I find myself waking up to the dawn, her silhouette a blending of both dark and light against the brightening blue sky. I turn to my left to find Rue sleeping much closer to me than last night. She turns around, finding me awake and tells me that she's going to scout ahead.
I nod, watching her walk away. Rue stirs and rubs her eyes, letting out a sigh. She smiles at me sleepily, "Morning,"
"Morning," I reply.
"Where'd Katniss go?"
"She went off to scout the area."
"Has she slept yet?"
"I'm not sure," I tell her honestly. I remember the two of us looking outwards into darkness and it was so peaceful it was unnerving. We didn't talk for the remainder of the night—it didn't seem like either of us needed to; although her body had visibly relaxed, her fingers weaving through Rue's dark hair, with the occasional glance at me. She had laid her head and at the sound of her soft snores, I had gotten up and left, not glancing back though I had wanted to. The moon had suddenly looked deadlier.
I pull out the message that I had received in the middle of the night, staring intently at it.
Keep up the good work.
After coming back, I had sat down and next thing I know I saw her in front of me. Funny, I don't remember sleeping.
Rue shuffles out of our hiding place, stretching limber arms. "Katniss!" she greets joyfully.
Katniss pats her head, smiling. When she turns to me her face is serious but doesn't seem to have the animosity that it usually has toward me. I blink at the lack of that feeling—it makes her face look less sharp somehow, more approachable. Don't know if I like it or not.
"I found a camp nearby," she says, "The people there have a lot of supplies."
"How much?" Rue asks.
"Almost the entire stash that was at the Cornucopia; it looks like they had rigged it with explosives too."
"How can you tell?"
I know—we were taught to think outside the box and it comes to me immediately, the rigged bombs beneath out feet when we entered the Arena so long ago. Although such weaponry was rare, Clove and I would've thought of this together. It has to be her, and possibly Marvel if they're still a…team.
Something tightens in me at those words. Why wouldn't she have looked for me?
"What do we plan to do?" I ask.
"We're going to go over there and set them off," she explains, "They won't have any supplies after that."
"We won't either," Rue pipes up.
"That's true," she says, touching the little girl's head, "We won't either. But, at this point, we need to make sure no one else does. Besides, we're alright," she adds, nudging Rue affectionately.
Rue and she walk ahead of me, looking around for materials they can use for their plan. I say theirs because I'm really just the muscle that carries the heavier branches and leaves to the piles. I do it silently, listening to the converse, her calm, steady voice contrasting with Rue's brighter one. I guess it's too silent because she comes over and pulls me aside.
"Don't betray us,"
"I know that they're friends of yours but if you turn on us, I'll kill you,"
"Wouldn't you have killed me eventually?"
She says nothing, she just stares. She's close, head tilted back, and her breath hits the skin of my neck. The sunlight brightens her gray eyes, and her face is shadowed by the threat.
"Answer me," she murmurs, "Will you stay with us?"
Her eyes flicker to Rue for a fraction of a second, and I think of President Snow in that time too, his face white and solid in my memory.
Skeptical but appeased, she leaves me.
We set the piles on fire when she leaves. It's been agreed that Katniss would be the one to set off the bombs, with her skill of the bow and that she is better at sneaking in the forest than I am. Rue and I set off the piles when we're sure it's time.
"I'm a little scared," whispers Rue.
"You'll be fine," I assure her.
"Don't you mean we'll be fine?"
"You and Katniss?"
My heart jumps a little at her concern. This isn't good. "Yeah, maybe,"
We're nearly done with the piles, coming to the end. Rue lets out a whistle with four notes, which she used back home. Katniss must not be nearby yet because the birds don't respond with hers, which is higher in pitch than Rue's.
But then there's a boy crashing through the forest and I swing out my sword, ready to fight. He scurries off, not looking back.
"Come back, you coward!"
Her voice rings out to me.
The stiletto slices the air, hitting the boy in the back of the neck and he falls. Rue gasps, grasping my arm tightly. I push her behind me, guarding her from who I know. Clove breaks through and her dark eyes reach mine, and they widen on her face.
My heart freezes as my body sprints forward, tightly wound and sprung. She dodges my sword, slashing downward and it narrowly misses her thigh. She pulls into her jacket, knife glinting, her face contorting in rage and disgust.
Her knife slashes my cheek, unable to throw. She glares, shouting, "Why would you do this?"
My lips tighten, jaw locked and we dance around each other, each of us forgetting what we mean to one another. How I've known her for years, how I know her secrets, how she moves, how she thinks, how she laughs, how she's my best friend—the only friend I've ever had.
But she moves toward Rue—small, helpless and hers—that I don't hesitate anymore—my sword buries itself into her gut, her blood on my hands and my heart can't decide whether to stop or pulse itself into a heart attack. She slumps forward, her forehead pressed against my shoulder, the scent of dirt and sweat hitting my nostrils, but the one of death is overwhelming.
Blood spurts from her mouth, staining my clothes, soaking through. She breathes shallowly, swallowing the red. Her eyes stare at me blankly. She reaches for my cheek, fingers on the cut she left there, marking me forever with the fact that we never really thought we'd hurt each other.
It just seemed so unfathomable.
I find myself merely looking down at her, lost in her eyes, dark, bottomless. Becoming emptier.
She says something so low I can't hear. Her eyes cloud, breath leaving her in a sigh.
I close her eyes, then I lay her body gently. Immediately, I get up, ignoring the way my hands shake, and take Rue by the hand, dragging her away. She lets out the whistle again and birds answer her call.
"Clove!" I hear behind me, and I have the stupid guilt that makes me look back. Marvel kneels at her side, cradling her head, shaking her and I swallow hard as I tear my eyes away, thinking of I should be holding her, how that should be me crying out her name, but I'm not. I never will be again.
I get Rue far away and it isn't until nightfall that we see her coming toward us. She stops, staring at me as Rue dashes forward, arms holding the Girl on Fire tightly. As she returns the embrace tenderly, sisterly, she looks back up after kissing Rue on the head.
There aren't any words when we get ready to sleep. Rue slumbers between us, nestled in the comfort of our protection. But she finally turns my way again. I don't meet her eyes.
If I do, I don't know what might happen.
I might kill her. I might just stare back. I might actually break under her gaze.
Then, "Thank you, for saving her life."
My eyes have been staring at the moon, and I look down. I walk away where she can't see me, lost in thought, sick and tired suddenly. But that's only what I desperately want to do, and I can only do it in my head. If I leave, she'll doubt me, and she can't doubt me. Not yet.
But maybe I deserve this; I killed Peeta after all…
"Yeah…" My voice is hushed.
I lie down, staring at the sky. The Girl on Fire stares at me with eyes that remind me of home, quieter than the stars. Inside my head, I'm screaming. And, in the rampant noise, words come to my mind, unbidden.
Keep up the good work.