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Battle Worn

By WendyHamlet

Drama / Romance

Chapter 1

Hello everyone!

So here we are! I hope you readers from "Underestimated" are now reading the sequel. I mean...you could just stop reading about Mags once you finished Underestimated, but where's the fun in that? If you haven't checked out Underestimated, I recommend you do that, otherwise characters and events referenced in this story might confuse you. So this is the sequel, you can find "Underestimated" on my profile :)

All the readers that have stuck with me through thick and thin, filler chapters, writers block, chapters that shouldn't have been written but needed to be, plot twists, heartbreak, and laughs, I hope you enjoy the sequel just as much!

I shall remind you once again that reviews are always asked for, and I absolutely love to hear your ideas, thoughts, or helpful critic!

If you are just going to hate or rage in a review, I would recommend not. If you don't like the story, just don't read it! You don't have to display your rage in an angry review for everyone to see and to make me feel bad. I write to the best of my ability to make the story a good one, and to create a tale that you can get attached to. I'm sorry if it's not your type or if you dislike something about it, but I would ask that instead of getting worked up about it, just stop reading. (hopefully none of you think that way but you never know :P)

So anyway! Here is the first chapter! *squeal*

Sorry, I'm just excited!

Chapter One: Rehabilitation is a slow process.

I stand on the rolling deck of one of the few three-masted ships that is still able to sail. I know my father and Leroy are behind me, but my attention is focused on the small pine box decorated with flowers that is resting on a table close to the railing. I expected tears when I would have to say goodbye for the last time to Will, but I find myself feeling cold, and detached. I stare blankly as some people say a few words, my father and Leroy among them. When I'm asked if I want to say anything, I just shake my head.

What am I supposed to say? Will I'm sorry I failed and you died? I don't think so. Instead I just walk forward, and stand beside the box, looking down at the picture they have set against the coffin. Will's dark curls are flying everywhere like they always did, his blue eyes intensified by the camera, they have a twinkle in them, bright with the joy of life. He's smiling, and I remember the day the picture was taken...his twelveth birthday. He was so excited that we were able to buy a cheep camera, and he insisted on getting his picture taken first.

I turn as I feel a hand on my shoulder, Leroy has tear streaks down his face, and his eyes are red from crying. I put my arm around him, and take a deep breath. I look down at my hand, and rub my thumb against the smooth surface of the gold pirate coin I found the day before the reaping. I was going to surprise Will with it, he was obsessed with pirates, and ancient ships. After a few moments of silence, the pall bearers step forward to give Will the burial he requested. They lift the coffin up, and solemnly wait until the captain of the ship gives the signal. There's a moment of silence before the coffin hits the ocean, and then the crew slowly start singing an old farewell ballad. I look over the railing at the water, and see the coffin slowly sinking down.

"Mags!"

I sit up so fast in bed my head spins, and I gasp. Convincing myself that Will's cry was only part of the dream. I look down and see that I was clutching the gold coin so tightly in my hand that it left an impression on my palm. I'm covered in a cold sweat and I can feel the terrible ache in my chest that comes from suppressed grief. I push the covers off my legs, and slide my feet onto the floor.

Our new house in Victors village is huge, and we've been living in it for the past four months, but it still doesn't feel like home. I wonder if anywhere will ever feel like home again. My feet make no sound on the hardwood floor as I creep out of my bedroom and quietly descend the stairs. I know that the walls are sound cancelling, but I'm still extra careful as I cross the living room and open the front door. I slip out into the cool night air, and take a deep breath.

It doesn't take me long to reach the shore, and once my feet touch the sand, I pause for a moment, soaking in the sensations of the breeze, the sand beneath my feet, and the sound of the ocean. I walk straight forward, not stopping until I'm in the water up to my waist. I rub my thumb over the surface of the coin, which hasn't left me since I arrived home. I'm still clinging on to something, the coin is my last connection to Will. I look down at it, and feel tears finally well in my eyes.

