Hey Everyone! This one-shot was written for Ro_Normann's Write-Me-A-Story Hunger Games Challenge, and my entry happened to win the popular vote YAY! I still can't believe it! :D
If you haven't checked out the other entries, Please do... There are a ton of great little stories by amazing authors... :)
Also if you haven't checked out Ro_Normann's stories you are missing out! May I suggest Bread and Bow and Status Quo to start with.
Special thanks to Court81981 for making this story presentable, and for trying to build my sad-ass self esteem on a daily basis.
Trigger warning: Implied child abuse
It has been 100 long days, but today is the day—the day I get out of this gray room, the day I see her face for the first time.
A single sliver of light from a soon-to-be-blocked-out sun penetrates my cell. That damn slice of sunshine that sneaks through chipped black paint that coats my window is the only thing that tells me that dawn has broken, that I have been a prisoner of the sick tyrant Snow for yet another day. But today when that beam hits my face, rousing me from my sleep, I know it means so much more. I stand, walk over to a wall and with a rock I scratch out what I hope to be the last mark I make, a simple dash next to the 99 others.
The guard brings the usual plate of gruel at what I assume to be the same time every day. The sight of it makes me smile, not because of the gray-tinged slop on a warped metal plate, but because it means I get to hear her sing again.
It was day 35 of my imprisonment when I first heard it, the most beautiful sound ever. The guards had just brought breakfast when the soulful notes of a sad song wafted into my cell. But from where?
There is nothing to hear in our concrete cells, not past the metal doors or from our neighboring prisoners. We are in complete isolation, and if I hadn't known about the kidnappings my whole life, I could have easily believed I was the only one here. But that day was different, that was the day I learned to hope again.
When I heard the sound, I crawled anxiously towards it and found myself following my only beam of light across my cell, as if the sun came to hear that melody too. Once I reach the wall, I found that lowering my head to the floor allowed for better hearing. It was then I discovered a hole I had not seen before, a hole no bigger than a finger, but wide enough for me to hear her song.
For days I just lay there listening to the voice coming from the neighboring cell. I tried to imagine what the songstress looked like, how old she was, where she was from. I would wonder if I might ever get a chance to find out these things. I could have easily spoken through the hole in the wall, but I feared above everything else that the gap would be found out and repaired, and I would be desperately alone again.
In this place they only take you out of your cells for two reasons: one is the two-minute frigid shower you are given three times a week and the other is your bi-weekly testing — a nice euphemism for torture.
About fifteen years before I was born, — 31 years ago to be exact— an evil man and his army overthrew the government as it was. The man, who would become the new leader of Panem, was a sadistic monster with snake-like eyes named Cornelius Snow. Once in charge, Snow demanded a tribute be paid to him — in the form of children. Soldiers began pulling kids off the street, and their families would never see them again.
Of course Snow made it out to be a punishment directed towards his enemies in districts who supported the old regime, but we all knew better. The worst kept secret in all of Panem was that Snow was a sick fuck who got off on the torture of teenagers.
One day I was taken out of my cell for 'testing' and like always I stole a glance at the metal door next to mine, hoping for a way to meet the occupant inside. This day's session was to be electric shock. Somehow my ability to draw was known before I even became a prisoner, and because of that, Snow liked for that artistic talent to be 'tested.' Our leader, of course, never attends the torture himself, but a video camera is always pointed at us through the whole ordeal.
I was given a pencil and asked to draw a bird; once done, I was shocked with electric probes attached to my temples and asked to do it again. It continued, but for how long I can't be sure, probably until Snow finished stroking himself to my pain. When the test concluded, I was expected to drop my pencil and exit the room with my guard, but something tugged at the forefront of my brain that day, and though the electricity caused my thoughts to jumble I knew I needed to somehow keep that pencil.
Before I was to be hoisted from my chair, I doubled over and somehow managed to vomit all over the cement floor. While the guard was groaning and cursing in disgust, I pushed the pencil into my sock. Once I was back in my cell, my brain cleared and I smiled.
I walked over to the toilet. It is attached to plumbing, but I suspect that is more for the guards comfort than ours. Besides the small cup of water we are given with each meal, this toilet is our only access to water on a daily basis, and it has come in handy more than once during my stay. But on that day I didn't stand there to use the facilities; instead I set my sights on the roll of toilet paper to the left of it. The paper was almost the consistency of construction paper, and though it is harsh to use as intended it was perfect to write on.
I pulled off a couple of squares and moved my way to the darkest corner of the room where the painful fluorescent light had burned out and I scribbled down a simple message:
Hi, my name is Peeta.
