Look Drea is back with a new chapter after having been kind of neglecting this for a long time! Yaayy. And yeah, I'm terribly sorry for that..
I told the lovely people who have been asking about this story on tumblr that I would explain my absence, and I think I pretty much can do so in one word.. Life.
Yeah, I know I've used this excuse before. But life just happens, and mine happens to get in the way a lot. But I'm back now, and I love you all for sticking by me for this long. I don't know what I did to deserve you guys, you're the best!
Now, I hope you'll all enjoy this sad attempt of trying to put my story back together.
When It Matters
"I am the one to protect you from your enemies and all your demons. I'll be the one to protect you from a will to survive and a voice of reason. I'll be the one to protect you from your enemies and your choices. One in the same, I must isolate you. Isolate and save you from yourself." Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums, A Perfect Circle
All I ever wanted was to make my father proud.
All I ever wanted was for him to nod at me in approval, to tell me I did a good job, or even for him to smile at me. It was all I wanted since I was a little girl. I wanted to be someone he could be proud of, someone he would show off, and say, "That's my daughter," with a proud grin. It became everything. That wish, that damn desperation to mean something in my father's eyes. I would have done anything, and I sure as hell tried everything.
But no matter how steady my aim got, or how many training fights I won, it was always something wrong. You weren't quick enough, try that again. Do you call that a punch? I didn't fucking raise you to be this pathetic. And then there are those words and sentences which my brain is trying its best to forget, to pretend was never uttered by the man whom I admired the most. But I can't, of course. They are stuck, burnt into my brain forever. Failure. Weak. A shame. Worthless. It's those words which make me push my self harder, which have made me push myself to beyond everything healthy. I fucking pushed myself to the point of passing out multiple times for that man, and still I'm just the pathetic, worthless little abomination he regrets fathering with his whole being.
What if I become like him?
What if the thing inside me becomes like its wreck of a mother because of me?
I would never be able to forgive myself.
Despite having grown up as a Victor's daughter, I never was walking down the primrose path, as everyone else with my status seemed to. It was blood, sweat, and tears from the second I awoke, to the second I fell asleep, every day. Well, not exactly tears, because I'm not allowed to show any kind of emotion, especially not one as pathetic as frustration, or God help me, sadness. The perks of being a Victor's kid never applied to me, which only motivated me to work harder for my goal.
I want to be able to provide for my family. To make sure my kid won't go hungry, and gets the training he or she needs if he or she was to get picked to play this game of death. I want to have everything I was taught never laid in my fate, and it isn't before I know I can't get it, I've realized I do actually want to start a family with Cato. No matter how nice being feared, and being known as one of the most skilled murderers District 2 has ever seen is, I still want to be something more too. I don't want to be one of those sad women who marry just because it's expected of them, or one of the overly prideful Victors who stay lonely because getting married would ruin their reputation. I want to be something more, I want to matter. I want to prove to Cato I matter, and that asking me to marry him was the wisest decision of his life.
Though these thoughts stride against everything I am, and everything I've been taught, against my nature, I still find a merciful comfort in them. Knowing how all this might have been possible if the circumstances had been different. That Cato and I might have had a shot at being happy, and just continuing to break all the rules in District 2's book. But of course, no matter how much my brain wishes for these things, actually doing them seems like the most impossible task. What do I know about families, love, and just not being a murderous, sadistic, insecure excuse of a masochistic bitch?
Those thoughts are always there, whirling in the back of my mind, because the front is occupied by the more drastically tragic realization. Before I realize it's not weird I'm insane being how much I over-think even the slightest little detail. It tires me out, mentally, hell, even physically, which probably is exactly what I need laying down and pondering all this. Marvel is still guarding, either figuring I'm asleep, or just ignoring me, either way, I'm not sure whether to be happy or not about that fact.
The big camp fire separates the three of us, feeling like a big void between Cato and I. A big burning void, which I will die trying to cross. And it isn't before I look over at Cato again, I realize my mistake; it doesn't separate the three of us, but the four of us. It's such a stabbing realization, even more now when I'm almost asleep. It leaves me breathless, and I can't help but clutch at my chest, before my hands clutch at my stomach. It's almost like my body tries to tear the baby out, but I know I wouldn't allow myself to do that even if my mind had wanted to.
