The 100th Games

The Arena: Sting

Bas –

We start walking once the sun rises. I’m ready to go before then, sleep never really coming to me. I’m a heavy sleeper, or I used to be, not in here though. My stomach growls and a part of me regrets giving Springer the last of my roots. I’ll find more. Right now finding Ivy is more important. If I can find her, that is. I don’t have any idea where to look and I’m not even sure Callie and Teddy will help me look.

Still, sticking with Callie and reuniting with Teddy seems like the smart move. At least for now. Haymitch told us to have allies and that’s what I’m doing. They’re good people. No, I can’t think that. I can’t think that when they’ll probably be dead.

But I can’t help thinking it.

I’m not a killer. I’m not a victor. I’m just a kid from Twelve born with the unlucky last name of Mellark. That’s not true. I don’t think it’s unlucky. It won the games before. It got the attention of people willing to fight. The name carries weight. The name is mine. I won’t let it be unlucky.

My mother thinks she’s a curse, doomed to live while everyone around her dies. I do what I can to try to make her feel better, to be there for her, but there’s only so much I can do. My father is better at it and my sister worse. There was a time where I thought learning how to shoot and go into the woods would help her feel better, but it didn’t and I hated it. So I stopped.

I don’t know if that was a smart move or not. I’d probably be better off in here if I had stuck with it. It’s probably what’s kept Ivy alive. I don’t know how I’ve managed but I have. Maybe I’m not the target yet or maybe the Gamemakers are waiting to target me when it’s convenient, when it’ll matter more.

It’s probably the same reason my mother is still alive. They couldn’t kill her yet, they had to wait. They had to kill her in other ways before taking the rest of her.

I won’t become that. I won’t let them do that to me. I won’t let them do that to my sister or anyone else I love.

I’ll die before that happens.

I’m sure the arena is going to end me anyway, but I like to think I’m noble. I like to think I’m a better man and not just a scared boy. I saw Grover’s face in the sky and even though another boy was dead I saw myself. He was my age, his life cut short just like mine will be.

And I can’t help but think there are things I wish I could have done before ending up here. I wish I could have said I love you more. I wish I could have had a first kiss. I wish I could have spent more time in the bakery even though I hated it. I wish I could have spent more time in the woods even though I hated it. I hated a lot of things and I wish my family knew that I didn’t really hate them. I want them to know that I’m sorry for being stubborn and occasionally mean. I’m sorry I couldn’t be better than I was. I should have been.

And even more I wish my mother could stop being afraid, to do what she needs to do, and I wish I could help her. I tried to help her, it went badly, but I tried and I would try again.

Ivy needs to know that I love her, that whatever happens to me isn’t her fault, and that she needs to keep going.

I feel like I’m already dead and all I’m doing is walking closer towards it. But my goodbyes have been running through my head since the cornucopia. My goodbyes and my regrets and they’re only getting worse as time goes on.

“Keep up,” Callie calls in front of me as I stop to take a breath. It’s still morning but it feels like we’ve been walking all day. Maybe that’s just my exhaustion getting to me.

A few trees come into view and I see someone in the distance standing. They watch us as we approach, one hand at something on their belt.

“Teddy!” Callie starts to jog and the figure relaxes. Teddy comes into view a moment later, a stern look on his face.

He picks a pack up from the ground and swings it over his shoulder walking towards us. The stern look never leaves him as he rounds on Callie, “I told you not to go too far.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I got held up.”

He relaxes as he pulls her into a hug then he points to me. She nods.

“A mutt attacked. He killed it,” she says.

“Then I guess I owe you,” Teddy tells me with a slap on my back. He indicates the backpack around his shoulder. “What do you want? Some apples, some roots, I might have some fish left.”

I shake my head despite my growling stomach. If there was ever a time to ask for help this was it. “I need to find my sister.”

“I haven’t seen your sister.”

“Can you help me look?” I ask.

Callie gives Teddy a look as he starts to shake his head. “Listen, we kind of have a survival strategy in place and I’m not about to go wandering around the arena to look for someone who we probably won’t find. At least, not until the end, if you both survive.”

“Teddy,” Callie breathes.

“No. I’m sorry it’s not happening.” He scratches at a small welt on his neck that he probably got from the acid rain.

“I saved her life,” I try.

“You put it in danger in the first place,” Callie says.

“You did what?” Teddy asks.

I talk over him, “Please, okay, I just, I can’t look for her by myself. I need to find my sister. Can you understand that? Imagine if it was Callie lost, wouldn’t you go looking for her?”

