"Cos all the walls of dreaming, they were torn right open
And finally it seemed that the spell was broken"
We were never supposed to be friends. Peacekeepers and citizens didn't get along, after all, they were hired by the Capitol. But somehow, Katniss and I befriended him. Darius.
Maybe it was his charming smile that so frequently made an appearance. Maybe it was his casually messy copper hair or his kind, boyish face. Maybe it was the fact that he was only a few years older than me, or that he was always willing to trade or buy for whatever we shot in the woods each hunting day. Somehow, Darius became our friend. He was a regular in the Hob, swapping jokes and always talking to us, or just me, if I was alone. This was how it always was with us, I, the hunter, Darius, the Peacekeeper who never seemed like one.
"And all my bones began to shake, my eyes flew open"
I remembered when it started to be different, though I hadn't understood then. Looking for refuge from the bitter weather, unable to hunt, Katniss and I spent a lazy New Year's Day in the Hob, eating Greasy Sae's wild dog soup, her specialty. Darius, as always, was with us, in his white uniform that matched the snow, but no weapons to be seen.
"You know," he said, playing with Katniss' braid, "I shouldn't have to trade you anything for your game. My time should be enough."
His grin told me he was teasing. "Or maybe," he said, tickling her cheek, "a kiss would be enough."
Katniss smacks his hand away and Greasy Sae chortles. "You're full of it, Darius," she says.
"No really! Maybe two rabbits, even. Everyone knows redheaded men are the most virile," he says with a cheesy grin, making Katniss splutter midway through her mouthful of soup, and then begin to argue with him.
I know he was joking but I felt something stirring in my chest. Heat, spite, something like a small fire. I knew what it was soon enough. Jealousy. I assumed it was for Katniss. But oddly enough, in a dream that, night, I imagined him saying the same things to me.
"Until I realised that it was you who held me under"
Six months later, I returned to the Hob, though the scene was different. It was more subdued, and there were less people milling around. The weather was warmer, so there was no need to be indoors.
All I had to trade was a couple of squirrels. I had felt numb for the past 48 hours. Katniss was somewhere on her way to the Capitol, though coverage hadn't began yet.
The calm before the storm, or the calm before the world crashed down around me, because if she died, everything would be different.
I didn't see him approach until he was practically on top of me. Darius stood next to me in silence, the only form of comfort I wanted. The mischievous smile was missing from his face.
He put a hand on my shoulder. And where he touched me, I could feel.
"Felt it in my fist, in my feet, in the hollows of my eyelids
Shaking through my skull, through my spine and down through my ribs"
The Hunger Games were over. Katniss was coming home. I should feel happy.
But the fingers that had pinched me inside the entire time she was in the Games, curled up in the cave next to that Mellark boy, refused to release me. Because she almost given everything for him, and forgotten about me. And soon, they would be coming home together.
It was late, but still dusk, the last summer sunrays still hanging in the sky. I wandered around aimlessly, near the fence behind the Hob. I couldn't go in. It was closed for the night.
I still had company, though. Darius was on patrol.
"Gale," he greeted me. "You should be at home, celebrating. District 12 has a victor. Katniss is coming home."
His good-natured smile was on his face, but he noticed mine wasn't. "You're not happy," he observed.
"I… don't know," I said numbly.
I was surprised when Darius pulled me into an embrace. "She cares about you, Gale, she really does. And I know you still care about her. She'll see it."
I looked up into his light brown eyes. He understood it. He knew how I felt. But I didn't. I didn't know what possessed me to say it, or do it, but:
"Darius, I …I… I care about you," I said quietly.
I left my mind when we kissed. No one saw us behind the Hob. I didn't know why I did it, or why he did it. All I knew was his lips against mine, and every cell in my body was alive.
After he left, it wasn't love. It was confusion.
