"Sky….Sky….Wake up sweetheart….Sky!"
The voice is the first thing I focus on as I swim up out of the murky blackness that had become all too familiar to me recently. Unconsciousness, and the inevitably unpleasant awakening, is starting to be almost common place.
Slowly I force my eyes open, and groan.
"There you are. You took your sweet time sweetheart."
Blinking rapidly, forcing my eyes to focus, I look around, and frown slightly.
I'm lying on a cot, a small cot against a smooth polished concrete wall and the floors of my cell, for that is where I am, are made of the same material. The bars trapping me are made of strong, polished metal and stretch from floor to ceiling, boxing me in.
The entire effect is sobering. Efficient, easy to clean, easy to maintain…solid.
I'm just grateful that the little privy they gave me at least has a small metal screen shielding it from passers by.
Some modesty is preserved at least.
It's then that I see just who the voice belongs to, and slip from the cot, crawling across the concrete to the bars when my legs refuse to carry me properly.
"Haymitch…" I whisper, smiling slightly as I press my face between the cool metal bars, "You're here for the party too?"
He lets out a low, startled bark of laughter.
"You've been hanging around Finnick too long."
"Impossible…" I smile, my heart panging even though now I know…now I know, "Haymitch…are they really alive? Truly?"
"Truly." He coughs gruffly and looks a little ashamed, "Big…elaborate scheme…"
"Why didn't you tell me?" I whisper back, inching even closer, "Why did you let me…why did they let me…"
"Sky…" Haymitch smiles ruefully, "You are the world's worst liar."
I blink at him, affronted, "I am not!"
"You are." He rolls his eyes, "You're a fucking awful liar, even I know that. Small things, or things you can kind of hide under stuff…then you're fine. But witnessing the deaths of everyone you love? Sky…everyone knew you were going to be inconsolable. Any kind of…falseness and the gig was up."
"You…they let me believe everyone I love was dead!" I hiss at him, furious despite knowing there was a large element of truth to his words. I wouldn't have been able to fake losing Finnick, Cato, Peeta, Katniss, Gloss, Sefir, Cashmere…all of them…I couldn't fake that.
But it doesn't change the fact that they'd made me suffer it.
"It was necessary!" Haymitch growls back, "Wake up sweetheart! This is war!"
I glare at him and haul myself to my feet, wobbling my way back to my cot before flopping back down, curling away from him, and my hand gently smoothing over the curve of my abdomen.
"Teesa," I whisper to her, and smile, "Your daddy's alive love. Your daddy, and your Uncle Peeta, and Uncle Finnick and Aunt Katniss….they're all alive…"
I don't know how much time passes before the clang of a door and the jangling of keys rings in my ears.
The door to my cell opens and I sit up as two Peacekeepers enter the room, their hands rough as they haul me up.
I hear Haymitch shout, see the older man flinging himself against the bars of his cage as they practically drag me from my cell.
"Where are you taking her?! Sky! SKY!"
Then a door clangs behind me, and his voice is cut off, and the silence is…heavy…stifling.
Their boots echo on the smooth floor as my breaths ring in the enclosed area. All I can hear are their shoes and my laboured breathing until they suddenly turn and I'm shoved into another room, pushed down onto a chair, rather like a medical examination one.
My insides start to quake at this, shiver with fear as my heart rate spikes. Once again I fight, but I'm no warrior, and their hands are rough as they bind me to the cold metal chair.
Fingers scrabble as I try to free myself from the cuffs, until suddenly I still, as a laugh rumbles around the room.
"Ah the lovely Miss Cavendish."
It's Snow, Snow's voice, echoing around the smooth walls of my prison, and I know he's somewhere, probably his opulent mansion, observing this as we speak.
The thought makes me scowl.
"Actually," I grit out, "It's Mrs DuGrey."
"Ah yes…." His voice is sinister, "DuGrey. Cato DuGrey. Your husband is a rebel and a traitor."
"He's doing what is right," I spit back, furious, "He's doing what he must."
"And yet he abandoned you," the voice is insidious, reaching into my mind, finding my doubts, my fears, the raw wounds that the deaths of my family had left. Even their revelation, the evidence that they lived, could not heal those wounds…not yet, "He abandoned you in that Arena, left in the dark…"
"He did what he had to!" I shout back, defiant.