I then rolled it tightly around the pencil and crawled over to the little hole in the wall. I quickly pushed the tube through, held my breath and mentally counted down from ten.
The tube was pushed back through the wall. I snatched it up and gently unrolled it with shaky hands.
Hi, my name is Katniss. How old are you?
How long have you been here? I've been here 11 days.
45 days. I like when you sing. You have a beautiful voice.
Thank you. Are you hurt?
Those initial days were spent getting to know each other; just simple questions like where we were from, our favorite colors, and our prefered time of year. We briefly discussed our families—but only the basics since the topic was hard for both of us. I found out she is the daughter of a dead coal miner, and I told her I am the son of a baker.
As the days pass we grow to depend on each other. When we come back from our sessions, that tiny opening is the first place we both go, and at night we sleep on either side of the hole, and though we didn't dare speak to each other the sound of her breathing always lulled me into a peaceful slumber.
What do you look like? she asked on day 62.
Blond hair, blue eyes. What do you look like?
Black hair, gray eyes, too skinny, not very pretty. Is your hair curly?
I'm sure you are beautiful. And yeah, my hair is pretty curly. Why?
In my dream you had curly hair.
You dream about me?
All the time actually.
What happens in these dreams?
Most of the time its just us sitting together, talking, and sometimes we are doing other things.
I gulp. Other things?
Sometimes we kiss and entwine our fingers or just hold each other, and sometimes we do other things.
That night I spent time in the farthest corner from the hole leading into Katniss's cell with my throbbing erection in my hand, quietly grunting as I pumped it furiously to the thoughts of 'other things.' And she is wrong, I knew it—because in my head Katniss is gorgeous.
Every once in a while the guard who brings dinner would announce that the following morning one of us would be going to 'The Arena.' This had happened three other times since I had arrived, but I had never been 'reaped' as it was called, so for all I knew it might just be another way to mess with us mentally, but when the guard tells me the next day is an 'Arena' day, my breath got caught in my throat as fear seized me. I didn't worry for myself, but instead Katniss is all that I could think about it.
I was told about 'The Arena' upon my arrival. It is a building behind the prison that has been converted into a house of horrors. All manners of torture possible will be experienced while the prisoner is in there. I was told many kids don't make it through, but I had never thought much about that fact until just then. Still Katniss and I engaged in small talk the night before, ignoring that it would be her first reaping in the morning. Instead she sang me to sleep that night.
When I awoke, a cold sweat covered my body. The prisoner is brought into the arena right after breakfast, but I couldn't manage to eat anything, instead I drummed my fingers nervously against the concrete wall above the hole. My ear was so close to the opening that when I heard the door unlock I could've sworn that it was mine, but then I heard Katniss scream.
"No! Please no!" she screeched as I heard the guards drag her away. I wanted to yell to her, to demand they let her go, to tell her that she is brave and strong and that she would be ok, but instead, I bit my fist until it was bloody, and let my tears run down my face.
Hours later, I heard her door open again, and her stumble across the room, falling with a thud near me.
"Katniss," I called out in a whisper, hoarse from hours of crying. She didn't answer. "Katniss." I tried again, but still she was silent.
Are you ok?
She didn't write back, but instead she pushed a finger into my cell. I quickly closed my hand around it, savoring the electricity that flowed through my hand when I did. I even went as far to as to press my lips to the tip of it. The vibrations of her body shaking reverberated through the place where we touched, and I could hear her quietly sobbing. I continually kissed her fingers throughout the night, and though we didn't speak or write she never pulled her finger away, and eventually I heard her breathing level out, and finally I could sleep as well.
I want to go home, she wrote five days later. It was the first communication we had since the reaping, even though we held onto what we could of each other every night.
I know you do.
If we were somehow able to get away, and I could go home, would you come with me?
My sister Prim would like you very much I think, but would you not want to see your family as soon as we left?
I thought long and hard about how to answer her question.
I have spent the last 75 days learning to be without them, but I have spent the last 40 days learning I can't live without you.
A guard by the name of Darius brought me my meal on day 90. He is the least horrible out of the white uniformed men who have pushed me around. He placed my plate and cup down near the door, but paused in his movements instead of turning to leave. He dragged a hand through his red hair and then dropped a small folded piece of paper onto the floor near my tray and swiftly exited. I waited for what felt like hours before I crawled over to the discarded paper. Once it was in my hand I quickly unfolded it with shaky fingers.
Help is coming. Ten days, during solar eclipse, be ready!
I crumpled it up hastily and flushed it down the toilet and then rushed over towards the hole to begin scribbling my own note.
Did you just get a message?
