Author's Note: It might just be me, but this chapter is definitely seems longer than the others. So, I apologize for that. I got halfway through this chapter and then realized I had almost missed a part in Mockingjay, but I added it right at the end. Also, on that same note, I really need to add the whole "the Hunger Games does not belong to me" speech, because I literally take the words directly from the book and put them in here. So, here goes. I do not, I repeat, DO NOT own the Hunger Games series, no matter how much I wish I did. The character and several words in this chapter absolutely do not belong to me. I am just borrowing then on a temporary loan, and then I'll return them when I'm done. Thank you, Ms. Collins.
Anyway, I hope this goes well, and you all like it.
Since Dr. Berend's introduction, I have been alone. I am still trying to figure out if this is a good or a bad thing, but so far, it seems all right. However, it had only been from what I could tell, a day or so, but I'm too concerned with other happy developments to worry too much. No more straps. I can walk around the room, lie down on the floor, stare at the ceiling, wait by the door for meals. In fact, that's another step up too. No more needles. I am allowed to eat real food now too. Of course, it is not exactly ideal. The food portions are small and I happen to be starving most of the time. Then again, I have always been hungry for most of my life. It is a feeling I'm used to. It's the taste though. The food I eat is horrible. It might just be that I came from the Capitol and the few meals I did get while being held captive were delicious, but the food here is absolutely disgusting. Still, I cannot complain too much. Eating disgusting, balanced-out food is better than getting all my nutrients through a tube and a needle.
However, most of my time is spent sitting with my back in the corner, and watching the whole room. The table, the lights, the walls, the window, and the door. It is all in my sight, just how I want it. Occasionally, I'll get up to walk around the room and stretch my legs, but that corner is where I feel the safest, where I can watch them while they watch me.
As I sit there now, I'm studying the frame around the blacked out window. It looks like it's reinforced, something similar to what the windows were like in the Capitol. They're serious about me not doing any harm to anyone, I suppose. Or perhaps any harm to myself, I can't help but think as I rub my wrists once more.
A speaker clicks on suddenly, snapping me back to attention. "Peeta, will you please sit up on the bed? Dr. Berend is coming in to see you," a voice says on the other side.
I sigh and manage to lift myself up to my feet, walking over to the bed and hoisting myself up on it. My feet barely dangle off the side. It takes a moment, but the door eventually slides open and the doctor walks in, carrying a clipboard. I can't help but glare at that clipboard. Dr. Lawson had one and he never said anything but bad news. Granted, Effie carried one too, but that wasn't exactly a positive situation either. Funny sometimes when we were behind on her schedule, but not completely positive. Behind him, a very brave, dark-haired nurse follows in, wheeling a cart and shooting worried glances at me.
"Hello Peeta," the doctor says. I don't answer. "I figured we could talk while I change your bandages."
Again, I keep silent, but that doesn't seem to mind him too much. He just waves the nurse away and sets his clipboard down. Gratefully, the nurse leaves while Berend steps over to the small cart, picking up the supplies he needs. With everything he needed, he set to work on my right hand, cutting off the bandages and examining the cuts I had inflicted on myself. I look anywhere, but where he is working, and eventually my eyes fall back on the window.
"You like looking at that mirror, huh?" he asks.
"It's not a mirror. It's a window," I answer back, keeping my voice even.
Berend scuffed and shook his head. "Smart too. They obviously don't give you much credit around here. They had me thinking you didn't know anything about this place," he said.
"They? So there are multiple people behind it watching me?" I ask, staring at it hard.
"Right now, just a few. Mostly doctors. They're observing you. Though I'm guess you've known that too," he said.
I pause before nodding. Berend moves away from me, throwing the bandages away. I take my eyes from the window and finally glance down at my wrist now that it's bare. There's an obvious fabric burn around it, with skin rubbed raw in a line just on the back of my wrist. It is scabbed over, red and angry. Sure, they were doing their best to heal it, but eventually, it would scar over and I doubt they would allow me another body polish.
"So…what else are you planning on doing with me?" I ask out of the blue, not caring for other people's feelings much anymore or choosing my words carefully. I just want the answers.
Berend stops for a moment with the bandages in hand. He scuffs again, before continuing his work. "Not much for small talk, I see," he mutters. "Well, that's a complicated question. The short answer is just make you better, but the long answer is a lot more complicated, probably take up a lot more time with plenty technical terms." He put my hand in place, up in the air and held out in front of me, and started going around it with the fresh bandages.
"I've got all the time in the world right now," I answer back.