Abruptly, I sit up, knowing I caught Marvel's attention with my sudden movements. There is air but I can't breathe. There is truth, and even though I can see it, it doesn't make it any less surprising and poisonous. But there are good kind of poisons, aren't there? I get up on my feet, not paying any mind to Marvel, just returning the favor, before I find my water.
The sky is clear, enlightened by a thousand stars. But of course, being made by the Capitol it's probably as fake as the city itself. Illusions are everything people live for, because without them we would actually have to see the terrifying reality. Why is my reality of being fearless falling apart into an illusion? But an illusion or not, I'm going to do everything in my power to assure my baby -the thing- gets out alive, along with its father. Wow, now that's an illusion.
The sky is still clear, but now the shine of the sun lights up the skyline rather than the stars from of the night. The previous night was cold, even with the camp fire brightly burning just a small distance away, and I'm glad the sun rose high. But then again, the sun might be burning a bit too bright for my liking. It's like they have sat a toddler to play with the devices controlling the temperature, and the heat and the cold fall and rises uncontrollably.
We have taken our time to recover, and another night has passed us by. We have problems working as a team, the three of us, being how Marvel and Cato seem to constantly bicker. I mean, Marvel fights more with him than I do, but unlike me, Marvel gives in, knowing he will be dead if he doesn't. It's not like Marvel doesn't have a few tricks of his own up his sleeve when it concerns skills with weapons, and sometimes I'm actually scared for my man. But Cato just happens to be a bit better, a bit stronger, a bit bigger. Also a bit more bossy and cocky, I should add, but it's clear that if it's someone who has the last word in our trio, it's Cato.
I try to act like a peacemaker the best I can, but with my own violent tendencies I can't say I'm any good at it. Though I can't say neither of them is really trying to withhold the peace, I know Cato is the real problem. You don't see Marvel and me trying to rip each other's throats out. Cato is trying to provoke, trying to get a reaction out of him, as if that will be the reason he needs to kill the other guy. He is getting on my nerves too. But it isn't what Cato says to me which is the problem, it is what he doesn't say. It's like this wall has been put up between us, and while I'm painfully knocking on it until my knuckles are bleeding, trying to get through, Cato has sat down and isn't even trying to tear it down.
I swear the tension is so thick in the air that if I open my mouth, I'll choke on it. He hasn't uttered a word to me, or at least a not threatening or commanding one, since we exposed the truth. I'm left alone to deal with this – this thing. This thing forming inside of me and which I don't know what to feel or what to think about. I just know it's a thing in there, and that the thing is Cato's too, and that he should at least pretend to care.
My thoughts are running in a vicious cycle – I should hate the thing, I hate Cato for putting it there, I try to hate the thing, I fail to hate the thing, I get mad because I can't hate the thing, and I realize that I can't hate Cato either. Then the whole thing repeats, and repeats, and repeats, and wears out my mind to the point of complete exhaustion. I don't feel like doing much, and plotting for the game we're in doesn't seem appealing at all.
This morning we killed the crippled kid, and I had to hear Cato complain about the lack of fun because he couldn't run from us. I can't count how many times I've rolled my eyes, or how many times I wished I could hit my man unconscious without suffering his wrath when he he wakes up. Don't get me wrong, I love him and all, but I'm not the only one who has a certain 'mood'.
Cato is convinced I have these moods and when I'm in my 'miserable' state of mind, as he has so sensitively named it, he has openly admitted he tries to stay away until I get into a mood he prefers. Like my 'sexy' mood, or 'blood-thirst' mood. Once he also claimed I had a 'pathetic' mood, but the second those words were uttered I soon turned into my 'rage' state and he never said it to my face again.
