"This can't keep going on."
I lay with my mouth shut.
"Many of the people here, me included to be honest, are concerned and disturbed by how you're getting attached to this boy."
"You can talk about this, you know. You're safe here."
I'm not safe anywhere.
"It's all right."
It's not all right. I'm not safe anywhere at all. If I cannot escape the fabrications of my own mind, what makes people think a room will be any better?
"You're going to be difficult again."
There's that damned word again: difficult.
People don't know what difficult means.
Me throwing a temper tantrum or whatever is not, nor should it be, the equivalent of difficult.
Difficult is losing everything and everyone I love; difficult is learning to let go; difficult is learning to change; difficult is learning how to be nobler; difficult is learning how not to kill myself; difficult is learning how to love; difficult is learning how to be at peace; difficult is not losing myself in an illusion; or becoming disillusioned.
"This is a problem only you can fix, however, and I can only do so much for you."
Good. I didn't ask for your help, genius.
"You know where the door is."
I practically bolt.
The sun decides to destroy my eyes the moment I walk out into its fierce arms and gaze. The people of the Capitol rendezvous with all the nonchalance of morons. They walk about, decked to the fullest with colors and pastels and labels of fabric that I can only conjure up in my mind. It's my first time out in the world in months.
I'm not sure how to deal with that.
An odd taste is filling my mouth as I continue down the glimmering pavement. There's a ringing in my ears as I walk down the street, looking at monsters walk alongside me and I imagine teeth tearing into me—I think I actually see a person maliciously grin at me and it's all I can do from screaming and falling to the ground prostrate. A little bit of bile rises into my throat and its acidic mixture is hard to swallow back down but I manage. Everything's too big and too bright and too loud. Why can't I be back inside where I don't have to worry about anything? Maybe I'm just tired but I'm always tired. I don't need a psychiatrist, I need a doctor but being with anyone from the Capitol is the last thing I want.
I look back to the psychiatric ward that I just stepped out of. It's not exactly a place that many in the Capitol go to. Life here is perfect, painted in red and reflective glass. There's nothing to go on about to people that get paid to know your mind to tell you what you want to know about yourself. The people here eat, defecate, murder, and go to sleep after much sex and partying and other euphoric events. I'm giving the psychiatrists here a little bit of a show.
I discovered from Effie, who arranged this little meeting in hell, that learning the power of the mind is still a pursued profession, but not to the degree as to what it was before the Dark Ages. It makes sense though that people would want to learn about the mind. Tracker Jacker venom, the dogs that resembled the fallen Tributes, the sounds of listening to people scream—all of these things are meant to break the mind and shatter it to irreparability. The Games in the arena aren't just of a physical nature, I learned, while in there. It's also about making sure one guards their mind; because it is the very last thing, besides one's life, that should be lost.
I see Gale sitting on a bench, dressed in simple pants and a shirt.
"How'd it go?"
I don't say anything to him either. I haven't spoken to anyone in days, literally. I murmur things to Hyacinth and Prim because they're exceptions to the rule. I respond to people with nonverbal gestures and cues, but I do not speak. An Avox of my own making. There's this numbness in me that I can't quite explain without losing my tongue, becoming heavier than lead. I don't understand why I'm numb, therefore, explaining it to people who don't know what's going on in my head will not help anybody much.
"Well, we should be heading back to the facility."
I don't like that he uses 'facility' but it may as well be one. It's a nice building, now that I've seen it from the outside with my own eyes, and it's roomy in there, but beneath are winding pathways that lead and cross and zigzag and overlap beneath the building. It's a sort of headquarters, right below unsuspecting Capitol citizens. Perhaps 'facility' is an appropriate word after all. It's definitely suffocating down there. I hadn't known that we were so far below the ground in the Capitol's very own prison cells, where, apparently, they can accommodate as rooms too. It's hard going to the elevator now that I know we're going so far beneath the earth. My breath is shortening from anxiety and I try not to let it show.
Gale always knows though and he takes my hand, gently leading me in a case of death, and holds onto my hand until the elevator ceases movement. His thumb is stroking the back of my hand and I relax a little. I may be angry with him and he may be angry with me but, thankfully, we know one another well enough to personally shove pride aside and allow something akin to friendship get out.
The elevator opens and we both step outside. He lets go of my hand and we walk in tense silence to the dining room. There, Haymitch, Cinna and Effie are sitting about the table, talking in low tones. When I arrive in, Cinna greets me warmly, while Effie and Haymitch nod. I smile at them all, because I feel as though I should. It's not their fault that my mind is so warped.
