At the sight of a flash of dark hair my knees gave out again. Strong hands gripped around my waist and hauled me to my feet yet again and Domitius pushed me forward, not giving me the option of breaking down. Somehow I made it to the edge of the table and found myself looking down at her. A sob ripped itself from my throat.
She looked so peaceful, you wouldn't even know...
Except that the colour of her skin was a shade paler than it always had been, and her lips had never been that blue, and she didn't open her eyes and let me see the life burning there.
I felt the hot tears on my cheeks before I realised I was crying. I dashed them from my eyes, furious at them for blurring my vision of her. I'd wasted so much time, I wasn't going to waste this last chance I ever had to see my sister because of pathetic tears.
My fingertips found their way almost involuntary to her hairline and I brushed aside a lock of her dark, silky hair. A sharp inhale stabbed at my lungs at the sight of the perfect skin where I knew a wound should have been.
"They fixed it," I heard the words escaping me in a disbelieving gasp. There was a presence next to me but I didn't turn around. His fingers dug into my arm but I just kept staring at the place where there should have been evidence of why she wasn't leaping up and giving me that manic smile and holding out a knife to me. "They took it away. They fixed it but they didn't fix her!" My voice rose shrilly and only the sudden pain of Domitius' fingers increasing pressure on my arm kept me from screaming.
Somehow I pulled my eyes from her face and looked at him. Fresh tears were blurring my vision, it seemed they refused to obey my commands.
"They could have fixed her." He shook his head gruffly in reply but his lips stayed pressed together grimly. I pulled myself roughly from his grip and turned back to her, leaning over her lifeless body. She was almost the same, almost my sister, but the energy had gone. The pale blue colour of her eyelids mocked me, the way her chest was perfectly still screamed at me that she wasn't there and she wasn't coming back. I heard another agonized sob and distantly knew it was mine as I buried my face in her chest, desperately pressing my forehead to where I knew there should be the persistent and stubborn beat of her heart.
I was met with silence.
I clung numbly to her, my fingers digging into her shoulders and willing her to be playing a trick on me. None of it had felt real until now. I thought it had hurt before but now my chest was tearing apart with every breath. Watching it on the screens I had been able to partly fool myself. She wasn't really dead. The Capitol lied to us all the time. It was television. She wasn't really dead.
But now my fingers could feel the coldness of her body and as always I shuddered at the sensation. The cold was always going to be my enemy. I had not let it get me but now it had taken her away from me and it wasn't going to give her back. Everything, everything had been for her and now it meant nothing. I had failed.
I don't know how long I stayed there, clinging to her and begging her over and over in my head to get up. Hands gripped my arms and pulled me backwards and I let out a scream, trying to claw my way back. From nowhere people had appeared and they walked indifferently towards her.
"Leave her alone," I begged, seeing them place their hands on her pale skin. "Don't touch her!" My voice rose in an animalistic scream and I fought the hands holding me back with all my strength. He trapped me when all I wanted was to go back to her. They couldn't have her. Hadn't they already done enough? Like my worst nightmares I was powerless as they took her from me.
There were terrible screams ripping through the air but I didn't even realise they were mine. I was dragged from the room and the second that the cold, grey corridor closed in around me the last of my energy vanished. I stopped trying to battle him and let him place me firmly against the wall. Everything felt numb. I didn't care about how it looked anymore, I didn't care that I was supposed to be cold and vicious and merciless. Every thump in my chest sent a wave of pain through me and I found I couldn't draw breath passed the tears clogging my throat. Dimly I could tell he was leaning down into me, talking to me, but his words blended in a dull murmur and I couldn't find the energy to draw them apart. There was a pause and the silence caught my attention more than the words had. I dragged my gaze into focus and fixed on his blurry face. He was frowning at me and vaguely I wondered if he was expecting an answer to something. I couldn't give it. My voice had been lost somewhere inside me, so I shook my head numbly. Strands of my hair caught in the tears streaking my cheeks but I couldn't lift my arms to even brush them away. He said something else and with a jolt I felt him push me forwards. My legs tried to carry me forwards as if they had a mind of their own, and Domitius' hands gripping tight at my arm and my waist sent a splinter of pain breaking through my haze. I welcomed it and let it sink into my heart, revelling in the distraction.
Everything dissolved into a blur. Something cold was pressed to my hand and then guided to my lips.