I stretch my arm back, and fling the coin into the air. It glints in the moonlight before landing silently in the water. I stare at the spot that it landed for a long time, finally walking back to the beach, and wandering around on the sand for a while. I end up drifting back into town, and walk through the abandoned streets, ending up standing in front of our old house, staring at the front door.

I finally walk up the porch steps and open the front door, closing it behind me quietly. I stand in the entranceway, the house dark and empty, but the memories are flooding through me, and I see visions of happy days spent with my family. I wander through the rooms, reliving my childhood, which is far from over now. I end up in my brothers old bedroom, sitting on Will's bed. I finally break down and start sobbing, rocking back and forth as I start shaking.

"I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...I'm sorry...It's all my fault...I failed you...I'm sorry..."

I slowly become conscious again, and the first thing that registers is something warm and sticky covering my hand. I open my eyes and sit up, my head pounding I rub my forehead and wince as I smear whatever is on my hands across my face. I hold my hand in front of me and when my eyes adjust I gasp, staring at my hand in disbelief. It's covered in blood.

I frown as I glance down and see a slim dagger gripped in my other hand, the blade still stained red. I drop it as if it was a snake, and slide away from it. I stand up, sway and almost fall over, dizzy from blood loss. I'm scared and disoriented, as I try to find where exactly I've been wounded. I feel sick as I look down at my arm and see what the knife did to me.

Traced onto my arm are the initials of every tribute from my games alongside their District. It's hard to see them because of all the blood, but I slowly look over each mark.

R1: Ruby.

C1: Champion.

S2: Suzan.

B2: Burk.

R3: Rosa.

M3: Milo.

W4: Will.

B5: Betty.

N5: Nick.

W6: Wilma.

H6: Harry.

P7: Patricia.

T7: Troy.

L8: Lola.

V8: Vince.

H9: Hyacinth.

E9: Edward.

M10: Melinda.

S10: Steel.

E11: Elizabeth.

S11: Steven.

A12: Abigail.

A12: Aspen.

On my arm the scrawled initials and District numbers look savage and barbaric. I know that I've lost a lot of blood, and I'm losing more by the minute, but my brain seems to have stopped functioning properly. I back up until my back hits the wall and I slide to the floor, staring at the blood slowly seeping out of my arm, sliding down to my fingertips and dripping off onto the floor.

Through the corner of my eye I see the first ray of dawn peaking through the window. I must have been blacked out longer than I thought. What feels like a lifetime later, I hear the front door burst open and a frantic shout.

"Mags!"

I remain motionless, my mouth seems to be fused shut.

"Mags!"

Footsteps up the stairs, and a moment later the door slams open and I slowly look up, tears running down my cheeks.

"Mags..."

Felix's voice is laced with a mixture of relief and worry. Father must have discovered I was missing and asked him to look for me.

"Felix...I...I don't know what happened."

I stammer as he slowly crouches in front of me. He gently takes my hands and turns my arm, pain creasing his brow as he sees the damage."Oh Mags..."

My shoulders shake as I begin to cry.

"He's gone Felix, he's gone and it hurts so much I can hardly breathe. He's never coming back...and it's all my fault."

He pulls me into his arms and holds me, slowly rocking me back and forth.

"It's not your fault Mags. You can't keep blaming yourself...you can't keep punishing yourself.""I don't know what's wrong with me...I don't remember anything...I didn't want to hurt myself."

I bury my head in his neck and clutch the front of his shirt tightly.

"I don't think I can take it anymore Felix...I feel so tired, and worn, and there's this weight on my chest all the time and it's crushing me. I can't breathe, I can't sleep, I feel like I'm just going to explode."

I'm sobbing now, and his arms have grown tighter around me.

"Mags...it's not your fault, you need to let go. Will wanted you to be happy."

"I know, but he knew I couldn't...not without him."

The sobs have finally stopped, and now I'm just sitting on his lap, my head resting against his chest. He's slowly brushing a hand down my hair soothingly, his cheek resting on my head.

"You can. Do you remember when you first got home? Do you remember how you felt?"

I nod slowly.