I feel like he is in a 'fuck my life' mood, and that is something he often takes out on the people and things around him. Being how I'm the closest thing to him almost always, I also tend to be the one who have to suffer through endless of mood-swings, from brooding to uncaring and to, of course, the infamous anger. Cato is angry now, sitting by himself a distance away. A much larger distance than I would like, which eats at my nerves annoyingly. But then again, what doesn't eat at my nerves nowadays?
I swear whatever this thing is making me feel drives me fucking crazy. It the thing's fault. Everything is the thing's fault. If it hadn't been for it, Cato would still be talking to me. And I wouldn't be a bundle of broken nerves; on the verge of crying the one second and ready to tear out someone's throat out the next. I'm pathetic.
Cato is still furious the bitch on fire got away, and has probably spent every waking minute trying to figure out how to catch her, or in which way he would want her to leave this world. Either way, I feel kind of hurt his mind is everywhere else than on what is happening with me, with us. But then I remember there is no room for feeling hurt in the Arena, and that there are worse things set in motion than Cato forgetting he has planted a thing inside of me.
We're still at our camp when I see smoke rising from down below, and the person lightening the fire, because that is the only logic explanation of what it might be, sets a pretty obvious trap for themselves. Once the word 'trap' is in my mind, I can't get it out, and a bad feeling rises in the pit of my stomach. "Cato," I say, and watch as his head snaps up to face me. With a bit of an unsure frown, I look from him to the smoke. "Do you see that?"
Immediately he springs into action, grabbing his sword, and starts to yell at Marvel 'to get his lazy ass moving'. "What if it's her?" The excitement makes the air ecstatic and light around him, but I'm still not that sure. From what I've learned about Katniss, she isn't of the dumb kind. She would know that lightening a fire would lead us right to her. Cato stares me down, probably contemplating whether I should come or not by the looks of his almost worried expression. Well, to me it looks like worry anyway. To other people who don't know him it probably looks like he is planning how to kill me. No matter how calm Cato is, that trace of anger always lingers in his features, the fury never really escapes his face.
I know there is no point in starting a discussion about whether we should go or not, because I know when Cato's determined, he won't be rocked. "I'm coming with you," I decide for him, giving him a pointed look as if to say you can't make me stay here. It's not like the camp needs any extra guarding anyway – we have the mines. Cato also needs my brains, even though I'm often the one to act on impulse. It doesn't matter, because Cato and I have always worked best in a team – we have spent so much time with the other that we both know each other's weaknesses and strengths. We complement each other; where one of us lacks, the other fills. He needs me with him, if not for this obvious reason, then to keep me safe.
He has obviously drawn the same conclusion as he looks at me sternly, then nods in agreement. "What about him?" Marvel says, nodding to District 3, and I give a little groan. I want him to stay back here, watching our supplies as I'm still not completely convinced about this mine arrangement.
"He's coming," Cato announces, and I look at him in disbelief. A frown on my face, and annoyance in my chest.
"Why?" I demand. "Cato, he'll slow us down. And we need someone to guard our supplies." I don't really care District 3 is standing among us, hearing what we have to say about him.
But Cato has his mind set, and shakes his head. "He's gonna carry our food and shit, aren't you, buddy?" Cato gives a cruel grimace of a grin as he ruffles District 3's hair, and I can see the boy shiver in fear under Cato's touch. I know there is no point in protesting and I press my lips into a tight line to prevent my arguing words from escaping.
Cato obviously notices. "Got anything to say, princess?" I narrow my eyes at him, but stay silent to Cato's satisfaction. He grins in triumph, and I feel fucking annoyed I let him have this victory. "He's coming. We need him in the woods, and his job's done here anyway. No one can touch those supplies," Cato announces loudly like for emphasis that he has the final word.
"What about Lover Boy?" Marvel speaks up, and I'm once again reminded by all those petty arguments Cato and Marvel have, a lot of them being about Peeta who got away. But he has a point – Peeta is the only one who knows the way around the mines.
Cato turns his gaze to glare at Marvel, making the smaller boy almost step back. "I keep telling you, forget about him," Cato growls. "I know where I cut him. It's a miracle he hasn't bled to death yet. At any rate, he's in no shape to raid us." And that ends that argument, Cato once again having the final say.
