Sort of threw this together. Don't be too harsh, please.
The subject of Peeta's health seemed forgotten as he moved to clear the table and began washing dishes. I was starting to feel useless again when I noticed the dark fireplace at the far end of the living room.
"Why don't I get you some firewood before I go?" I suggested to Haymitch. Before he could answer, I had snatched up my coat and was outside again.
Firewood was among the many necessities dropped off by the Capitol every month. Not that it was entirely necessary. Our houses each had state of the art central heating. Still, I wanted to be useful. And who's to say the storm wouldn't knock the power out making a fire essential?
These thoughts raced through my mind as I stumbled around the house to the woodshed. If I had thought the storm bad before, it was nothing compared with the onslaught of snow and sleet I now faced. I could barely keep my eyes open in the swirling whiteness and bits of ice pelted my cheeks.
After a grueling twenty minutes, for a task that should have only taken five, I finally reentered the house. I stood shivering in the doorway while I waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
"I was starting to think you went home," Peeta greeted me. As he took in my disheveled appearance he pulled off his outer sweater and tossed it to me.
"You're soaked. Put this on and we'll hang yours up to dry."
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the goosebumps rise on his bare arm.
"No thanks," I answered, tossing it back to him.
He held the sweater away from himself as he sneezed into the crook of his arm. The sound was loud and painful and I winced with him.
"Do you want to sound like this?" he croaked.
I furrowed my brow but removed my sweater and replaced it with his. It smelled like him.
"It'll just get wet again when I go back out," I grumbled, spreading my wet clothes over a heat vent.
Peeta looked from me to the window behind.
"I don't think you should go back out in this," he said softly. "You may as well wait it out here."
"What about Prim and my mother?"
"What about them?" he shrugged. "This storm won't end for a while and I'm sure they won't miss your surly cabin fever."
Truth was, I wanted an excuse to stay. If I shouldn't go out in the storm, he definitely shouldn't. And to think of him being stuck here with Haymitch while I was warm and dry at home made for overwhelming guilt. Guilt, I determined, that would not be read on my face.
"Fine," I snarled. I looked around myself for a moment. "I guess I could start some laundry."
The dismay must have been evident in my voice, because Peeta laughed shortly, clipping the end with a short cough.
"Why don't you start a fire, and I'll sort through Haymitch's intimates."
It was a welcome suggestion and I bent quickly to pick up the wood I had dropped by the front door. Within a few minutes of carefully arranging and adjusting I had a smoking pile of wet wood that refused to catch.
"Dammit Haymitch," I called to the unconscious figure strewn across the kitchen counter. "How hard is it to cover your wood so it doesn't get wet?"
A derisive snort came from his direction and I flushed angrily. I took a deep breath, preparing to yell, but instead focused on blowing onto the smoldering log. The trail of smoke widened and I felt briefly triumphant. I drew breath to blow again when Peeta appeared crouching beside me.
"Need help?" he asked.
I glanced over at him, cheeks still puffed out, and he smiled. We blew together on the fire for a while, his breaths more wheezing than anything else. Just in time the spark ignited and he sank back onto the floor, coughing miserably into the collar of his shirt.
I furrowed my brow and raised my hand again to his cheek. The heat and high color in his skin were all too reminiscent of Peeta's all-too-recent brush with death.
"It's just a cold, Katniss," he said in response to my worried expression. "Nothing like last time."
"Still," I said, raising my other hand to cradle his face. "I wish we had some medicine."
"Blech!" I turned to watch a sputtering Haymitch stagger into the room. "What is this crap?"
He held between two fingers one of my mother's apothecary vials.
"Where did you get that?" I rose and strode towards him.
"It was with my cookies. I thought it was a drink."
"Why would my mother send you liquor?" I snatched the vial from him and sniffed tentatively at it. The sharp aroma was icy cold on my nose. I grinned.
"It's cold medicine," I said, turning to Peeta.
He smiled too. "Looks like your wish has been granted."
"Next time, wish for some rum to chase it with," he mumbled as he left again.
"Here," I said, bringing the bottle to Peeta's side. "It smells like Prim's recipe."
