There was no escape from my nightmares.
No matter how hard I tried to stay awake sleep would eventually overtake me. There would be a brief period of blissful nothingness, a few minutes, a few hours, I could never tell, and then they started. Vision after horrific vision appeared, overtaking all my senses as I relived every horrific detail and created new horrors correlating with the past few years. The guttural sound that escaped her lips as the spear buried itself into Rue's stomach; the intertwining taste of blood and dehydration as I watched countless die around me while I lived, too weak to save a soul; the putrid stench of roses as giant white monsters feasting on Finnick's body suddenly metamorphosed into Snow, who continued devouring as he looked up at me with cold, mirthless eyes; the feel of strong hands clenching around my neck, hands that were once my only source of refuge, of love, wringing the wretched life out of me as I was absorbed in his hate; the sight of that un-tucked little duck's tail a moment before what was left of my miserable existence was demolished…
No matter what happened in my nightmares this is always how it ended. Me watching helplessly as the bomb…Gale's bomb… obliterated the life of my little sister. The life I had set out to save, the life that I had volunteered my own for that spurned the events leading up to this very moment, was gone. I had failed. Nothing else mattered. There was nothing left.
I usually awoke in a sweat to the sound of my own screams, my fists clenched tightly around my damp and tousled sheets as I was swallowed in my own despair. This night, however, I rose with a physical pain that caught my attention before the emotional set in. I awoke with a start, and immediately pressed my hand to my cheek. Even in the darkness I could feel the three short parallel lines across my face as blood started to trickle from my paper thin wounds.
"Dammit, Buttercup!" I cried, and from the end of the bed I could hear him hissing in reply. But before I scolded him further I felt the warmth of his residual body heat on my chest from where he had slept. From where he lay trying to protect me from my demons. From where his cat protection could only take so much of my flailing and where he swiped at me to get me to stop.
It was not comforting words, or the safety of a warm embrace from someone who would never stop holding you if you only asked, but it was something. And something was so much more than I had allowed myself to have since I had returned to District Twelve. I reached across the bed and grabbed the indignant creature gently, ignoring the growls of protest as I placed him in my lap. I pet him absentmindedly as his resentful purrs resonated through my body.
For the first time in what seemed like a lifetime I didn't need to sift through my nightmares after waking up.
And that, again, was something.
(A/N: To any of my readers from Truth Will Out, know that I have not given up on that story. I am just taking a temporary inspirational hiatus. It's been a long time since I've been so driven to write and I am so excited about this story!)