"Come on," says Cato, shoving a spear into the arms of District 3, who's already wearing that heavy backpack full of supplies and has his hands full of things Cato thinks we need. We then proceed to move, all of us knowing Cato will be furious if we don't obey. We reach the line of the wood, and Cato says in his growling voice, "When we find her, I kill her in my own way, and no one interferes." That makes me smile. Yeah, we'll see about that.
When we reach the fire from which the smoke rose from, there is no one around, and we all assume whoever lit it has had the common sense to get the hell out of there. It isn't before another trail of smoke reaches the sky somewhere ahead, some kind of worry overcomes me. No, not worry, suspicion. When we then reach that fire, and see nobody is here, alarm really settles in my body, and I just know something is up. "Cato," I say, trying to get his attention. He has spotted yet another trail of smoke, and is heading towards it. "Cato," I say a little more forcefully and he turns to look at me.
"What?" he growls in frustration. By the conflicted look on his face I can see he is thinking somewhat the same as me.
"Something's up," Marvel states the one thing we all seem to have been thinking from behind me. I turn to him and nod, a frown on my face. I know we don't really have time for this hesitation. We have walked for far too long to reach these camp fires, and realizing this is something bad just now is not good at all.
"We need to go back," I urge quietly. "Damn it, we need to go back fucking now, Cato." And the panic in my voice doesn't go unheard, not by me or the other people in our pack. But I can't control it, to my own very big frustration. Everything is just balling up on me, emotions, exhaustion, the fucking need to sleep but knowing I can't because sleep is a luxury I can't afford. They all stare at me, like they are contemplating what to do, my man seeming lost in thought.
And then there is that fucking booming sound. At first I think it's a cannon, that another tribute has been killed, but there is a much more different sound than the one we've grown accustomed to. There is something off about this exploding sound, and I can't really put my finger on why. Exploding...explosion...mines. "The fucking supplies, idiots!" I shout suddenly as realization settles. It works and I get them all kicked into action.
Fatigue is ready to settle in my body, but I know I can't let that stop me from keeping up. Both Marvel and Cato's legs are much longer than mine, which usually wouldn't really have stopped me. I'm fast, and in long distance runs I've beat Cato more than once. But now that could have just been a good dream, knowing I might throw up if I press myself too hard.
Everything I see ahead is smoke and scattered supplies as we get close enough to the camp to actually identify the situation. And instead of getting angry like I usually would have, I just feel like laying down and sleeping. I feel hopeless, on the verge of giving up – our food is non-existent, how the hell do we survive? And Cato, yes, my lovely Cato, he feels angry. I can feel it radiating from him where he stands a couple of feet on my side. I can feel it in the air, as well as see his muscles tense, his hand ball into fists, but most of all I can see it on his face. It's like madness takes over, ready to devour my man whole.
It almost surprised me how Cato doesn't scream in fury as he runs towards the camp, leaving Marvel and me behind him. Marvel looks worried, like he is afraid Cato will do something stupid in his growing tantrum – like kill him. And being worried about that might not be that crazy of him, but the real craziness is in front of us, storming towards the blown up supplies. I realize might not all the mines have been detonated yet, and if Cato runs into his own trap he might blow up. I do not want to see my man in thousands of pieces anytime soon, so I start sprinting after him.
Thankfully though, I see District 3 having started the task of seeing if all the mines exploded, having been the only one of us to not stop and watch the results of this disaster. Cato is also smart enough to not walk into the most dangerous zone, but stops to glare furiously at the sad remnants of our supplies. Marvel has joined me, and is silently plucking at some half-spared items, seeing if anything is of any use. Eyeing Cato with worry, I decide to do the same, desperately hoping there is something edible left.
Apparently I'm eating for two, and that makes me starve.
