The Fighter of the Second Quarter Quell

Chapter 16: The Games, Day 8

Eight left.

"Hold on a second…" Haymitch said, slowing his steps, "look."

As the first rays of sun peeked through the trees, Maysilee stirred awake. She looked confused at the blanket on top of her for a moment before she blushed and folded it quickly before she dropped it onto his lap.

"Get some sleep, I'll give you a few hours," she'd said. Haymitch had lay down and it only felt like five minutes before she was rousing him from his sleep with the same blanket draped across him. He'd only stared at her, keeping her gaze despite her blush as he folded the blanket. They got ready in silence and started walking, stealing glances at each other.

It was only when he had broke the silence did she see some kind of emotion cross her face. Fear.

He shook his head, and motioned at the branches filled with berries around them. They were familiar: they had the spiked leaves and same light purple color of the berries they had argued over in the training gymnasium.

"These are definitely poisonous!" Haymitch said mockingly in a girly voice. She smiled, reaching out and breaking off a branch. She picked a berry, pinching in in her fingers, some juice squirting out.

"Then you just-" she started, saying and doing what he did then, bringing the berry to her mouth.

"No! Everything else here is poisonous, why would this be an exception?" Haymitch said hurriedly, grasping her wrist tightly before she consumed it. She shook her head, raising a brow, and he stopped for a second, thinking the déjà vu was almost too coincidental...

"Smell them," she said, raising it to his nose. He raised an eyebrow, but took a sniff. They smelled exactly like the berries in –

"The Training Center," she finished his thoughts, "if they were poisonous, they would be a different odor, a darker or maybe even lighter color."

She then broke off another branch and handed it to him.

"Start eating… then you might actually kick the bucket from bloat," she said smiling. His heart twitched that she also remembered their rapport back at the training center.

Even though he had his own berries, he reached out and grabbed some berries from the branch in her hand. He noticed the pink in her cheeks and grinned as he popped them into his mouth.

He moaned at the sweet taste. He chewed and swallowed.

"Sweet, despite the thorns. Reminds me of someone…"

Her blush grew, and she grabbed the branch from him with force.

"Better stop while you're ahead. I'm the one with poisonous darts."

He only laughed, and May frowned, grabbing some more branches from the bush and walking away. He grabbed a few more and followed, popping berries into his mouth, his smile impossible to contain.

Another canon blast interrupted the silence, removing his good mood.

He heard a screech of some animal and birds flew out of the trees, flying away in haste. He turned and saw Maysille leaning against a tree, her eyes closed.

"It's not close by. We haven't heard any others for a while," he said, hoping to calm her down, taking a cautious step towards her.

She waved her hand away.

"It's not that, just felt a little dizzy."

He admired her strength in not showing how the noise affected her. He brought his canteen from his pack, and held it forward.

"Take some of mine, I don't need it."

"Shut up," she mumbled, bringing forward her own canteen and bringing it to her lips. She took a gulp, and put it back. "Let's just keep going."

He followed behind her as she continued walking.

"Why?" she asked after a minute or so. He ignored her.

Minutes later, she asked again. And she asked yet again a while later. She kept asking that one word until he stopped and turned, glaring at her.

"Why?" she asked again, a determined look on her face, her hands on her hips.

"Because it has to end somewhere, right?" he asked.

She tilted her head.

"The arena can't go on forever. We've read about the monuments. There has to be a perimeter," he continued.

She sighed, and shook her head.

"But what do you expect to find?" she asked.

"I don't know," he said truthfully, "But maybe there's something we can use," he said. "Get a one up on the others. It's better to fight when you know your back is not vulnerable."

"One up? Haymitch, there isn't going to be more weapons at the edge. It's not extra storage space. Everybody knows the weapons are all in the Cornucopia."

"I know there won't be weapons-"

"Then what?!" she asked, her voice rising. He stepped forward, bringing a finger to his lips.

"I… I don't know what exactly I'll find. But I have this gut feeling. Haven't you had that?"

Her eyebrow twitched, and she said nothing as she turned away.

"Let's keep moving," she said.

Haymitch smiled at the victory as they continued to walk. When night fell, they dug a little under some thorny bushes, using the blankets to protect themselves in their hiding spot. Since there was no need for cover since they were hidden, they didn't have to stand watch, so instead they whispered stories to each other to help fall asleep.

Maysilee spoke of her mother's failed attempts at creating new candies and sweets, some of the worst involving coconut and pumpkin. Haymitch told humiliating stories of failed hunts, including a scar on his hip from a hog, and how he chased a deer for almost a mile, almost following it through the hole in the border fence but deciding against it.

They dozed off together, the crickets and owls giving the night music to drift them off to sleep.

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