Suzanne collins – the hunger games i. part 3. “the victor”/20

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Getting the broth into Peeta takes an hour of coaxing, begging, threatening, and yes, kissing, but finally, sip by sip, he empties the pot. I let him drift off to sleep then and attend to my own needs, wolfing down a supper of groosling and roots while I watch the daily report in the sky. No new casualties. Still, Peeta and I have given the audience a fairly interesting day. Hopefully, the Gamemakers will allow us a peaceful night.
I automatically look around for a good tree to nest in before I realize that’s over. At least for a while. I can’t very well leave Peeta unguarded on the ground. I left the scene of his last hiding place on the bank of the stream untouched – how could I conceal it? – and we’re a scant fifty yards downstream. I put on my glasses, place my weapons in readiness, and settle down to keep watch.
The temperature drops rapidly and soon I’m chilled to the bone. Eventually, I give in and slide into the sleeping bag with Peeta. It’s toasty warm and I snuggle down gratefully until I realize it’s more than warm, it’s overly hot because the bag is reflecting back his fever. I check his forehead and find it burning and dry. I don’t know what to do. Leave him in the bag and hope the excessive heat breaks the fever? Take him out and hope the night air cools him off? I end up just dampening a strip of bandage and placing it on his forehead. It seems weak, but I’m afraid to do anything too drastic.
I spend the night half-sitting, half-lying next to Peeta, refreshing the bandage, and trying not to dwell on the fact that by teaming up with him, I’ve made myself far more vulnerable than when I was alone. Tethered to the ground, on guard, with a very sick person to take care of. But I knew he was injured. And still I came after him. I’m just going to have to trust that whatever instinct sent me to find him was a good one.
When the sky turns rosy, I notice

the sheen of sweat on Peeta’s lip and discover the fever has broken. He’s not back to normal, but it’s come down a few degrees. Last night, when I was gathering vines, I came upon a bush of Rue’s berries. I strip off the fruit and mash it up in the broth pot with cold water.
Peeta’s struggling to get up when I reach the cave. “I woke up and you were gone,” he says. “I was worried about you.”
I have to laugh as I ease him back down. “You were worried about me? Have you taken a look at yourself lately?”
“I thought Cato and Clove might have found you. They like to hunt at night,” he says, still serious.
“Clove? Which one is that?” I ask.
“The girl from District Two. She’s still alive, right?” he says.
“Yes, there’s just them and us and Thresh and Foxface,” I say. “That’s what I nicknamed the girl from Five. How do you feel?”
“Better than yesterday. This is an enormous improvement over the mud,” he says. “Clean clothes and medicine and a sleeping bag… and you.”
Oh, right, the whole romance thing. I reach out to touch his cheek and he catches my hand and presses it against his lips. I remember my father doing this very thing to my mother and I wonder where Peeta picked it up. Surely not from his father and the witch.
“No more kisses for you until you’ve eaten,” I say.
We get him propped up against the wall and he obediently swallows the spoonfuls of the berry mush I feed him. He refuses the groosling again, though.
“You didn’t sleep,” Peeta says.
“I’m all right,” I say. But the truth is, I’m exhausted.
“Sleep now. I’ll keep watch.


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Suzanne collins – the hunger games i. part 3. “the victor”/20