I feel drugged, like my mind isn't able to catch up with my body, or maybe it's the other way around. My body is numb almost, and I don't feel shocked, or angry, or frustrated, or sad we have lost our lifeline – I just feel empty. And the other thing, which makes me think someone has slipped something into my water, is how I so easily thought that thought. I'm eating for two. It's funny how I only feel the slightest twinge of nausea as the thought bounces around inside of my head, nothing else. Is this numbness acceptance, or am I just too tired to care? I'm hoping for the former, knowing we really don't have the time or resources to treat exhaustion properly. Not that we have the right supplies to support a pregnant woman either, but I guess that's just how the Arena works.
And then I see Cato move in the corner of my eye, and I just know this is going to be bad, or good, depending on who you ask. My former self would have thought this would be good, and stood there with a satisfied smirk on her face. But the present me feels indifferent about the matter. Cato's arm twinges a bit weirdly, like he needs to punch something, and I know he is going to find something, or someone to take his anger out on. "Cato," I warn, my voice strict, but low. I know there is no point in trying though, he is lost at the sea of fury right now and he doesn't want to be found just yet.
The eyes of District 3 grow wide and scared as the much bigger guy approaches him. "You," Cato hisses under his breath, like he can blame this whole thing on the boy. "You fucking planned this all along, didn't you?!" Cato is enraged, and before we all know it, the neck of the boy has been twisted and his lifeless body rests on the ground. My man's hands are shaking badly, and I know that this rage is not healthy for any of us. Even though he is standing a good distance away, I can hear him panting heavily as he is most likely trying to get a hold of himself. Marvel has a frown edged onto his forehead, as he also watches Cato fail at gaining composure. He looks at me, like if to say, 'Do something.' I roll my eyes to him, and take a couple of steps closer, studying Cato's behavior to see if I need to watch out for myself. When he is in this state, he doesn't really care who he is violent with, and that person might also be me. But then again, I'm also that person he regrets bruising the most, the one he won't kill and also the one who knows how to calm him down.
And then he starts to kick the remaining supplies, tearing at his hair, and growling curses into the empty air. It pains me almost, to see him like this, all torn up and a slave for his anger. I know how it is to be angered beyond control, how it feels like when fury licks your insides and you can't possibly escape the monster in any way because it's inside you. No, the monster is you, it becomes you.
I say his name, loud and clear, hoping he hears me through his insane fog. It gets his attention, and he glares at me, his chest heaving and dropping in an irregular pattern. Giving him a pointed look with my raised eyebrows, I try to convey to him in the least talkative way how he needs to stop this, even though I know that attempt is fucking ridiculous of me. Didn't I just think how well I knew about losing control over my temper? I certainly know that when it happens, there is much more than a pointed look from Cato which is needed to calm me down. Usually he grabs me and refuses to let me go until I have calmed down. That is rather effective, even though he manages to piss me off even more at first by keeping me locked in his arms. But he always manages to calm me down, and I know I need to talk him out of this.
"Cato," I say, my voice wary, but soft, trying my best to get his attention. To get his attention away from the disaster which just hit, even though by focusing on me he will turn his attention to another disaster. Two disasters at that. But I know I'm the only chance Cato has at calming down right now – he can spend hours in this rage. Taking a couple of steps closer, I know I risk him getting violent with me, but I'm not a little girl, I can take care of myself. He has turned his whole body against me now, standing in his ready to pounce stance. "You're not going to attack me, asshole," I tell him, adding a loving pet name for good measure.
The dark shadow which seems to go over his face tells me otherwise though, and I almost take a step back for failing at reading him. I eye the dead body of District 3, Cato's eyes never straying from me. "I'm not gonna end up like that," I tell him, nodding towards the dead, firmly stating my facts. He is standing still now, just breathing heavily. His eyes are flicking wildly over my features, and I hear the hitch in his breath as I take a step closer. Narrowing his eyes, Cato glares at me, and I take that as my cue to continue, taking another steps towards him. If he was going to hurt me, he would have already.
Then he suddenly kicks one of the unidentified remnants of out supplies, and the thing flies fast in my direction thought it misses me by inches. The curse from behind me indicates that it hit a not so amused Marvel, and under other circumstances I would probably have turned to laugh, or at least smirk at him, but I don't. I don't dare, thinking the second I turn my attention away from Cato, he is going to disappear on me.
