A/N: Ok, this is the last chapter of my first fanfic! It's also posted on AO3, under DustInTheWind. I have no plans to write a sequel to this, so if the mood strikes you...feel free. I am considering writing another version of this story that's darker, with more of a slow burn/delayed romance and would veer off in a different direction than this one around chapter 4. In that one, Cato would be more sadistic. I haven't decided yet if I should go for it.
I also have at least one "deleted scene" I'm planning to clean up and post as another chapter in the near future. I didn't use it because it would have changed the story significantly-it's an alternate ending to the evening that Hera and Cato open up to each other about their pasts on the roof, and they give in to the urge to turn things physical between them. So, basically it's smut. But tasteful smut.
And here's a couple of random tidbits about Cato and Hera.
When I imagine the scene where Hera sings to Rue, it's basically Lana Del Rey singing "Once Upon a Dream."
I haven't decided where exactly District 7 is located. Somewhere in the northwestern quadrant of the U.S. is all the further I've gotten. Cato is from what we currently know as Nebraska.
Thanks for reading!
She had just finished giving her Victory speech to the people of District 12. Her voice had been shaky and her eyes red but, somehow, she had managed to keep it together.
The second they returned to the train, she locked herself in her bedroom and let her sorrow wash over her.
When she emerged he was waiting for her with eyes full of concern.
He leaned forward as he sat on the couch, with his legs wide and his elbows on his knees, and Hera crawled into the cave his body made, where it was safe and warm, and curled up in a ball with her head tucked under his chin. He kissed her hair and drew his arms around her, sheltering her completely from the outside world.
They were in District 11, and Rue was bleeding out. Too slow she whispered. You were too slow. Hera woke screaming, but it was ok because he was there, with his arms around her waist and his tongue at the corner of her eye to catch her tears. "It's not your fault," he whispered, over and over again.
They ate ice cream sundaes in 10. Cato gave her his cherry.
Hera was sick in District 9. She swallowed back nausea instead of tears as she gave her speech. I shouldn't have eaten all of that ice cream yesterday she thought to herself.
She felt better in District 8, and his fantasy-the one involving the red shoes-became reality. "Fuck me," she moaned, her legs wrapped around his waist. "Please, Cato. Please fuck me."
She taught him to play darts in District 7. He liked that the way she taught and the way he learned fit together neatly, like a key in a well-oiled lock. How they both liked to break a concept down to its most basic elements and focus exclusively on perfecting one thing at a time before moving on to the next.
She was sick again in 6, but she hadn't had any ice cream. Cato fussed over her so much it actually annoyed her. "Maybe you should see a doctor," he said worriedly.
"I'm fine," she snapped. "Stop hovering."
It poured all throughout their stop in 5.
"Naps on rainy days," she murmured, just before she fell asleep.
"Mmmm, I agree," he sighed, and snuggled deeper into her body.
"Here," he said to her as they stood on the beach in District 4. He scooped up a handful of sand and transferred it to her cupped palms. She smiled as the fine grains slipped through her fingers.
He dreamed of a twelve-year-old boy with green eyes in District 3. He woke shaking, but it was ok because she was there, running her fingers through his hair and singing lullabies to him in a low, sweet voice that made him think of honey.
He woke her before sunrise in District 2. He wrapped her in his hoodie and they slipped off the train and out into the long grass. They watched as the red and orange rays set the edges of the clouds on fire and chased the purple and gray from the sky.
Hera stood talking with a new mother in District 1. "Here," she said to Cato as he approached, and started to hand the baby she cradled against her shoulder to him.
"I don't want to break it," he said, recoiling and shaking his head vehemently.
"You won't," she insisted, laughing at him. "Just make sure you support her head. See what I was talking about? How soft their hair is at this age?"
He nodded, but he was nervous about dropping the baby girl. Until she sighed and fell asleep in his arms a couple of minutes later, and then he started to feel more confident.
And then he remembered his dream after the sponsor gala, and it hit him. Why Hera had been sick recently. He felt a stab of pride and tenderness so acute it was almost painful.
It felt like what he'd thought winning his games would feel like.
They had returned to the Capitol for the close of the tour, and Hera sat on the cold tile floor of their bathroom in the training center, while Cato perched on the edge of the tub.
"What did you say it was again? She had my hair and your eyes? Or was it your hair and my eyes?" she asked him in between waves of nausea and sickness.
