'Cato!' Clove screeches. 'Cato!'
'Clove!' I scream, just to let her know I heard her, and run to her rescue. Just not to be late, I repeat to myself, don't let it be too late… I see her lying at Thresh's feet, unconscious. Luckily, Thresh turned to the Firegirl already and I dash last few yards. I see a dent in her skull and swallow hard. What can I do? I had a first aid training, but not anything like this. I try to drag Clove away, but I give up after a while. It dawns on me that I read a story in which a boy is injured just the same way, and with shaking hand, I grab one of Clove's knives.
'Clove' I whisper, 'It's going to hurt, but it'll be okay, I promise…'
My voice is shaking too. What an awful lie, I know there is a slim chance she'll live when I cut her head open in place of the dent. But I'm aware that there's no slightest chance she'll live if I do nothing, as blood pressure would crush her brain, so I grit my teeth, not to vomit, as I cut deeper. I see shards of her skull and, right below them, a thick membrane, separating brain from skull – the last thing I must cut through. I do, feeling even sicker. Clove's blood spurts right in my face, blinding me for a while, but I wipe it away and sigh with relief. I did it. Then I take Clove in my arms and rush to the woods, leaving our backpack behind, leaving Thresh and Katniss, leaving even my spear. I can't carry a spear and Clove together. I run, thinking only of blood spurting with every Clove's heartbeat. It calms me in a way. Her heart is strong, I know it. She can survive… if she doesn't bleed to death.
I find a small cave. I lay Clove there. There isn't enough place for us both, but Clove fits in easily, and at least it's dry. I look at her, bleeding still, and realize I must do more. I go and look for the plant that narrows blood vessels. I hurry a lot, for I know that if I fail to find it fast, Clove will die. It takes me several precious minutes to find this plant, and a few more to make sure it's the right one. I examine it thoroughly. I watch the leaf's shape, its color, bend it to check if it's springy, finally – break to get thick juice. I lick it cautiously and wince at the sour taste. But the test gets it positive: I found it. I quickly gather the leaves, as many as I could, and dash back to the shelter. I sigh with relief as I see Clove terribly pale and bleeding a fountain with every heartbeat. Still alive! I crush the leaves and hold them to her wound, checking on her breath. It is shallow and slow, and I blame myself for wasting time. But the bleeding stops quickly. I check on her pulse and sigh with relief again. It's weak, but stronger than I expected. I force myself to stay hopeful. We have sponsors, and they can help us. They see that Clove can survive. They see my determination. I lean down and tenderly kiss Clove's forehead, giving the watchers another thing to appreciate: show of love. I hold my sword and stay watchful. It's bright day, and good. I don't move. Not when I hear my stomach growl, not when it starts raining. From time to time, I check Clove's breath and pulse and put freshly crushed leaves on her wound. I let myself silently beg for help: I look up at the sky. Please, I wish to say, send me something to keep her alive. I catch raindrops in my hands and drink this water, then I take off my backpack and grab my water bottle. It's half-empty. Rainwater seems fine though. I'm drenched to the bone, but Clove is dry. And that's all that matters to me, frankly. The feast was a disaster for us and a success for all the others. I wonder if the watchers enjoyed it. Then I think they were probably disappointed by lack of deaths. On the other hand, deathless feast is definitely something new. Maybe they liked such a twist.
My thoughts are interrupted by a silver parachute floating down. I spring to my feet and grab it. The gift I got – Clove got – we got – is quite big, and I unwrap it impatiently. I find a big bag of sugar, a long, soft, plastic tube, some clean cloth, ideal for a bandage, caffeine tablets and a medicine bottle. I recognize a strong painkiller from Capitol, second only to morphling. I'm a bit disappointed – I expected a medicine directly for her head. I wonder what it can mean. Of course, one possible reason is that the medicine Clove needs is too expensive. But I reject this explanation. The painkiller is very expensive too, so Enobaria could have given up on sugar and caffeine and sent the medicine instead. So there comes another reason: there is no need for medicine other than painkiller and the leaves I found.
And this means: Clove will live.
I'm sure she'd need food to recover, and this way I realize what sugar and the tube is for. I swallow hard. It seems disgusting, but not more than what I already did. I try to put it off as long as possible, so first, I bandage Clove's head properly. I take time to do so, even though she's not bleeding anymore. Then I prepare "food". I mix sugar with water in the bottle. I put as much sugar as I can dissolve, and I gently open Clove's mouth. I grit my teeth as I slowly put the tube in her mouth and then, all the way down to her stomach. I sigh with relief as it's done. And then, time comes for using the little "installment". I take a mouthful of terribly sweet concoction and flush it down the tube. I sigh with relief again, as it doesn't seem even half as disgusting as it used to appear. A few minutes later I check Clove's pulse, which seems stronger… or maybe I am just deceiving myself. Anyway, I keep feeding her, for what else can I do? I stay guard and suck one of the caffeine tablets, just to stay alert. I promise myself not to fall asleep until Clove is awake.
Next hours pass slowly. I stay watchful, checking Clove's breath and pulse from time to time, feeding her with water and sugar. I realize that it's not just a self-deception, her pulse is stronger. I smile, looking at setting sun. Even though Clove is unconscious for over twelve hours, I'm more hopeful than in the beginning. She is still pale and there isn't much "food" in the bottle left. But I repeat to myself that she'll live. I still have plenty of sugar. In deep night, I catch water to the bottle, purify it with some iodine and dissolve sugar again. I suck another caffeine tablet. Who knows how long I must stay awake still? I stay alert whole night, my heart beating fast because of caffeine. Sun rises and despite using caffeine I feel sleepy, but I force myself to stay awake. The sun is high on the sky when I hear Clove moaning quietly. I look at her face. Slowly, very slowly, she opens her eyes. I smile.
She frowns, seeing me, and gasps. My face must be still covered in blood – her blood – that rain didn't wash away. I put my finger on her lips and try to make my voice calm.
'Ssh' I say, 'Don't move your head, you're hurt.'
It's a crappy explanation, but I know that saying "you almost died" would make her panic. She stares at me, her eyes wide open. I force a smile and move my finger away. Clove moves her lips silently and then, she speaks.
She says three scariest words I could hear from her.
'Who are you?' she asks.