"Do you remember how happy you were when you saw me?"

I nod again.

"Right, you were happy. That's what Will wanted for you, he wanted you to live your life."

He places a kiss on my temple, and lifts me in his arms."Come on, I'm going to take you home."

I grab his arm tightly.

"No! Please...don't take me back. The new house..."

I trail off, and he nods.

"Okay..."

I close my eyes as he takes me outside. I don't open my eyes again until I hear a door open, and Felix sets me down in a chair. We're at his house, a small, cozy bungalow type right on the beach. He set me in on a chair in the living room.

"I'm going to get something to clean you up okay?"

I nod, and curl up on the chair, holding my arm in my lap so I won't get any blood on the chair. He returns in a minute with a large bowl full of warm water and a dishcloth. He crouches in front of me and gently takes my arm, holding it over the bowl as he washes the blood off.

"Sorry, this might sting."

I shake my head.

"It doesn't hurt..."

The arena has majorly boosted my pain tolerance, I don't feel anything on my arm except a vague sting. Once Felix cleans off all the blood, he gets a roll of bandages, and carefully wraps my arm from the elbow to the wrist. He ties off the bandage and then kisses my hand.

"Come on, let's get you out of those bloody clothes."

He offers to carry me again, but I just take his hand and follow him to his bedroom. He hands me one of his T-shirts and a pair of boxers, I duck into the bathroom and pull on the boxers, I pause before pulling on the T-shirt, surveying my scarred body sadly. Then I pull the T-shirt over my head and walk back into Felix's room. He's shirtless, and digging through his drawers for something to wear. I smile slightly as I stare at his bare back, tan and well muscled from years of hard work. He turns his head slightly and grins at me.

"Enjoying the view?"

I shrug slightly.

"It's okay."

He raises his eyebrows and walks over to me."Oh really?"

I smile at him, and cross my arms.

"Yep."

He runs his hands down my arms, and takes my hands. Leaning forward until his lips are an inch from mine, he drops his voice to a whisper.

"Well, what do you think of this?"

He just barely brushes his lips against mine, sending shivers running through me, and leaves my lips tingling.

"I don't know...I might need more convincing."

He grins and kisses me again, this time like he actually means it. I smile against his lips and then run my hands up his chest, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him closer. He pulls away, and laughs at my indignant expression, he plants a soft kiss on my nose and then takes my hand.

"Come on you."

We walk through his back door, and he pulls me over to the hammock set up between the wall and a palm tree. It's round, and almost nest-like. He sits down and pulls me in with him. I giggle as I fall on top of him, and he groans in protest.

"Watch it."

I cross my arms on his chest and look down at him. He lifts his hand up and brushes his fingertips over my face.

"I love you."

I lean down and kiss him slowly, finally pulling away and saying with a smile."I love you too."

He wraps his arms around me and I lay down with him, resting my head against his chest, listening to the familiar beat of his heart. I trace the spot over his heart with my finger.

"You know, when two people are close to each other long enough, their hearts begin to beat in time with each other."

"Oh really?"

I nod and close my eyes, letting out a sigh as I enjoy just being here with him. In this moment there's just us, and the ocean. Perfect peace and relaxation. If only it could be like this forever. I let my body relax, and focus on the sound of his heartbeat, listening to it beat in time with mine. The steady beat is shadowed by the sound of the waves washing against the shore. It's all so steady, constantly beating, constantly moving. I feel Felix playing with my hair, and I smile before I feel myself drift off.

"I'm going to find you Mags...it's only a matter of when and where. But I will find you!"

"No!"

I scream as I sit up and cover my ears, tears running down my cheeks. Why won't he leave me alone? I don't understand why he haunts me. I don't even know who he is...there's a vague memory, the shadow of a man, but I can never focus on it. I have never been able to unveil that part of my past, my mind is trying to protect me from something, and so it has blocked off all memories that are in any way connected to him.

"Mags?"

I notice for the first time that I'm on Felix's bed, alone. His voice is coming from somewhere in the house.

"Felix!"

