching his body close, staring at me with such pain and hatred that my heart cracks in two.

"Katniss, why? Why?"

"Peeta," I ask, horrified, what did they do to him? "What's wrong? Why what?"

"I don't understand! How could you do this—to us? To me?"

"Peeta, I don't understand!" I try to grab his shoulders, but he moves away, and suddenly he's bleeding, smelling of smolders and burned flesh.

"He murdered me! And you love his son?"

His name is a lash thrown from my lips, causing pain, and I reach for him as he reaches for a weapon—

I start awake, screaming, hands covering my face, my nails digging into my scalp. Peeta… Peeta wouldn't… He wouldn't say such things to me, me, of all people. He—

"What's the matter?" inquires a very familiar voice, a harsh whisper, "You'll wake up the baby!"

I glance down, surprised to find him next to me, my son tucked in the crook of his left arm.

I'm so scared of what I'd seen and heard that I find myself burrowing deeply into his chest, quivering hopelessly. I stay like that for a while, unsure of what's rampaging inside me. There's so much building inside that I wonder why I haven't filled to the brim and exploded. He's suddenly propping himself up, still clutching my son, until we're both sitting up.

He perceives me with annoyance. He groans, rubbing his temples. "What happened?"

I don't want to tell anyone about this. It's unnerving, even if it was a nightmare. I have them often, of my family starving, of Gale dying, being left behind, of my father being blown up, of all the tributes that have died. I had nightmares frequently about Peeta but in the darkest recess of my mind, something in me made sure to bind up all memories of him and stick them into that blackest corner. Thinking of him was too painful. I cared about him too much, the child who lent a hand to me when I needed it most.

The chains that shackled all memory of him must've shattered when I allowed someone new into me, the son that brought joy in hell. I look at my little Hyacinth, still dreaming, hopefully nice dreams, and then my eyes drift upwards to the beast that, despite all the pain he's caused me, gave me the most precious gift in the world.

"It's nothing,"

He stares at me before wrapping an arm about my shoulders and pulls me back down. "Good. I don't particular want to hear about it." He does a long yawn, telling me to go back to sleep because he's exhausted. I roll my eyes, irritation and wrath flooding again. Of course he'd be. He only had sex with me over and over today, tugging back my hair, thrashing into my senselessly, leaving only to check on my child.

"Unless you're not tired…" he asks, and my blood freezes, noting his tone that he's probably used on other women, believing it'll have the same result, "But you are beginning to smell. I'll have Antonia draw you a bath in the morning."

His jab does nothing to affect me; he unexpectedly gave me relief—a bath would be luxurious. Though I won't say it aloud. I do ask for my son.

His face is suddenly wary, staring at me with such intensity that it scorches me. After moments pass, each the equivalent of infinite time, he handles my son into my arms.

"Thank you," I say, immediately softened from holding him. I get less hostile with everyone when it comes to children.

He snorts, "Whatever. I have to take a piss anyway. Someone had to wake me up with her screaming," He then looks over his shoulder, a smirk in place, and I'm thrown back onto the day where they were all below me in the tree, and his smile said it all, that would destroy me, "You must've been dreaming about lover boy."

My insides slow down, my soul screaming in rage but I ignore the bait, not just because he's right, but due to knowing he's looking for an excuse to take Hyacinth back. I rest my head on the pillow, watching him. His foot kicks outwards and his face scrunches, whining a little. His foot makes another kick, and the pillow used by my captor falls down onto the floor. I laugh softly; amused at the way my son sleeps. He reminds me of a fighter, born to survive, like all of us. Like a tribute…

Tears begin to streak downwards, hot and fast. I can't let that happen! It'll be twelve years until that occurs, but it's something I never want him to experience—the dread of waiting for your name to be called, the nerve-racking sounds of Capitol spawn screaming for your death, an execution for no crimes committed except through the fact that our ancestors had stupidly rebelled against a powerful, towering enigma.

My tormentor would often murmur about Peeta in my ear, and tonight was no different, but something inside me died the day I watched Peeta slowly crumble into nothing, eradicated from existence; losing Peeta was detrimental, and I had become wretchedly hollow in that aspect of my life. I would remember others, but Peeta was a subject my very spirit could not handle because thinking of his death drowns me.

The dream of Peeta was unexpected but long overdue. I had to forget he existed. He caused me so much pain as well—kind, gentle, forgiving, loving Peeta. He had so much compassion for others, a strength in character and morality that it put most people to shame. The Peeta in my nightmare is a lie, conjured from lack of seeing him and the death I'm suffering every day while in here. Peeta was too good, too wonderful, to even think of such things. He was the light I didn't have back then, the only ray of sunshine that I could find and grasp. Oh, Peeta…

I'm weeping, the only sounds in the room that I'm aware being my shaky intakes of air and my son's even breathing.

Then there's something stroking my hair.

"Hey," I hear him say, "I didn't mean that… Nightmares are pretty frightening, I know…"

I look up, watching him watch me. He confuses me. I hate him for it, hate him deeply, how he turns and turns and leaving me no room to catch up with his motives, but when his arms suddenly open wide, I'm so desperate to cling to something real, solid, and alive, that I hurl myself into them, relieved to just hold on to someone, even if it's the man who kidnapped me, even if it's a viper in human form.

And in the darkest part of my mind, chained to lost dreams and promises, Peeta screams.

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