A/N: Hello again everyone! Back with another installment. This one will answer a few questions and pose a few more. So i hope everyone enjoys it. I don't have a lot of time to write this A/N so you all get off lightly. I will respond to my anon reviewers on the end of the chapter as soon as I can. Until then, Enjoy the chapter.


Chapter 28


(Peeta)

Well, Katniss took the news a lot better than I expected. It only took her a couple of minutes to calm back down. I was fully prepared to have to defend myself and hold her down for an hour. Maybe there was a time when I would've been right, but she's been so emotionally charged since the games started, especially earlier tonight. I think she might be too drained to put up much fight right now.

She mostly wanted to know who was making all these decisions and why now, why her. I didn't have any of the answers she was looking for. All I know is what I was told, which wasn't all that much. I have ideas why, though. However, something told me that the last thing she needed to hear right then was the fact that this is all because of what we did last year. Actually, it was mostly her; I just opened my big mouth beforehand and helped get the ball rolling. She showed that it was possible to defy the Capitol, even in just the tiniest way, by standing together. If I had to guess I would say that District 13 has been waiting for something like this, and someone like her.

It started when Cinna made her the Girl on Fire. She became a symbol, one so striking and shining that people couldn't help but stare at her. Then the way she fought for her life in the Games, but refused to trade her humanity for it. First, her alliance with Rue. Teaming up with someone from another district, a small girl and possibly the weakest in the arena. Then after showing that it was possible to cripple the Careers all by herself she comes back to face Rue's death. Immediately killing the person who did it, then laying Rue down and singing her to rest the way she did. Taking time to mourn and honor a girl she'd just met, one she was supposed to have been fighting to the death for the sake of the Capitol.

Time and time again she showed the strength it takes to change this place and she did it without even considering what it meant. She did it because that's who she is, and the people could see that. Her intensity, her bravery, her heart was on display for all of Panem, and they fell in love with her as easily as I did. How could they not? Those beautiful gray eyes of hers, proud and defiant. Watching her struggle against odds that should've seen her dead a hundred times over. I watched it for years, they got to see it on camera live for weeks, in situations I wouldn't have even considered possible to survive. Both were more than enough to show her for the incredible person she really is.

I hate to say it, but the only time that she wasn't entirely herself was when she was with me. But the act between us was more for the Capitol, Haymitch manipulating us to get us more support. I can't really complain considering I'm still alive. Actually, I can complain only because I'm still alive, so I should probably just keep it to myself. She really did have me going for a while there, though. I thought she'd come around to seeing me differently, like that. Maybe she even did to some extent, but once we were back home and he was there, that faded quickly. I should've known it would end up something like this. But one of the only things holding my heart and sanity together after what happened was her. So maybe my instinct for self preservation kicked in, and blinded me from what I didn't want to see, so that I would hold on just a little longer.

In hindsight though, self preservation is a bitch. If I knew this is where I was going to end up, married to a girl I love, who is clearly in love with someone else, I would've told my instincts to shove it. Now that I'm here though, in the middle of all this, I find it hard to think that way. I understand the ramifications of what is going on here and it is way bigger than all of us. Now if I'm going to die, it won't be for the Capitol, but for a cause. One worth the sacrifice.

I left Katniss up on the roof so she could have a few minutes alone with her thoughts, and came back down to relieve Cinna. I wanted to tell him to go up and talk to her, but I don't know if him knowing about what is going on would be a good thing or a bad thing. I know that he's not actually from here, and would probably be willing to help us. It's not a risk I can take, though, and it's not my place to tell him, nor Katniss' for that matter. I'll leave that up to the veteran mentors, as far as I can tell they're the ones running this side of things. Truth be told, Cinna may already know, but I still can't take the chance.

Instead I just thank him. And when he asks where Katniss is, I just tell him that she wants to be left alone for now. His lips tighten and his body tenses. Then he sighs and nods ever so slightly. "I'll be around if she needs me." This time it's my turn to nod and tense up. I want to be the one that's there for her, but I know that I'm probably the last person she wants holding her when she cries. So all I can do is rely on Cinna for now. I have no idea what is going to happen after. I don't think even she knows how much the end of the games are going to affect her. All I can do is being here if she needs me. So that's where I'll be.

Standing by the girl I love as she cries over the person she loves. It's quite the exquisite torture that can crush someone's soul without ever touching their body. Only the Capitol could come up with something so perversely profound.


(Dakrin)

Imbeciles. I'm surrounded by imbeciles. If I have to hear one more comment about who's got the best weapon or who's going to kill who before this is over, I might just lose my cool and end the debate right here right now with a "Go ahead, Harley". It would delight her to no end and give me just a few minutes of peace. Sound logic if you stop the thought there.