He appears in the doorway and is at my side in an instant. Sitting on the bed and holding me tightly.

"Shhh, it's okay, you're safe, I'm here."

I wrap my arms around him tightly, and sob into his shoulder. He rubs my back soothingly and kisses the top of my head.

"It was just a dream. You're safe."

"What happened?"

He pulls away slightly and looks at me confused.

"What do you mean?"

I sniff and wipe my cheek with the back of my hand.

"How did I get in here? Why did you leave?"

He wipes my tears of gently.

"You fell asleep and a storm was coming so I carried you inside. I just left for a minute to let your father know that you were safe...I'm sorry I thought you would be fine. You were sleeping so peacefully."

I rub my forehead and sigh.

"I haven't had a peaceful or restful sleep in..."

I try to think about the last time I really slept well.

"I don't know...a long time."

He smooths my hair and looks into my eyes. I look into his deep brown eyes, so soft and gentle. He's really got that puppy thing down.

"Is it because of the games?"

I swallow hard. How can I tell him? How can I make him understand? I can't. He can never really understand. Only other Victors know what it's like. What it's really like.

"Mags?"

His voice grows distant, and all I can see are replays of the games. The hell that I lived through. Will it never end? Am I going to be forced to live like this forever? To be afraid and alone, haunted in sleep, tormented in wakefulness. To try and live the rest of my life as normally as I can, forcing myself to ignore the memories, the guilt, the pain for the rest of my life? Panic surges through me at the thought of having to live like this forever. I can't. I will be driven mad if I have to.

"I can't do this."

I gasp out, staring at Felix with tormented eyes. Shock crosses his face as I jump up and run out of the house.

"Mags!"

I hear him shout after me, but I can't stop. I need to escape, to get away from everything. I run out the back door and my feet hit the sand, slowing my progress slightly. I run as fast as I can until I see the beach. I stumble and slide down a dune, landing on my knees on the open beach. I gasp and scramble to my feet, running towards the water as thunder growls overhead. Dark clouds collect into a dark mass in the sky, mirroring the ocean's gray turmoil. the wind picks up and hurls grains of sand against me, stinging my skin. My hair whips around me as lightning rips through the clouds, and another roll of thunder adds to the sound of the storm.

I stop when my feet are barely touching the water, cold and wild, it churns and froths violently, and even in all this turmoil it still moves with fluid and graceful power. The first sheets of rain are released from the sky, and instantly soak me, creating thousands of little dents in the sand. I lift my head to look at the clouds, watching lightning strike with brilliant force, wild cracks of light that split the clouds apart.

"Mags!"

I can barely catch his voice over the storm and I turn to see Felix standing about ten feet away. His hair is being whipped around his head, and rain is pouring over his clothes. He walks over until he's facing me.

"Mags what's wrong?"

My chest feels heavy and tight, like it might crush me at any moment, and if I don't let out all this pent up emotion it will kill me.

"Everything! Everything is wrong!"

I scream, tears streaking down my cheeks to join the raindrops. Felix takes my hands.

"What can I do? How can I help you?"

I pull my hands away and shake my head.

"You can't! There's nothing you can do!"

He runs his hands through his wet hair, trying to push it back from his face as the wind whips it back.

"There has to be something!"

I shake my head again."No there isn't! You can't even begin to understand what I'm going through!"

He takes my hands again, holding onto them tightly.

"Then tell me! Make me understand!"

I feel my body shaking, whether from cold, fear or just nerves I can't tell.

"I...I don't know how..."

He looks into my eyes and says gently."Please...help me understand. Tell me what you're going through so that I can help you."

I drop my head, and stare at the ground, watching the rain make the sand come alive with movement. The only way I can make him understand...to really show him what I'm going through, is to hurt him. And I don't want him to feel what I feel all the time. It's taken him years to get over the pain.

"Mags...please."

I look up, and shake my head slowly."I...I can't. I can't do that to you."

