Chapter 27

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  "How are you?" I ask Peeta. "Do you think you can move on?"

"No, he has to rest," Katniss says before Peeta can even open his mouth. I spy Katniss' nose running from crying and I glance around me before ripping off a piece of soft moss and handing it to her so she can blow her nose and wipe her tears and compose herself. Then I see her pulling something gold from Peeta's chest: a small disc with the mockingjay engraved on it. His token.

Haymitch is clever. He's somehow managed to make it so all four of us have golden tokens. Although it was hardly necessary. Katniss and Peeta would clearly be together and Finnick and I wont leave each other alone, not after being apart for so long. I refuse to lose him. I will fight to the death to be with him, and he would do likewise. It's inevitable we'd pair up with Katniss and Peeta; we're friends, allies in real life - not the nightmare that is the Hunger Games. We stick together.

"So you want to make camp here, then?" Finnick asks, pulling me from my thoughts into reality. Not a reality I wish to be in.

"I don't think that's an option," Peeta answers, shaking his head. "Staying here. With no water. No protection. I feel all right, really. If we could just go slowly."

"Slowly would be better than not at all," I nod, standing and helping Katniss up as Finnick assists Peeta.

"I'll take the lead," Katniss announces.

Peeta begins to object but Finnick cuts him off. "No, let her do it," He frowns at Katniss. "You knew that force field was there, didn't you? Right at the last second? You started to give a warning?" She nods. "How did you know?"

Good point...how did you know? As far as I could see, there was nothing. The force field looked invisible. How could she possibly know it was there?

"I don't know," she says. "It's almost as if I could here it. Listen." We all become still and listen hard. All I hear is the buzzing of insects, calling of birds, the light breeze in the foliage. No sigh of a force field.

"I don't hear anything," Peeta says, confirming what we all think.

"Yes," Katniss insists. "it's like when the fence around District Twelve is on, only much, much, quieter," we all listen intently again. Still nothing. "There! Can't you hear it? It's coming from right where Peeta got shocked."

"I don't hear it, either," I frown.

"Me neither," Finnick agrees. "But if you do, by all means, take the lead."

"That's weird..." Katniss looks puzzled, turning her head from side to side. "I can only hear it out of my left ear."

"The one the doctors reconstructed?" Peeta asks.

"Yeah," Katniss says, then shrugs. "Maybe they did a better job than they thought. You know, sometimes I do hear funny things on that side. Things you wouldn't ordinarily think have a sound. Like insect wings. Or snow hitting the ground."

I look at Finnick knowingly. He just raises an eyebrow. We know Katniss is lying. But...now all the attention is on the Capitol as to why Katniss suddenly has the hearing of a bat. And the Capitol wont be happy with the doctors for that. We continue walking, Katniss at the front with the force field to her left, Peeta follows her with a staff Finnick fashioned for him. Finnick and I bring up the rear, so at least there are two people alert to watch our backs. Occasionally, Katniss throws small nuts at the force field to check, each nut hitting it with a puff of smoke before they fall to the ground blackened.

We walk for another hour before we're all tired, sweat sticking to our bodies and our throats dry from thirst. "Let's take a break," I say, stopping and resting against a tree briefly.

Katniss nods. "I need to get another look from above, anyway." She finds a sturdy tree and begins to climb.

I slump on the ground, Peeta opposite me, Finnick on my left. I glance around and pull off big shady leaves from a plant and hand them around, allowing us to fan ourselves. The wind is cooler than the thick air, but still warm. Nevertheless, it's refreshing.

"Anna," Finnick whispers to me and I look at him. He inspects my face quickly. "You're still bleeding."

I reach a hand up to my cheek and wince as I find the scratch from where Gloss tripped me up. It's wet, with sweat probably, but sure enough when I pull my hand away it's red. "Bad?" I ask.

He drops his leaf and touches my cheek gently, wiping away the fresh blood. "Open," he replies and I groan slightly. Just what I need. "Word of advice," I say, loud enough for Peeta to hear too. "Don't fall on your face at the Cornucopia. Uneven rocks hurt."

