Peeta Mellark screamed. They were at it again. This time, slashing at his arms and legs with knives. He could never see their faces. They were always wearing masks, always white coats, so that he could see his blood splattering on them. Sometimes there was blood on them before they even started torturing him. Johanna's blood. Johanna was the tribute from District 7, he reminded himself. He found that he had to remind himself of more things as time went on, though he wasn't sure how much time had passed since they carted him off to the Capitol from the arena. Those were the worst sessions, the ones where they injected something into his arm and forced him to relive the games, to relive the victory tour. He tried not to think about Katniss Everdeen, the girl that had saved his life in the 74th Hunger Games. Because when he did think of her, he couldn't ever decide whether to love her or to hate her. Part of him loved her, and that was the part of him that he was desperately trying to hold on to. That was the part that they were trying to destroy. At least, that's what he thought. He could never be sure.
When they left, his muscles relaxed a little and he curled up, resting his cheek on the cold, wet floor. It was his own blood that he was lying in. He heard Johanna's cell door opening. It was her turn. They were dragging her off again. She would return in an hour or so, sopping wet. But there was always the smell of singed hair. At first, the smell made him sick. When he vomited, they would come in with hoses and spray him. Then they would leave him, soaked and shivering in the cold cell.
He hugged his arms to his chest, shutting his eyes tightly. There were no tears left. The effort it took to cry was more than he could muster. He was too weak. In the darkness, he pictured Katniss: her soft dark hair, her cool grey eyes, her smile. Not the one for the cameras. The smile that she gave him when she thought no one else was looking, when she wasn't thinking of anyone around, just him. He could feel the touch of her lips, blistered from dehydration and salt, just like his. She was the only thing he was living for now. He was terrified he was losing himself, losing her. Every time they came in with the syringe, a piece of him disappeared.
He was at odds with himself while he was awake. Sleep was difficult and erratic, and soon, ceased to come at all. He was barely alive. He prayed for death. This was not what was supposed to happen. He was supposed to have died in the arena. He wished he had died in the arena.
"Are you...still in there?" Johanna's face was pressed up against the grate in the cell. He could see her eyes glinting in the low light.
"Yes," he croaked. Both of their voices were hoarse from screaming and lack of water. "Unfortunately, yes."
"They're lying to you about everything," she said.
"I can't trust you," he said. He meant to sound angry, but he was too tired. He rolled over to his other side. She was not to be trusted, just like Katniss Everdeen. He couldn't trust anyone. They were all trying to manipulate him. Lying to him. Trying to hurt him. Johanna Mason was no different.
"Fine," she said. "I tried."
He didn't know what she was talking about. He didn't care. She was a liar, like everyone else. She wasn't to be trusted. He couldn't trust anyone. Not even himself. Himself least of all. That night, he dreamed about running, about darkness, about a fever in a cave. A locket, a pearl, a kiss on the beach that felt so real. He wanted to stay in this dream forever, for as long as the waking nightmares lasted, and for someone to wake him up when it was all over.