'I paced around for hours on empty.
I jumped at the slightest of sounds.
And I couldn't stand the person inside me.
I turned all the mirrors around.'
Agitation was beginning to settle in after another needle was jabbed into her skin for what felt like the millionth time. Whilst Indiana understood that her body and min had been through a traumatic time and tests needed to be done, the medics weren't helping her recovery as they pushed her rage to limit by extracting another vial of blood. She had spent the past few weeks in constant pain, she just wanted it to end now.
Sensing the storm brewing beneath the grumpy face, Cato gripped the young woman's hand tightly and began tracing soothing circles on the back of it. Smiling gratefully at her fiancé, all Indiana wanted was a few moments alone with him. Weeks of separation had gotten to both of them and Indiana just wished for a peaceful moment where she could sear the memory of his kiss into her brain. Acutely aware of her bare body beneath the thin gown when she shuffled impatiently, Indiana's discomfort only grew.
"Miss Summers, I hope you're aware of the damage your body has undergone and take it easy for the foreseeable future."
"Considering I was there when the damage was inflicted, I believe I have more of an understanding than you do," she snapped, lips twisted into a sweet smile.
Aware of the woman's personality, the Head Medic brushed off her irritation and continued with his debrief. "After doing some scans of your brain, we've requested that you be kept under observation until we're certain you won't react to situations in a similar way to Mr Mellark. President Coin has already agreed that that would be best."
"Wait, you're saying she has to stay in here?" Cato demanded, jaw clenching.
She had just been rescued from a prison and now they wished to trap her inside a hospital room, keeping her under observation and running tests on her. How was that any better?
"For psychiatric observation, yes."
Two hours had passed since she had woken up and the young couple had yet to be alone. Being informed that he wouldn't be able to spend a night with her wrapped in his arms for her first night of consciousness in a safe place sparked anger within him. Instead, Indiana had to spend another night alone in a room she wasn't familiar with accompanied by nothing but darkness. She was awake and yet she still wasn't safely returned to him. They were forced apart yet again.
Cato dug his fingers into the palm of his hand so as to bury the anger seeping through him. The last time he had lashed out in the hospital wing he had been temporarily banned and given a warning. Being kicked out permanently was not a risk he could take now that his fiancée was awake and depending on him for some sense of normality. Expecting outrage from the strong-headed woman, Cato was taken aback when she inclined her head in acknowledgement before coughing lightly to attract the medics attention.
"If I'm to spend my nights here, could I at least have some underwear?" Indiana asked meekly.
Both men were slightly shocked by her response and let out nervous chuckles. Nodding in amusement, the Head Medics informed her that she'd have her own uniform soon enough and the moment her tests were completed, she would be able to wash and dress. Accepting that, Indiana kept up a coherent conversation with Cato for the reminder of her tests, asking about the fate of the other prisoners from Panem. Tormented and furious, Johanna had been safely rescued and was recuperating somewhere in the hospital. After initial testing, Annie had been declared 'safe' and had moved in with Finnick the day after she had been rescued. Enobaria had unfortunately not been located in time so had been abandoned.
Peeta had been the one Indiana was most anxious to hear about as she had feared he had been discarded of by Snow and the fact that Cato kept his face for last did little to reassure her. Hearing that his mind had been warped by Tracker Jacker venom confirmed the suspicions Indiana had had when he had first begun getting agitated at the mere mention of Katniss. Helplessness was a feeling that Indiana was begrudgingly becoming acquainted with when she informed Cato that she didn't know how to reverse the damage done to Peeta's fragile brain as they never discussed the torture they had endured.
Neither did she offer up any solutions on how to fix her own. Talking about the horror she had been through wasn't something Indiana was prepared to do and she refused to allow anymore procedures to be carried out on her, regardless of whether they were meant to help 'fix' her. She would get rid of the hallucinations on her own. She would get out of this hospital and she would never find herself back in a sterile, white room ever again.
Eventually the doctors vacated the room, satisfied that they had run all the tests they needed to and had thoroughly debriefed the girl on the condition of her body. Leaving her a pile of freshly cleaned clothes, they finally gave the engaged couple their first moment alone.
Gratitude for her fiancé's caring nature swirled within Indiana when Cato asked if she wished for him to step out whilst she changed but fear clouded that at the idea of being alone. Begging him to stay and keeping talking to her, her voice trembled as she asked him to turn around. Indiana had never been shy about her body; she had changed in front of him numerous times, had washed in her underwear during the Games and had even slept with him for the entirety of Panem to see.
Cato tried to understand why Indiana didn't wish for him to see her body (it had endured hell and no longer looked the way he was used to, she told herself in disgust) but he knew that no matter what, his opinion of her beauty would never falter. Whilst she was stunning on the outside, Cato knew he would always be most attracted to her spirit.
