Chapter 29

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"It's stopped," Katniss says, and Finnick, Peter and I turn to look at the fog. It's swirling still but upwards instead of forwards, as if it's stopped by a barrier of glass. It gets swept up to the sky and vanishes.

Peeta rolls off Finnick and we lay there, panting, twitching, recovering. My eyes are flooded with tears of pain. My skin is burnt and sore and bloodied from where I'd knicked my skin with my knife.

"Mon-hees," Peeta vaguely gestures to something, and I use all my strength to look up. There are, indeed, monkeys in trees, which seems to be a good sign. If they are here, then the air must be clean again - something I am very grateful for right now.

We crawl down the slope, walking too difficult, until we reach the water that surrounds the Cornucopia. Katniss crawls to the water, but I collapse a few feet away from Finnick and begin sobbing silently. I feel so weak - weaker than I've ever felt before. It feels like death is so near and so close to me, so much so that I might let it come. My body aches and I can hardly feel my hand as I stretch out an arm to Finnick's, but before I can I feel my eyelids shut and the world tumbles into darkness.

~

My body sears and I let out a scream but I begin to choke and my lungs fill with....water. I open my eyes but they sting. I'm underwater but it's misty and grey, and I feel a pair of arms pull me up. I gasp for air as the fresh air fills me up. I'm set down on the ground and begin to cough up violently, water stuck inside my lungs. My wounds no longer hurt but I still feel myself shaking.

I glance up and find Peeta crouched over me. He helped me then. "Are you alright, Anna?" he asks me, his voice is a little hoarse, but more normal that it was. I don't trust my own voice to work, so I just nod and breathe heavily. I see Katniss beside us, pouring water onto Finnick's body. The mist that attacked us is swirling out of his body and he lets out a moan as the pain leaves.

My senses are returning and I become more aware of how vulnerable we are. One of the the tributes could kill us all as easily as it is for Haymitch to get drunk.

"We've got to get more of him into the water," Katniss whispers, referring to Finnick. Herself and Peeta begin to spin him and I make to get up and help but Katniss shakes her head. "You and Finnick were the worst out of us, rest, Anna,"

I want to argue, but my limbs are too weak for me to move. They slowly begin to detoxify Finnick, allowing the water to draw out the pain little by little until slowly he begins to awaken just as I feel much stronger. I vaguely hear Katniss and Peeta discuss the issue of water before Peeta walks off. I sit up and join Katniss by the water. Finnick is swimming, returning to normal and playing about in the water.

"Don't do that," Katniss says to him as he comes up from being under the water for far too long. I know Finnick enough to know he wont drown, but Katniss might not.

"What? Come up or go under?" he replies, flicking his hair from out of his eyes.

"Either. Neither." she says. "Whatever. Just soak in the water and behave."

"Or if you feel this good, let's go help Peeta." I add, smiling at Finnick as he flashes a pearly white grin at me that makes my heart jump. How foolish to be in love when we're in this damn arena - only one can live and I want it to be Katniss, as much as I love Finnick, I would rather die with him than live without him again.

As we cross to th edge of the jungle, Katniss touches mine and Finnick's arms and we follow her gaze upwards. My hand flies to my mouth in shock; several of the monkeys have gathered above us, and their very presence feels quite ominous. I draw my blade swiftly as Finnick arms his trident and Katniss raises her bow, an arrow already notched and ready to fire.

"Peeta," Katniss says as calmly as possible. "I need your help with something."

"Okay, just a minute. I think I've just about got it," he replies, still occupied with the tree. "Yes, there. Have you got the spile?"

"I do. But we've found something you'd better take a look at," Katniss continue in a measured voice. "Only move toward us quietly, so you don't startle it."

Peeta turns to us, panting from his work on the tree and I imagine the strange sound of Katniss' voice has alerted him a little bit. "Okay," he says casually. He begins to move through the dark jungle, and although we know he's trying hard to be quiet, Peeta has never excelled in stealth and diligence. But the monkeys remain in the same positions. He's a mere five yards from the beach when he senses them. His eyes dart up for barely a second, but it's as if he's triggered a bomb explosion. The monkeys burst to live into a shrieking mass and converge on him. Never in my days have I seen any animal move so fast. They slide down the vines as if the things were wet. They leap great distances from tree to tree that should be impossible. Their long, sharp fangs are bared viciously, their paws are raised, claws shooting out like my blade only slightly smaller and probably more lethal.

"Mutts!" I suddenly yell out as Finnick, Katniss and I launch ourselves into the jungle and begin attacking. Finnick works quickly, spearing them and flinging them off his trident as Katniss flies all of her arrows, each finding their mark perfectly. I begin to hack at the mutts, my blade sinking down into their skin like it was water, not skin and blood and bone. I can feel them scratching and slicing at my skin. "Every time I heal, I get attacked again. This damn arena!" I grumble to myself and faintly hear Finnick chuckle as we continue. The already heavy air grows thicker with the smell of sweat and blood.

And then I see Peeta in the corner of my eye, in trouble and about to die - again. Katniss, despite being weaponless, races to his aid and I begin to make a start but neither of us make it. But someone else does. For a minute I think it's Finnick, but I see him on my left. I swipe at the mutt in front of me and it goes down and look to see the morphling from District 6 fling herself in front of Peeta, and screams as the mutt sinks its fangs into her body.

Peeta drops the sheath he was holding and buries his own knife into the monkey's back, stabbing it again and again until it releases its jaw. He kicks the mutt away, bracing for more. Katniss takes his arrows and loads her bow. Myself and Finnick move to her, standing at her back. We're breathing hard but not actively engaged, just watching.