"How did it go with the psychiatrist?"
I shrug. There was really nothing to say. I've been going to see this person for a full week and I haven't spoken to them once. I don't see the point in telling a complete stranger anything about myself.
Effie sighs. Haymitch drinks his spirits, looking between the two of us. Cinna doesn't do anything either except look at me. Effie and I haven't been getting much along lately. She probably means well but she's becoming pushy in the mending process of my mind and body. As if this kind of thing can be rushed…
But what exactly are we rushing? The restoration of my health is already a concern for those in the medical clinic. Despite the lubricants and creams and pills, nothing seems to be taking a good effect. They've managed to numb parts of my body, parts of my brain when I'm awake and asleep, but they've yet to find the root of it all that triggers all the pain in me. It bothers Cinna and the others that I still sometimes bleed horrified screams in the middle of the night, my back aching, bruises forming on my skin where no one and nothing had touched it. The pain between my legs had managed to diminish but the doctors continue to apply medicine to me and give me prescriptions to minimize the pain when I walk.
I hear the door slide open and watch Prim walk into the room. She locks her eyes with mine, a shy smile delicately blooming upon her features, Hyacinth in her arms. I reach for my child and my heart flutters with warmth only he can produce, radiating into me. I hold him close to me, watch him grab a fistful of my hair and suckle on it. I pull the end of my braid out and playfully tap the end of his nose. Giggles bubble to the surface of his lips and I kiss the bottom of his chin, blowing raspberries lightly on his belly, increasing the peals of laughter. I make sure not to overdo it—babies are incredibly fragile and even breathing hard may cause them pain, no matter the source, no matter if it's supposed to be good or not.
Gale walks over to me and he sits. Hyacinth looks at him with Seam eyes, and, to my surprise, he reaches for him. This perturbs me, thinking back to the dream of the Gale who would never hurt a child willingly in his life, where he slammed my little one against the metal wall. Gale looks into my face, into my eyes, asking for silent permission. I reluctantly agree, only because Hyacinth is squirming, curious about this newcomer.
It bothers me a little, looking at Gale hold Hyacinth. I've never been this close in their interaction with one another. Gale holds him in both arms, cradling the bottom of his head with strong, powerful, darkened hands. Hyacinth doesn't seem to mind, reaching out to touch the things that are out of reach. He giggles suddenly and something lights up in Gale's features, the brooding becoming brighter, eyes flickering, stones that strike and make sparks. Hyacinth's golden hair clashes beautifully and oddly against the olive skin of my best friend who I lost.
I don't like the way it looks.
But I should.
Yet I don't.
Gale would make an excellent father. It never crossed my mind that he would not be—he's much more jovial and cordial than he lets on; it's just that it's only with people he knows. We've both lost fathers, lost many things, thus there's this tendency to hold many people at bay for as long as possible, no matter how important they are, no matter what period.
It would be wonderful to see him have children of his own. Madge already adores him so much—that much is obvious and it doesn't feel platonic, to me anyway; and if it winds up not being her, then he'll find someone else—his looks have always attracted that kind of attention and it won't be hard in the least.
His looks. Dark and tall and handsome, as the saying goes. My child is the very paradox of Gale in physical characteristics.
I think of my father. How I knew him, how I loved him, how I held him tightly, how he came to die and how I wept and wept and wept that I lost my best friend, confidante, guardian and loving father all in one swift dark moment of coal dust.
It's awful losing a father.
Gale must understand.
I understand this.
"Gale, I want to ask…"
My voice is a murmur. He turns and strains ears to me. I hear Haymitch talk about how I finally speak. I ignore the jab building in me.
"Can Hyacinth see his father?"
There are instantly shouts of objection but Gale remains quiet. He searches my soul as he always could and can and will. I wait there, as patiently as I've ever done.
My heart is skipping beats.
It's just skipping and skipping and dying and dying. We were allowed to see him later in the day but it got to the point where I couldn't wait anymore, because the anxiety was building. Hyacinth is cradled in my arms, tugging on my braid, fingers burying into the threads of hair. The guards at the door are tenser than ever—it's one thing for me to venture in alone, but bringing in my child is a matter of something different entirely.
