Pollux tugged at his ear in irritation. He'd had this annoying itch for a couple days now that had just been getting worse. It was starting to turn into a weird pressure. He wished it would go away, it made his head feel all weird and made it hard to focus. He guessed it was from the constant change in altitude between taking the hovercrafts to other districts to film and then being underground in Thirteen. He really hoped he'd adjust soon.

"Hey," Castor came up next to him, "You okay?"

Pollux nodded with a smile.

"You sure?" Cas asked.

"I'm good," Pollux signed, "Stop worrying."
"Never gonna happen," Castor replied with a teasing smile, "I'm your brother and you're a magnet for trouble."
Still, he let it drop and walked off with his camera to get a wide shot their location.

Pollux sighed and tugged at his ear again. The pressure would go away soon, no point worry his brother over nothing.

They finished filming, getting some great shots of Katniss in action and then boarded the hover again to return to 13.

Pollux took his seat next to his brother and leaned his head back. The ride was silent, all of them feeling drained and trying to rest before they returned and would need to debrief.

Pollux tugged on his ear. The pressure had grown worse since they got in the air, as it usually did, but now it was getting quite painful. He squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing at his ear as the pain got worse and worse until it was practically suffocating.

Blindly, he reached a hand to the side, grappling with the air for a moment before he found his brother's arm.

Castor opened his eyes at the touch and looked over, immediately concerned when he saw Pollux's face.

"Hey, what's wrong?" he asked and everyone else opened their eyes as his words alerted them to a problem.

"Pollux?" Cressida leaned forward, "What's going on?"

Pollux made a guttural noise in his throat as the pain suddenly spiked again. What was happening? It felt like someone had taken one of Katniss' arrows and was repeatedly driving it into his ear.

"Hurts," he signed.

"What hurts buddy?" Castor asked, "Come on pal, talk to me."

Pollux pulled on his ear again and Cressida got out of her seat, crouching next to him to examine it.

"I don't see anything," she said, "It's pretty red, but he's been rubbing it."

"Do you think there could be something in it?" Gale asked, "Dirt or shrapnel or something from that blast?"

Pollux cried silently, squeezing Castor's arm.

Castor wrapped his other around his brother and pressed his lips to his head.

"He's burning up," he said in shock.

Cressida laid her hand on his forehead and grimaced before standing and walking to the front of the hovercraft.

"How far out?" she asked.

"'Bout seven minutes," Boggs replied, "What's going on?"

"Call ahead, tell them something's happened to Pollux, and we need medical to meet us in the hangar," she told him, "He has a fever and he's in a lot of pain."

Boggs nodded while Cressida returned and kneeled in front of Pollux.

"It's okay buddy," Castor murmured, "We're almost home and then we'll get you fixed up, okay?"

"I'm sorry," he signed.

"What are you sorry for?" Cressida asked, confused.

"We're in the middle of a war," he signed, "People are dying. And I'm crying and making you all worry cause my ear hurts."

Castor translated, shaking his head in exasperation at his brother's thought process.

"Pain is pain," Katniss said, "Just cause someone might have it worse doesn't trivialize yours. You have nothing to be sorry for."

"You hear that?" Castor asked and Pollux nodded, "And you forget I know you pretty well. If you're saying it hurts them it must really hurt. You laughed off a broken arm when we were eight, remember?"

That got a small smile out of Pollux.

"Beginning our descent," Boggs called back, and Cressida returned to her seat and strapped in.

The change in altitude as they descended made the pain even worse and Pollux felt the tears running down his face. He felt Castor's hand he was holding give a comforting squeeze while his brother's hand rubbing soothing circles on his back.

As soon as they touched down Castor was out of his seat and kneeling in front of his brother.

"Shh, I got you buddy," he murmured, wiping tears from Pollux's face.

Boggs came to stand with the others as Mrs. Everdeen and Prim rushed on.

"What happened?" Mrs. Everdeen knelt next to Castor and began examining Pollux.

They explained the whole story to her, Prim examining his ear and taking his temperature as she did.

"Low grade," Prim reported, "Best bet is a severe ear infection."

"Ear infections can hurt this bad?" Messalla asked.

"If left untreated," Mrs. Everdeen nodded.

"He hasn't said anything," Castor told her, "Didn't mention any pain or anything like that."
"Pollux, was it hurting before today?" Mrs. Everdeen asked.

"No, it felt weird, but didn't hurt till we were in the air," he signed with Castor translating, "Then it got really bad really quickly."

"Weird how?" Mrs. Everdeen asked.

"Like I got water in it at first," he signed, "A weird itch and then like… pressure."

She nodded along, getting a better understanding of what had happened.

"Alright, I think Prim is right in saying this is an ear infection," Mrs. Everdeen said, "But I'd like to take you over to the hospital, run a couple tests, just to make sure."
Pollux nodded, fumbling with the buckle on his seat.

Castor reached out and helped him with it before slowly pulling his brother to his feet.

Pollux swayed for a moment before quickly sinking back down.

Castor looked at Mrs. Everdeen in alarm.

"It's okay," she assured him, "Issues with the inner ear can throw off his balance."

Pollux stood again, slowly, and Castor wrapped his arm around his waist.

"I'll debrief after he gets checked out," Castor told Boggs.

"No worries," he nodded, "I'll let Coin know what happened. You two can debrief in the morning."

Castor supported his brother, with Prim on Pollux's other side, while they followed Mrs. Everdeen several levels down to the hospital. It was late, which meant the halls were mostly empty, save for a few Thirteen soldiers on duty.

"Have a seat," Mrs. Everdeen said and Castor helped Pollux onto one of the beds. He stood in front of his brother, holding both of his hands tightly.

"You're going to be okay," he said gently.

"Sorry," Pollux signed again.

"What did we say before?" Castor said exasperated, "No apologies. You have nothing to be sorry for."

"Making a big deal and it's just a little ear infection," Pollux signed, feeling embarrassed.

"I don't think it's just a little ear infection," Castor said, wiping away another tear that dripped down Pollux's cheek. "And you have nothing to be embarrassed about."

Pollux sighed; Castor knew him too well.

"Your brother's right," Prim said, coming over to them, "You shouldn't be embarrassed. Ear infections are painful."

"And from what you describe, you've actually had it for a few days," Mrs. Everdeen added. "The altitude changes with all the flying you boys do and then coming back here and coming so far underground would have irritated it further. Your previous injury would add to it too."

Pollux looked at her quizzically and gestured to his throat.

"Your ear, nose, and throat are all connected," she explained, "Trauma to one of those can impact the others… Make them more sensitive, more susceptible, affect the nerves… All of that could impact the level of pain you're feeling."

Knowing that, Pollux felt slightly less embarrassed by his reaction and half an hour later, Prim and Mrs. Everdeen had confirmed he had a severe ear infection. They gave him some drops, explained how to use them, and unfortunately, he was put on a no-fly list until they cleared him.

Castor held his hand out as they walked back to their room and Pollux handed him the drops.

"Want some help with these when we get in?" he asked, "Might be a little awkward trying to do them yourself."

Pollux nodded.

"Thanks," he signed with a smile, "For looking after me."

"Don't have to thank me Lux," Castor chuckled, opening their door. "Come on, it's been a lng day. Let's do your drops and get some sleep. We have a debrief in the morning."

All the names in this series and Katniss' mother was only ever called Mrs. Everdeen.

Thanks so much for reading!