Here we go, my own little Hunger Games fanfic. I've got a few ideas zooming around in my head all fighting for my attention and this one was what I thought was going to happen when and if Peeta finally returned in Mockingjay. I was a little off I must say.
Warnings: Contains spoilers for all three books but really, if you're on the Hunger Games fanfiction site having not read them you've only yourself to blame for finding out what happens. This fic contains angst, a few words that would make Effie Trinket cringe, deals with disability and associated discrimination. This fic will contain discriminatory language, as someone who works with people with various disabilities I in no way endorse the use of some of the words in this fic but I'm also not going to pretend these prejudices don't exist.
Disclaimer: You all know the drill by now, Suzanne Collins owns the Hunger Games, everything which the Hunger Games encompasses and possibly even Hungry Hungry Hippos. That doesn't stop me using all of these things for my own entertainment.
Chapter One: Back
I'm vaguely aware of my body being moved from side to side. As I start to reawaken I realise I'm being shaken awake and start to recognise that unmistakable scent of someone that has used deodorant instead of a shower for a few days; Haymitch.
"M'up!" I mumble. I rub at my eyes to try wake myself up a bit more before all my memories come hurtling back towards me and I'm launched into full consciousness. The mission. One way or another it was over. I scramble to my feet, I'd been sleeping in a chair next to Finnick who I notice is still huddled on the floor, string entwined in his raw fingers. I'm barely even aware of the pain in my own hands as I await news from my mentor. "What's happened?"
"They're back. We're wanted in the Hospital, that's all I know," says Haymitch. He then pokes Finnick in his side with his foot a couple times and the younger victor wakes looking so pathetic I bend down and help him to his feet, relaying what Haymitch has just said to me.
Finnick looks like he's about to throw up, run a mile and cry all at the same time. Luckily for me and Haymitch he does none of those things, but he also doesn't shoot for the Hospital as I would have liked. I have to take his hand and guide him there, it's like he's lost in his own world. Can't say I don't know how he's feeling. My own little world has become more and more like a second home these past weeks.
Haymitch takes the lead down the multiple corridors towards the Hospital. Plenty of people pass us; I glance at Haymitch's watch and discover it's eight-thirty two. I'm not sure if it's morning or evening, I'm guessing morning, unless Finnick and I have slept for a number of hours I don't have the concentration to count.
Some of the people send us these weird looks as we walk past, have they already seen those who've returned from the mission? They don't look happy, but then the only time I've ever actually seen them happy is when they were watching Buttercup chase a torch light, not really much to compare with I suppose. But still I can't help myself thinking; do they know something I don't? Do they know who's waiting for me down a couple more corridors? Annie, Gale, Boggs, Johanna, Peeta? I know I shouldn't but I start listing who I want back the most. Enobaria I don't really care about, I wouldn't wish her to be tortured but I barely knew her. Boggs and Johanna I can't quite decide between for fourth and fifth on my wish list. Then Annie. And that leaves Gale and Peeta. Who do I want more?
Well that does it. Before I know it I've dropped Finnick's hand and I'm tearing towards the hospital probably looking like I've just escaped capture myself. I don't care.
I crash through the double doors and I get a sensation so similar to the feeling I used to get when I collected my grade cards from school a lifetime ago. I used to stare at the grades first, looking for any outstandingly horrific marks and worry about which subjects they were for after my brain had time to process the first shock. Damage control.
I'm looking around for where the most doctors are, where people are running to and from carrying various pieces of equipment and supplies. But it's quiet. Well, not completely. There's the usual buzz of machines and men and women at work but no sense of impending doom that I was expecting.
Gale's on his front groaning as a Nurse works on pulling a shard of something from his shoulder, he's well enough to complain so he's well enough for me. That's one worry down.
"Finnick!" I flinch at the scream that comes from across the other side of the room. I watch as a young woman with unkempt hair and wild eyes runs through the Hospital earning more than one look of disapproval from the Medics in the room. But as she runs into Finnick's outstretched arms I don't think even the hard-faced natives of District 13 could be angry with the pair as they cling to one another sobbing. I'm pretty sure Finnick's screaming and I hope the Medics aren't going to try drugging him; he needs this reunion to be as drug free as possible. That's how I want my reunion with Peeta to be-
"PEETA!" I cry, realizing at last that he's not in the general treatment area. My eyes take one last sweep for that wavy blond hair and those safe arms but there's nothing. So there's two other places he could be.
I remember Prim once telling me about the ITR; Intensive Treatment Room. It's a room reserved for those in life-or-death situations and those whose injuries require a quieter environment for the Medics to concentrate on. That always struck me as odd; these were meant to be the people who could deal with anything anywhere. Why would they need that extra room away from the majority of the supplies when they'd been trained to work anywhere. But Prim had explained that the Medics of District 13 hadn't been trained for anything anywhere. Half of them had never left the confines of their underground bunker and they were all too young to have worked through the Dark Days so most of them were used to a much slower pace of work. Coin had never been one to focus on the medical side of things, as far as she's concerned a better army means fewer casualties, and that's cheaper than having more Doctors and Nurses flying around.
