I read the Hunger Games a long time ago and was instantly obsessed with the Feast scene where Cato is distraught over Clove's death. I thought about it, and suddenly all these story ideas came to me. This happened to be my favorite, so I hope you enjoy. I tried to keep the characters from being to OOC.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games.
He's bored. He won't volunteer this year because he would want more training, and honestly the idea of him entering the Games seems a bit unfair to the other tributes. Stacked odds. But he is fourteen (almost fifteen) and he is ready to go home, not stuck here surrounded by eager teenagers and slightly anxious parents.
"Fiona Mudane," Pippin Meager, the obnoxious capital woman, calls out in her high-pitched accent. The name registers in his brain as he sees a thin girl of twelve with big eyes slowly coming forward. And compared to the blood-thirsty youth surrounding her, she seems so surreal as he remembers he at his house, sitting in his kitchen and laughing with his sister and pouring him a drink and smiling and talking softly because she's always been that way; soft and breakable and he knows the Games will rip her apart-
"I volunteer!" faces fall in disappointment as the girls realize that they will have to trudge through another year until their golden opportunity. Fiona turns around and her eyes widen and her lower lip trembles as she watches the figure still blocked from his view walking forward. The foolish girl starts shaking her head rapidly as a hand reaches out and grabs her arm, yanking her back into the crowd before she can cause a scene for all of Panem to see and mock District Two. He gazes off into the distance, disinterested. It is exactly like the last year and the years before that. Some sniffling kid gets called, then before they can react, someone older volunteers, eager for blood and glory. He pushed aside the fact that, for a split second, he had felt pity for the girl. No, pity was for the weak. Not for him. An elbow is suddenly thrust into his rib cage, and before he can pay back the favor, he looks at the stage and wished he hadn't.
"And what's your name?" Pippin is purring, teetering on those ridiculous heels to the girl who looks too tiny to be there, as if the stage is simply going to collapse, swallow her whole. She clears her throat, lifting her chin.
"Cordelia Retan," she pronounces haughtily, her face a cool mask of indifference. He's almost fooled too, were it not for her shaking hands clasped behind her back.
His mother is in hysterics as they have to drag her away, his father following behind with a blank expression. It's disgusting, all her emotions out in the open like that. She's a sniveling mess, and he swears he will never be reduced to that. Of course, that's before he comes in the room himself and sees her sitting primly on the couch, little doll hands folded lady-like over her knees. And suddenly he's another tribute, and he can see all her weak spots that they will sniff out and target: her thin white neck, her knobby wrists, her delicate baby fingers.
"Cato," she whispers, and he snaps out of it and looks into her big blue eyes and he's filled with anger.
"Why the hell did you volunteer?" he hisses, and somewhere in the back of his mind her knows what could possibly be his last minutes with his baby sister shouldn't be spent with him screaming at her, but he can't help it. She opens her mouth-her tiny pink lips that some tribute can't wait to slice off-but he cuts her off. "Someone else would have volunteered, you know dozens would have. Why did you? !" he yells as she shrinks back against the back of the couch.
"I was scared," she says softly in the only voice that can snap him out of one of his rages, her fingers picking at the fraying hem on her skirt. "Cato, Fiona's so young. She wouldn't have made it past the blood bath. She's my friend," she says, and then he looks at her, drinking in the picture of her innocent eyes and blonde waves and knows this is how she will be forever printed in his mind-naive to the insanity and utter hell that is the Arena.
"Cordelia," he begins, his voice betraying him and breaking mid-vowel, "you're barely thirteen. There will be others who are much older, wiser, and better trained," he says, expecting her to start sobbing and collapse in his arms. But, to his surprise, she looks up defiantly, wearing almost the exact same look she had on stage.
"I know how to win, Cato," she says, and the little self-sure tone would have been amusing would they not have been discussing her slaying someone else's younger siblings.
He isn't surprised how big of a hit she is. With her hair in curls and long eyelashes fluttering, she would be the picture of innocence, had it not been for the menacing undertone in her sing-song voice and the little smirks she keeps throwing at the audience. Kind of disturbing really. But the Capital eats it up and that's all that matters because she pulls a six and his father nods and his mother gives a hopeful little smile that maybe her baby can make it out of this.
Teaming up with the Careers was to be expected. District Two is known for blood lust and exceptional skills, and she doesn't disappoint. All the hours she spent down at the pre-training center back at District Two seemed to have paid off as she quickly warms up to her leadership role. There's a slick haired boy he doesn't like-keeps making these Looks at her, sizing her up, just waiting for her to fall asleep so he can stick a knife in her back. But then there's a girl from District Four who's cunning and keeps taking out lesser tributes left and right. And it seems that maybe his sister will make it out of this un-scarred.
Then she changes. Little things at first, like how she gives a small smile every time she kills a tribute or seems to twist the dagger a little sharper, making their deaths a tad more painful and gruesome. He hadn't noticed it in the other tributes in the years before her, but then again he had never been watching so closely. Now every second she spends in the Arena seems to be one more part of her fading away. But he clings to his wavering hope that she is still his loving, slightly cynical, baby sister with big eyes and who kissed him on the cheek before she boarded the train, leaving her scent of strawberries and linen on his shirt he still hadn't washed as she hugged him.
But he knows she is gone when she kills the slick haired boy. Not just kills, but full on out maims, ripping the tribute to shreds unto the ground is soaked in red and he can't even whimper in pain anymore. And she looks up to the camera and grins, blowing a kiss and waving her red stained hand. Her eyes aren't right-there isn't any swirling of deeper thought or emotions. The Games have taken that from her, and instead they're just empty and hungry for death. He holds the shirt that smells of strawberries and linen and doesn't sleep that night. Or the next night.