Unfortunately, I still need the extra insulation from the arena that our numbers provide. As of right now, we make up just over half of the tributes left in the game. Eight of the remaining fifteen tributes are in this group. Six others besides us, almost all of them dangerous. Well, normally at least. What they don't know, though, is that I have been slowly dosing some of them with some of the contaminated food. I'm trying to make them a little more tolerable. It's hard to do without anyone noticing, and even harder trying to figure out exactly how much to give them to affect them only partially. Luckily, none of these morons has even the slightest idea about the drugged food. We're still eating the supplies from the Cornucopia, so I haven't had to divulge that information or worry about steering them around the ones we don't want to ingest. It would be quite problematic if I had to explain how I knew.

The other night, no one recognized the berries near the team we killed, so I just said they were poison. But some of the other berries are well known to be edible. I'm sure I could come up with something, though. Even if I couldn't, I can talk circles around these halfwits. I doubt very much that I would actually have to tell them the truth. Besides, I could just have Harley interrupt the conversation if I do get myself cornered.

I've been slipping it into the canteens I have been so nice to volunteer to fill. It surprised me that they were so quick to trust me with their drinking water. And it takes so little that no one has really noticed anything other than that the water here is a little sweet. We took all the food we could carry from the Cornucopia before I dropped the rest down the pitfall with all the unused weapons and gear. We've been using the rivers around the arena for water because it would just be too heavy to carry a supply as large as we would need for any length of time.

I didn't want to split up or stay near the Cornucopia. Both of those options make our group weaker and much easier to track for the other tributes. Now that they have partners too, we'd basically need to split our group in half to leave people back there, and it would make them stationary targets. I saw last year how poorly that strategy can end up. Instead we're on the move, as hunters should be. Besides, the more actively we hunt, the quicker I can achieve what I came here to do and finally get out of this dreadful hellhole.

I've been trying to use the berries that make people happy and calm on everyone except for Terra. Her I've been giving the ones that those two tributes we killed the other night were on. The ones that make people horny, for the lack of a better term. I have been going a little heavier on her dose because it's a little more useful and a lot less obvious. If she's the only one acting that way, people will think that it's just her way of dealing with what's going on. Though I doubt the guys haven't taken so much as a moment to contemplate why an attractive girl is acting overtly sexual. And the girls seem to be more worried about the reactions of the guys. Sliding only the occasional dirty look Terra's way and mumbling various insults about her uninhibited flirting.

That's what the dose I'm giving her so far has accomplished. I've made a note of exactly how friendly she's been getting and with whom. As far as I know she hasn't gotten any of the guys alone yet to make any real moves, and no one seems brave enough to make the move or accept the flat out offers she's given in front of the whole group. However, I have seen the wheels in some of their minds turning as to how they will get a chance.

Funnily enough, whenever a guy is going off alone and Terra volunteers to join him, or vice-versa, another of the girls immediately offers to go with them.

Last night Terra actually made a move on me. But between her being a test subject, and the barely audible yet overwhelmingly felt growl that came from Harley, I was quite quick to turn her advances away. I know the growl wasn't really for me, but if she killed Terra, it would mess up my little game and I can't have that happening. Right now I have the whole group looking at each other and small non-violent rifts are forming. It's going to make it easier to single people out later and maybe even get some to turn on each other. Now is not the time, though, for the moment they still have uses.

That's what I have been keeping myself occupied with, figuring out exactly how to use all of these cretins. Harley is so loyal and eager to please that it takes little to no effort to handle her, but these…clowns. Not only are most of them borderline psychotic, their average IQ is probably somewhere between a dog and a well trained monkey. So not only do I have to deal with the ever swaying balance of their mental stability, but I have to try to make sure I don't use too many words with more than three syllables while I'm at it. It's amazing that I have to strain my brain just to lower myself far enough converse with these...'people'.

Moving past all that, it seems like I'm going to have to stop playing around on the sidelines soon. With so many tributes already dead and all this space, it's only a matter of time before the Gamemakers start pushing us all together. After that, it will be much more difficult to get a moment alone. Not to mention some of my "comrades" will probably take that as the cue to break our truce. Which means I must make my move soon if I am to succeed.

I look around the camp. Almost everyone is getting ready to sleep. It's getting late and with all the noises and things we've heard in the jungle we decided that the normal hunt at night strategy wasn't something we should be following. Briton is keeping first watch tonight so he is still wide awake, and Terra is supposed to do it later. However, the looks she's giving him now are telling me that tonight our camp won't be getting watched as well as it could be.

"I think I'm going to take a quick walk around before going to bed, make sure no one is in the area," I say, standing up rather than laying down.

Briton flashes a feral smile my way. "Don't get lost now. I would hate to see you get hurt by one of those things that go bump in the night." He's still fondling his weapon. I swear that neanderthal never puts the damn thing down. Which I might think proves he's smarter than I gave him credit for, if it wasn't for the way he stares at it with that strange smile on his face.