The laugh is cold and I yelp as suddenly sharp spikes jab into my wrists from the cuffs.
"Naïve little girl…" he whispers and I can't block out his words as burning pain starts travelling up my arms, slowly, from the cuffs up towards my body, "Or did you not consider that maybe…you were convenient."
"No," I shake my head, furious, even as the burning reaches my shoulders, "You lie!"
"Perhaps…" his voice is amused, as the burning agony reaches my heart and suddenly blasts through my body, surging with my heartbeats. One. Two. Three.
It's burning agony, and the last thing I recognise, before my world dissolves into the searing flames and my own terrible screams, is his voice.
"…or perhaps not…."
I come to crumpled on the blessedly cool floor of my cell, to Haymitch's shouts as his own cell is opened and he is hauled out.
He shouts my name and I barely have energy to lift a hand towards him before he's gone, and I slump back down.
For a little while, all I can feel is the cool, smoothness of the concrete under my cheek, and then…suddenly I hear Haymitch's voice again.
"You bastards!" he rages, and I look around sharply, hunting for him, "You toe-fungus curling, ape-shit eating maggots!"
I can't see him, even when I struggle my way to my feet, biting down screams as my body burns with the residual pain from the venom, or whatever it was that they injected me with. He's not in the hallway, not in his cell, and I look around wildly until I see the small speakers, located around my cell.
They're broadcasting it.
"Haymitch Abernathy," Snow's voice sounds sinisterly amused, "It's taken a long time for us to come to this. I should have dealt with you long ago."
"Snow." Haymitch seethes, I can hear it, even as I clutch at the bars, breathing deeply, unable to move without fiery agony, "I've been so looking for the day when I could kick your ass. Get in here and let's see if I can't make you dance to one of MY tunes."
"You always did have a way with words," Snow chuckles, but there is no humour in it, "What was it you said? 'Twice as stupid as usual'? Well you certainly lived up to that."
"What do you want you pus filled bag of shit?" Haymitch spits back, "Because I hate to tell you, but I've got nothing for you."
"Well now you see Mister Abernathy," Snow chuckles and I shiver again, sliding back down to the ground, "I don't believe that for a second. I believe you have a great many things to share. You will tell me everything, everything you've ever heard, ever seen, ever touched, ever thought, because all you will want is for the pain to end. And only then…when I have taken everything away from you…only then…will you die."
"No…" I groan, trying to shout it, "No!"
But I already know that he won't be able to hear me. They would have broadcast my own session to him…and I'm sure he would have had plenty of things to say.
"Fuck. You." Haymitch growls, and I hear Snow laugh, a quiet, self satisfied laugh and then I hear Haymitch scream, and scream and scream.
I can't block him out, the sounds of his agony, even with my hands over my ears, even as I huddle there on the floor, tears dripping onto the cold, unyielding floor, I hear him scream.
It's an eternity before they bring him back, and dump him in the cell across from me.
"Haymitch…" I whisper, pressing against the bars to reach out, fingers straining over the hallway towards him, "Haymitch!"
"I'm fine…" he rumbles back, but there is an uncharacteristic quaver to his voice, "I'm fine sweetheart."
He's proud, so proud, and slowly I draw back my arm, just watching him.
"He was lying you know." The grey eyes meet mine and I blink at him once, confused, "Snow. When he was talking to you. He said…he told you Cato abandoned you. He was lying."
"No you don't." He sighs, and shifts forward, wincing at even that tiny movement, "Sky, we figured pretty quickly that the drug would have to be our method of getting everyone out. And then…you were pregnant. Before that, we weren't sure who would make it to the end. Some wanted Peeta or Katniss... more wanted you. But once we knew about your baby…it had to be you."
"What?" I press even closer, my voice low, "Why couldn't it have been Peeta or Katniss."
"The drug…lowered heartrates. It brought bodily functionality down to a level that would fool the trackers, fool them into thinking the person was dead. And it gave the appearance of it too…"
I nod, "So…"
"The baby wouldn't have survived it. Your body…your daughter would have died."
I stare at him, and my heart lurches painfully, as my hand automatically drops to curl around the curve of my stomach. Lose her…no…
"Cato wouldn't consider it." Haymitch sighs, "None of them would. It was like losing another child to the Hunger Games, all of them refused, even before they knew you. Finnick threatened to chop balls and breasts off and shove them down throats if they even thought about nicking you with a blade. He has a way with words. I think Cato gave him the threat…or Deccia…."