In two sharp movements I have reached Cato and placed my hands on both of his cheeks. His angry pants hit my face, but I just grab a tighter hold of him. "Get off me," he growls, even though he does nothing to show he actually means his words – he is still just standing there, angry, growling under his breath. I shake my head slowly, looking at him. It seems like the world has frozen, and he is looking right back at me. Or not really looking, Cato is glaring.
"No," I tell him. "You're gonna fucking calm down." Narrowing my eyes I tell him I'm being serious. "We don't have time for this bullshit." His eyes are still flicking quickly over my face, as if to catch every slightest muscle I move. And for a moment it actually seems like he leans into my touch, that the tension in him loosens up, and he lets himself feel me, my hands against his skin.
But then he grabs both of my wrists, and forces them off him rather violently. "You're one to talk," he growls with a little insane, taunting smirk. Yeah, so now he is done being violent, and rather aims to hurt me in other ways. Well, he isn't exactly done being violent as his expression turns cold, and I'm basically thrown away from him. One thing I get from looking at my man's face, is that only revenge will justify this, and a bloody one at that. "What are you staring at?" Cato demands, aiming a poisonous glare at Marvel. I've managed to steady myself from Cato's violent ways of getting me out of his way, and I look at the less muscle-y boy too. Marvel quickly looks away, not wanting to anger my man any further, knowing it will not end well. His gaze rests on me instead, and there is almost a smirk on his face, a taunt, a realization. Marvel raises his eyebrows in a confirmation of his suspicious and all I want to do is slap that grin off his face.
"Who was it?" Cato demands, like we would know the answers. Both my and Marvel's gaze return to rest on Cato, who glares at me. "Who did this?" I know rolling my eyes will cause a reaction I definitely do not want, and I go back to searching for the surviving items of our supplies. Cato gives a sound of rage, but is more calm now than ever so I let him be. Our trio goes silent for a while, all of us just searching. At least me and Marvel are, Cato is just standing there, trying to control himself.
"Why the fuck are you so silent?" he asks after a while, and I turn to look at him. "Is it that hard for you to fucking answer me?" he says, glaring straight at me with his cold eyes.
"Is it that hard for you to understand I don't have an answer to fucking give you?" I answer his question with a question, realizing it might not be the best idea. But Cato is getting under my skin now, and if he has the right to act like a fucking asshole, then I have the right to be a bitch.
Cato snorts, taking a couple of steps forward. "Think you're so smart, huh, angel?" I bite my tongue as he uses his pet name for me. He is so mad, and I can't do anything about it.
Opening my mouth to fire some cruel retort back, I get interrupted by another voice. "Not to interrupt your interesting argument," Marvel says sarcastically, and looks at me arrogantly, not sure if he dares to look at Cato just yet. His eyes rest on what he has in his hands, and a fitting frown grows on Marvel's forehead. I have to squint to make out what he is holding, being how he is standing a distance away. It's an arrow, I realize with a start. "But Glimmer.." I say, trailing off. She's dead, and she was the only one with the bow and arrow.
"Bitch on fire," Cato growls suddenly, his eyes wide in realization. "I'm gonna get her, I'm gonna fucking kill her." He is speaking through clenched teeth, and I remember him telling me something about Katniss stealing Glimmer's bow and arrows before she died. And before I know it Cato has yelled for all three of us to go hunting.
"But the supplies.." I say, once again trailing off. Cato has picked up his sword and is ready to kill.
"What supplies, Clove?" he growls as he whirls on me. "There are no fucking supplies left!" And I look around at the sad pieces everywhere, knowing it's true. The only thing we have left is the big back pack District 3 was carrying around, which I point at for Cato to see.
"We have those," I tell him, and watch as his gaze rests on the back pack laying beside District 3's dead body. It didn't hit me before now how serious this is – how we basically have no food and weapons. The reasons us Careers are this strong is because we always get all the supplies, we need them to survive. I'm trained to hunt people, not animals.