He stops for a moment and looks at me, before nodding his head. "You're right. You do," he says. "Let's see…where should we start?" For a moment, he pauses, pressing his lips together and forming a clear crease in his brow as he thinks it over. Eventually, he let's out a breath, before reaching for a pair of scissors. "Well, I'm sure you remember all the tests the other doctors ran when you first got here. Physicals, blood tests, the scanner."
I nod. How could I not remember?
"All of them were to find out what kind of condition the Capitol had been keeping you in, and from looking over your charts, in a small way you were lucky. You, unlike some of the others that were rescued, were in the best physical condition. Fed regularly, some bruising and a little bit of damage to your muscles, a few stress fractures here and there, but like I said, much better than the others. Though, we're operating under the assumption that it was for the interview's sake that they kept you in such good condition."
Interviews. My mind flashes back to the Capitol, and the strange incidents of being dragged out of my cell, thinking I was going to end up tortured, only to end up in a room with Portia once more, getting dressed up and having make up put on my face. Before hand, there would always be a period of time when a Capitol official would sit me down and explain how the interview was expected to go, just what I was supposed to say, and how I was supposed to act, even filling me in on all the small extra details I would need, though right now at the moment, I can't particularly recall them all. A sort of fog starts to slip in, hanging over the memories of the sessions before the interviews. Then from there, it was the strange, almost out of body experiences of once more being sat down in front of Caesar Flickerman, being interviewed like it was still the Hunger Games and there wasn't a very real, very large, and very deadly war going on outside.
Deep down, I always knew why they were keeping me in a better cell with better conditions. Talking with Johanna through the vents, she always said how lucky I was, getting better food that she could smell, not having to go to daily torture sessions like her, bigger quarters, bigger bed, better treatment. But hearing it said out loud, even when Johanna said it, I never really wanted to admit it was true. It was though. I was kept alive just because of the interviews and their usefulness. I held some power, as little as it might have been and could sway people's opinions, though I had always gone away doubted that I had done any good. Even now, I can barely recall their importance.
I turn my attention back to the doctor as he tapes the bandages down into place, then moves on to the other hand. "However, there were…other effects done to you while you were there," he says.
"Like what?" I ask.
He pauses once more, looking at me with his dark eyes. "Peeta…what exactly do you remember about your last few days in the Capitol?"
Once again, I slip back into my memories. However, unlike the memories of the interviews, nothing really comes back. Just fuzzy mixtures of different things, faces I can't really see…or want to see. It's mostly darkness and a lot of waking up. It seems the fog has slipped over through these memories too. It takes me a moment before I glance back at him. "Not much, actually. That's what this has to do with though…right?"
"Yes," he says. Immediately, I sigh and look down. I don't have to say a word for him to continue. "It's not completely confirmed, but with the help of information from the Capitol and those tests, I believe they have a good picture of what did happen."
"And just what did happen?" I ask.
He stops what he is doing with my wrist and looks at me, eye to eye, reading me, probably trying to determine if I can or cannot handle the truth. Eventually, he takes a step back, letting my hand drop, and walks over to my side. He sits down on the bed beside me, which groans slightly under both our weights and retrains those dark eyes on me.
"In all the blood work tests, your results came back with traces of tracker jacker venom in your blood. When you first came in and they ran the test the first time, the rest of the team had thought it was wrong, because it was still pretty strong, but the second time confirmed it. It's still in you. Faintly, but it's there, and not just in your blood, but hiding in your tissues. You've been stung before, right? You remember what it was like?"
I have to dig through my mind for a third time, back to the first Games, being there with the Careers, ordered around, kept just for my information. Everything up to that moment was a bit fuzzy, but the moment that nest fell and the tracker jackers were set loose in the air, everything was crisp and clear, the feelings and emotions refreshing themselves in my system as I replay it in my mind. Nothing was straight at all, running didn't help, and the stings hurt so much. But for some reason though, I had doubled back towards the nest. Why had I doubled back again? Confusion must read across my face, because Doctor Berend breaks in, interrupting my thoughts.
"It's all right if you don't. I was just simply asking, for reference," he says.
I shake my head and look back at him. "No. I remember. Everything was off, and…and my dad…and brothers…I saw them, but I really didn't. And…someone else…"
Before I can think of who though, Berend continues. "You felt afraid though, right? Paranoid, even? That's what the venom does. It targets the part of your brain that makes you feel fear, that fight or flight response, and repeatedly triggers those emotions. It also creates hallucinations, which I'm sure you can remember as well."