"Or Enobaria…" I smile weakly and he groans.
"District 2 must be a madhouse." He mutters, "You have my condolences."
"What for?" I whisper back, grinning slightly.
"You married one of them. You're like….related…"
I roll my eyes at him, but smile slightly at the husky chuckle that drifts to my ears.
We stay where we are, huddled as close together as we can be. And somehow I fall asleep there, leaning against the cold metal bars, Haymitch's voice speaking softly like a soothing lullaby.
In a room where the light never dims from blinding brightness, where there is no clock, no means of structure, time becomes loose.
I have no idea how many days, even weeks, pass, trapped as I am in my cell.
6 paces. Be it from wall to wall, or wall to bars, it was always 6 paces.
For someone raised in the sun, with the sea, the salt, the wind, and the space to run, being confined like this is wearing. And it is wearing thin.
I pace restlessly, eating what was given, and only leaving my cell when I am grabbed by the Peacekeepers.
Sometimes it is me first, sometimes Haymitch, but always we had to listen to the others interrogations, and that…that is the hardest part.
I can hear him choking, spluttering, and the sound of splashing as he fights helplessly to stop his head from being shoved under, to stop the air being forced from his lungs.
It hurts to hear it, knowing what is happening. It's so familiar now…so familiar that I can almost imagine it.
In medieval times they would interrogate someone with water, almost drowning them until they would answer with desperation, with desperation to breathe air.
It's a technique that apparently has not gone out of fashion in the Capitol.
Except they are using wine…not water.
They are drowning him in wine.
"What are the rebel's plans?" Snow's voice is arctic as I hear Haymitch's head removed from the liquid, hear him choke and cough and retch, "Where are their hideouts?"
"Screw you…" Haymitch pants, and then I hear him shoved under again, so long that I fear…I fear this time…
Then he surfaces again and I let out my own breath, as Snow chuckles, "Bring the girl. Take the…sot…back to his kennel."
My turn, I realise, giving a hoarse chuckle, and clapping a hand over my mouth as the almost insane sound leaves my lips. Good lord…the last thing I need right now is to lose it.
The door down the hallway clangs open and the boots tramp up to the two cells. Haymitch is deposited back in his cage and then they turn to me.
"Get her up," a voice grunts, and for a moment I blink, frowning down at the floor as it registers.
I look up as the cell opens and hands grab me, and I turn to look up at the peacekeepers. Two of them are unrecognisable, square jaws, hard mouths and dull hazel and brown eyes watching the way ahead as they usher me forward.
The third, the one opening and locking the doors….he's familiar, that jaw is familiar, that mouth…but he doesn't look at me, and I don't dare peer at him.
They push me into the room and shove me down into a hard metal chair…not the examination chair, a normal chair, behind a sturdy desk….that has old stains across it…dried blood stains.
I shudder, and the man behind the desk chuckles.
"Sky," he leans towards me and I struggle not to shudder as his fetid breath washes over me. He smells of blood, heart blood, like he's been drinking the stuff. The thought makes me stomach rebel, but I bite down the urge to retch.
"Snow," I murmur back, keeping my voice even with effort, "How are you today?"
That makes him chuckle, a low, icy chuckle that grates across my skin.
"So polite. And yet…I think we're beyond that…don't you?"
Oh yes, I think, almost savagely, we are well beyond that. Considering I want you dead.
Instead of saying it, I just blink at him placidly.
"I grow tired of these games Miss Cavendish." He always calls me this, never Mrs DuGrey, "I fear…I must resort to more…stringent methods to secure your…co-operation."
He sees my mouth tighten, and smiles, no warmth anywhere in that expression.
"Tell me Miss Cavendish…if you had to choose…would you save your baby….or your husband?"
I stare at him, my gut wrenching.
"What?" I whisper, and he smiles again.
"Let me…make it simple for you."
Hands clamp down on my arms, holding me down to my seat, as another Peacekeeper tugs my head back, forcing my mouth open.
I struggle, but days, weeks, whatever it is…of inactivity...torture…limited rations…I have no strength to fight this.
Snow stands over me, an ornate goblet in his hands.