He rests his forehead against mine and says slowly."Mags, I love you more than you can ever imagine. I would, and will do anything for you. Please help me to understand what you're going through. I need to know, because I have to take care of you. If I can't keep you safe, if I can't help take away your pain...then it hurts me more than you can ever know. It tortures me to see you like this, and not know what to do. To be completely helpless as I watch you break apart. Please tell me."

I nod slowly, and take a deep breath."Everything you felt five years ago, from the reaping on, everything you felt when you watched your sister in the games, helpless to protect her as you were forced to watch her die. Imagine being in the games, having the chance to protect her, and to take care of her...and failing. Watching her die when you could have saved her, when you were still helpless, but right there, then holding her as she died. Being forced to just keep going even though the only thing you wanted was to die, but you couldn't because she asked you to win. So you go to the end, and you watch everyone else die, so that you could live, and return home to the nightmares, the guilt, the ever present pain."

I can feel his arms trembling as he grits his teeth and closes his eyes. He knows...I've opened old wounds and he's feeling that pain again. The pain of losing someone so close to you, it's like losing part of your soul. But I have to continue, I have to let him know everything.

"It's not living Felix, it's like being thrown into a pit, where there's only pain and suffering. Where you exist between life and death, forced to live normally in the day, while being tormented by death all night. The arena changes you Felix, it takes away every piece of happiness inside you, until you're left with nothing but the darkest parts of yourself that you've never wanted to know. The only escape is death, because winning is worse. You are taunted with happiness, letting you feel the joy of life once again, only to be reminded over, and over, and over again that it could be taken all away. That it is just the illusion of happiness."

I sob and cling to his soaked shirt. His arms wrap around me and I feel like the whole world is breaking around us.

"I'm so scared Felix. I can't live like this. I'm so scared all the time, scared that anything and everything good that's ever happened to me will be taken away, that anything that could give me the slightest bit of joy will be ripped away from me and destroyed. And I'll be left alone...scared with nothing but the darkness around me. Not daring to search for comfort in fear that it will be only taken away."

The storm suddenly grows quiet, and the rain stops. Felix pulls away from me slightly, and turns me to face the ocean."Mags look."

The clouds have parted slightly, and the sun is shining through, bright golden beams stream out between the clouds and bathe the sand with light. A rainbow stretches across the ocean, bright and beautiful. Felix wraps his arms around me, and rests his cheek against my head.

"No matter how dark and terrible the storm is, the sun always comes out. There is darkness and evil in this world Mags, but there is also light and joy, real happiness."

I feel a small weight lifted from me, but I shake my head, saying defeated."But there will always be darkness to cover the light."

Felix shakes his head.

"You're wrong, light will always win. If there was a single flame burning, and the entire world went black. It would never be able to cover the flame. No matter how much darkness there is, it can never take out the light. It will always be there, like the sun during a storm. We can't see it, but it's still there, and it will break through the storm to shine again."

I let out a sigh, and close my eyes. Feeling the sun on my skin, soaking up it's warmth.

"So you're telling me not to give in to the darkness? To search for light even when it seems like there isn't any?"

He nods, and kisses my temple.

"Yes. Because there is always light, you just have to find it. Promise me you'll always look? Especially when it seems impossible, promise me that you'll look for the light."

I turn around and wrap my arms around him tightly.

"I promise."

Authors Note: Bit of a heavy chapter I know...

But I needed to show you all what exactly she's having to deal with and all that so that you'll understand her better during the rest of the story. Also we see her show Felix what she's going through, and now he can empathize because he can relate, maybe not completely, but he did lose his sister in the games, and he was helpless to save her so yep...

Now that we've gotten all that pain and suffering out in the open between them two, we will be seeing a lot more happiness because Mags knows that he understands, and he's able to help her move on and adapt.

I'm not exactly sure when I'm going to be revealing who the mystery man is, or Pixie's secret, it could be before or after the victory tour. (yes I will be writing about that, and yes Dash will be involved :P) He helps her deal through some things as well...but that's all I'm saying!

As always, thanks so much for reading, and I would really appreciate a review! Until next time Hamiltons!

Wendy

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