Cato picks the back pack up, and turns to Marvel as if to get him to carry it. But then my man thinks it through, and places it on his own back instead. I nod silently in approval, even though Marvel has proved to be loyal, we don't know what he is thinking. And as neither of us seem to get that well along with him, I'm glad Cato isn't taking any chances. We can't afford to lose anything more.
"Let's just get away from here," I say. "We don't need to go hunting right away. Let's just sit down and think about our next move." I'm mainly saying this because I feel like I might pass out any second, and I'm sure Cato sees it too as his face turns into a frown when his gaze rests on me. "We can go to the other side of the lake, they need to take his body anyway," I say and nod to District 3, or what was District 3.
The only thing Cato does is glare at me for trying to take control over the situation. It's not like I'm trying to defy him, or call him out on making the wrong decisions, but I think he needs to clear his head, get rid of that anger, before we do anything else. Cato and anger is a dangerous mix, one which sadly puts himself more at risk than anyone. And I can't have that. "Besides, she probably died anyway." That's a new thought coming to my mind. She must have died trying to get to our supplies, and the noise of the explosion blocked out the cannon. The hovercraft probably already came to pick up her body long before we reached the camp, and the only thing she left behind was one lonely arrow which fell out, or for all we know, could have been remnants from Glimmer's living days. I look up at Cato, and he is giving me an angry, yet puzzled gaze. "Trying to get to our supplies, Cato. She probably died as they went off."
Everything goes silent as he seems to consider this, and I feel Marvel holding his breath at my side, as if he is awaiting an outburst from Cato. Surprising us all, Cato nods eventually, finally seeing the logic in my words. "Okay," he says, his voice still tense and angry, but it's not furious. Right now I think that is the only thing we can hope for.
And then we wait.
Darkness comes much faster than I'd like, and I have barely gotten sit down and rest as Panem's anthem booms up above us, before both the music and the seal disappears to leave us in the utter dark. Then all the dead tributes appear. Except it's only one – the boy of District 3 whom Cato killed personally. Standing up abruptly Cato growls a curse, and I know there will be tolerated no protests or discussions when he says we are going hunting. I bite my lip, but obey as he hands me the night-vision glasses, putting them on and watching as the world turns eerie and green-ish. Marvel lights a torch, and then we are off to get that bitch on fire.
The dark makes it easier for us to hunt without being seen, as long as we have the ability to stay silent. While I'm obviously the best at this, Marvel and Cato aren't too bad either, considering their size that is. Even though it's obvious they were never built to walk quietly. But no matter how quiet we walk, how little we talk, or how far we go, no tribute seem to be there. It is really taking its toll on my nerves, but even more on my body.
I have these stomach cramps which just won't go away, and I feel them twisting in my lower abdomen for every step I take. It is getting really bad, and I find myself having to gasp for air sometimes, just because the pain is determined to not let me have any air. "Fucking hell," I mutter under my breath, causing Cato's eyes to rest on me. Cato and I are walking side by side and Marvel a couple of steps in front of us. He obviously trusts we won't stab him in the back, literally, and he is right too. Honor means a lot to both Cato and me, and stabbing your ally is a failure to the code of honor.
Cato's forehead turns into a frown as he looks at me, and obviously notices my condition. It's like he is asking if I'm okay, which I'm not, but I know that my health or condition shouldn't matter. Screw health, I'll be dead soon anyway. But it gets harder and harder for me to move on, being how my body is physically failing me. "Shut up," I snap once he opens his mouth to talk, and I can see the annoyance mixing with the worry.
"We'll take a break," Cato says, stopping where we walk in the middle of nowhere. I look at him, opening my mouth to protest, but he shakes his head, cutting me off.
Marvel turns around with a glare, which softens when Cato glares back. "Why?" he demands. "We've only been walking for two hours tops." His gaze slyly slides from Cato and over to me, and he narrows his eyes in suspicion it seems.