"No need for concern, I'm taking something that does a lot more than bump... Harley!" I don't get a chance to give him a look of my own as Harley comes flipping out of the tree above me and lands with perfect grace, lifting her hands like a performer. "Very nice, Harley. Perfect marks," I say like a drone, barely glancing in her direction.

"Really, Mr. D.? You think so?" I don't even have to look to know her face is glowing and she's probably bouncing with joy at my feigned interest.

"Of course. Now is not the time for that, however. We're taking a walk, let's go."

"Should I bring my hammer?" This time I do turn to look at her. Harley is extremely unbalanced, to say the least. One of the side effects of that, though, is that she is greatly in tune with her instincts. I've learned to pay special attention to her feelings. I don't want to have to ask her out loud in front of everyone whether or not she thinks she should. It is kind of cumbersome so I was thinking no, but Harley might be asking me for a reason.

That's when I suddenly become aware of all the eyes that are on me right now. Just a quick glace to my peripherals is all it takes to see that everyone is watching, a few a bit too anxiously. So it seems that I'm not the only one thinking about his opportunities being limited. Everyone has seen what Harley can do with that hammer and her being separated from it is probably a prerequisite for any of their plans of attack. Being that it's with her most of the time, they might take their chances and come after us even if it's a bit early. So maybe there are a few more brain cells around here then I thought.

"Yes, you should. Never know what we might run into out there," I say, perhaps a bit louder than necessary and feel the eyes turning away the second I do. That's precisely what I thought.

She dances her way over to the massive war hammer, lifts it with relative ease and throws it over her shoulder. She doesn't dance her way back, but there is an almost skipping-like spring in her step. I notice everyone watching her, a few heads shake. They probably can't come to terms with how easily she swings that thing around. I don't know how heavy it actually is, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear it was upwards of fifty pounds. Almost half her weight and she swings that thing around like it's nothing, it really shouldn't be possible. The best part is, they all know that.

So we walk out of the camp leaving the others to talk among themselves and I would wager a guess that I know exactly what they are talking about. It's just too bad that none of them could possibly have the slightest idea of what her secret is. There's only a handful of people in the world who could even hazard an educated guess, and only two that know for sure. Too bad neither of us are talking. It's one of the many things about Harley that makes people wonder. Which works out perfectly, because while they are busy trying to figure her out, they are paying almost no attention to me.

I wait until we are out of sight, then I change directions and begin to circle around the far side of the camp. I said I was going to take a look around so being in the opposite direction that I started from probably won't arouse any suspicion, but I think it's much less likely people will look in this direction if they are looking for us. So I start leading us up the hill, the top of this particular hill offered so little protection we decided to camp in a tight group of trees instead.

No cover also means no obstructions, so when we finally exit the trees and climb up on the bald spot that tops the hill, we can see most of the arena. I take a look around. I know things will be moving but if I can just get a good view of the tops of these hills I should be able to tell which is which on sight. The mountains might be rotating, but the tops stay the closest to the same spot. So once I've seen them, I'll remember them. Then I can come up with a plan of how I'm going to do this.

Luckily, they have the moon setting turned to full, so as I look out over the hills, they are bathed in moonlight bright enough for me to get a good look at all of them. "Would you look at all this? It's almost a shame this place is designed to kill us, otherwise it would be a pretty nice place to live." I've never been the kind to be stricken by something like the beauty of nature. Possibly because where we come from there is no such thing as nature. I could've lived my entire life back in D3 without ever seeing anything like this, and now that I'm staring at it, I find it hard to look away. Of all the things to bring me back to reality, Harley wrapping her arms around one of mine and snuggling up to my shoulder is perhaps the most ironic.

"It's so romantic." Harley says with the kind of sigh that only a girl can make as she curls up even further against my body. She speaks softly in my ear. "After the other day I thought you didn't want me anymore, but if I knew you were going to bring me somewhere like this, I would've..."

"Sorry, Harley, we didn't come up here for that." She deflates immediately, her hands which had started to wander fall back to her sides.

"So I was right, you really don't want me anymore..." She's visibly shrinking and I can hear the sniffles that will lead to one of her full scale crying tantrums. I can't let that happen

"Stop it, Harley, it's not like that and you know it." Actually, it is exactly like that, but I can't let her know it. "I told you that I had to focus while we were here. There is no way that I could concentrate on what we need to do if all I can think about is all the different things I want to have you do." Which is not completely a lie, the things that girl is capable of and willing to do are extremely distracting, even just as thoughts. But they are the furthest thing from my mind right now, for a whole list of reasons, what we have to do now being the least of it. "You don't want to see me fail after all this planning because I'm too horny to think straight, do you?"