“That’s why we had a plan.”

“She did too. And I didn’t find her when I had the chance. I thought it was better if we were apart but I know now that’s not true. Please, it’ll be easier with three of us.” I take a breath, my throat swelling, and I remember the cornucopia. I saw her, I know I did, and I saw Cain, and there was a chance I could have made it to her. I could have gone to her, but I ran away.

Teddy looks down, and I don’t know if he’s coming up with another way to say no or actually thinking it over. Callie watches him, waiting for his lead and arguing is wasting time. I have to keep looking.

“You don’t have to help me. You can just do what you’re doing. Good luck,” I say and I start towards the woods.

Callie says something to Teddy that I can’t make out but it’s followed by muffled arguing that gets further away the more I continue walking.

I hear footsteps behind me and Teddy’s hand finds my shoulder. I take a relieved breath and turn around to face him.

“We’ll help you, but once we find your sister we’re gone.” Teddy looks to Callie and she nods in agreement.

“Deal.” I hold out my hand. Teddy looks at it.

“This is the arena, no handshakes.” He raises an eyebrow and gives me a smirk, he’s joking but the tone is still there, I need to take this seriously. And I will. I do.

“So where would she go?” He asks, tossing Callie an apple.

“You checked for tracker jackers before you climbed the tree, right?” Callie asks. Teddy waves her off.

“It was fine. So where would she go?” He repeats.

“She’d feel safest in the woods.”

“You think she has allies?” Callie mumbles through a mouth full of chewed up apple.

“I doubt it. She was very clear about not wanting any.”

“Is she…” Teddy trails off, watching something over my shoulder. He shakes his head, “Sorry, thought I saw someone. Is she the type to attack first and ask questions later?”

I shake my head. “She’s never been like that.”

“A lot of us have never been like a lot of things, but you do stuff in here.” Teddy stiffens at some memory. Callie puts a hand on his shoulder.

“We were attacked by the Careers. They almost had us when he managed to stab one of them.”

“Which one?”

“Cain.”

“How bad?”

“Not that bad. Got him in the stomach, he walked away fine. We ran. Still, never thought I’d be capable of that.” He rubs a hand on the back of his neck and I notice sweat forming in beads, running down onto his shirt. It’s not that hot out, he shouldn’t be sweating. He sucks in a breath, “We need to get moving. I don’t want to be out here when night falls. Here.”

He tosses me an apple, but I keep watching the sweat on his neck. Is he sick? He turns and starts walking, Callie right beside him, and my stomach growls again. I take a bite. It’s sweet, almost sickly sweet compared to the roots I’ve been living off of, but I’m happy for the change of flavor.

“Don’t fall behind, toast boy,” Teddy calls back to me with a laugh.

“What did you call me?” I run to catch up.

“Well, your sister is the princess, and your mother is the girl on fire, your father is the baker, so that makes you toast. The Capitol didn’t give you an interesting nickname that’s what we call you,” Callie tells me, her smile mirroring Teddy’s.

“Does anyone else call me that?”

She shrugs, “Not as far as we know.”

“They probably will now though,” Teddy adds as we reach the woods. We walk inside, the shade engulfing us. The temperature drops a few more degrees and I zip up my jacket, shoving my hands in the pockets. Teddy doesn’t seem to notice, wiping more sweat from his forehead, drinking from his canteen like he’s been in the desert.

Callie spares the occasional worried glance, but otherwise says nothing. Maybe he’s not one to be told he’s sick or babied by others. Maybe he’s worried too. Whatever he has could make it easier for another tribute to kill him. Maybe that’s why he says nothing and Callie follows his lead.

And I follow hers. I need them to help me find Ivy. Three sets of eyes are better than one. I can’t lose these allies.

“Bas, maybe you should lead,” Callie starts, “She’s your sister, you’d know her best.”

I nod and take point. Teddy and Callie fall behind me, their feet crushing leaves and sticks as we walk further into the woods. The wind picks up a bit and more leaves fall around us. This isn’t the place Ivy would hide. It’s too loud, too easy to get lost in. She’d look for shelter, where there was less brush to get caught up in. She’d go somewhere easy to escape if necessary and easy to hunt silently in.

“We need to find some water. She’d stick by that. And watch out for traps, she’d set those too.”

“And what happens if we step on a trap,” Callie quips.

“Then we know we’re in the right place,” I reply, picking up the pace. They follow behind, though I hear heavy breaths coming from Teddy. Again I want to know what’s wrong, but there’s nothing I can say. Callie knows him best. Callie will say something if she has to.