"Come on, then! Come on!" shouts Peeta, panting with fury and rage. But something has happened to the monkeys. They begin withdrawing, backing up to the trees, fading into the jungle. A Gamemaker's voice, no doubt, is telling them this is enough.

"Get her," Katniss say to Peeta. "We'll cover you."

Peeta gently lifts up the morphling and carries her the last few yards to the beach while Finnick, Katniss and I keep our weapons at the ready. But, besides for the orange bodies on the ground, the monkeys are long gone. Good riddance. Peeta sets the morphling down carefully on the sand. I move over to cut away the material over her chest, revealing the four deep puncture wounds. Katniss comes over to me as blood slowly trickles from them, making them look far less deadly than they are, but they're still dangerous. The real damage is on the inside. By the position of the cuts, I feel almost certain the mutt has ruptured something vital, a lung, perhaps even her heart. She lies on the sand, gasping like a fish out of water - something I remember vividly from District 4.

"I'll watch the trees," Finnick suddenly says and I quickly stand up to follow, to allow Katniss and Peeta to say goodbye. Before I leave, I place a gentle kiss on her forehead and her eyelids flutter, and then I follow after Finnick.

He leans against a thick tree, wiping his bloody trident with a large leaf, a grim line on his mouth instead of a playful smile. "This Game is sick," he spits out. "This whole thing is sick,"

I take the trident and leaf from his hand and throw it to the ground. I cup his chin and lift his face up to look at mine. "I know. But there's nothing we can do now, except survive. We have a good team here, Finnick, and I'll fight for all of you. You're all my friends and Finnick you know that I love you. I'll do whatever it takes, and I think we're doing pretty damn well so far. We survived a wretched fog and, admittedly it was a close call, we've survived the mutts. And they were cruel and twisted, but that's just what the Games are. I've had...a bad experience with fog, as you might remember from watching my Games, and I very nearly lost the will to live, Finnick,"

His eyes suddenly flash with emergency and he looks scared. "Don't you ever say that, Anna - ever. We're going to live. And I'm going to marry you one day and we'll have a family," his hand entwines with mine and his forehead touches mine gently.

"I'd like that," I whisper to him and he kisses my nose delicately.

"Come on," he says after a couple of seconds of being calm together - a blissful but brief moment. "Let's find Katniss some arrows."

We search the little patch of land where we were attacked and gather up all the arrows we can find, still soaked with monkey blood. We rejoin Katniss and Peeta, dropping our fistfuls of arrows in from of Katniss on the sand. "Thought you might want these." I half smile at her.

"Thanks," she says and wades into the water and washes off all the gore, from her weapons and her wounds. While she's gone, the vines begin to move and the bodies of the orange mutts are gone in an instant. When Katniss returns to the jungle, she notices all the monkeys' bodies have vanished instantly. "Where did they go?" she asks.

I shrug and frown. "We don't know exactly,"

"The vines shifted and they were gone," adds Finnick. We all stare at the jungle, numb and exhausted and drained - physically and emotionally. In the quiet, I notice that the spots where the fog droplets burned my skin have begin to scab over. They've stopped hurting and begun to itch - which is way, way worse. It's intense and makes me squirm uncomfortably. I try to think of it positively. That they are healing and we're getting better. I glance over at Peeta, at Finnick, and Katniss, and see they're all scratching at their damaged faces. I inwardly giggle at how annoyed Finnick will be that his impeccably flawless beauty has been marred by this night. Maybe the people of the Capitol will be that mine has been too. Effie certainly will.

"Don't scratch," I tell them, wanting badly to claw at myself. "You'll only bring infection. Think it's safe to try for the water again?"

We steadily make our way back to the tree that Peeta was tapping before. Finnick and Katniss stand with their weapons poised while Peeta works the spile in, and I take a minute to breathe, but no threat appears anyway. Peeta's found a good vein and the water begins to flow from the spile. We quench our aching thirst, let the warm water pour over our painfully itchy bodies. We fill a handful of shells with drinking water and head back to the beach. It's still dark and night, although I doubt dawn could be too many hours away. Unless the Gamemakers want it to be, I guess.

"Why don't you three get some rest? Anna, you look exhausted" Katniss suggests and I smile weakly. "I'll watch for a while."

"No, Katniss, I'd rather," says Finnick. I look in his eyes briefly, at his face, and realize he's barely holding it together. I know the feeling.

All right, Finnick, thanks," Katniss says and that's that.

I lie down on the sand and stare into the night. Two days ago I was with Haymitch. Two days ago I still felt somewhat safe and alive. The Games is taking everything out of me and I feel hollow. After a while, I can hear Katniss and Peeta breathing heavily, fast asleep. And then I feel hot and incredibly conscious of it, of how my hair is clinging to my neck from sweat and lack of proper cleaning. I sit up and find my blade, and grab a fistful of hair just below my collarbones and slice off the hair. I can almost hear Effie screaming at the footage of me hacking off my hair, half out of annoyance, half out of desperation as I begin to cry and gasp for air.

I guess Finnick heard me and thought I was a threat or something, but he comes rushing over and crouches down at my level, his eyes flickering over my hair and blade in hand and my sobbing body before he takes my cut locks and wraps them in a leaf before setting them on the ground and taking the blade from my hand. He holds my hands in his and pulls me into him as I cry. "I-I'm s--sorry!" I gasp out. I feel pathetic and useless. Why am I even crying? It just feels too much, too sudden. I'm slowly beginning to feel trapped and claustrophobic in this damn dome of an arena and all I want is to be far away, back in my new home in District 4 with Finnick, where we're safe and this is all behind us.

Finnick rocks me back and forth and shushes me gently. His fingers are deftly rubbing over my trident and wave bracelets he gave me as he softly whispers into my ear, the same phrase over and over and over again.

"Just focus on the future - tomorrow will be kinder."


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