He took a trusting swig and only grimaced a little at the flavor I knew to be very strong.
"It's lemony," he said. "But sweet."
"That's the honey. You should lie down. It'll probably make you sleepy."
Obliging he moved to the couch while I stayed behind to stoke the fire. I could feel his eyes watching me work. After a few minutes the first flame appeared, bringing friends along until the fire was roaring and strong. I sat back on my heels and glanced to where Peeta sat on the sofa. With one hand he cradled his head while his eyes watched the dancing flames. His other arm was casually draped around his midsection, I imagined, for warmth. A quilt was folded neatly beside him and I guessed that pride kept him from huddling beneath it.
His body seemed awkwardly cramped onto the edge of the sofa and I realized he was saving space for me to sit beside him.
In a moment I had quashed the jumble of words and thoughts and concerns that threatened to overtake me, and went to sit with him.
He kept his eyes trained on the fireplace. For the third time, I raised my hand to his forehead to check for fever. Now his eyes turned to me, still piercingly blue under the shadow of my hand. They were teasing when he asked,
"A bit cooler, I think. How do you feel?"
I cocked my head and stared. He chuckled.
"My head's a little sore. Besides that, I'm really okay."
I nodded and withdrew when I realized I was still touching his face. Perhaps I pulled away too sharply. Or perhaps I only imagined the hurt in his eyes.
I sighed. This didn't have to be so difficult. Did it?
I uncrossed my legs so that my lap lay flat. Wordlessly I reached a hand to his shoulder. He jerked back.
"What are you doing?"
I sucked my teeth. "Just…here." I tried again and this time succeeded in guiding his head to my lap. I could feel his neck and shoulders tensed on my legs. Aside from my own discomfort, I found myself aching for his.
I ran a hand through his hair once, twice, and again until I was stroking his head in a manner I hoped would be soothing. He sighed a contented sigh and I felt his body relax.
"Thank you," he said softly, closing his eyes.
"It's nothing," I replied uncomfortably.
He smirked but said nothing.
"Can I ask you something?"
I nodded and tensed.
"Why did you come here, today?"
That wasn't what I'd expected.
"Oh. I figured you'd have the sense to stay home when you were sick. I wanted to make sure Haymitch hadn't drowned in his bathtub or something."
He opened his eyes and studied me.
"When I called your house, I told Prim I was still planning to check on Haymitch."
The image of my sister's plotting face appeared in my mind as I remembered her sending me off that morning with a bag of supplies. Supplies for Haymitch.
"She's a sneaky one," Peeta chuckled and closed his eyes once more.
"I guess she wanted to make sure you were looked after. She's very fond of you."
"Is she?" he said while his smile became fixed.
I realized my error and rushed to backpedal.
"I'm glad though, that she lied. You were dumb enough to go out in a storm while sick, who knows what else you would have done if I hadn't shown up. And I don't think Haymitch would make a very good nurse."
"I'll have to thank her for sending you," he said dreamily. "And for that medicine. I'm feeling so much better."
His words were slow and tired. The medicine definitely was working.
"Rest now," I told him. But it was unnecessary. His breathing had already slowed until it was deep and heavy. I fell asleep to its cadence.
When I stirred later, it seemed to be that only minutes had passed. But then I shivered and saw that the fireplace before me was dark and cold. And Peeta was no longer beside me. I rubbed my eyes and turned around, grimacing as my neck cracked.
Peeta stood beside the front window where afternoon sunlight drifted in.
"The snow's stopped," he commented without looking at me.
"That's good." I stretched and refocused on him. "How are you feeling?"
"I will. I'll bring some of the cinnamon rolls that she likes when I come by tomorrow morning." He turned to me. "And I think my mother will have a list of stuff she wants from the Hob. I'll leave that, too."
My expression must have been puzzled.
"I assume you'll be out hunting when I stop by," he explained.
I nodded. "Probably."
He nodded briskly and rubbed his hands together. "I'm going to finish folding some laundry and then head out."
"You need any help?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I've got it."
"Well, I guess I'll just go home, then."
He nodded once more. "Thanks again for everything."
He smiled a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes and disappeared down a dark hallway leaving me to see myself out.