I just have to trust them as much as I can.

I really wish I still had my knife.

We keep moving but don’t find any sign of shelter or water. It goes like this for hours until we have to stop to rest.

Teddy gulps down water.

“You should pace yourself. We don’t know if there’s any water in here,” I try.

“Who are you my mother?” Teddy asks his voice harsh and strained.

Callie gives him a worried look. He sighs, “Sorry. I’m just…I’m tired sorry. Heads a little fuzzy. I’ll be okay.”

“Are you feeling alright?” I ask, approaching him. Teddy glances to Callie and there’s an almost disappointed look to his face, a worried one following.

“Yeah. Like I said my heads a little weird, I’ll be fine. I probably just ate some bad fish yesterday.”

“We didn’t have fish yesterday,” Callie says quietly.

“Then the other day, I had some left over. It’s fine. I’m fine.” He stands and heads off, “I’m gonna get some firewood, we should camp here.”

“It’s not even close to dark yet,” I argue, following after him.

“I don’t want to be searching when it is dark. You want to find your sister, we do it smart. I’m getting firewood.” Teddy marches away, finishing off what’s left of his water and dropping the canteen on the ground.

I pick it up and walk back to Callie. I hand it over to her wordlessly. She bites her lip as she examines it.

“What do you think is wrong?” I ask.

She shakes her head. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. At first I thought it was a tracker jacker sting, but that hits you quick, you start hallucinating and you can’t stand up. This is something different.”

“Maybe it was just some bad fish.”

“Maybe,” she continues to chew her lip, gripping the canteen, “Or maybe it’s something worse.” She closes the lid of the canteen and shakes it. “He’s going to need more water. Let’s hope your sister has some.”

She smiles, ending the conversation, trying to pretend nothing is wrong. We have to pretend, especially in here, especially when there are sponsors on the line. Sponsors that could send Teddy medicine if he ends up needing it. And I understand why neither one of them brought up his sickness. If he can still move and fight and survive, even when he’s ill, and she pretends like it’s nothing, if they act like careers, then they have a better chance.

And I ruined it by asking.

Teddy returns with a stack of firewood, a hatchet buried in one of the logs. A knife still hangs at his belt and I wonder how he managed to get two weapons from the cornucopia and a pack of food. Unless Callie and he had a strategy for that too, they probably did.

I should have planned better. I should have tried harder to convince Ivy of a plan. And maybe we would have come up with one the night before the arena, but then the peacekeepers arrived and Cinna…

Cinna.

I remember the gun shot, the blood, being dragged away from my sister, from my parents. And any hope of surviving together was gone.

I remember the night before the arena where I stared out the window of my prison. They call it a bedroom. They give you luxury and expect you to be grateful. But it’s a lie, it’s a cell. One you’re trapped in until they drag you out to play their games. And I watched the sky go from dark to grey to the purples of dawn from that cell.

I watched the possible last night of my life fade before my eyes. And I thought about throwing myself from that window. I thought about making it easier. I don’t want to die in their arena. I don’t want to play their game. But I have to.

And I’m sure there’s a force field on that window anyway, preventing anyone from playing out that plan. You’re doomed the moment they call your name at the reaping. I was doomed the second they announced the Quell. There’s no way out.

Teddy hacks at a log while Callie sets some dried twigs and leaves after digging out a small pit. Callie pulls a box of matches from the pack and lights the brush, Teddy throws a log on the fire. They’re silent and in sync like it’s a routine, like it’s the way they’ve always done things and maybe they have. Once again I’m reminded that I should’ve had a plan.

“Don’t make it too big, we don’t want the Careers to see it,” I warn them. I don’t know how far they are from us but I don’t want to draw attention to ourselves regardless. Although I suppose there is a chance Ivy could see the smoke and come looking. No, she wouldn’t look. She’d leave whomever the tribute was at peace, for whoever wanted to play to find.

Teddy freezes in his chopping and reattaches the hatchet to his belt next to the knife. He pushes the wood to the side. “That’s good for now.”

He scratches at the welt on his neck. It’s larger than it was before with what looks like a green spider web of veins running out from it.

“Teddy, how did that happen?” I point to the welt. He touches it with his hand.

“I…the rain,” he tries, his voice wavers and he looks around, he’s not sure.

“Can I?” I move forward, my welts have been healing, drying and disappearing. The rain was days ago and this doesn’t look the same. This is something else.