Then I was waking up to the bland white ceiling of the bedroom I hadn't been to for days. There was an aching pressure in my chest and it took several moments for my mind to remember why. Then I wished that I was still asleep because the sorrow that tore through my body was almost unbearable. I head a strangled moan and I knew it was mine, even though I had never before made such a pitiful noise in my life, not even when I had been in physical agony and certain of death in the Arena. This was so much worse than any knife wound or battle bruise I had ever received. I didn't know how to make this stop and the absolute misery pressed me down, leaving me gasping for air and unable to move. I didn't even hear the door opening and then rough, calloused hands were hauling me into a sitting position. He placed his hands either side of my face and suddenly I was forced to look him directly in the eye. I could focus on nothing around me but his stormy grey eyes as they bore into mine. Pitifully I tried to writhe from his grip but he refused to let me. I hated myself for how pathetic I had become but I couldn't summon the energy to do anything about it. What was the point anyway? There was no point to anything anymore.
"Look at me!" he commanded, even though my eyes had not left his. I obeyed his command and dragged my focus back to him, halting the downward direction of my thoughts. "You can't do this, Enobaria."
Why couldn't he let me be? Never before had I resented him for pushing me, but now I found a deep hatred burning inside me. It was as much his fault that she was been in that Arena as it was mine and now he couldn't even let me disappear in peace. The anger helped. I let it bubble up inside me until I had the strength to fix my eyes firmly on his in a furious gaze. The burning anger swallowed the ache - obliterated or buried it I didn't care - but as it sang through my veins I found that I could think and move again. I tore myself from his grip and sprang back on the bed.
"Don't touch me!" I hissed furiously. He reached out a hand and I bared my teeth at him. I wasn't above sinking my fangs into his skin if it was what it would take. Look at him. He didn't even care that she was dead. He watched me warily, not trying to move towards me now.
"Enobaria..." he said in a low, warning voice but I shook my head wildly. How dare he?
"Do not touch me," I repeated icily. I stared at him in horror, reeling at the monster he'd become to me. "You don't even care, do you?" I whispered, my eyes flicking over his familiar features. They were twisting, contorting into anger and I honestly didn't know whether it was real or not. Everything had disappeared and all I could see was his face in front of me. He didn't reply and the words kept coming, ripping themselves from me in a pained gasp. "She's dead and you don't even care. Just another tribute. Just another child you're sending to their deaths. Do you even know how many there've been any more? Do you even know what number Clove was?" I was beyond caring if my words hurt him, if they were even justified. He was worse than the Capitol because he knew the pain that it all caused and he sat there and watched it happen anyway. How could he live with himself, training them, sending child after child to their deaths?
I had forgiven him when he had done it to me. But I could never forgive him for doing it to her.
I don't know how many more hours passed as I sat and stared at the closed door. Some small voice in my head suggested that I get up, do something, shower, eat, something, but another, stronger voice wondered what the point even was. Then a third shushed them both and everything just fell back into numb silence.
This was eventually interrupted by a small knock on the door which drew my eyes hazily towards it but I made no other movement. The thought of seeing another person, speaking to them, having them look at me either indifferently or accusingly, or worse pityingly, was enough to send my head falling into my hands.
Through blurry eyes I watched disassociatedly as tears fell from my eyes, dropping the impossibly long distance to the floor where they created dark spots across the carpet. I had counted twenty seven tear drops when there was a small rustling noise that caught my attention. I lifted my head and stared towards the door, blinking a few times before anything came into focus. Whatever Domitius had given me made my head feel like I was swimming through syrup to form every thought and action. Time seemed to slip away and speed up so that it could have been several hours I stared at the slip of paper under the door, or it could only have been 30 seconds. Eventually, somehow, I rose unsteadily to my feet, just making it to the door before I found myself back on the ground, sitting beside a slip of white papers. I fumbled at it, pulling it towards me. I felt washed out, like there was simply no energy in me to even think about what it could be. I just robotically picked it up and held it before my face and waited for my eyes to focus on the words.
The Games are over. You've been asleep for three days. Cato is dead. Twelve won.
That was all it said. Four short, emotionless sentences. Unable to take in the squirming letters before me I decided to break it down into its four parts.
The Games are over. Why did he think I cared about that anymore? The Games. Everything that my life seemed destined to revolve around. First my parents' which seemed to have determined my childhood, then my own, which had determined my teenage years, and now finally Clove's which I knew would determine the rest of my life. I felt so completely lost now. I hadn't even realised until now how much every training session, every rose accepted in silent resentment, every Capitol party, every painful night, every blade, every bruise...everything had really only been about ensuring that we would be alright, Clove and I. Now, it was as if the meaning of my twenty four years of life had instantly vanished.
Tears finding their own way down my cheeks again I blinked back at the paper. You've been asleep for three days. That really was no surprise. I had probably only achieved a few hours of sleep in the last few weeks, and my body was telling me now that it did not appreciate how I had been treating it. I felt worse than when I had walked out of my own Arena. There were pains that I distantly remembered from fighting someone, from throwing myself against a wall, but there was also a bone aching exhaustion and a relentless, thudding ache in my chest that didn't seem inclined to go away. It probably also explained why I felt so completely useless, barely able to hold the paper up with shaking hands. How long had it been since I had eaten? The thought seemed so trivial that I dismissed it instantly.
