This stings were finally going away, Katniss noticed with a great deal of relief.
There was still pain in them but not nearly as severe as it had been earlier that morning. A cannon had gone off , the second of the day, which meant the Capitol was sated for now. Maybe it meant they could get through the day without too much trouble
The day was short lived though. Rue gathered some berries that Cato eyed warily but then reluctantly ate when he saw Katniss licking her fingers after consuming her share. They also feasted on a three rabbits and a fish before moving deeper into the woods to find shelter for the night. Rue had a half a mind to hum as they continued their hike, her trailing Cato but also comforted by the girl behind her. Her stomach was full and somehow she knew that tonight she would sleep just the slightest bit deeper than usual.
Several hours later they found a spot that Cato deemed suitable for camp. It was surrounded by trees but also had several boulders, all these things lead to a small body of water that had miniscule schools of fish. Katniss surveyed the area carefully, surprised that no other tributes had taken this spot. It was the type place she imagined Peeta would've come to. That was assuming he was still alive. Two cannons today alone and who knew if Rue had slept through anymore after the tracker jacker incident.
It was then that something clicked in Katniss's mind and she realized she had no idea how many tributes were left for sure. Her and Cato would separate when there was only eight of them left. And then what? Hope he killed off all the rest and then died in some sort of accident? She pushed this away but it was only gone for a second before she spotted Rue and an even more horrifying thought came to mind. There was no way Cato would show the girl any mercy. Katniss would be safe for one day when it was just eight but what about Rue?
She wanted to think he would show some sort of kindness, to leave the kid alone. A more sinister voice in her mind told her this was unlikely. He was playing these games for the win.
The sun disappeared and the arena slowly grew colder. Without thinking about it Katniss took her blanket and passed it to Rue when she saw her shivering. The district 11 girl stared at it with delight before slowly taking it and wrapping it around herself.
Finally, the anthem played before showing the kids who were slaughtered today. Katniss didn't realize she had been holding her breath until after the faces of the District 7 boy and District 4 girl dissolved. Not Peeta. Not today.
She knew he'd die eventually, if not already, but a selfish part of her hoped it would be later. When she had become more hardened by the games and could accept death as a daily routine. Not now, not when she still knew the safety found in alliance.
There was a scurrying beside her and after days in the arena Katniss was much more skittish about these things. When she looked though she was only able to see Rue's boots disappearing into the trees above.
"What's she doing?" Cato hesitated. The only reason he could come up with for her going into the trees would be to gather more fruit but he couldn't imagine her being that hungry after having such a large dinner. By arena standards, anyway.
"That's where she's been sleeping." Katniss said, her voice laced with some amount of pride. Clever girl.
"Wouldn't she fall out?"
"Not if she had rope or found some sturdy branches that overlap."
Cato continued to stare up through the foliage where Rue was settling down into a makeshift nest.
"Why haven't you been sleeping in the trees?"
She wishes he would just stop right now. No more questioning her motives or her reasoning, the things she's not entirely sure of herself.
She tries to choose her words carefully but also doesn't want to leave the awkward pause between them any longer and her words come out in a jumbled mess. "Because you weigh too much and could never make it up there."
She quickly tries to recover, realizing her words are too friendly. As though she actually cares whether he lives or dies. "Besides, on the ground I could fight or run away. In a tree I'd have to hope nobody looked up."
He accepts this answer and stops talking.
A few minutes go by before Katniss finally says, "I'll take first watch." She doesn't look over but can hear Cato stiffly unrolling his sleeping bag and laying down. Maybe his stings hurt more than he was letting on.
At first she is alert, looking in every spot a tribute could potentially be lurking in. Eventually her body relaxes and she allows herself to think briefly of home.
Without thinking her fingers trace the Mockingjay pin and she wonders if Madge Undersee will want it back. She can't imagine herself living in the Victor's Village where little gold pins would be nothing compared to the riches thrown upon victors. She also can't imagine Madge pushing past her mother and Prim and reaching into the cheap wooden box and removing the pin from her long dead body.
The image frightens her and she tries to think of anything else. Her neck itches from where her braid tickles it and so she unties it. She runs her fingers through the greasy locks and manages to get out the major tangles before braiding it once again and tying it off at the end.
"Your hair is long."
His icy blue eyes are trained on her, they have been for several minutes now.
She tries to think of a retort. Something that Gale might call 'snarky' or Haymitch might say is 'stubborn.' There's nothing though.
She drops her head back against the tree she's been leaning on and roles her neck so that she's looking at him. She's not sure how long she holds eye contact with him before having to look away, suddenly finding the water very interesting. "Get some rest. I'll wake you when I'm tired."
He rolls onto his back and stares up at the tress before closing his eyes and she's certain he's fallen asleep but all to soon he's speaking once more. "There's 11 of us left."
With a tastes of bitterness in her mouth Katniss huffs. So he thinks of the inevitable too?
KatieDesignerShades: It was supposed to Peeta in early drafts but then I figured out where I need him. Good luck on the ACT!
rayleen14:… you okay?
krystalMage: Gotta love the mentors. In my mind they're a really twisted Golden Girls. As for "A Sister is Both Your Mirror - and Your Opposite" I'm not sure. Some bad reviews and a bad chapter on my part I'm just not sure. We'll see though.
Mirance: Thank you. Just did a few paragraphs for 8 Deadly Sins. Sorry for the wait.
sundragons9: Cato would throw himself on the ground and tear out his hair if somebody else got Jason.
Bea0407: My goal in fanfiction is to be as original as possible so we'll see about Rue's death… Still, hard to get around that one.
Anonymous: Without a doubt my favorite fanfic is "The Wild One's" by green and yellow. It's Catoniss and you need to check it out if you haven't already.