"My hair. Your eyes," he said, eyeing her sympathetically and wiping her forehead with a wet cloth.
President Snow was not happy.
He had sold the games as a tradition that tied the people of Panem together in recompense for the great uprising 74 years ago, but they had been meant to aid in dividing and conquering, in keeping the Districts mistrustful of one another so they would be easier to control. And although she didn't realize it, one seemingly insignificant girl from 7 had reappropriated them, turning them into a means of promoting fraternity among the districts, through the connections she had formed with a tiny tribute from 11 and a brutal, bloody Victor from 2.
Fraternity was a dangerous thing. Fraternity led to unity.
The Peacekeepers had repressed the rebellion in 11, but only in the way that coals are banked in ashes for the night, still glowing and ready to flare up when properly stirred the next morning. President Snow could feel it in the way the people of 11 cheered for Hera on her Victory Tour, with adoration and enthusiasm, showering the stage with flowers in gratitude for her kindness to Rue.
The other districts followed suit, chanting her name before she appeared onstage, and cheering wildly when she made her entrance, pressing forward against one another in their eagerness to meet her.
Even the people of 2, curious about the girl who had captivated their most beloved Victor, treated her with quiet admiration and respect.
And, most frighteningly of all, the Capitol citizens all but worshipped her. They had grown bored with the traditional violent, meathead Victor, and found this new archetype-the maternal saint-fascinating and, somehow, glamorous. The Underdog, they called her. The Dark Horse.
She had never borne a child of her own flesh and blood, but Hera had become a symbol of selfless motherhood. The women of the Capitol pursed their lips over the topic of the Third Quarter Quell and murmured that, after all, children from the Districts, such as Tara and Rue, really weren't much different from their own sons and daughters, and they themselves really weren't much different from mothers outside of the Capitol.
And they were insatiable when it came to the topic of Hera and Cato.
The couple hadn't gone on the record with their relationship, and neither of them were fans of public displays of affection, but everyone could see that the newest Victor and her mentor were smitten with one another.
It was evident in the way she subconsciously looked for him when she felt unsure of herself (which was really anytime she was in the public spotlight), and visibly relaxed once she'd caught sight of him.
It was apparent in the way he laid his hand on the small of her back as he guided her through the crowds.
It was obvious in the way their eyes shone as they looked at each other.
It seemed clear to President Snow that this was Seneca Crane's fault...or at least the disgusting inter-District romance was; he couldn't be blamed for Hera's mothering of the little girl in the arena. But the mentoring switch up had been Seneca's idea, and for that he paid with his life, although the tv commentators presented it as an aneurysm, just as they had reported that the Mayor of 11 had passed away due to cardiac arrest.
This still left the President to wrestle with the problem of Hera and what to do with her. If he killed her off immediately as he had done Crane, he'd risk inciting a full-blown rebellion.
Plutarch Heavensbee presented him with the solution when they met to discuss the Third Quarter Quell. "It's quite simple, Sir. Our twist for the Quell will be to reap the tributes from the pool of living Victors. Of course, we don't have living tributes of both sexes from some of the districts, so we'll need to decide if we have fewer than 24 tributes, or if we place those remaining after the initial reaping into a pot for a second round to reach 12 women and 12 men. So it's not entirely clean. But it rids us of Miss Greenleaf, because if another tribute doesn't kill her, I'll engineer a natural disaster to do it for us."
"I like the idea," the President mused. "But if Johanna Mason is reaped instead? Or if she volunteers in place of Hera?"
Heavensbee had thought of this already. "Ah, yes, that's an easy one too. We'll need to ensure that Johanna's name is selected. And I'll have a little chat with Miss Greenleaf to...persuade her to volunteer in Johanna's place."
"Oh, I like the way you think," President Snow grinned. "But what-or should I say who-exactly will you use to persuade her?"
Heavensbee shrugged. "The suggestion that harm may come to any one of the Callahan children, or perhaps even to Cato, if she doesn't comply with our request will do the trick."
The President laughed and clapped Heavensbee heartily on the back. "I'll sleep easy tonight for the first time in months thanks to you, my friend," he said.
Yes, the old man has definitely lost touch, even with the people of the Capitol. Heavensbee smiled to himself as he prepared for another clandestine visit to Coin and District 13. The Third Quarter Quell, he knew, would never even take place. Hera's reaping would be the tool that stirred the embers of rebellion into a full-blown blaze.