"You tell me…everything you know," he smiles coldly before dipping a finger into the goblet and bringing it up so it drips slowly back down, "Or I pour this down your throat…."
He leans forward, brushing the wet fingertip down my cheek towards my mouth.
"And this…delightful concotion….comes with a guarantee…once it passes your lips…you have three hours…three hours for me to administer the antidote…or…" his hand pats my belly and I give a strangled scream of fury, "Well…little Teesa Clove DuGrey won't live long enough to see the light of day…let's just go with that mmm?"
I thrash in the peacekeepers hold and howl at him like a wounded animal, and he just smiles down at me, vindictive.
"Let go of her mouth. Now…Miss Cavendish. Tell me…if you please. And we can avoid all this…unpleasantness mm?"
I gasp at him, my mind seething with panic, fear, horror.
He'll do it. No question.
But…if I tell him…if I tell him.
Hundreds of lives. Thousands even…
"I….can't…." I sob the words out, "I don't know…anything!"
"Hmmmm…" Snow tuts softly, "Pity."
And in a flash my head is wrenched back and the cold, hard rim of the goblet is between my teeth, bitter liquid pouring into my mouth.
It's swallow or drown, as a Peacekeeper pinches my nose, and I sob bitterly as I swallow….swallowing the poison that will kill my daughter.
"I've heard a mother will do anything for her children," Snow murmurs, ignoring my hysterical sobbing, "Let's see if it is true. See you in 2 and a half hours Miss Cavendish. I wonder if you'll be more…amenable then."
They haul me out of the room, tossing me back into my cell, and I just curl up, ignoring Haymitch's desperate voice as I hug my knees close, trying to protect the curve of my belly, the life growing in me…the life now threatened.
"Sky…" his voice is urgent, "Sky…I'm sorry…but you can't….you can't…"
And I wail, drowning out his words, because I know…I KNOW…and it's killing me.
He falls silent then, just watching me, mouth still stained red from the wine, but his grey eyes are haunted, watching me rock.
I don't know how long it is before suddenly…suddenly…my stomach begins to cramp, and my muscles spasm across my abdomen.
I scream and Haymitch swears, throwing himself against his bars again.
"No!" I wail, but the cramps go on, and on, and on, painful, and I know…I know it's the poison trying to rip my child from me.
I don't know how long it is before the bleeding starts, slow at first, growing heavier as I just lay there on the ground, hands pressed against my belly against my pants, trying to hold her in.
"Please…" I sob, "Please….Teesa…don't leave me…don't leave me…my daughter…"
"Monster!" I hear Haymitch snarling in the distance, "You fucking…get away from her!"
The cell door clangs open and then there is a white Peacekeeper kneeling before me, a vial in his hands.
"Drink," the voice is the same one from before, familiar. And without thinking my mouth opens, opening up helplessly as sweetness floods my mouth. I choke but the voice is stern, "Swallow it."
I do, just.
Time passes, infestisimal, eternal…and the bleeding slows….stops…the cramps…fade…and I slowly look up into the face of the man crouching over me.
"Lucan…" I whisper.
Cato's brother nods, jaw tight and I hear Haymitch suck in a breath across the hallway.
"What…?" I murmur, "What are…"
"This is a rescue." He informs me, voice cool as ever, "Let's go."
Another Peacekeeper moves over and I start again as I recognise the face under this helm as well.
"Vittor," I whisper, and I see his mouth twitch, "You…"
"I still fucking hate you," he hisses back, "But I'd rather hate you out there than in here. Lucan, we need to move."
"We'll explain once you're safe," Lucan lifts me and carries me out of the cell, laying me on a metal trolley. I'd seen these during my stay, rolling past, pushed by peacekeepers, usually with a body or two on them, "Get Abernathy."
"Both of us?" Haymitch hisses, "Bit risky…"
"Shut up," Lucan glares back, "I'm not explaining to my sister why I left you behind."
That does shut Haymitch up and Vittor hauls him up and into the body bag on the lower shelf of the roller.
"Ready?" Lucan asks as Vittor hisses.
"Who fucking cares! Zip em!"
I nod and Lucan nods back, before gently and apologetically jabbing a needle into my arm.
"Sorry." He murmurs, as the world dissolves around me, "See you soon."
And then…for what seems like the hundredth time…I know no more.