Andromeda and I find antibiotics and fresh bandages in the pile, as well as a couple of really nice knives for me. Johan scores a slingshot. We also find some food and a water filter which we fill with pond water. Overall, I'm feeling pretty happy with our day, and I'm fishing when Andromeda approaches me with something from the cornucopia. I can't tell what it is, but I discreetly poise my hand to grab my knife just in case she's thinking of trying something on me.
"Relax," she says. Apparently I hadn't been discreet enough. "I'm not trying to kill you. I found something that might be useful." She opens up her hand to show me a needle and thread.
I look quizzically at it. "What for?"
"Your hand. It's bleeding through your bandage," she observes. "You need to stitch it up."
I cringe. This is the last thing I want. "No," I tell her. "That would only make it worse."
"No, it wouldn't," Andromeda argues. "This is quality stuff, right here. Look, I even found this…" she shoves the needle and thread into my arms and plunges her hand into her pocket. A second later, she has dug out a small cylindrical container.
"What is it?" I ask her.
"A numbing cream. You would barely even feel the needle going into your skin."
I think about this. It sounds too good to be true. "What's in it for you?"
Andromeda smiles mischievously. She had a deal on her mind the whole time. "I was hoping if I scratched your back, you'd scratch mine. Or stitch, more accurately." She rolls her sleeves up far enough that I see her full forearms and elbows. Her cuts look worse than yesterday. Through closer inspection, I can see that an infection is setting in. I cringe, knowing what I have to do.
"Okay," I agree, counting her cuts. There are seven altogether. About half of them are even deeper than mine. "You first."
We use some filtered pond water to try to rinse off the dried blood, and then rub antibacterial salve in the wounds. Finally, I dab a little bit of the numbing cream onto her skin.
"Do you feel numb?" I ask.
"A little," she answers. This is what I feared. If I use too much of this stuff on her arms, there won't be any left for me. Still, I can't bear the thought of stitching these seven gashes without it. I rub it up and down her forearms as much for myself as for her. There's hardly any left when we're through. Still, I make sure I'm thorough. This way she doesn't squirm when I sew her up. That would only mutilate her arms further.
"My turn," I say when it's all finished. Andromeda tries moving her hands around, but it seems that they are too numb for it.
"I can't do it, I would slip too much. I would hurt you. We'll have to wait until I regain feeling."
"There's no time for that," I argue. "I need to get this done before infection sets in, and night is falling. Soon enough, there won't be enough light. Besides, the career pack will probably be on their way here now."
"Fine," says Andromeda. "Get Johan to do it."
I look over to the cornucopia. Johan is taking a nap inside. Part of me wants to say he can't. I don't want him to. This is irrational, though.
"Okay," I agree. "If you wake him up, I'll start washing my hand off."
Andromeda nods, and in a couple of minutes, Johan is beside me, ready to fix me up.
"I don't know why you didn't ask me to do this in the first place. I'm the one that stabbed you. I should be the one to stitch your cut," he says, reaching for the numbing cream. He puts his pointer finger in the container, but it comes out with barely anything on it.
"Did you use it all up on me?" Andromeda asks angrily.
"Your cuts are worse than mine," I defend myself. "I needed you to be completely still or you'd just tear your arms apart. So, yeah. I used it all."
"You idiot," she says. She looks like she wants to slap me over the head, but she doesn't have much control over anything beyond her elbows, so the most she can do is flap her arms like a penguin at me. "What if we needed that for something else?"
"I've already explained myself. There's nothing that can be done for it now. Why don't you do something useful, like look for more,'' I tell her. I can't believe she's actually angry at me for this. I just sacrificed my own comfort for her sake. This means that when Johan stitches my cut, it is going to be extremely painful. Andromeda's cheeks flush. Instead of yelling, she turns around and stalks off, clearly wondering when she'll have her first chance to kill me.
I steel myself, and look at Johan expectantly.
"What?" he says. I nod down at the needle. Johan's eyes widen. "You can't actually expect me to do this now."
"Of course I expect you to do this now," I say. "The sooner the better."
"No," he says.
"Johan, please," I beg him. "If you don't do this, I'll do it myself and mess it all up. Help me."
Johan's face sinks. I feel sorry for making him do this, but he deserves it, really. After all, he did stab me.
He studies my face for a second. "Let's do this," he sighs.
"Thank you," I tell him earnestly. I want him to know that I'm grateful now, before the needle has pierced my skin. "Let's get as much of that stuff on my skin as possible."
Johan picks the container with the paste back up and he tilts the top toward me. It's scraped almost completely clean. Still, I take as much as I can manage and rub it in between my thumb and pointer finger. The wound at least feels a little cooler, I think. "Now," I instruct him. "Do it as fast as possible."
He digs the needle into my skin and pulls it out the other side of my hand. My head starts to feel light and I want to cry out, but I don't. Instead, I lie to myself. Some part of my brain thinks that if I imagine that I have felt worse pain, it doesn't actually hurt so much. I'm being a wimp. The odds are that I'll probably get impaled, lose a limb, or break some bones even in the best case scenarios here. I need to get used to this.
That's when the needle goes in again. Then, again. Johan is sure to stitch it up tight, so I lose count by the time he's wrapping me up in fresh bandages. I wipe the tears from my eyes with shaking hands and thank him for his help.
"We should think about setting up camp out of sight. We can eat the fish raw so we don't have to light a fire," I say.
Johan looks at me with pity. I hope he realizes that if he talks about my hand I'll only break down. I don't want to look weak. He seems to catch on.
"Let's see if Andromeda found some sleeping bags," he says. I remember that between the two off us there's only one. I'm glad Johan brought this up, because I would really rather not have to share.
We walk over to the pile of supplies. It seems wrong to leave all of these provisions here, especially when the Careers left them unguarded. How many more chances like this will come? I decide to stuff my backpack with anything that will fit—a couple of cans of soup, a rope, a small tarp, and a pair of night-vision glasses. Andromeda had only found one other sleeping bag, which is now nestled in her pack. This is okay, though, because only two of the three of us will ever be sleeping at one time. Still, I find a thick pair of gloves, and I decide that they're worth hanging on to.
"We've wasted enough time here," Andromeda says after the whole pile has been picked of the items we think are most important.
I string my fish together and hang them on a long stick, which I rest on my shoulder so that the fish swing around behind me when I walk. Hopefully, nothing with a strong nose will be anywhere near here, because this leaves a scent trail that I can almost see. It's regrettable, but necessary.
"Right," I say. "Let's get moving."
We set off toward the woods again. After about half an hour, we think we've found a place hidden well enough in the trees that it isn't visible from the cornucopia, but we'll be able to stay in.
"Alright, who's slept since the Game started?" Andromeda asks.
"I have," Johan says. "I can take first watch."
He climbs up onto a tree and settles in wearing a hat he found at the cornucopia.
"Here, take these as well," I say, handing up the gloves I had just packed away. "Since you don't have a sleeping bag."
"Thanks, Isla," he replies. It's these little kindnesses that we can do for one another that say the most. When they stop, I'll know that Johan is thinking about either ditching me or finding a way to secure my death. That's when I plan to run.
I look down at my wounded hand, freshly stitched and bandaged. Then I look up at his hands, now toasty warm inside my gloves. So far, we're taking care of each other. For some reason, that time when I told Finnick I wanted to live flashes into my head. I wonder what he would say about how safe I feel with Johan watching my back. Would be approve that I have a trusted ally? Or would he say I've let my guard down? The latter explanation makes me shudder. In the end, I want Johan to die. And Andromeda. And everyone else in this arena. If I am to live, they must all die.