"And I could hear the thunder and see the lightning crack
All around the world was waking, I never could go back"
It was a pain like I had never felt. Each lash across my bare back blinded me, and made everything in my sight turn to a white-hot flash. I begged for mercy, for it to be over. I had no more strength or dignity to speak of. All I had was the pain.
I had lost count of the number of times the whip had slapped my shoulders, and of how long I had been bound to this post with the dead turkey above me as a reminder of my disobedience. I feared I would look the same soon.
Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I heard someone cry out, "That's enough! He's paid his dues!"
I was too broken to turn and look. All I heard was the hard, fleshy smack as the whip hit something else. I saw him fall onto the ground next to me through my incomprehensible pain. There was an angry red mark on his forehead.
My head was too foggy. I managed to croak out his name. "Darius."
Then, all I knew was the darkness that pulled me under.
"No more dreaming like a girl so in love with the wrong world"
I had given up my feelings a long time ago. I stuck to Katniss, now that Peeta was no longer by her side. District 13 was my cage. I had lost everything else, even my forest. She was all I knew I had.
But she couldn't keep the dreams away at night. Nightmares of fire, raining from the sky and consuming everything and everyone that was my home. The whip, tearing up the flesh of my back while Darius lay unconscious beside me.
He was another frequent in my nightmares.
Katniss told me what they had done to him. He could never speak again, losing his kind words, his easygoing spirit, his spunky jokes.
I knew it would only be worse now. She was terrified of what they were doing to Peeta. I could only try not to think of what they would do to him, my friend, property of District 12. He wasn't as important in the Capitol's eyes. But he would serve as propoganda, a reminder of what they could do.
In my dreams, his smile stretched out to a ragged gaping hole, and I heard screams. I would awake only to find that they were my own.
"No more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone
No more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in the garden"
I couldn't save him. The words repeated over and over again in my mind, torturing me. I had gone on the mission to rescue Peeta to appease Katniss, to save her from her nightmares. But Darius didn't come home with us. I couldn't save him.
"It took days to finish him off. Beating, cutting off parts. They kept asking him questions, but he couldn't speak, he just made these horrible animal sounds. They didn't want information, you know? They wanted me to see it."
I closed my eyes against Peeta's words. I shut out my cruel imagination that tried to plague me with the images of Darius' torture. How could they do that to our kind friend?
I didn't reopen my eyes until Katniss burrowed her head into my chest. I wrapped my arms around her.
I will get revenge.
There are not enough mountains to crush, enough cities to destroy.
"Seems that I have been held, in some dreaming state
A tourist in the waking world, never quite awake
No kiss, no gentle word could wake me from this slumber"
It had been months since the fall of the Capitol, and I still wasn't the same. I had shut everyone I had ever known out. Katniss was gone. Peeta was gone. My family and friends were gone.
I was alone in District 2. I am a commander. I have a fancy uniform and the power to restore the whole District to peace. A fresh start.
But the nightmares won't leave. Darius' screams, his real screams that echoed, loud and guttural around the sewer, resound in my head and refuse to leave. I see the mutts in my sleep, dressed in Peacekeeper uniforms, white and perfect like his. I think of all the others I lost. Finnick. Messalla. Boggs. Jackson. Leeg 1. All dead.
Even with the separation from everything I can't keep them away. But the worst is Darius, who was arrested and mutilated after trying to protect me. I know I shouldn't feel this strongly about him. We shouldn't have kissed. He is a man, and this is taboo.
I still love Katniss, too. I always will. But she isn't mine. She's happy in Peeta's arms.
Perhaps, someday, I'll find another to fill the void left by those who I loved and loved me. But for now, it is just me and my nightmares, my mind full of screams and terrible images and regret and fear. I awake in a cold sweat every night, that no one sees.
I won't let them see. I have to suit up for the day. I look strong, sturdy, and fearless. I am a leader.
They can't see how mad I really am.
"Snow White's stitching up the circuitboards
Synapse slipping through the hidden door"
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