Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games. Title borrowed from "Blue Lips" by Regina Spektor.
. . .
It's hard balancing the tray with his hands shackled closely together; his thumb slips into the watery brown sauce as he tightens his grip. His wrists are chafed; if he stands still long enough he can imagine he feels the hot breath of his guards on his neck.
—like a mutt, putrid and rotten and—
Peeta rolls his neck and feels a sharp, painful crack. The ache grounds him.
He's never been in 13's cafeteria before, didn't even know what to expect, and after so many days alone it is overwhelming. There are so many fucking people in this room he can't even breathe; he looks around for someone, anyone familiar but everyone he sees is as bland and colorless as the walls. Everywhere he looks he sees mousy brown hair and thin, grayish skin that will never see the sun, dotted intermittently with the stubborn black hair and dark olive skin of the Seam. There are only a few like him, fair and golden.
Merchants weren't made for survival.
He wonders what his family would have looked like in here, pale freckled blondes. His mother would have relished the chance to look down on everyone around her; his father meekly smiling at people, too afraid to blatantly disagree with his wife's opinions. Bannock and Farl would have been eating quickly, shoulders hunched and faces brought low near their trays so their food would have less distance to travel to their mouths. They were always hungry. Bannock would be smiling uncomfortably, talking only to his family; Farl on the other hand would flit around to every table he could get to, smirking and ribbing everyone in his path, charming every girl he came across.
But they're not here. They're dead.
Because of her.
—something white-hot and shiny claws at the back of his mind, tearing him apart, laughing—
Peeta bites the inside of his lip hard, not stopping until he tastes blood. It hurts, but he's used to the pain; sometimes it helps.
The guard on the left nudges him forward; he flinches at the contact, feels the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, half expects a needle to—
"Pick a seat," he says instead, and although his voice is distrustful it is nothing like the cold tones that haunt his nightmares. Peeta nods curtly; his eyes scan the room once more.
No one will look back at him.
Sometimes if he tries hard enough, he can remember a time when all he had to do was smile and the whole world fell open; he remembers friends and inside jokes. He remembers being trusted. He remembers having words that meant something.
But that's gone, and it gives him a headache to try to remember, makes the whole world go shiny and hollow, reminding him of the molten poison that will never really leave his bloodstream.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees a flash of blonde; he turns his head eagerly catches sight of someone familiar. Delly. Even from across the room he can see how effusive she is being, chin resting on her palm and smiling as she talks to the people she sits with. He smiles, the action unfamiliar and stiff. Walks forward.
He stops smiling when he sees the people surrounding her. He doesn't know how he missed it. He keeps walking, unable to stop. The pain of this moment is perfect, swelling underneath his skin until he is bloated with it. He wonders when he became unable to resist hurting.
He walks closer still.
Finnick is less bronzed than he was the last time Peeta saw him, killing beneath a bright pink sky. His hand clings tightly to a small brunette that he thinks he recognizes, but her back is to him. The way she sways slightly in her seat seems so familiar. Finnick is gesticulating wildly with his free hand, something about sea turtles and hats; the whole table is laughing; the girl beside him lets out a breathy sigh that Peeta is just close enough to hear.
—shrill screams on the other side of the wall, calling out for someone who will never come, a hopeless, fervent litany—
He blinks rapidly; Annie. Beside her is Johanna, he recognizes her shaved head and the sharp bark of her voice. Peeta didn't realize how much he missed having someone to hurt with until this moment, seeing the scars her clothes can't cover up.
—they pull him forcibly down the hall towards the white room, the one with large screens and sounds that come from all over, and as they drag him by he hears the rushing sound of water, garbled screams and sobs and god he doesn't ever want to go in that room—
He pulls his hands far apart, chafing the skin of his wrists against the cool manacles. He wonders if Johanna still screams the names of her sisters in her sleep. Across from her is the person he has ached and dreaded to see, long black braid slung casually over her shoulder, biting into a piece of bread
—her teeth elongate, blood dripping from the sharp white points, a feral grin on her face. She looks at him, eyes flashing a million deadly colors, and she croons the names of everyone he loves, everyone she's killed—
that she has swirled around in her gravy. Gale sits beside her, his very presence is possessive and he is
—their bodies press tightly together and she hovers over him, breasts bared in the moonlight. She works against him, rocking her hips just so, and just when it feels too impossibly good she leans down, sinking her teeth into his neck. The blood drips down and her fingers wrap around his neck, squeezing tightly as they slip against his slick skin, and his vision grows black as the world explodes—
sitting as close as he can to her without being in her lap. She is as oblivious as ever, and she laughs, a sound that he knows even through the shiny haze must be rare.
—an inhuman shriek as she sets the world on fire and it burns all around them as she makes him watch—
Her eyes dart up then, locking on him. The world stands still and the haze somehow clears and intensifies all at once. The table grows quiet as she chokes slightly on her bread.
He hopes she dies.
. . .
. . .
My first attempt at hijacked!Peeta. Be kind! If anyone's wondering, Reaping should be updated soonish.