Chapter 26

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"Duck!" Finnick commands, his tone more stern and unfamiliar. I drop just in time for his trident to go flying overhead and then I hear the sickening sound of impact. The man from District 5 sinks to his knees as Finnick retrieves his trident. "Don't trust One and Two," he tells us.

"Each take a side?" Katniss suggests and we nod, each taking a third of the spokes. Enobaria and Gloss are approaching.

"Anything useful?" I shout to Katniss and Finnick.

"Weapons!" Katniss calls back. "Nothing but weapons!"

"Same here!" Finnick yells to me.

"And here. Grab what you want and let's go!" I reply.

Katniss shoots and arrow at Enobaria but she misses as Enobaria slides into the water. Gloss, closest to me, yells out in pain as I sink my knife into his calf. He grabs my ankle as he falls back into the water but only manages to knock me off balance and I hit the floor hard. I don't waste time getting up and joining Finnick.

"You're bleeding, Anna," he tells me, quickly wiping away at a scratch on my cheek.

"I'm fine but we need to go," I say, indicating to Brutus fast approaching, using his belt as a shield. Katniss fires an arrow but he deflects it. "Come on."

Enobaria and Gloss reach the Cornucopia, Brutus is within shooting distance and somewhere close, I can bet Cashmere will be around. The four of them will already have some prior alliance. Katniss spots Peeta stranded on his metal plate and takes off, Finnick and I following. She begins to remove her knives from her belt but Finnick stops her.

"I'll get him," he tells her.

"I can," Katniss insists, clearly not fully trusting Finnick but he's already dropped his weapons on the ground.

"Better not exert yourself. Not in your condition," he positions himself at the edge of the water. "Cover me," and he dives in towards Peeta.

Katniss raises her bow and I have both trident blades in my hands, ready to attack but no one comes near. Brutus, Enobaria, Cashmere and Gloss are picking over their choice of weapons and most of the other tributes are still trapped on their plates. Finnick reaches Peeta and begins to haul him back quickly and Katniss and I help him up on to dry land.

"Hello again," he kisses Katniss. "We've got allies."

"Yes, just as Haymitch intended," Katniss says.

Remind me, did we make deals with anyone else?" Peeta asks.

"It's just us, I think."

"Looks like Beetee figured out the belts," I remark, pointing to where Beetee is swimming, using the belt to keep him afloat.

"What?" Katniss asks.

"She's right. They're flotation devices," Finnick grins. "I mean, you have to propel yourself, but they'll keep you from drowning."

Katniss suggests we move on, handing Peeta a bow, sheath of arrows and a knife. Finnick slings his net over his shoulders and grabs my hand, the other holding his trident, as we run away from the Cornucopia. Where the sand ends, some form of woods begins to rise.'s more like a jungle. The earth is black and springy underfoot, often obscured by tangles of vines or colourful blossoms. While the sun's hot and bright, the air is warm and heavy with moisture. I get the feeling we wont be dry.

Peeta takes the lead, cutting down vines with his knife. Finnick and I go second, hand in hand and Katniss takes the back, armed with her bow and arrows.

"Interesting arena, huh?" I note to Finnick, glancing around at the thick trees.

"Beach...jungle. Yeah, very strange. The water's good for us though," he replies and I agree.

Before long, after a steep incline, we request a rest. Sweat drips down our foreheads and Finnick and I have given up on hand holding. It's too hot and we're all out of breath. Katniss climbs up a tree to scan the arena. I'm tired and hot and have to place my hands on my knees to gain my breath, Finnick resting against a tree and breathing hard. We don't know how long Katniss is but we're back to normal by the time she gets back down.

Finnick and I can tell she's doubting us. Finnick more than I, most likely, as I was her mentor and friend. But if she doesn't trust Finnick entirely she can't kill him. Because then where will my alliance be? With Finnick? Or her and Peeta? In all honesty, she needs us and can't afford to lose us: we're skilled and Haymitch trusts us. She can't kill either one of us.

"What going on down there, Katniss? Have they all joined hands? Taken a vow of nonviolence? Tossed the weapons in the sea in defiance of the Capitol?" Finnick asks, very sarcastically.

"No," Katniss says.