Furthermore, he wished he could see the pain she had endured and erase each haunting memory with a kiss – a soft and gentle reminder that she would never have to go through it again.
"The doctors say you might have had delusions. Is that true?" Cato asked hesitantly, not wishing to upset her.
Indiana saw it as him not wishing for the woman that he had loved to be insane.
"Some say psychosis, I say coping mechanisms to help detach myself from being tortured," responded Indiana, refusing to look Cato in the eyes for fear she would not like what she saw.
However, if she had, she would've seen remorse that Cato had been unable to help her and her brain had to conjure up illusions to comfort her when he couldn't.
During her imprisonment, the only thing she deemed sane was the fact that those she loved had been there to encourage her to continuing fighting but now that words like psychotic and unstable were being attached, Indiana felt as if she was losing slip of reality.
However, when Cato took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly, Indiana knew that the love she had for the 'brute from District Two' was very real and knew no end.
Knowing her answer had done little to comfort the worries of her fiancé, Indiana placed a soft hand on his cheek and gazed into his haunting blue eyes. Tears swirled within them and she felt herself being sucked into a void of emotions but a soft kiss to her hand anchored her to moment.
Soft lips traced a pattern up her arm (taking extra care when his lips touched the casts) until they reached her jaw. Eyes fluttering shut in anticipation, Indiana revelled in the physical contact that she had spent many lonely nights craving. Pressing a kiss to the sensitive spot below her ear, his lips followed her jaw line until he was beneath the space where her lips resided.
"I've missed you so much," he whispered, bumping his nose against her.
Nuzzling his nose with her own, she responded similarly before begging him to never leave her again. Heart breaking, Cato vowed he would not leave her side, before apologising for not fighting to go with her that night. Assuring him that no part of her held him responsible for the events of that night, she pressed her forehead against his.
"I love you," she confessed, lips inching closer to his.
Instead of responding, he connected their lips for the first time in weeks and poured all his emotion into their physical bond. Winding her arms around his neck, Indiana pulled her body closer to his, needing to feel every inch of him against her. Feeling his warm body pressed against hers reminded her that he was real. This was real. It was not another illusion that her mind had conjured up.
A groan ripped free from Cato's lips when Indiana bucked her hips and the deep sound had a soft gasp spilling out of Indiana's mouth. That sound alone had been her companion through many sleepless nights. Calloused hands set the bare skin of her hips ablaze as Cato slipped them under Indiana's plain shirt.
A polite knock echoed throughout the room causing the couple to pull apart and remember where they were. Growling in frustration, Cato pulled himself off his fiancée before tugging her up into an upright position. Ensuring she didn't look too flustered, Cato couldn't help but smirk at her swollen lips and lust filled eyes.
Opening the door to a nervous looking medic, the man from Two stepped aside to allow him to enter the room before closing the door behind him. Returning to his position by Indiana's side, Cato crossed his arms and waited for the man to begin speaking. Fiddling with the gold ring, the blue eyed woman waited for the next set of bad news she would receive.
"I'm afraid curfew is drawing near and as you don't have permission to be out this evening, Soldier Hadley, it would be best you leave soon. I've been asked to inform you that you have ten minutes left," the medic stammered.
He had heard about what had happened to the past medics that had given Cato bad news and he preferred not ending up in a hospital bed.
"I'm not allowed to spend the night with her here?"
"I'm afraid not, Soldier Hadley. Until we're sure she is stable, she has to remain here under observation and we cannot guarantee your safety if you stay the night."
"What if I'm willing to risk it?" Cato challenged.
"Our orders come from President Coin and she has told us that under no circumstances are you to remain in the hospital over night. I'm sorry, Soldier Hadley, but we cannot disobey direct orders. It's also to ensure that your presence isn't too much of a stressor for Miss Summers whilst she is recovering."
"Do you seriously think I'm capable of hurting him?" Indiana asked in disbelief.
Some small part of her was relieved that people could still perceive her as a threat, even after seeing her at her most vulnerable state.
Since she could walk, Indiana had been taught to keep herself guarded and to ensure that people never underestimated her strength. Being imprisoned had stripped away her armour until she was bare to the world. Knowing that had done little to improve her spirits but seeing the way the medic flinched at her tone brought her the smallest, sickest satisfaction she had felt in weeks. A small smirk graced her lips but she kept it hidden in case Cato mistook it for joy that she would be alone for the night.
Whilst the idea of spending yet another night alone with her monsters terrified her, she also wasn't ready for Cato to witness the small bouts of insanity and panic that seized her during the vulnerable moments of her sleep. Being wrapped in the safety of Cato's arms was a comfort she would forego if it meant she kept some façade of strength.