I earn a light laugh from the two of them, the action fairly strange in the Games, but it's familiar and calming. Finnick rips off a piece of his leaf and begins to dab at the scratch and trying to coax my blood to clot. I study his face as he does: it's inches from my own. He really is a gorgeous specimen, despite the thin layer of sweat coating his cheeks and forehead. His lips still look soft and plump and I have to resist the urge to touch them with my own. The sunlight reflects little flecks of gold hidden within his bright sea-green eyes. Even now he takes my breath away.

I didn't realise when he stopped dabbing at my cheek and began to gaze back at me. He grins and closes the gap between our lips. Somehow, I still taste saltwater. We only break apart when we hear a light cough from Peeta and pull away to see Katniss jumping down from her tree. She briefly raises an eyebrow, a smirk playing at her lips before going serious again. I have to fight my blush down, although I can imagine the Captiolites are having a field day at the sight of more affection.

"The force field has us trapped in a circle. A dome, really. I don't know how high it goes. There's the Cornucopia, the sea, and then the jungle all around. Very exact, very symmetrical, and not very large." she informs us.

"Did you see any water?" Finnick asks.

"Only the saltwater where we started the Games," says Katniss.

"There must be some other source," I frown. "Or we'll all be dead in a matter of days. And the Games wont exactly be fun if we all die of thirst, will they?"

Finnick squeezes my hand and I know it's a warning to stop sounding spiteful. I inwardly roll my eyes. "Well the foliage is thick. Maybe there are ponds or springs somewhere," Katniss says doubtfully. "At any rate, there's no point in trying to find out what's over the edge of this hill, because the answer is nothing."

"There must be drinkable water between the force field and the wheel," Peeta insists. We all that means we have to go back down there, close to the Careers, close to the bloodshed with a weak Peeta.

We decide to move slowly down the slope a few hundred yards and continue circling - see if there's any water at that level. Katniss still throws the nuts at the side of the force field but we're too far away from it now. The sun is beating down hard on us, turning the air to steam, playing tricks on our eyes. We need water and we need it soon. My mid-afternoon, it's clear Peeta can't go on.

Finnick chooses a campsite about ten yards below the force field, saying we can use it as a weapon by deflecting our enemies into it if we're attacked. Finnick and I sit and pull out tufts of grass that grow about five feet high and begin to weave them together into mats. Peeta decides to see if the nuts Katniss has been throwing at the force field are any good once fried, and takes a handful, peeling them expertly before bouncing them off the force field and frying them. Katniss stands guard but we can tell she's fidgety.

"Finnick, why don't you and Anna stand guard and I'll hunt around for some more water?"

I'm not thrilled at the idea of Katniss going off alone but the threat of dehydration hangs over us like a dark cloud. I nod, and so does Finnick although Peeta isn't convinced.

"Don't worry, I won't go far," she promises Peeta but he volunteers to go too. "No, I'm going to do some hunting if I can. And you can't come - you're too loud. I won't be long."

She disappears between the trees and Peeta resumes frying the nuts. Finnick and I have almost completed two mats, working together to make a hut of some kind.

"How come you remember how to weave?" Finnick wonders curiously.

I shrug. "I remember my mother teaching us both how to weave nets and baskets in the summer...Then at training I tried again. I guess I never really lost the skill to do it, just forgot about it."

He smiles at me and I smile back, grateful to have someone like him with me.

We work fast, building a hut with three walls, one side open, with a roof. Finnick works on a floor while I weave several baskets for Peeta to fill with the nuts. By the time we're finished, Katniss returns, holding something in her hands. We look at her hopefully.

She shakes her head. "No, no water. It's out there, though. He knew where it was," she says, hoisting up the dead animal. It resembles a skinned rodent. "He'd been drinking recently when I shot him out of the tree, but I couldn't find his source. I swear, I covered every inch of ground in a thirty-yard radius."

"You did well," I nod, complimenting her.

"Can we eat him?" Peeta asks, gesturing to the dead rodent.

"I don't know for sure," Katniss frowns. "But his meat doesn't look much different from that of a squirrel. He ought to be cooked..."

A fire in the Games is always dangerous, especially when we're in a dry place - the leaves will easily go up. But Peeta has another idea and dices the meat up using my knife. He then skewers it on a sharp stick and lets it fall onto the force field. There's a sharp sizzle and the stick flies back. The chunk of meat is blackened, but well cooked on the inside. We give him a round of applause and he bows, laughing, but we quickly stop, remembering where we are.

There are threats everywhere.   


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