This time, I cut him off. "You're saying they purposely stung me," I say. The words do not come out like a question, but instead, like a statement.
"Perhaps not stung, but definitely injected the venom somehow into you. Your arm, you wouldn't let the doctors touch it when you first arrived. I'm assuming that's where they injected it, where the large swelling was. That or, and this is all judging from your tests, they had simply injected that arm so many times, it was sore from the injections. Or a combination of both."
I pause for a moment, staring down at my arm. It was still sore, still hurting, but much less than before. I ran a hand over it as a few memories started to resurface. There were more straps there, holding me in place like when I had been scanned. And a needle, always in that same arm. I would struggle against it, fight so it wouldn't be stuck in, but it always ended up in my arm some way or another. Then…a screen…flickering to life…
I press my memory for more, but I only get one small answer.
"Either way, they used the venom on you, and we are trying to determine the extent of just how much it has affected you. Some people completely go mad, but for now, you seem to stand a lot more chance than some of them," Berend says, standing up once more and going back to my wrist. With all this new knowledge floating around, I try to process it all, but my mind is fuzzy, swimming somewhere between the fading Capitol memory and the present. I try so hard to process it that I barely catch him speaking once more.
"I have to ask you, Peeta. How would you feel if I brought in a visitor for you?"
"A visitor? Who?" I ask back.
"A friend of yours. I'm sure you remember her when you see her," he says. "Of course, it's up to you if you want this visitor in here. I have to tell you. There will be a few rules if you agree. Unfortunately, you'll have to strapped down again. Just as a precaution, but it won't be permanent. And I'm sure you'll have realized that we'll be watching as well from the other side of the window. However, it'll be just the two of you in here alone. You can talk about whatever you like."
A visitor. I had only ever seen nurses and doctors. And besides, who would be here? Who would honestly want to visit me? My mind runs through several people, going to one in particular. Haymitch. I just saw him the other day. Maybe they're going to allow him to finally speak with me? Or even better. My father. I'm aching to see him again, alive and well. He would say something to make me feel better, cheer me up like he always does. We could joke for a bit. Then I stop. No, Berend said she. It's a female. Johanna? She had to have escaped. I want to think so, but I am not all the way sure. I groan inwardly at the thought of it being my mother. Would she honestly want to visit me?
Then of course, one last name surfaces.
I let out a breath and go over the possibilities one more time, before sighing. I wanted freedom, and at least I could get a small taste of it from a visitor.
"Yes. Please," I answer back.
"Good," Berend says with a smile, before finishing the bandage on my wrist, and going to put the instruments away. He takes a while, putting his things back in order, before eventually coming back over to help strap me down. I lay back, allowing the strap to confine me. I'm itching to already get them off, clenching and unclenching my fists repeatedly. As the doctor tilts the table slightly upright, he notices my displeasure. "I told you already, Peeta. Once we're done, they're off again. This is just temporary," he says.
I still sigh, and look away, once again going silent on him. I just try to go through in my mind the possible female visitors I could have. Eventually, Berend takes his cart over to the door, wishing me luck, and I am just left there alone. I keep continuing to move my fingers, stretching them, cracking my knuckles, and clawing my fingernails into the table. It takes a while, surprisingly a lot longer than I would have thought, before the door opens to the room.
I look over immediately, surprised by the figure standing there. I know her. She is so familiar, and yet…different from how I remember her. Not my mother or Johanna, but I know her. There's just one problem. The fog in my mind had clouded her name. That or it just really has been a long time.
She walks a bit closer to me, her yellow hair pulled back into a braid that hangs over her shoulder, and breaks into a bright smile that I know I've seen before plenty of times. I don't really return the smile though like I know I have so many times before.
"Peeta? It's Delly. From home."
"Delly?" I taste the name on my tongue and it fits. My fog lifts a little and I remember home, District Twelve, and her shoe shop just across the street from the bakery. She and I would often meet on her side of the street when we were children, before running around, doing errands for our parents, or just playing together. She's definitely changed, thinner now that I remember and there's something behind her eyes. It's hard to tell, but just something is different, more than a few pounds shed. "Delly. It's you," I say, happy with something a little familiar.
"Yes!" She smiles a little brighter as I remember a little more. She's my friend. She has been for a long time. She'll know just what is going on, and most importantly, she'll give me answers. I hold on to this thought as she continues. "How do you feel?"
"Awful," I say simply. Questions. I need ask her questions. "Where are we? What's happened?"
