The weight of the water drags at my clothes, at my body. It wants to pull me down, down under its surface, drawing me into its depths. I can't breathe, I can't see. Something I love so much is killing me.
But I fight. I can't let it win. I have too much to live for.
I struggle to reach the surface, tugging off my jacket until I'm finally free of its weight. I'm almost there, I'm almost there, I'm almost –
I rip myself from my dreams, my breathing labored. The sheets pool around my body, damp from my sweat. I reach a hand out to the side of the bed, but it's empty and cold. And then I remember.
My heart hitches, and the room feels so small, so restricting. The grey walls seem to close in on me, their barrenness reminding me, making me remember. The screams, the blood, the noises. The images, the instruments…the doctors.
A keening noise rips from my throat, and I barely recognise that it comes from me as I curl up in a ball, the images threatening to overwhelm me. They only ever seem to recede when he's here, my safe haven, keeping me tethered to this world. There's always the underlying threat that I could go, go so far that I couldn't come back. It terrifies him, but it terrifies me more.
I don't want to think about a world without him or not knowing who he was. I'm not sure I could survive that.
I roll over, steadying my breathing, counting the little spots on the wall. They only ever appear when I look really closely, when I'm really concentrating. Most days they're not there at all. I've done this before, in a room not so different. Except that time it was stripes, like bars, and they were holding me in the room, not letting me out, my barrier to the world. The barrier between my nightmares and Peeta's screams.
Suddenly, the urge is uncontrollable. I have to see him. I can't think of anything but seeing Peeta, making sure he's ok. The doctors did far worse things to him; I wonder if they're still doing them, I wonder if he's managed to escape-
I shake my head, remembering that he did. He's here, surely in the kitchen where he made my beautiful wedding cake. I quickly dress, and leave the compartment we were assigned only days before Finnick left.
It takes me a little while to find it. It's disorientating here, where everything looks the same, and there's no windows, and no fresh air and no-
I snap back to find myself as I finally reach the door, and peer into the circular window.
He's standing by the counter, a piping bag in hand as he slowly ices a pattern on top of the cake in front of him. I can see the concentration in his face, the contentedness in his eyes. I'm not sure I've ever seen that emotion in them before. All I can remember is terror and fear and sadness.
I hesitantly push the door open, and can tell the moment he notices me. He stands upright, his shoulders tighten, his hands clench. It's not in anger, though. I make him nervous.
I make him remember.
"Hello Peeta," I say hesitantly. He doesn't say anything. I take a step closer, and when I see that he hasn't reacted, take another one, and another, until I'm on the other side of the counter, directly in front of him. I know he's working daily with the doctors here, and I can sense the difference in him. It's slight, but it's there. We stare at each other for a few moments. I don't mind. I'm used to silence. I mostly prefer it.
Finally, he shifts his feet, and looks back down at the counter.
"I'm sorry for how I acted in the cafeteria the other day, Annie," he tells me. I shake my head. If there's one thing I understand, it's this. Being confused, being sure something isn't right, knowing people are talking about you. It's the one constant in my life, other than Finnick.
"I wanted to say thank you properly for the cake. I-I don't think I thanked you properly." I was somewhere else that day, close but not far. I'm not sure where.
"It wasn't a problem. It was the least I could do for you after-" He stops before he says anything more. I know what he's referring to, but his comments are pointless. No-one could have stopped that. These are the memories he makes me remember. The ones I try so hard to forget. Most days it works. Others…
"Well, it was lovely. Everyone enjoyed it. Finnick did, and Katniss did, and…." I trail off as I realise my mistake. As I realise I've been speaking without thinking. There's times when I simply forget to think.
I can see the change. His eyes darken and narrow, his fingers clench the benchtop, his teeth grind together. The cords of his neck stand out in stark relief to his pale skin.
"Katniss," he growls. "That evil mutt. I should have killed her when I had the chance." I shake my head, my heart beginning to beat frantically. Not from fear, never fear. I could never fear him. It's from an overwhelming sense of sadness.
"No, Peeta. Please no, don't think, don't think that. Katniss…. Katniss isn't evil. She doesn't hate you. She's..she's not the mutt they made you believe." I know I'm stammering, tripping over my words, but he needs to know. He needs to understand.
"Yes she is," he roars, slamming his fist against the table, knocking the cake he was decorating over. "Where do you think she's gone? She's gone to finish her job, gone to kill those she couldn't the first time. Gone to inflict more damage in this world. And when she's finished with that, she'll be with Hawthorne, letting him touch her, be inside her, like she always has. At least she's not here, where I have to see her, and have to talk about her, when all I want to do is wrap my hands around her neck and squeeze and squeeze until she's gone, and I've paid her back for all those times she lied to me and tried to kill me." His breathing is so rapid that I think he might pass out, and I can see the movement of a guard out of the corner of my eye. I shake my head softly. He doesn't need to do anything. Peeta won't hurt me.
But I may have to hurt him.
I don't know where the courage comes from. It's been hidden so deep, so long, that I almost forgot I still had it. I stride around the counter to him, gripping his wrists tightly, so tightly it makes my fingers ache.
"No Peeta," I hiss back. His eyes flicker, his head rears. He's surprised by me. "You need to understand. Katniss is out there to save us. To make this world a better place. For her, for you, for me, for everyone." For the unborn child I hope to god Finnick and I have already created. "You went into that arena together in love. You both came out of it in love. She may not have realised it at the time, but I did. People think I'm crazy, and that I'm not here most of the time. That's probably true. But there's one thing I know, Peeta, and that's love. Everything she does is for the people she loves. That includes you."
I'm not sure if my words are really doing anything, but his fingers unclench, his shoulders droop. He's quiet, so I don't say anything. I stare at the sugar flower that's hanging precariously from the upended cake; it's pale, almost translucent, blue petals reminding me of the waters' edge back home. It finally gives up, and falls to the ground. It splatters, all the work Peeta put into it gone in a matter of seconds.
"I don't know if I can believe you, Annie," he suddenly starts, and his words are quiet, but full of pain. "There's times…there's times when I think I remember what it was like. What loving her was like. What our life was like before the Quell. Other times my hate for her overpowers me. But more than anything, I feel confused. That's how I feel more than anything. I just want to know what's real." I release my hold on his wrists, and reach up to touch his cheek. His eyes remind me of Finnicks'. Not in the colour – Finnick's are not blue like Peeta's after all - but they're fathomless. They hold hundreds of secrets, most of them for Katniss, like Finnick's secrets are for me.
"Then, if anything, remember what I've said to you. Try and hold on to that. We couldn't help each other in the Capitol," at this he winces, though it's the truth, "but I can help you now. Please Peeta. Even in your darkest hours, remember what I've said to you. Katniss loves you. That's all you need to know."
We both turn as the door to the kitchen opens, and we see Haymitch. There's a look on his face I don't understand.
"Coin wants to see you kid," he says. I try to figure out what's different about the district 12 mentor, and I'm almost surprised when I realise.
Peeta nods, wiping his hands on a dishcloth, before he simply walks out the door without a backward glance. I turn to Haymitch.
"She's sending him in," he starts, the sorrow evident in his voice, and my heart stops. She's sending him in to fight, with Finnick and Gale and….Katniss.
She's sending him to kill her.
I look at him, and I can feel it taking me over. My brain can't deal with it. It's closing down, shutting out everything I don't-
I look at the wall, and start counting the spots on it. They only ever appear when I look really closely, when I'm really concentrating. Most days they're not there at all.