Teddy backs away. “It’s nothing.” His eyes are glaring and I know to back off. He can’t seem weak. None of us can afford that. So I listen and I sit down beside a tree.

“I’ll keep watch if you want to sleep,” Callie says to us. Teddy nods, sitting directly across from me at another tree. He watches me and I can’t tell if he’s looking at me like prey or a threat. It’s a radically different Teddy from the one I met in training and the one who I allied with earlier today. Whatever is causing this and I have a good idea that something poisoned him; it’s making him act different. It’s creating fear and rage where there was none. And I don’t know what could cause that.

Even worse, I don’t know what to do about it.

“Teddy, I need the knife,” Callie says holding out her hand. His eyes dart to her and he grips the weapons on his belt. His eyes come back to me and I notice they’re starting to become a bright red. Something is very wrong.

“Teddy,” she repeats and he snaps his attention back to her, nodding, forcing a smile.

“Right. Here.” He pulls the knife from his belt and holds it out for her to take, his hands quivering and shaking. She takes it slowly, watching the way his fingers twitch involuntarily. I don’t have to see her face to know she’s concerned. Her shoulders sag as she takes the knife and places a hand on Teddy’s head.

“Get some sleep,” she whispers. He smiles weakly and leans against his tree. His eyes close shortly thereafter and I can feel the tiredness weighing on me as the sun starts to set.

Callie circles around us, holding the knife by the hilt, watching Teddy and the woods as she passes. Her footsteps are a constant that lulls me to sleep despite my anxiety. She shouldn’t be the only one awake worrying about Teddy and other tributes.

But I can’t fight sleep anymore. I almost want to say I’m sorry as my eyes close but I don’t. I’m too far gone.

The cannon wakes me and it feels like my heart is going to explode out of my chest. How long was I asleep? What happened?

A full moon has risen, casting light and shadows all over the woods. Teddy and Callie are gone. The fire is down to embers and I’m alive. But they’re gone.

What happened?

I jump up, the pack is still here, the knife forgotten on the ground, but Teddy and Callie are gone. I pick up the knife and it’s wet. I drop it before I realize why it’s wet. My hand is red and I notice it’s shaking now. There’s blood on my hands. There’s blood on the knife.

What happened?

I pick it up again. I have to find them.

There are scratches on the trees and broken branches and blood marks as I walk further. I don’t even need to know how to track to follow this path. It’s everywhere. Whatever happened it was violent, it was fast, and it left me alive and I don’t know why.

Unless it was going to come back and it didn’t count on the cannon waking me.

I hear a scream and its rage and anguish all curled into one. I start to run, the knife slipping in my hands forcing me to grip it tighter, the blood sticking to me. The trees start to close in and there’s only a small path to move, but I keep running.

I slide on a slick rock, careening into a tree where more blood and scratches greet me. I feel the scratches, they aren’t claw marks. This was done by someone with something sharp. I look at the knife and imitate the marks. It’s close but not quite. This was something flat and wide.

Then I remember the hatchet.

Teddy had the hatchet.

But he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.

I hear the scream again and it doesn’t sound like Callie. It sounds like Teddy. I move as fast as I can in these close woods, ­maybe they were both attacked. Maybe the blood is from whatever Teddy tried to fight off.

But the cannon sounded and Callie is gone too. Which means…

I have to help.

I stop when I come to a large rock surrounded by trees, there’s barely any room to move but I see him standing beside something on the ground, propped against the rock. He screams again at it. In the moonlight I can make out the glistening of tears on his cheeks and the blood on his shirt and face.

What happened?

“T-Teddy?” I call out. He turns, straightening, and he raises the hatchet. Blood drips off the side and down his arm. I glance to the rock and I can make out what looks like some fingers shining in the moonlight. They shouldn’t be shining. And then I realize why as a pool of blood circles what looks like a leg. I fight a wave of nausea and I don’t need to see the rest to know what he was screaming at. Callie. He killed Callie.

“You did this!” He shouts and he charges at me and there’s nothing I can do but struggle through the narrow pathways to get away. He’s not himself, whatever poisoned him did this. The Gamemakers did this. He has to know that.

I stay ahead of him until I break free from the tree line and he tackles me. We roll down a small hill and we’re heading straight for a cliff when I take the knife and slice at his leg. He yells and I pull myself out of his grip and away from the edge.

He stops himself from falling off with the hatchet, pulling himself up to face me, the open cavern behind him. The wind rips around us as a hovercraft picks up Callie and Teddy watches it, the anger returning.