Her smile shrinks slightly, as she looks down. "Well…we're in District Thirteen. We live here now."
I think of the nurses mentioning it when I first was here, but I never believed them. "That's what those people have been saying. But it makes no sense. Why aren't we home?"
She chews on her lip. "There was…an accident."
Accident. No, for some reason that word doesn't fit in my head.
I search my memory as Delly continues.
"I miss home badly, too. I was only just thinking about those chalk drawings we used to do on the paving stones. Yours were so wonderful. Remember when you made each one a different animal?"
These images come a little easier to the front of my mind, as I think back to a warm, Spring morning in District Twelve, both of us out in front of her shoe store, myself working so hard to get the wings of a bird and the fines of a fish just right. "Yeah," I answer. "Pigs and cats and things." But I won't be deterred. "You said…about an accident?"
She hesitates for a moment, before speaking again. "It was bad. No one…could stay." However, even if Delly had hesitated, she is quick to continue. "But I know you're going to like it here, Peeta. The people have been really nice to us. There's always food, clean clothes, and school's much more interesting."
As much I know Delly is trying, none of what she is saying is making me feel better. I want my father here, my brothers, and that thought makes words spill from my mouth. "Why hasn't my family come to see me?"
I can see Delly's eyes beginning to fog up. "They can't. A lot of people didn't get out of Twelve." She says more, but I don't hear any of it. A lot of people…that means my family didn't make it out. But then again…it doesn't feel like too much of a shock. It's as if…I knew it before.
Slowly, the fog lifts a little and I can properly recall the Capitol. Portia was sitting at my side, gripping my hand as a Capitol official pressed a button. A screen appeared and he began the briefing beforehand. I was going to be interviewed today, even though it was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I almost would have taken the torture Johanna talked about constantly over what I was about to do. Still, he went through all the things that had been happening, laying out the questions and my answers, showing me clips from other Districts to inspire some kind of sympathy in me. Eventually, as he started to come to a close, he halted and looked at me.
"Oh, and there's one more clip I need to show you. The Capitol has been saving it, but you'll need to know it for the interviews," he said nonchalantly. He presses another button and a new clip flashes to the screen. Portia grips my hands a little harder, drawing in a breath, though I don't know why.
It's home. District 12 on the screens, but from above. The Seam, the small streets, the square. It all seems so different from this angle…it's something a bird would see, flying over the District.
"Peeta, don't look," Portia hisses under her breath, but the official snaps at her, hushing her up, and directs all our attention back to the screen. One moment, home was there, the next, flames.
"There was a fire," I say, breaking out of my memory, back to now.
"Yes," Delly whispers.
"Twelve burned down, didn't it?"
And just like that, all the puzzle pieces fit together in my head again. "Because of her." I look back at Delly, feeling the hatred rise back up in my chest. "Because of Katniss!" Suddenly, my fingers at itching for her again, remembering the feel of her throat under my fingers. It's payback for all the times she was trying to strangle me, after all.
"Oh, no, Peeta. It wasn't her fault," Delly insists.
More anger flares up. So, she's gotten to Delly too? Not for long.
"Did she tell you that?" I snap.
Delly stumbles over her words now, as the door opens and she backs away from me, but I'm pulling against my restraints, trying to get forward. "She didn't have to. I was –" she says, but I cut her off.
"Because she's lying! She's a liar! You can't believe anything she says! She's some kind of mutt the Capitol created to use against the rest of us!" No more questions. I just want the truth out.
"No, Peeta. She's not a –"
"Don't trust her, Delly. I did, and she tried to kill me."
"She killed my friends."
"Don't go near her! She's a mutt!"
The hisses grows louder and louder in my ears. It's so loud, I can't deny it. I barely notice Delly being pulled out of the room and the doors sliding closed again. I'm too wrapped up in the hissing.
I can't help but keep screaming, following what it's telling me. "A mutt! She's a stinking mutt!" I am ripping against my restraints, pulling hard and ruining the new bandages.
I need to get her. I need to kill her. I have to kill her. She needs to die.
I scream and yell, trying to call for anyone's attention, but I only get the attention of one. The same tentative, dark-haired nurse from before enters the room with a syringe. "No! Listen to me! You have to listen! She's a mutt! I need to kill her. Let me go and I'll do it! Let me go!" She walks over and has to press down on my arm to keep me from moving, but eventually, she sticks in the needle into my arm. After fighting and screaming for a moment longer, the medicine kicks in and everything in the white room turns black. I'm quickly put out, but the hissing doesn't stop.