Cato slips the back pack off his back, the thump it makes landing on the ground sounding painfully loud in the empty forest. "You're not the one carrying this fucking thing," he says, surprising me. Cato is actually taking the blame, protecting me almost, or at least my image. Taking the blame and saying he is tired of carrying the back pack instead of letting Marvel and the whole of Panem see I'm the one who is having trouble. I almost smile, but know better than to let that show. On the inside though, I feel much better, much lighter, like I can go on for a while after all, not preparing for my own death.
I look up at him, admiring him as usual, but not only in that 'I'm totally on my knees for him' way. I'm admiring him because beneath all that murderous blood-lust, and that dangerous rage, hides the man who loves me. The ridiculous thought makes me want to smile again, and I have to bite my lip to keep it from surfacing. "You should find some wood for a fire," Cato tells Marvel, who just glares in response before trudging off. Well, not really, first he proceeds to take a couple of steps forward and snatch the night-vision glasses out of my hand, and giving me his dying torch. He smirks, and then he leaves, leaving me and Cato alone.
"Thanks," I murmur softly as Marvel disappears in the dark, looking up at my man. My words are so soft I'm not sure if he heard me, or if the cameras even picked up on it.
Cato has taken off his goggles too, and I can now see his eyes, his face illuminated by the light of the torch. There is the tiniest tug of the corner of his lips, looking almost like a twitch of his muscles, but to me it clearly resembles a smile. "For what?" he says. "That shit's much heavier than it looks." And I can't keep the smile off of my face any longer, even though I look away and let my hair fall into my face to hide it. But I guess Cato is also kind of right too, it's a heavy back pack, and I'm not really sure how District 3 managed to carry it as well as he did.
There is enough room just where we are to fit a little camp. For us to rest and maybe if I'm lucky, get a little sleep. I know nights are supposed to be when we hunt, but my body has never protested like this before. And I know that pushing myself too hard will lead to something much worse. What if I pass out when we really need to run, what happens then?
I sit down on the ground, eventually being followed by Cato after he is done rolling his eyes. Silence surrounds us, one of those comfortable ones, my mood suddenly being so much better than it was a couple of minutes ago. That is the power Cato has over me, being able to make me feel like shit, but still knowing exactly how to make me feel like his everything. He starts to search in the big back pack, probably after something to eat. Handing me half a bag of crackers, he once again proves to be so much more than his monstrous surface.
And the best part of our little break? I get to sleep. Cato allows me to sleep for about two full hours, and even if that's far from enough, it helps me a lot. I'm awoken by a not so gentle shake, but I still feel happy when I wake, the only reason being how my body is pretty much pressed against Cato's. My head is resting on his arm, and even though I'm laying so I don't face him, I feel so close to him. That moment is perfect to me, collected by my memory forever to be cherished in my heart. The first thing I see as I open my eyes is a crackling fire, and the second thing I see is Marvel laying on his back on the other side of it, eyeing me, or rather Cato and me. A little sad smirk is on his face, like if to say he knew all along, like if to say he is sorry.
I let myself smile a little sad smile back, only the slightest curve of my lips, just to let him know I don't think he is that bad of a guy after all. Sure, he is annoying as fuck, and feels the need to constantly challenge Cato, but he has grown on me. I wouldn't say I would be terribly sad if he died, but I don't want to be the one to finish him off either. Fuck this Arena and bonding with my enemy. But I guess that's what I've always done – just look at Cato and me. He always was the enemy, and he is now too. My cherished lover, my worst enemy.
Turning around with a yawn, I find Cato looking down at me. "You were cold," he said gruffly, and I take that as my cue to sit up. Sitting up, I yawn once more, rubbing my tired eyes. Cato still hasn't moved from my side, though he has sat up too, causing the warmth of his body to mix with mine. It's some comfort in this blackness of the dark, in this mess of a life. Having his arm casually brush my back feels like that last night before the Arena all over again in this state I'm in. I'm craving his touch so badly, not because I'm some kind of horny maniac, really, but because I need his assurance. I need comfort, a sign it is all going to be okay. I need him to hold me and tell me that I, him, and our baby is going to be okay.
And it takes my breath away when I think about how we aren't.
I never knew a heart could bleed without being stabbed.