"No," Finnick repeats. "Because whatever happened in the past is in the past. And no one in this arena was a victor by chance," he eyes Peeta for a moment. "Except maybe Peeta."

Katniss knows that Finnick and I know what's true. Finnick and I will kill to survive. He killed the man from District 5 with ease. I didn't hesitate to attack Gloss. Katniss shot at Enobaria with ease and will do so with everyone else. But Peeta is better than us. He'd at least attempt a negotiation before killing anyone. Every other victor would kill without a second thought. The people in this arena weren't crowned for their compassion.

She holds his gaze. Finnick's trident is casually ready for attack, I have a tight grip on my knife, in case it gets messy. They're both calculating. By the time an arrow hits Finnick, his trident could hit Katniss. Before anyone attacks, Peeta steps in between them.

"So, how many are dead?" he asks.

Katniss looks frustrated. "Hard to say," she answers. "At least six, I think. And they're still fighting."

"Let's keep moving," I say. "We need water and fast. We don't want to die of dehydration."

"Better find some soon," Finnick agrees. "We need to be undercover when the others come hunting us tonight."

And the moment passes as we begin walking again. "Finnick," I say quietly, catching his attention.

"Yes, my love?" he looks at me. I blush lightly but shake it off.

"Stop getting so defensive? We need them and it won't exactly be easy to keep Peeta and I sane if you and Katniss end up killing each other. Can you take it easy? I don't want to lose you in the first day, Finnick, but if you and Katniss don't stop bickering, either she's going to kill you, or I will. Got it?"

He licks his lips and raises an eyebrow. "I like it when you're feisty." he winks cheekily and I roll my eyes. He laughs a little. "Okay, okay, sorry, Anna. Fine, I'll tone it down. Happy?"

"Yes," I nod, pecking his cheek briefly as we walk.

After about a mile, we begin to slow, spotting the end of a tree line, assuming we've reached the crest of the hill. "Maybe we'll have better luck on the other side," Katniss suggests. "Find a spring or something."

Then, as Peeta swings his knife, there's a sharp zapping sound and Katniss lets out a cry. Peeta's flung back, knocking Finnick and I to the ground. Katniss rushes over to where he's lying motionless as Finnick and I pull ourselves up, my head aching from where it hit the ground.

"Peeta?" Katniss asks, fear and apprehension lacing her voice. There's a faint smell of singed hair. "Peeta!" she shakes him lightly but he doesn't respond. I hold my breath in. She places her ear on his chest. By the look on her face, I know she can't hear a heartbeat. My eyes blur.

"Peeta!" she screams, shaking him harder, slapping his face. "Peeta!"

I grab Finnick's arm tight but he moves forward, pushing Katniss out of the way. "Let me," he says. His fingers are touching points on his neck, running over his ribs and spine. Then he pinches his nostrils shut.

"No!" Katniss yells, hurling herself at Finnick, thinking he's trying to make sure he's dead instead of saving him. I rush forward and pull her away, wrapping my arms around her to stop her attacking Finnick. She struggled but relents as Finnick places his lips on Peeta's and begins to blow air into his lungs, Peeta's chest actually rising and falling. Then he opens the top of Peeta's jumpsuit and begins to pump the spot over Peeta's heart with the heels of his hands. Finnick's skilled, with a set rhythm and method. After what feels like agonisingly long hours, Peeta lets out a small cough and Finnick sits back, panting and lightheaded. I let go of Katniss as she flings herself at him.

"Peeta?" she says softly as I go and sit down next to Finnick. He rests his head on my shoulder and watches as Peeta's lashes flutter open.

"Careful, there's a force field up ahead," he jokes and I laugh.

I don't listen to their reunion, instead I lift Finnick's head up and look at him. "You did a good thing," I tell him sincerely.

He smiles weakly. "Have I made up for almost killing Katniss yet?" he asks hopefully.

I breathe out a laugh. "Yes, I think so," I rest my forehead against his. "It made me think about if I lost you..." my voice chokes up. "I can't - I won't lose you, Finnick. You'll always be with me, okay?"

He brushes the hair out of my face and cups my chin to look at him. "Always and forever, Anna," he promises before kissing me.  

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