When the door is opened and I step inside, I see him sleeping, leaning back against the wall. The chains that once bound him are tighter, judging from the uncomfortable position that he's sleeping in—head low, chin digging into his chest. He's lost weight since he's been here and something in me stirs—because thinness meant starvation and starvation is what the Capitol does to the people who live in Panem.
I'm going to have a word with whoever is feeding him.
I approach slowly and kneel before him. Before my knee even touches the ground, his eyes open and he looks at me, quiet and tired and another thing I cannot place. He smiles then and his fingers twitch, looking at the child who is staring at him with wide curious eyes.
He doesn't need to say anything. I come nearer, bringing Hyacinth closer to the face of my captor. Hyacinth whimpers and I wonder if it was a terrible idea bringing him here. He hasn't seen my captor in a long while—it's been a little over five months since our rescue. But, surprisingly, the softest of whispers is coming out of my tormentor, and his lips gently skim over Hyacinth's forehead. It's amazing—the transformation; suddenly, Hyacinth is cooing, inching forward, fingers splayed over Cato's massive chest, looking frail and vulnerable in the arms of a murderer of children.
It's almost… perfect.
Nagging begins to take over my mind but I push it back. Even if he wasn't bound by chain and defeated ego, he would not hurt Hyacinth. Something in me knows this—it knows and understands and accepts this fact of life. Hyacinth will probably never be in stronger, safer arms. But that's what worries me. Cato and I are highly unstable people—we don't know anything of what's going on; he's here, locked away from the world, and I am in that world that he should be in—I shouldn't be in that world because I do not get it at all. The Capitol was made for people like him—where individuals are colored and fleshed out through fake frilly things and blood drains in the streets.
Our positions should be reversed. It would make everything so much simpler to take.
"He's gotten stronger," says Cato, watching Hyacinth crawl and nestle into his lap. "His fingers really dig into your skin when I don't expect it to."
"He has been getting bigger too."
"Has he been eating?"
"Good. He'll need to be strengthened for the arena one day—"
"How dare you say such things?" I hiss, glaring at him.
"It's a fact of life, Katniss." He tells me, eyes burrowing into my being, "You know this."
"But things can change—"
"Katniss, this is the Capitol we are talking about," he says to me intensely, and the force of it, the weight of his eyes treading into my every nerve, is unnerving itself. He may as well be touching me with the way he's looking at me; I can imagine his fingers brushing back my hair—intense but soft.
"I don't trust the Capitol either, but to say that my son will be a contender in the Games is crossing the line,"
"I can't help but be pessimistic," he answers, "I'm not exactly seeing justice being taken place in this cell. Now am I?"
The way he puts it, he makes us sound like the bad ones. Like we're the ones who take people against their will and turn them into sadistic personal slaves; he doesn't deserve any kindness, and I take back the thoughts I had of him needing to be fed, of being broken, of him being locked away in here. I shove all those things of sympathy into a corner and try to drown them in bitter feelings. I cannot afford to think like that.
"That's your own damned fault."
"I didn't get in here on my own."
"You may as well have."
"Because I took you for myself, is that it?"
"And more!" I attempt to keep my voice from shouting but it comes. Hyacinth jerks and he seeks shelter in the body of my captor, nuzzling into it. After he whispers some encouraging words to Hyacinth, my son comes out and decides to go venture in the corner of the cell, looking at the chains, fingers trying to reach.
"This is because of Lover Boy."
"No, it's not!"
"You know it's your fault that he's dead. We never finished this discussion."
"There's nothing to discuss!" I say, flushing.
"That's your problem, Girl on Fire, but you and I both know that he didn't die on his own. You sold him out to me; you led him to me—"
"I never did such a thing to Peeta!"
"He loved you and you allowed him to love you—that's why he's not here and you could've dissuaded it at any time, but you were selfish and desperate to live, so you let him sacrifice himself for you and your needs."
"It's not true!"
He smirks; it's the smile that means my death, "Yes it is and you know it. Would he have willingly kneeled before me and allowed me to stab him just because he liked you? No, that love he had for you clouded his thinking and you let it be clouded."
Oh no… he's right. Peeta would have done anything for me and I didn't even… I didn't…
"He made me promise not to kill you, you know," he says, of a sudden.
I'm standing now so I have to turn to look at him. "What are you talking about?"
"When he and I were fighting, he told me that he wouldn't fight. He would let me kill him so long as you lived. It was a very simple deal and I killed him instantly."
His grin widens, "But he never said I couldn't do other things to you. I let you live."
