Tino had grown up an only child, and had always been small. When he had been chosen for the Hunger Games, everyone knew he was doomed. Even he did, deep down.
No one counted on Berwald to make himself Tino's protector, but he did. Several things happened that no one expected, like them caring for Peter, a small boy from the orchards, and trying to keep each other alive.
The games were harsh, but Tino had managed to get Peter away from the bloodbath that was the Cornucopia before anything serious could happen to them. They hid up in the trees and watched for Berwald, who had insisted he could get supplies for them.
And he did. He returned with sleeping bags, even though he could only get two, and a backpack stuffed with all the food he could find. It was a blessing, really, that Berwald only got a few scratches and cuts.
They made a small camp deep in the forest, and at night Tino and Berwald shared a sleeping bag. They all slept huddled together, under cover of brush and dried leaves.
Like a family.
"We can't just sit around. If we want to win, we need to play smart."
"We don't have any weapons, Peter." Tino chided softly. "Ber's good at fighting, but even he wouldn't stand a chance against weapons."
"There's a group from the Careers, they're all staked out at the Cornucopia. We can't take them in a fight but maybe we could outsmart them." At the incredulous looks he received, he continued, "I watched them take the tribute from 12 back to camp. He was hurt. There were three other men besides him, and they had a girl standing watch. So five. Four if you count out the injured one. Look, I've got a plan to draw them out…"
It was easy to find piles of dry leaves and branches to burn and set them up in piles, three separate bonfires to draw tributes in so Tino could sneak to the Cornucopia to get weapons and whatever else he could grab.
It was a simple plan. Peter, who had grown up scaling and hiding in trees in the orchards of his district, would keep watch from the trees and send a signal, via mockingjays, if anything went wrong. Meanwhile, Berwald would go looking for a better campsite, and Tino would loot the Cornucopia. When they were all through, they would meet up halfway, a bit away from the second bonfire.
It was a simple plan, but still dangerous. One of them could easily be seen and overpowered, but they had to do it. Everything was dangerous in the Hunger Games.
They all helped light the first fire before Tino and Berwald left, trusting Peter to light the other two.
Berwald had been around trees and mountains his whole life, his district being responsible for lumber, so he felt almost at home among the trees and the rocks. There weren't any true mountains in the arena, and if there had been he would have avoided them anyways, since many tributes would be looking for caves there.
Instead though, there were occasional shelves of rocks and small gatherings of higher land, which kept sloping up and up and up.
The cave Berwald found though wasn't near anything like that.
Down near the river, a little ways from the bank, there was a small opening was hidden by a curtain of hanging vines. It was such a small opening that Berwald had to lay on his stomach to wriggle in, and only found it because he dropped his canteen and it rolled through the opening. Once squeezed through, he found a large cavern, and knew it was perfect.
He set their pack and sleeping bags down, hiding them as best he could in the shadows.
He snuck back through the woods, taking note of important land marks so he could find the cave again.
Something wasn't right. There were only two plumes of smoke up in the sky instead of the three there should have been. His heart rate escalated as a million scenarios ravaged his mind.
None of them ended well.
He thundered through the forest, all thoughts of subtlety gone.
Berwald's family was in danger, he knew it.
He heard them before he saw them, desperate whispers and whimpers.
When he finally saw them, he felt relief. Peter was caught in a net, writhing around like a fish as Tino cut at it with a knife, which meant he must have made it to the Cornucopia after all, and trying to quiet the boy.
He finally seemed to make headway against the trap and tore at the ropes with renewed vigor until they fell away.
He pulled Peter up and against him once he was free. He made small comforting noises, rocking them both where he stood.
Tino gasped, staring at something off in the distance ahead of him and Peter, across the clearing.
But it was too late.
Berwald lunged forward anyways, instincts welling up in him at the scared tone in (what he considered) his wife's voice.
The spear that another tribute threw went in Peter's chest, through to Tino's stomach, nailing them together. They fell, still attached.
Their killer froze as Berwald came into view. He was defenseless, since his only weapon was buried deep in Peter's small chest.
Berwald didn't remember killing the other tribute, only heard the canon and saw the blood on his hands.
That wasn't what mattered.
Tino knew he was dying. He knew the thought should have scared him, but it didn't.
It was hard to breathe, and painful to speak, but he did anyway.
He could feel the warmth of Peter's body on his own, their blood mingling to make a pool on his front that slowly rolled off in streams to puddle around them. He felt as the boy's breathing changed to desperate, pained gasps.
He could hear Berwald getting revenge.
"Hey, Pete, hey, I know it hurts baby, I'm sorry sweetie. I'm right here, okay?"
"Mama." Peter begged, and Tino honestly didn't know if he was begging him or his actual mother. "Papa, please, it hurts. I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, just breathe, breathe with me baby." His voice came out raspy and weak and desperate.
The clearing went quiet and a cannon sounded. It wasn't long before Berwald's face hovered in his vision.
"Papa," Peter whispered.
"Ah'm so sorry." Berwald whispered back, and despite the pain of moving, Tino grabbed for his hand.
"Sing me those songs you told me about, Ber?" He ran out of breath halfway through but pressed on.
And Berwald, hand tight around his, crouched in the dirt and the blood they had shed.
Peter went still, all of the breath shuddering out of his tiny body, on top of Tino, but his body remained warm, almost like a blanket.
It was easy to let go with the notion he was following Peter into oblivion, with Berwald's voice filling his ears like a lullaby.