I hold my hands up, the bloody knife in one. “Teddy,” I try but he can’t hear me over the hovercraft.

His breathing is labored and heavy, his eyes red and veins bulging. The welt covers half of his neck and I finally know what it is.

He moves forward and I swing the knife. He backs off, waiting for a sign of weakness.

“You were stung by a tracker jacker,” I say. And Callie had said she didn’t think it was a sting but it is. It’s the first time it’s actually looked like a sting. And the Gamemakers must have modified them to delay the effects, to make the hallucinations feel more threatening, to make you act out.

He shakes his head. “You killed…you career…you mutt…you monster…you.”

“No.”

He jumps at me again, swinging the hatchet and I avoid him. I don’t want to kill him. He needs to know it isn’t his fault. This is their fault. This is the Gamemakers. This is President Snow. This is the Capitol. He’s just a victim of this game, just like Callie.

He slashes with the hatchet catching my side in it. I can feel it rip through my jacket and tear into my skin. It’s not deep but it doesn’t feel pleasant. I kick him back and cut with my knife again but he’s quick and punches me in the side of the face. He throws the hatchet and I duck. He wrestles me to the ground. I punch him in the stomach before I kick him back once more.

“Teddy!” Something in my voice causes him to hesitate and he needs to see that I’m not a threat, that I didn’t do this.

So I take a leap of faith. I stand and I hold the knife to the side, dropping it. The blade sticks into the ground. He watches it like he’s thinking about trying to grab it, but something stops him. I breathe heavily, trying to find my words. I’ve never been the talker, that’s always been Ivy. She’s the actress. She can make the entire country adore her in two syllables. Not me.

But if there was ever a time for me to learn this is it.

“Teddy, l--listen to me. I didn’t kill Callie. And you didn’t either.”

He shakes his head and the tears are starting to fall, “I did.” He claws at his neck and grips his hair.

“No. It wasn’t you.”

“I felt the blood. I pulled her from the camp, I…” He falls to his knees, heaving onto the ground, the contents of his stomach spilling out. The moon shines almost directly behind him across from the cliff and I wonder if we are at the edge of the arena.

“It wasn’t you. It was that thing on your neck. It was them!” I point around to the sky, to no one, to all of them, sitting in their room watching and manipulating everything in here.

Teddy stares at me but the tears don’t stop and neither do his shaking, clawing hands. He draws blood from the scratches he tears into his neck.

“This is what they do. You didn’t want to be a killer, so they made you one. They wanted to make it interesting, to give the audience emotion, so they had you kill her. It wasn’t you, it was them.”

“You can’t…you shouldn’t…” He stops clawing at himself.

“But I am! And you need to listen to me. We can survive this. We can get out of this.”

“There’s only one winner,” his voice cracks and fades, he’s giving up. He drops his head into the dirt, shaking with shallow breaths.

“Not always,” I say and my voice is loud and angry and bitter. I remember the boy from ten electrocuted on the tracks. I remember Springer too afraid to leave the bridge. I remember faces in the sky of people who should be alive. I try to keep Callie’s face from my mind but it’s too hard when the loss is so fresh.

“We can win.” And I don’t think I’m talking to Teddy anymore. I’m talking to the country, to the Gamemakers, to the Capitol, Hell, to President Snow. “We can win,” I repeat.

And that seems to convince him. That pulls him back. He wipes the tears and picks his head up. I hold out my hand.

“She’s dead.”

“It wasn’t you.”

“It wasn’t me. It was them.”

“We can win.”

He nods, “We can win.”

He reaches for my hand and I remember the mockingjay that I painted. I remember the fear it caused and I want the Capitol to be afraid. They should be afraid. I whistle the mockingjay song, the song Rue told my mother to sing. And I’ve had that song imprinted in my mind since I watched the highlights from her Games.

I can see the hope in Teddy’s eyes, like something restored beneath the pain and he’s going to have a long way to go but there’s hope despite everything. And maybe I’m not so bad at this talking thing after all.

Suddenly, there’s a large cracking sound and I can feel the ground shake. The hope dissolves in an instant, replaced by fear. And Teddy is no longer reaching for my hand. He pushes me away as the rocks fall beneath him and I’m on the grass by the trees staring at nothing in front of me. Nothing but the moon.

I hear a cannon and the distant sound of a hovercraft in the canyon below. I can’t move. I just stare at the empty ground, my hand clinging to a tree, the wind whistling up at me.

I feel numb. I feel nothing.

We can win. What a bullshit statement. We can’t win anything.