The world is bleared by red and Hyacinth is crying when I circle my hands around my captor's throat, and he's laughing horribly, face twisted. When Hyacinth's crying increases, his face looks a little normal and he curses me for making our child cry. I don't care at the moment—Hyacinth doesn't understand; he's just a baby, sadly, born to us: a boy who has lost his mind yet doesn't care and a girl who's maddened at losing hers.
"You're scaring the baby," he says.
"I don't care," I tell him but my reserve slackens and so do my fingers. The last thing that needs to happen is Hyacinth to witness a murder. But I want to accomplish what Snow set me out to do, now, more than anything. Vengeance has to be here somewhere, in my captor's skin, in his dead eyes, given to me from myself because I'm so angry.
People are pulling me away from him and I let it happen. A woman is reaching to take my son and I shove her aside, straight into the wall. No one interferes because they know that, in the worst and best of times, he's the only one who makes sense in my crazy upside down world.
When I enter into the hallway, Gale is there, arms outstretched and I don't wait to run into them. I sob into his chest, allowing emotions and too many nightmares and dreams to spill into his chest.
My body is twitching violently when I get to my room, and I let Prim take Hyacinth out. My chest is in pain, discomfort coursing throughout my body, and the pain between my legs is suddenly intensified, and I'm seeing horrible bloodied images behind my eyelids when they shut.
Am I losing my mind for real? I thought I was far gone already!
Am I going crazy?
Is there nothing I can do to save myself from my own hauntings?
I cry into the pillow, screaming and screaming. I cannot believe that… what he said, about Peeta.
Peeta; my beloved Peeta…the cause of my pain, of my rape, of my insanity?
He has to be lying.
Peeta is many good beautiful things. How can he possibly…?
No, he didn't know. He couldn't have possibly known the outcome of what would happen to me. He must've thought that I would be allowed to live and that is that. He had nothing else in mind but my own safety—my protector until the very end.
And I betrayed him.
For all the kisses, and cold nights wrapped together, and all the sweetened words and honeyed gazes, nothing could not have saved him from the tragedy of what loving me could and did bring—I killed him, too, and it's time I accepted that.
Damn it, Peeta…
He should never have loved me.
The pain in me is breaking me apart and nothing I do can repair the shattered pieces. I hear footfalls all around me, hushes murmurs in the room, but I'm normally alone and I make certain I'm alone.
Oh, God, and my son…! He needs a mother who is strong enough to protect him and love him from the dangers in this world. And he's stuck with me—a sniveling, spineless, good for nothing coward, who blames everyone but herself.
I feel as though is payback for all the times I wished I could hurt my mother for abandoning Prim and I. All those times when I should've let go of the hurt and allowed myself to forgive the one parent I have left in the world, and I refused to do it. Now my son is suffering the consequences of my decisions, of my own neglect to the woman who had been hurting and no one had truly bothered to reach in and pull her from the abyss.
Hyacinth deserves a mother, deserves a father, and deserves family that isn't broken by hatred.
The night has come and it's fallen heavily. The hallways feel colder and I walk on bare feet, treading silently, listening the thumping of my heart and the screaming in my head.
I stop before a door and knock, waiting for the recipient to answer.
Madge opens the door, looking lovely and hued in health, perfectly normal, save for the indicated dark rings below her eyes. She looks surprised to see me and that's nothing to be shocked about. She and I don't normally talk.
"Is Gale there?"
She blushes and Gale comes to her side. So that's what the voices were. At least I didn't interrupt anything…important.
"I need you to do something for me," I say.
Gale sighs, exasperation coming out in it but I don't blame him. Whenever I ask for a favor it normally ends in disaster.
"From now on, I want Hyacinth to be in your care."
The silence hangs, their mouths agape and I'm tempted to pull back my offer. I do not want to do this but I have to. For my son.
"What…" Gale says, looking at me and pulling me into the room, his hands, strong and warm, gripping my shoulders. The look on his face says he would like to touch mine but with Madge only a yard away, it's likely he won't. And I didn't want him to.
"Hyacinth needs people that can take care of him properly. I am in no condition to do it."
"But, Katniss—" Madge begins but I cut her off.
"I know what you're going to say. I am his mother, and I need to think of what's best for him. And I am not the best for him—I am too unstable to even care for him properly. I can't sleep, I can't eat, I'm anxious every day and my body gets weaker with each moment. He cannot have that kind of person taking care of him."