As the lonely, dark hours ticked away, Indiana bided her time until the small hallway between her room and Peeta's was void of medics before darting into the blond boy's room. Jumping at the unexpected visitor, Peeta visibly relaxed upon seeing the wary face of Indiana. Old terror that people in his room meant he'd be dragged away for torture dissipated when she shot him a relieved smile. Returning the smile, he sat up and shuffled over so she could climb into bed next to him.
"I heard you were awake." Peeta smiled as she rested her head on his shoulder.
"They wouldn't let me come and see you. Apparently neither of us are stable."
A snort rumbled within Peeta's chest. "I can't tell you how many times I've heard that these past few days."
Letting out a snigger of agreement, Indiana was grateful when Peeta's cold hand clasped her own blazing one. This was another moment that was real – she hadn't imagined this. Peeta truly was alive and well. The cold pressure of his hand against her own was a comfort she had become familiar with.
After weeks of being each other's rock, the few days they had spent apart in the Capitol had been torture. Unable to see each other, unable to speak to each other, it had been the final nail of their mental coffin. Reassured that the other was alive and well provided some semblance of solace for their fragile minds. It was nice to know that after their time apart and the damage done to them, the pressure of his hand felt the same way it had the first time he had placed it above her own when they woke up trapped in the Capitol.
"She's here. They tell me that I used to love her but I don't believe them. Are they telling me the truth?" Peeta asked, needing to know the answer.
Was he being lied to just because she was seen as a saviour? Or did some twisted part of him once care for the Mutt that held a pretty face?
Knowing she had been by his side through the worst of it, Peeta trusted Indiana to tell him the horrible truth. If he truly had loved the woman who was responsible for the death of his family, he would rather hear it from Indiana's lips and not some stranger who used medical terms to call him deranged.
"You trust me over them?"
"Of course. I've trusted you with my life before."
Swallowing the urge to agree that Katniss is a monster (although for different reasons than Peeta has been brainwashed to believe), Indiana informed him that he had once loved Katniss and had even go as far as to die for her before Indiana had managed to restart his heart.
However, when Peeta snapped that Katniss hadn't even tried to save him, Indiana had, the blonde girl opted to change the topic of conversation to prevent an outburst. The last thing she wanted was for them to be caught and separated. Thankfully, Peeta calmed down and began asking Indiana about Cato.
"He's trying so hard to understand and be patient but you can tell he's struggling with the fact that I'm not the woman I used to be. Our relationship was built on the fact that we were both strong people and now he has to be strong for the both of us. He says he'll still love me no matter what but I don't know how long it'll be before he crumbles under the weight of me. You should've seen his face when the medics mentioned my hallucinations-." Indiana's voice wavered and she had to bite down on her lip; the pain served as a distraction from the emotions.
Peeta's hand squeezed her own and his head rested against hers. "You'll get through this. I know you will. And even if he does begin to crumble, you'll hold each other up. You always have. You should've seen his face when he rescued me - all he cared about was finding you. That man went through his own personal hell to get you back and he's not about to crush under the pressure of having you back."
Sniffling quietly, Indiana tried her best to nod in understanding but she couldn't help the evil voice in the back of her head that told her she was a monster and incapable of love. 'Unloved' kept being chanted in her head in Cato's voice. Whilst she was no longer unconscious and had escaped her own mind, that didn't mean the nightmares hadn't crawled out after her.
Stood side by side, Cato and Katniss were relieved when they saw Indiana and Peeta curled up in his hospital bed together. Being told Indiana had disappeared from her room had terrified both of them – Cato because his fiancée had gone missing and Katniss because if Indiana did anything awful in a moment of insanity, Katniss would be the one to pay the price. That was the terms of her becoming the Mockingjay.
A tear slid down Cato's voice as Indiana's broken words echoed in his head. The fact that she feared he wouldn't be able to accept her and her scars broke his heart. He'd never understand her pain the way Peeta did but he would try.
He wanted to be the person she sought out during the night when the horrors wouldn't stay away. He wanted to be the one holding her hand and assuring her she would never feel that pain again. But he would never be enough.
Similarly, Katniss was struggling with the fact that Peeta had once adored her and trusted her before anyone else. Even during the 74th Hunger Games. Now he saw her as a Mutt and Indiana had become the person he confided in the most.
Wrapping an arm around Katniss' shoulder, the two survivors realised that no matter how much they cared and tried to understand the pain their loved ones were going through, it would never be enough. They had survived the arena and whilst they thought they had suffered in Thirteen, nothing would compare to Indiana and Peeta's suffering.
As Indiana and Peeta slipped into a restless sleep, they were unaware of the sadness stood outside of the room.
Begging the soldiers to let them sleep, Katniss and Cato watched over their partners and realised that they had never been more helpless.
'I've grown familiar with villains that live in my head.
They beg me to write them so I'll never die when I'm dead.
I'm meaner than my demons.
I'm bigger than these bones.'