Luckily though, my words are taken at face value, and Harley perks right back up and snatches my arm again. "Well... no, I guess not. But after we are outta here you have to promise me..."

I cut her off before she can get into the details. Besides, it's a moot point anyway. "Yes, of course, to your libido's content. But please Harley, a few moments of quiet." I feel her nodding against my arm. I can tell her to stop talking but detaching her from me will be too difficult without setting her off. As long as she's silent it won't bother me for now. I need to be able to concentrate on all the things I'm finding out.

I scan over the tops of the mountains again and it doesn't take me long to spot the one I'm looking for. "With the rate of spin, if we head out in the morning it will be proximately 62 degrees to our left looking from the camp to the base of the hill, assuming my calculations are correct." I doubt any of my teammates have noticed the turning of the islands, and if possible I would love to keep it that way. It gives us a marked advantage when we have to split up.

"Well, your answers are always right, Mr. D." Harley gives my arm a little squeeze. "So that's the way we're going?" she says, following my line of sight. She starts to hum her little tune. It's always the same melody, but the words change every time I hear it.

"Yes, it is. We should find them on that island right there," I say, pointing to one with a particularly large rocky section on the top. "There is a cave or something of that sort up on top of that hill. It would seem they're holding up inside. It won't be easy getting there, though. Our large friend apparently likes to set traps."

"Wooooww! You can tell all that just from looking from here? I knew DeeDee was amazing, but that's like magic." Her eyes are as wide with wonder as mine were the day I met her.

"I wish I could take all the credit, but it wasn't just my observational skills that gave me so much invaluable information," I say with a small smirk finding its way to my face. One of the few things I could never have accounted nor hoped for as I was carefully sculpting my plan, but it's turned out to be almost as useful as Harley.

"I knew it! You're keeping secrets!" She spins me around to look at her with so much force I might have fallen if she wasn't still holding on. "You told me last time I asked you'd tell me later. Well, it's later..." She folds her arms and taps her foot on the ground, the very picture of childish impatience. I want to laugh, but I settle for a smile while I shake my head.

"You know, there is just no hiding things from you. Okay, I'll tell you, but first one thing." I lean in and whisper in her ear, "Communications off."

She shakes for a second like she's been electrocuted. Her eyes open again and she looks at me almost confused. "What did you say?"

I just shake my head and wave my hand dismissively, "Nothing important. I just wanted to make sure we were all alone before I let the cat out of the bag."

"But we are all alone. There's no one up here but us, I would know. And what cat?" She's so cute when she's puzzled, it's almost enough to make me forget how scary she can be other times. Almost.

"We were alone on this hilltop, but now we are all alone, without any prying eyes and ears." I say with a hint of pride escaping into my tone.

Harley squints her eyes for a second, trying to look through me it seems. She gives up, her face turning into one of confusion. "DeeDee, you know I love you... but sometimes... you're really weird."

It takes a great deal of self control not to burst out laughing at how seriously she, of all people, just said that. "You might be right, but that is for a different conversation. You wanted me to tell you how I knew all that information, correct?"

Harley nods vigorously, "Mmhmm, mmhmm."

I reach up to my ear and after a little bit of fussing, manage to pull out a small flesh-colored piece of plastic, smaller than the tip of my pinky. I hold it in my open hand and put it in front of her face. "OoOOOooo." A mixture of surprise and curiosity fill her face and she just looks up at me innocently, waiting for my explanation. It's secretly one of the things I like most about her, she's always completely attentive and fascinated when I explain something like this to her. The perfect audience for such a revelation.

"This is a one way communication system. There is someone on the other end who gives me helpful information, like which hill those two are on. Whenever there is something I need to know I can just say it out loud and I will get the answer through here. They can also give me information I don't even know that I need. Like when we killed those two tributes that were having sex, I got a message saying that the team from 12 was in the bushes just a few feet away."

"ARE YOU SERIOUS?" she almost yells.

"QUIET!" I almost shout back, as my hand flies up to cover her mouth. Then I regain my senses and lower my voice and move my hand. "Yes, I'm completely serious. That's how I've been keeping us out of danger and making the other Careers think I know everything. Like how to track people in the woods. Granted, I can read the signs pretty well myself, but I doubt I would be nearly as accurate on my own. I certainly wouldn't have known they were in the bushes."

"But DeeDee, isn't that cheating?" She's got no problem with popping someone's limbs like grapes with her war hammer, but she looks squeamish when she thinks that we might be breaking the rules of the game. I sometimes wonder if she'll ever stop surprising me.

"It's not cheating when the rules are broken by the people who made them. Besides, I only care about cheating when it's the opposition doing it."


Chapter End


A/N: Hope you enjoyed the banter and the not so much. Next chapter, the games take a wild turn, hope you all are ready for it.