Madge and Gale glance at one another. She approaches me and touches my back. The question is hanging in the air, their inquiry of why them of all people.
"I don't know who else to turn to."
Madge leads me to the bed and I sit in the plush velvet. "Katniss, you've put much thought into this. But you'll still see him, yes?"
"Yes, I can't bear the thought of being far from him and I want him to know me. The amount of time with me, though, will have to be minimized. My condition is too strenuous for a child his age—nothing good comes out of it, and he loses sleep because I lose sleep." I feel tears begin to sting but I hold them back. If I cry they may not consent. Everyone, including myself, believes that Hyacinth is mine and should remain with me but how can that possibly be when I'm a miserable human with no proper functioning?
Gale comes and kneels in front of me. "We'll take care of him."
"Thank you," I whisper, feeling a weight lift yet another stone of loneliness descends into my heart. "And there's another thing I need to discuss with you."
They remain quiet, giving me their full attention.
"How is the communication with Snow coming?"
Another glance is exchanged between them and a little flare of anger burns. How much have I not been told these past couple of months? The last thing I remember hearing when I accidentally eavesdropped on them was how I cannot lead a rebellion.
"I need answers."
Gale scratches the back of his neck and sighs. "The thing is we do communicate and all is well, but I still don't trust him, even with this treaty. Nothing is happening—not an outcry or a rouse of fighting—because that Victor from 2 is the enemy of the nation. There have been plenty of instances for an execution in public—"
—what? My heart freezes—
"—however many of us feel that since he's locked up, killing him isn't really necessary. Snow said this himself."
"Gale, tell her the other thing." Madge prods and I look at him, waiting.
"Katniss, the truth is all of us want this to end, even the treaty. Nothing is moving forward and it's just a stalemate between two pieces that want to fight. The treaty may only be so long. It's just another method of control that the Capitol is using, even if we're the ones who are holding the cause of the rebellion in captivity. We're surrounded by Capitol citizens every day and we're all worrying about how, at any moment, Snow can just kill us and nothing will have truly changed."
He stares at me intently, perceiving my face, looking into me.
"In other words, you need me to lead."
He doesn't hesitate. "It's the only logical move we have right now."
It makes sense. I'm many things to this country: the Girl on Fire, the Mockingjay, a martyr, a victim of abuse, a Victor, a possession of all. People will follow if I make the right impression using these positions. Some won't, mainly the Capitol, but I have that advantage—dying for a noble cause does something to people.
Madge interjects, "But you don't need to make a decision yet, Katniss. You just said yourself that you need time to recover from all the abuse that's happened to you—"
"But maybe this can help me," I tell her, wondering. "My mentality is off and I'm not in the best condition but if I trained…"
"We need you to be healthy though, Katniss—" Gale begins.
"No! That's the thing, I'm never going to get better and it's time I realized that. That's why I am giving Hyacinth to you."
"Would you endanger the life of your child?" asks Madge.
She's right. It would kill me. I cannot lead a rebellion, I cannot get stronger, I cannot face the persecution of the most powerful force in our country if I am worrying about Prim and Hyacinth, the two people I love most.
"Isn't there a place where I can have him and Prim safe? Anywhere that the Capitol can't touch them?"
Their quiet is unnerving.
"Tell me!" I suddenly shout and they jump back, looking at me with wariness.
My body is shaking and they reach out slowly to me, trying to calm me down but I insist that they tell me or they can forget about the Mockingjay.
"There is a safe place for Hyacinth and Prim. It's District 13."
I freeze, unable to comprehend. "That's not possible. District 13—"
"Is weak, but alive," Gale says, hand on mine, "It's not a thriving community but they did manage to help us during the rebellion when you were gone."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"They made us swear that we wouldn't tell you about District 13 until we retrieved you. But when we got you back…"
Madge comes closer and sits by me, "When we got you back, you were in no condition to know about 13 and when we told them about you, they agreed, changing the terms to us telling you about it when you asked more questions about the rebellion and the possibility of war."
"So it's only now that I know? How could you lie to me?"
"We weren't lying!" Gale exclaims, eyes intense, stones that are crying out to mine, "But… we had to get you, which was the main thing of our agreement—to use their resources and they can come back up from underground."
"Snow is well aware of 13's involvement with the rebels. When we had said all of the districts had rallied up against him, excluding 2, we meant all of them."
"Why didn't they come to the aid of the other districts before?"