The ITR wasn't the only place Peeta could be though, Prim had told me about another room one floor below, one with no Medics zooming round and no supplies, in that room they weren't needed. I shuddered at the thought of being escorted down to the Morgue.
"Peeta!" I can feel tears running down my face as I stumble through the Hospital, I don't care how much of a mess I must look. Peeta's somewhere in here and after weeks of nothing but a few tapes and my own thoughts, the knowledge that he's so close is almost unbearable. "Peeta!"
"Katniss," I whip around at the familiar voice and come face to face with my Mother. She looks tired and her white uniform is marked with blood and other bodily fluids. This is an uncommon sight; a Medic's job is never clean and since no one can decide whether my Mother better suits a Doctor or a Nurse they just let her work where ever there's the most blood pouring and give her a generic title of Healer Everdeen.
I know that she's been personally seeing to Peeta, I can read her like a book. My heart is pounding beyond anything I've ever felt before, if she doesn't hurry up and tell me what's happening soon I'm pretty sure my heart's going to beat itself right out of my chest.
"He's through here," she leads me to the end of Hospital towards a set of heavy looking double doors. "He's alive,"
I feel like dropping to the ground before we even reach the doors, all anxieties about Peeta's survival seem to have disappeared. My Mother knows how to get me to calm down in situations like this, it's a shame she wasn't able to use those skills when my Father died.
Somehow I drag myself through the doors into the ITR after my Mother and as soon as I lay eyes on him I'm at the side of the bed, barely able to keep myself standing, I'm leaning heavily on the bed bars for support.
The man laying before me is almost unrecognisable. The clothes he was wearing in the Capitol are gone, replaced by a thin hospital gown that just reaches his knees. His hair's a mess of knots and a light beard has formed around his face. His prosthetic leg has been removed, I don't think much of it, I've seen Peeta without his leg before now, grown used to seeing the odd cross scarring across the stump that once lead to his calf and foot.
His body looks so much smaller than the last time I saw him. He's emaciated, my mind wanders back to the dozens of Seam kids that would be taken to our house, all fighting malnutrition, only half surviving. But I tell myself it'll be different with Peeta, there's plenty of food for him here, he'll recover from that. But it still doesn't stop me being sickened by how skinny his arms now are, they're a similar size to mine now. My new goal in life isn't to kill Snow or win back the Districts. It's to fatten up the boy in front of me until he's normal Peeta again.
I'm just examining the bruises that line his face when my Mother places a hand on my shoulder.
"I know it seems bad now," she says. "But he's a real fighter, most would be dead after that amount of torture but he's held in. If I can't get him through this last hurdle now I'm not fit to call myself a Healer,"
I sniff and nod then stroke the soft hair that's grown on Peeta's cheek. It feels weird, but it's comforting just to be able to touch him again.
"He should be waking up soon, they used sleep gas on the rescue mission and I think Peeta's cell got the majority of it," my Mother explains. "Then we can sort out how we're going to deal with his mouth,"
Huh? Did she just say something about his mouth? I look at his lips, they look a bit sore and chapped but I'm sure he'll survive that. My mind's too sluggish to think any further so I turn around and face my Mother.
"What about his mouth?" I ask. Her eyes shift slightly to Peeta then back to me. No. I know that look, it's the one she always gives families when there's bad news. But she just said he'll be waking up soon, she said he was going to be okay! This is wrong! So wrong. I'm slipping from the bed but my Mother's already had the sense to put a chair behind me. She really does know what she's doing here so I just wait for her to speak.
"Katniss," she starts, her voice is gentle and to an extent it soothes me. "It seems that Snow was even angrier with what Peeta did than we had thought, and there's not much we can do but try to work with it-"
"Just tell me what's wrong with him!" I nearly scream, I'm ready to open Peeta's mouth myself and find out what's happened when my Mother tells me the most excruciating thing I've had to hear since I found out Peeta had been captured.
"They cut out his tongue Katniss," she says.
I afford one glance at Peeta before I'm running for the door and the limited contents of my stomach are making a quick exit to the floor via my oesophagus.
So there's chapter one folks. I'm trying to do a bit of research on the implications of losing a tongue and since that's not going brilliantly I'm just trying to do everything without moving my tongue and keeping it as close to the bottom of my mouth as I can. Seriously, just try swallowing without having your tongue touch the roof of your mouth. Might help give you insight into what Peeta will be going through, it's certainly going to help me!
ALSO CALLING ALL BETA's. If anyone's interested in beta'ing this bad-boy, the thing I struggle with most is keeping to one tense so anyone who's good at staying in the present PM me. Cheers!