[Author's Note: The first part of this chapter is a scene from another story I wrote called "Banana Nut Bread" (a post Mockingjay story about Peeta coming back to Dist. 12, seeing Katniss again, etc.) – this scene that was a flashback Peeta had in that story, but it happens in real-time in this story.]
Dead by Morning
How will I ever get through this again? I thought. How many times are they going to do this to me? How many times have they already done it?
I saw the man in green standing over me. He moved the needle around in the skin of my arm, and it hurt. The pain was nothing like what was to come through. I knew that. The man had more and more trouble with the needle every time, it seemed. Finally, he stepped back with a look of satisfaction.
I felt the burning in my arm as the fluid began to flow. The effect was almost immediate, faster than the other times. My head felt dizzy, and my vision blurred. I closed my eyes so I couldn't see how the objects in front of me were morphing into frightening puddles of color. The light-headedness was impossible to escape though. The room grew too warm. My throat felt too tight. My thoughts became fuzzy. They were quickly overtaken by the venom.
Then I saw her. I didn't know how they were doing it. I still don't. I thought my eyes were closed, yet I could see her.
She's plotting against me with Rue. I thought. She's cutting the branch so the deadly mutts will drop on top of me. Doesn't she realize I'm here? Me? Not just them. Me! Doesn't she realize that I'm trying to keep people from killing her? She must hate me if she's trying to kill me despite my attempts to protect her. She must want me dead.
My arm felt as though fire shot through it. I tried to reach for it with my other hand, but I was restrained. I tried to cry out, but what escaped my lips was more like a moan. I felt nauseous. I shook. I didn't want to watch anymore.
She wants to kill me, I thought. Maybe I should let her. Or – maybe I should kill her.
My skin felt much cooler. A numbness crept into my fingers and toes. I felt my heart slowing despite the fact that I was still terrified. A profound weakness overcame me, and a sense of weightlessness overwhelmed me. My head felt dizzier than ever, and my body didn't feel as though it touched the bed anymore. Then, I felt nothing…just nothing.
Suddenly I gasped, panicking. I saw the man in green talking on the phone. His back was to me. A woman in green stood over me. Whatever was running swiftly into my arm felt cold. She touched the tubing; there was a beeping noise. She looked behind me as if she was checking something. My vision was clear, and I felt better. My chest stung badly though. It was a strange feeling. I could hear the man in green talking on the phone.
"Yeah, we got him back…I know, I know…There would have been hell to pay if we'd lost him…He's young though; he can take it to some degree, but if they are going to keep dosing this higher and higher they need to consider better ways to keep his blood pressure up and maybe a pacemaker too...I'm just saying, nobody can tolerate drops like that for long…if this kid is so important, then they need to get somebody down here who can handle these emergencies…I just don't want it to be my fault! OK, just let me know what he says."
The man in green left the room, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was the only one who inflicted these particular torture sessions on me. My brief respite was interrupted when the woman in green pulled my arm in front of her, and injected a syringe of something into the IV tubing.
What next? I thought, and let out an audible groan.
The woman turned on a loud machine behind me.
"That's good. Pretend you are in a lot of pain, Peeta." She whispered.
"I don't really have to pretend." I pointed out. I wondered why I was even bothering to talk to this woman. She was one of my torturers, after all.
"You truly need to pretend you are in pain. I'm going to make them think this is pain medication that I'm giving you. It's in your best interests to protect me so I can continue to protect you." She said.
There was a video camera in the corner of the room near the ceiling, and I wondered why she would talk to me like this with the camera recording. She must have noticed me glancing at the camera.
"They can see us, but they turn the sound off in this room during procedures. They don't want to hear the screaming." She said. "Besides, that suction machine is loud and distorts anything they might hear."
Squinting to see her face more clearly, I realized that I'd certainly never seen this woman before I was imprisoned; I wasn't going to do anything she asked. I was finished "cooperating" with anyone. It never helped.
"Protect me? You were protecting me today?" I scoffed.
"You're still alive, aren't you?" She replied somewhat angrily. Then her tone shifted back to a sympathetic one. "Peeta, I don't have time to explain. The Capitol Air Force is going to bomb District 13 tonight. You have to warn District 13 during your interview. The medicine in this syringe is going to help counteract the venom they've been giving you. It probably won't last long, but it should help you stay more focused."
Interview? I thought, they are going to put me on television in this condition? Why?
The woman was finished injecting the medicine into the tubing. She stared directly into my eyes with a deadly serious gaze.
"Peeta, Katniss is in District 13. If you want to save her then you have to warn them about the bombing. What's left of District 12 is there too. Virtually everyone you love who is still alive is in District 13. Warn them, please." She pleaded.
"Katniss?" I said. "Katniss." I felt a cold chill run down my spine at her name.
The man in green barged through the door.
"Well, it looks like everyone is terribly busy preparing for the interview tonight or some kind of military action." He said. "The world has turned upside down since this rebellion began, I tell you. How's our patient doing? He has to be ready for the interview tonight despite our mishap today."
"I think we broke a rib or two with the CPR. He was having some pain, and I gave him some morphling," the woman said.
"Normally I'd say just let him stay that way as long as he can breathe, but the kid does have an interview tonight. I think we should give him what he needs as long as he's not snowed? Get it? Snowed?" The man laughed.
"That's funny." The woman replied with a giggle.
Those heartless people were so exhausting. Just being around them was miserable. Could this woman really be on the rebel side of the war? She'd been in this room with me before, and she hadn't stopped the man in green from torturing me. How could I trust anything she was said? It was even possible that her statements were yet another way of confusing and destroying my mind. It could all be an act.
On the other hand, for all I knew, she really was trying to protect me, and she could only do so much without being suspected. What she said about District 12 and District 13 was confusing, especially to my drugged mind. There was one thing I knew for sure though, if I did something the Capitol didn't like in this interview, nobody would be able to protect me.
[Author's note: Peeta is being drugged, tortured and nearly murdered in this chapter; but his mind will get clear enough to think this through soon. Stay tuned. He's still the Peeta you know and love.]