"They have technology, means of surviving that we still aren't sure of how they got, but their numbers are still small compared to the rest of the districts. Some of us from 12 went to 13. That's where my mother and my siblings have been."
I look down at my hands, covered with Gale's, latching onto me. All of this is too much to take in but I've made up my mind. Things have got to change. This treaty is as Gale says—it's nothing but a stalemate. Snow is lurking in the shadows of all the people in the world and none of us are catching his motives. He tells me to kill Cato but tells the others to let him live; he allowed 13 to continue to survive, likely under the pretense of faking their demise in order to not be obliterated.
I put my head in my hands, the voices in me screaming and Peeta is crying because nothing is making sense—there's so much going on, the lies and the deceit and the tears and the pain, they're all blurring into one another until there's nothing but millions of children crying from the grave to show me the injustice done, the injustice I helped cause. Whether or not I was a victim doesn't matter in the least—the fact is I had a role in this as much as Snow, as much as the Capitol, as much as Cato; Peeta loved me and I had grown to love him and that love destroyed the whole world as we knew. Love never saves anything; it only brings a wake of wrath.
"I know it's a lot to take in…" Madge whispers, holding me near.
I let out a shudder at the warm contact.
"I want to talk to Haymitch."
We head to his chambers and rouse Cinna and Effie and my mother as well.
Haymitch isn't sure how to respond, I think, to my sudden character development into a woman who wants to fight. And it's true. I jitter and fuss over anything; I can barely brush my own hair without random spasms happening in my nerves and the pain between my legs, while it dulls, is still there.
"You're sure that you want to go through with this?"
"Yes, I am sure."
"All right then. Everyone, our leader's finally roused from the dead."
Or I'm still dead and no one knows that they're following me to the tomb.
But this is my final decision. I'm sick of doing nothing. I can't allow my own weaknesses to get the better of me—not anymore. There's so much on the line. Time has continued without me while I've been trapped in an hourglass. It's time I broke through and stepped into the moving living reality that is the world.
"Hyacinth and Prim will be taken care of in 13," I say.
"Of course," replies Haymitch.
"But there's another matter here. Hyacinth is under the care of Madge and Gale now. They'll need to be transferred there as well."
"What?" barks Gale, suddenly towering over me and I see my mother rise from her chair, her eyes narrowing at the scene.
Madge, too, is looking at me in shock. "I don't understand… Katniss, we're essential to the core of the rebellion—we can't just stay in 13!"
"You will. You made a promise to me that you will take care of my son and Prim will be with my mother in 13. This was the deal we made, remember? This very night, or have you forgotten that fact?"
"This is ridiculous! I will not be in 13 when there's a war to be done!" Gale shouts and I pierce him with a glare. It's just like Gale to be rash and ready to battle. He may have a part to be done but he can do it in 13.
"You promised me! Both you and Madge said that you'll take care of Hyacinth and I thought it meant that you would do so. Don't tell me you're lying to me about this, too? I've been in the dark for months and no one had bothered to tell me anything of what's been going on—do you think this is fair for me? Did you really think I was that fragile?"
"It's not that were, it's that you are! You are fragile, you admitted this, and you need to get over yourself! You're going to be the face of the rebellion and nothing more; why should we be on the sidelines while you go and fight a war that you were held captive for?"
"Because this is all my fault!"
"How in the hell is this your fault? You didn't plan this to happen—none of us did!"
"But it was caused by me!" I can't explain to them why—they wouldn't understand the bonds that are tightened between Peeta and I, between Cato and I. It's too complicated for people who are out of the dark. I've been in it and I know what hides in there. They've dealt with their own darkness that has come from my inner torment and I need to sever them from that.
Madge walks to me, and the shine in her eyes brightens them, tears making them bluer.
"You promised me. He needs parents that he can rely on. I'm not it." I murmur and the room is hushed.
Madge embraces me and I look at Gale, who looks petrified, who looks vengeful.
"We did. We'll get ready to take care of Hyacinth."
And for the first time in many lifetimes I smile in relief. The people I love will be far from the war, far from the blood. I can't save myself, I may not be able to save others, but I can prolong suffering, I can aid the children closest to me. They've risked and fought everything to rescue me from the black I was trapped in. I've finally done something right and they won't break their promise to me. They pity me too much.
It's time I faced the darkness I created.
And my captor will be the one to guide me. Who knows darkness better than the dark?