Chapter Forty-Nine: circumstances and strategy
Word Count: 1,066
Ruarí stood in the opening of the cave, her azure eyes scanning the landscape stretched out before her. She could see where they’d come from, could almost follow their path. She could see most of the Arena from their position, and she wondered if they shouldn’t leave. Perhaps they’d found the safest place, she pondered. They were only about a quarter mile from what appeared to be good hunting grounds, and two miles to the East the river cut across the plain, curling against the base of the mountain. The breeze picked at the strands of her hair, blowing them in her face. She could still smell the saltwater in her hair and the memory tilted her lips into a subtle frown.
She tried not to wonder how a person so capable of killing could bring a life into the world, but it was a hard subject to ignore. She shook it off; she’d realized the night before how careless it was for her to allow the sorrow of her situation to taint the last little while she could spend with Silas. She didn’t want to believe he would die; part of her still wished it could be her, still wished that to sacrifice herself wouldn’t also be sacrificing another, helpless life. She hated her position, hated her circumstances, but there was no one to blame for them.
Not yet, she thought, dismissing the psychotic notions she’d dreamed of all night; visions of a revolution - visions of an uprising in his name. She shook her head again, wondering why her mind refused to let them go. Why the visions held such power over her.
Silas was waking, Rory could hear him stretching from inside the cave. She’d promised herself she’d make use of their time, she reminded herself; now was not the time to be plotting against the Government – even if that was the direction of her future. She needed out of the Arena, first. She needed to know she would be alive at the end of all this before she could plan any further.
Unconsciously, her fingertips grazed her abdomen. She wasn’t showing at all but it felt as if she ought to be. For all she knew, she technically was – one did not eat well in the Arena, and she certainly didn’t have a way to monitor her weight as the Games went on; perhaps, considering how starved she was, she did have a small baby bump. She smiled, dismissing the notion – it was far too early for that, regardless.
Her stomach rumbled and she wondered if there was anything to hold her over in their supply bags. She didn’t feel like hunting just then. She had some other things on her mind. His footsteps were soundless, but they weren’t what tipped her off to his approach. She didn’t have words for what it was, actually; an instinctual tingle of recognition that dripped down her spine, maybe his scent caught in the breeze, briefly filling her nostrils before vanishing as quickly as it had arrived.
She didn’t know, but he was there, snaking his arms around her waist and kissing the back of her head. She let herself sink into him; allowed the comfort of his presence to permeate her consciousness and drown out her idle pondering. She twisted to face him and, without warning, kissed him. He responded in kind, and it took no more than a few moments for them to return to the cave, giggling into each others’ necks.
Rolling over, she sifted through the contents of one of the supply bags, sighing when she found nothing edible inside. She dropped her head back onto the pillow and looked at him in her peripheral vision, groaning, “We have to hunt.”
Silas smirked, and rested his palm on her hipbone, studying her face. “How far are the decent hunting grounds?”
Rory shrugged, “Less than half a mile.”
“How far away is fresh water?”
“Two miles. We’re going to have to hunt and loop around. It’s too far apart for us to split up. The Arena could shift any time.”
Silas shook his head, brushing a strand of hair from her face as he propped himself up. “It only really moves at night, or when no one is around.”
“That’s what they’re counting on us thinking. Gamer numbers are dwindling, Silas; they have to start mixing it up sooner or later. They’ve got to get Gamers in the same place before they’ll kill each other. We’re due for some interference.”
She could see that he’d wanted to tell her she was paranoid, but the longer he met her eyes, the less doubt his own held. It seemed he was beginning to see the merit in her words. Now that they’d announced the pregnancy, the Capitol had to be getting bad reviews somewhere – someone, somewhere, was taking issue with the idea that an unborn child could be killed in the Arena. This would not sit well with a lot of people, even if it meant lashing back at the Capitol.
Rory and Silas were in greater danger than anyone else in the Arena. They were marked as upsetters of the order of things. Soon enough, they would be punished. They would be lucky if one of them made it out alive – luckier than any Gamer in history, now that they were beginning to understand that the Capitol could have it out for them.
Rory sat up, rolling her neck until she heard a half dozen satisfying pops. Grabbing her clothes from where they’d been discarded, she tossed him his own and dressed. It would not do to linger, not when she was hungry and there was so much work to be done before they could eat. Glancing up at Silas while she tugged on her shoes she realized how lucky they were.
It wasn’t really common for Gamers to have someone to count on, someone to travel with and hunt with and spend the freezing nights with. They could split the necessary work between them, they could comfort each other, even save each other. The knowledge that only one of them could survive was bitter, but what they had was sweet.
As he shrugged on a pack and settled his revolver into its holster, she pressed her palm to his chest and met his eyes. “I wanted to say thank you for everything, I know I haven’t been very appreciative lately. I love you, Silas.”