The Conspiracy

Chapter IX: The Last Night in the Capitol

We sit on the balcony again tonight. It's our last night before entering the arena. We're enjoying our last few hours before we start having to sleep with one eye open. "We should go to bed early," I say. "We need a full night's sleep. Drink a lot of water." But I don't move. It was just an observation.

"No matter what," he says, "No matter what happens, we're in this together, right?"

I lean my head on his shoulder and close my eyes. "We're a team." I repeat his words of the other night.

"You could sleep on my shoulder," he tells me again. I can hear the smile in his voice as he jokes with me.

"Maybe I will in the arena but I'll sleep in my bed. It'll be the last one I see for the next week or so." I open my eyes again and look up at the sky. Cato, Caleb, and I always notice the stars at home. I don't know why I haven't noticed that the lights here in this city drown them all out. Maybe I'm just realizing how different this place is from home. The Capitol values flash and wealth; we value nature, the things you can learn from what was here long before any of us. The Capitol thinks it's powerful, so it drowns out the stars, the only things that prove there's something greater than they are. It must be comforting for Snow and the rest of the people, thinking they pulled one over on the sky. "I can't see the stars." At first, it made me feel claustrophobic, trapped here by the might of the Capitol, but now it's almost amusing. Like 'Fill the night sky with your lights so I can't see mine anymore, but the sun's still going to rise whenever time tells it to and there's nothing you can do about it.'

"I know. I noticed a few days ago," says Cato.

"You didn't say anything."

"No. I didn't want to remind you how far we are from home."

There's a beat before I answer. "You could've. You don't have to look after me." It's probably safer for him if he doesn't. He needs to take care of himself.

"Says the one who volunteered like a crazy person at the reaping. Maybe watching out for each other is why we're going to be a good team."

"The best team." I sit up again. "If you get to look after me then I get to tell us to go to sleep."

"Ok. Goodnight." I stand up, head into my room, change, and have just lain down when Cato slides the door open. I'm curled up with the fluffy blanket in my arms but I sit up and look at him when I hear the door. I cock my head to the side and give him a slightly confused grin.

"Did you bring me another strawberry?"

He sits down on my bed, extends his hand and gives me the strawberry. I take it but keep my eyes on him, waiting for him to speak. "I just wanted to tell you to take care of yourself tomorrow. Even if we're looking out for each other, make sure you're ok. I will be if you are. Before you go after anyone or try to keep either of 12 safe, protect yourself."

"We're Careers," I answer, "Self-preservation is what we're practically bred for." He looks like he's about to speak but I continue, "I know what you mean though. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. We probably won't be near each other when we get into the arena but we'll meet up. Promise we'll meet up." He grins at me, raises his right hand to his lips, kisses his index and middle fingers and holds them up to me. I copy him, touch the tips of my fingers to his. It's not a replacement for a kiss, but it's our version of swearing to do something. Instead of drawing blood, we do this.

"I promise," he says. "Eat your strawberry. I'll see you tomorrow." Our fingers separate as he stands up.

"Goodnight," I tell him as he reaches the door.

"We already said that," he teases, "But goodnight again."

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