Yes, do you think it's true?
I don't know
Then let's hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
And that's what we did, but as the ten days ticked down, Katniss and I became more and more antsy, our daily living almost unbearable, and our conversations were more about what we would do when we left this hell.
What's the first thing you would do once you left this place? she asked me on day 98.
I would take you in my arms, I'd say hi, and then I'd kiss you. You? I heard her giggle as she read my note.
I'd let you.
The ten days have lapsed, a hundred days served. I sit against the wall and let the sound of Katniss's hauntingly beautiful voice soothe my frayed nerves. A note is pushed into my hand but her song continues.
If we don't get out today I am still happy to have met you, Peeta Mellark.
And I you, Katniss Everdeen, but if we do get out today?
Then I would be able to show you how happy I am that you are in my life.
You don't deserve what happened to you in this place. If I could have prevented you from coming here, at the risk of never meeting you, I would do it without question. Many minutes pass before she pushes her response back to me.
I love you. I let out a breathy laugh as I read her note over and over again before responding.
I love you too.
The day seems to continue as normal, and as the hours pass, my heart begins to sink. My hand rests on Katniss's finger while we wait. Then ever so slowly the little bit of sunlight that seeps into my cell begins to fade away until it is gone all together. I close my eyes and hope...
A few moments later I can hear a rumbling coming from outside my cell. I have just leapt to my feet when my door is busted open, and in the threshold stands an olive-skinned man with scraggly gray hair, and a tall bronzed man with copper hair.
"Come on, boy. Let's move," the older man barks. I run towards them and once in the hall I turn left to move in the direction of Katniss's door when the bronzed man grabs my arm.
He gestures. "This way, kid."
"But the girl in that cell, I have to get to her!" I try to squirm away from him, but his grip is tight and my muscles are nonexistent after 100 days.
"Johanna's got her...we've got you all...now come on." He urges me to move. As we run through the halls I notice men and women in plain clothing holding guns to the guards' heads. The man with the grip breaks into a sprint and I am forced to keep up, but I am winded when we finally break through the door leading outside.
Suddenly I'm there and the air is fresh and I can hear waves crashing behind me. I survey the area and notice the building I just exited stands on the edge of a sandy beach. The building itself is gray and nondescript, but its surroundings are beautiful. This is the first time I am seeing any of this, having had a black bag over my head when I was first brought here.
I am only distracted for a few moments before I remember what I should be doing.
"Katniss!" I scream her name as I manage to wrench my arm away from the bronzed man. I half run, half stumble down the beach. "Katniss!" I holler again.
"Peeta!" I finally hear back, and I am pretty sure it is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. But I can't locate her. There is too much going on: adults with guns; kids moving around, frantic and confused. Small aircraft have landed on the beach, and the mass of people moves towards them.
"Peeta!" I hear her scream again, and for a moment I think I see her, a slight framed, olive-skinned girl with a long dark braid, but before I can move towards her I watch a guard throw some sort of round object into the crowd and I am blown back when an explosion erupts.
It takes a long time for me to gather my bearings. I am dizzy when I go to stand, and my ears ring, but it is when I look in front of me that I feel sick to my stomach. Kids and rebels are dead everywhere, decimated by the explosion. I glance over just in time to see the scraggly haired man put a bullet in the guard's head.
I scan the area quickly, but the girl with the braid is gone, and I can't bear to think what has happened to her.
"Katniss." I sound like a wounded animal as I move my way around the destruction. I continually screech her name— hoping— because this isn't happening; this can't happen, not when we were so close, not when she was just breathing the same fresh air I was.
"Katniss!" I call again, but it's coming out in a strained whisper as the tears spill down my cheeks. I put my face in my hands and shake it back and forth.
Not real, not real, not real, I try to tell myself, and that's when I hear it.
"Peeta?" The voice is not as loud, not as desperate, but it's closer, so much closer than it has ever been. I pull my damp face from my hands and find standing—just three or four feet from me—is the girl with the braid, my girl with the braid, my Katniss.
I mouth her name, and she nods. I close the short distance and bring my thumb up to her forehead, using the pad of it to wipe away blood that flows from a cut there. Her eyes close at my touch, but when they open again I am startled by the intensity of her mercury colored eyes. For a moment we just stare at each other, but when the corners of her mouth begin to turn up I've had enough.
I pull her into my arms and nuzzle my face into her neck, her own arms wrap around my neck as her face presses into my chest.
"Hi," I whisper.
"Hi," she responds in a short sigh. I pull back. I was right and she was wrong: she is as radiant as the solar eclipse above us.
And then my lips are on hers.
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