Cato is dead. These three words took me a little longer to process, and then a very long time to sort through my emotions on them. I wasn't sad that he was dead. I could not imagine the pain if I had had to escort him home alive, see him welcomed back into his mother's arms. What would he have said if he had lived? Would he have been sad that she was dead? Because on the train to the Capitol, it seemed they had thought this whole thing through, they both had seemed prepared for Clove to make the sacrifice if it came down to it. That was before I had seen the pure, unchallenged joy on his face when they had announced the rule change. Perhaps all along he had been desperately hoping that some twist of fate would make it possible for them. A foolish hope.
Twelve Won. Those two words hurt the most. I had no doubts that it was that cursed Fire Girl. Briefly I wondered how she'd done it. Had she killed Cato? Had she killed her district partner too? I spent a little more time on the thought that perhaps she had killed that boy from Eleven. I hoped she hadn't. That kill I wanted to have gone to Cato. If I couldn't rip his heart from his body then at least it could be someone I knew had loved Clove like I did. My heartbeat picked up at I contemplated the brutal death I hoped the boy received.
Several more hours of sitting leaning against the door and staring at the scribbled note, and eventually I managed to gain some control over myself. Even as the tears were pouring down my cheeks I hated myself. This wasn't me. This was weak, and pathetic, and vulnerable. It wasn't me, but somehow I just couldn't stop it. At least there was no one there to see my shame.
Deep contemplation on what to do next brought me only as far as the inviting thought of the shower which I could just see the edge of through the open door to the bathroom. For some reason I remembered the afternoon after I had left my Arena, and Domitius had led me back to this very suite, and after everything had been stitched and cleaned up, I had gone to the solitude of my room and stood under the steaming jet of water for what could have been hours. Thinking about it, I could almost feel the delicious heat of the water sliding over my skin again as it had banished the memories of snow and ice, at least for a short while. I remembered how I had watched the dirt and blood swirl away around my feet, thinking there's Calico's blood, and Lupa's, and Allure's, Raziel's, Resin's, Cora's... a little of my own just to keep everything in balance.
It was this thought of physically washing away the guilt that drove me from the ground, found me standing in the pale teal and darkwood of the bathroom staring at the shower, even though I knew that this time I could not wash the blood from my hands. The blood ran in my veins.
I let the water run boiling hot, sitting on the edge of the bath as swirls of steam enveloped me, blocking out the door and the mirror until I could have been floating in a mist of nothing. I closed my eyes and felt the hot steam prickle against my skin, listened to the rush of the water. It was soothing. I could almost have drifted away, but when I opened my eyes again the faint outline of the counter and the shower were visible. Reality was still there, so I climbed to my feet and walked slowly towards the shower.
I slipped out of my mentors clothing, letting the black top drop to the ground with distaste. I didn't care what they did to me, they had nothing to hold against me anymore and I would never mentor again. I would never do anything for them ever again.
Without turning the temperature down I stepped into the scalding shower, revelling in the intense pain that began to ripple across my skin, spinning around and around in the billows of steam, closing my eyes and losing myself in the sensations on my skin. I could handle this hurt and if I stood here long enough it might just block out the one in my chest that hadn't stopped since I'd woken.
As the water poured over my skin I gradually knew I was crying, though the tears disappeared amid the droplets. My fingers touched my burning skin as I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to hold in the aching sobs I could feel building up inside me. I knew I couldn't hold myself together if I let them escape, but it seemed I couldn't hold myself together anyway because they came, filling my lungs with burning steam as I gasped for breath.
A weight of agony pressed down upon me, crushing the air from my lungs as I dropped to the shower floor, crouching as the scalding water pounded relentlessly down upon me and shook the sobs from my body.
I had become a knot of pain and anger and guilt and I'd never be undone. The knot grew and grew with every sob and as I crouched amid the scalding water and steam, I knew it would be only a matter of time before I was consumed by darkness completely.
A/N: That was it folks...the end of Part 2.
Fear not though...or maybe you should fear, I don't know. There is a Part 3! I will upload it as a new story in a week or so.
I have also responded to some very dedicated readers who begged me to make them a not-so-tragic ending. It shall be done, my lovelies! See, that is how much I love you. I will upload an AU ending as an epilogue and post the link for the new story in that.
In the meantime, please, please, please my pretties leave me a review or a message letting me know your thoughts on the the chapter, the end, the future, the whole story, the characters, anything!
Thank you all so much for reading through not only Part 1 but now Part 2 as well. I love you all.