I pull myself further into a standing position and my bones ache with a chill. My hand lands on the hatchet, buried into the tree, the blood dried on it. I stare into the canyon again and I rip the hatchet from the tree.

I walk into the woods. I reach our camp where there’s more dried blood and a fire long since out. Still, I feel nothing.

I pick up the pack and I keep walking, going nowhere. And I’m still numb, I feel nothing. I don’t think I’ll ever feel anything again. Until I feel the pinch of pain at my side and I have to stop. And it’s then that the tears finally start, that I choke back sob after sob as it wracks my body.

What hope is there here? None. And now I finally understand why my mother is so afraid. We survive and others die, others face the consequences. And it goes like this over and over and over again. I’m a liar. We can’t win. I brought this on them. This is what trying to win looks like.

I just want it to end.

I should have never helped Callie. I should have taken some food from Teddy and moved on. But what then? Would he have died thinking he was responsible? Would he have died without knowing the truth?

Is this better?

I patch myself up with some gauze in the pack and wander through the woods until the sun rises. I end up back in the field and I don’t know where I’m going. I’m not going anywhere. I can’t find Ivy. They won’t let me find her.

I’m alone. And when the Gamemakers finally decide to put me out of my misery, I’ll be alone then too.

Maybe Ivy will survive. Maybe she gets to be the lucky one. The Victor.

There’s only one Victor.

Not always I had said. Not always.

What was I thinking?

I wander and I keep wandering until I hear the rush of water beside me and I’m back at the river again. Of course I would be back here, of course. Where else would I go?

I feel like I’m supposed to eat, that I should want to eat. I have to keep my strength up, right? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? I’m supposed to be a survivor. I’m supposed to be the son of the star-crossed victors from Twelve. I’m supposed to be important, a fighter, a victor too.

I’m supposed to save people right, isn’t that what I should have done? I should have been faster. I could have been smarter.

I don’t even have a nickname for anyone to rally behind. No one would follow me. No one would listen to me.

But Teddy did. And what did that get him? A cannon and a hovercraft ride back home in a box. I’m not a leader. I’m not anything. And it’s been that way for years. No one should listen to me. I’m not someone to be listened to. I’m not someone to be noticed.

Maybe I am unlucky.

“Bas…”

It’s a whisper over the rush of water and it’s probably in my head. I don’t stop walking. I can’t stop walking. It’s the only thing I can focus on. The ache in my muscles, the burn running up into my chest, it’s all that matters.

“Bas!”

Someone is shouting, screaming, a voice cutting through the ache in my bones. And I have to stop. I know that voice.

“BAS!”

I turn and see her. She’s tired, she’s definitely seen her fair share of loss in this arena but her eyes are wide and she’s shouting and she’s alive. Ivy. She’s alive.

The breath leaves me lungs and I’ve never been so happy to see my sister in my entire life.

She’s across the river on the other side when I first see it. And I can’t believe she’s really here. I have to get to her. It’s shallow. I can get to her. She’s already halfway across before I even register her movements.

And then I start to hurry towards her. The water is cold and cutting and it wakes me up even more than her voice did. Ivy. I repeat her name like a prayer, she’s alive, she’s alive and she’s here.

I suck in a breath and I realize I’m crying and she is too. Her hands brush my hair and she stifles a laugh as she pulls me into the tightest hug she can manage.

It’s then that I remember the cut at my side and all the pain comes rushing back. I can’t help but wince. She breaks the hug and immediately her eyes fall onto my side.

“I’m okay,” I croak out and I can’t help but smile.

“You’re alive,” she breathes.

“So are you.” I wipe the tears from my eyes and I see Beck Cresta standing at the other side of the river watching us.

“Ivy,” my voice drops to a warning and she turns.

“Oh yeah, he’s fine, he’s…ally.”

I raise an eyebrow and she shrugs. I guess she realized she couldn’t go it alone.

“I hate to interrupt this joyous reunion but you might want to get out of the cold water before you get sick,” Beck calls and I’m reminded that I can’t feel my legs anymore.

We make our way to shore where I turn the pack over to Ivy and Beck to dig through. She checks my bandage and hands me some of the remaining salve she received after the acid rain. I apply some to the last of my welts and the cut. Whatever is in it makes the wounds feel immediately better.

We eat some of the fruit in the pack though neither Ivy nor Beck asks where I got it from and I’m grateful for that. And a part of me wants to ask how they got medicine and what happened to Ivy’s jacket but I won’t.

There are some stories that are best left for the cameras and not for each other to tell.

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