There are three tributes besides her left. He is hollow on the inside as he watches what use to be his sister torture and give cries of glee for every drop of blood. The Capital has robbed him of a sister and replaced her with a Monster. His father drinks more and stays out late, while his mother is going a little more insane each day. She hums to herself and often sits in her chair, staring blankly at nothing. He can't stand to go out because he either gets looks of pity or looks of fury and both are equally as infuriating.
Then the day comes. She has found District Four girl and they're involved in an epic, mid-rain chase through the woods until District Four girl suddenly stops and drops to the ground. But she's been running so fast, built up on momentum, that she doesn't stop in time and instead stumbles over the other girl, falling. It's not until she rolls over onto her back with several pointed sticks protruding from her body and District Four girl stands and gives a small little smile that he understands. It was a plan and she was too eager to get her hands covered in blood again to think things through and now she's underestimated District Four girl and she's dying.
The camera does a close-up of her face: trembling bottom lip, tears streaming down her dirty cheeks, the light rapidly fading from her eyes. For a second, her eyes aren't cold and cruel and they're her again, she's his Cordelia, but then she moans and thin eyelids flutter closed and the cannon sounds and it's over. His mother's in hysterics and his fathers not even at home and he punches a hole right through the wall.
His mother loses the last shred of her sanity when the wooden coffin arrives a few days later.
This is his year. This year, at age seventeen, he will volunteer. He trains for hours, covered in sweat and smirking as no one wants to pair up with him. Who would? He is the one to beat.
Everyone hushes as a girl-Clove, he recognizes- walks in. She is short and tiny and dangerous with knifes, but that doesn't mask the fact that her screams could be heard wailing from her house last night as he dad stumbled in, drunk. She sneers and glares at everyone who quickly looks away while she whips out a knife and plunges it into the nearest training dummy. She stabs and tears until nothing remains but a pile of stuffing and red fabric and everyone else is thankful they weren't her training partner. But he sees as she pushes her dark hair to the side the blue and purple bruises blooming like deadly flowers on her neck.
It goes by in a blur. Clove volunteers as does he, his mother gathers what remains of her working brain only to break down and cling to him as he boards the train. He doesn't know why. It should be obvious who the victor this year will be.
The scores have flashed off the screen long ago and everyone else has left, but he is still sitting there, staring. Making alliances was critical, and the scores had filled him with slight worry. But he shook his head- he'd take out District 12 girl quickly. She'd be one of the first to go.
He's so deep in thought that he doesn't even notice when Clove comes in until she sits down beside him. He looks up at her, but she's sharpening a tiny knife that's technically illegal for her to posses at the moment. But she'd probably gut anyone who'd try and take it away from her.
It's quiet for a few minutes and he's just about to get up when she suddenly grabs his arm, sharp little nails digging crescent moons into his flesh. "So," she says, and her voice is surprisingly soft, but still deadly, "I suppose we'll team up, get a few more careers, then kill them off later and separate?" she tilts her head and blinks her brown eyes.
He raises an eyebrow. "Seems you've thought it out," he comments, and she laughs a spiteful little nasty laugh.
"What, and you haven't?" she smirks, her full lips twitching upwards and he notices how sure she looks of herself, how much more confident she is now as she calmly discusses her plan to murder other children as oppossed to back at District Two, where she's constantly on-guard and defensive.
He snorts. "You wish, Princess," she purses her lips at the nickname, showing her displeasure, which means he'll have to remind himself to use it again.
She's a better ally that he'd expected. She easily slits throats and is so emotionless when compared to how Glimmer was it's surreal. He doesn't know how she calmed him out of rage after snapping the neck of the District 3 tribute. There's something in her eyes that catches him, kept him from stabbing her in the back or quietly snapping her own neck. Something eerily familiar. If he's being honest with himself, it's scary how she somehow keeps reminding him of Her. When she's sitting there, thinking, or sleeping, slumped against a tree, then there's this haunting trace of Cordelia. He tells himself that's the only reason she's still alive, because it would be too much like killing his ghost of a sister, but he has the strangest sensation he's not being completely honest with himself.
He's almost sad when they awkwardly part, he slight nod as she slips off into the night, unspoken words hanging thick in the air. I hope someone else kills you before I have to.
The rule was made for Lover Boy and the Fire girl, but he can't deny that he's relived to be able to team up with her again. Gone now is the constant worry that he'll have to be the one to kill her. It made him feel so weak, like Lover Boy. Why was killing her any different than anyone else? Cordelia, he tells himself. It's because she's too much like Cordelia.
But he can't ignore the warm feeling in the pit of his stomach when he stumbles upon her, smirking in that self-assured way, completely and utterly content for a small second, because everything seems to be lined up perfectly for him this time. It's almost too perfect, and he can't shake the fact that he's waiting for it to crumble apart.
"Why did you volunteer?" the question slips out before he can stop it, and he winces for a second as she looks up at him, thinking that he's just ruined the rare moment of contentment.
"What, I couldn't have volunteered for the fame and glory like everyone else?" she says sarcastically.
"No," he says simply, causing her to raise her eyebrows.
"Oh? And why not?" and he looks at her, really looks at her, and for a second her eyes don't seem nearly as hateful as they normally do.
"Because you're not normal," he says, and she's quiet for a second while he avoids looking at her.
"I volunteered to get away," she says quietly, and he understands, suddenly remembering the bruises on her neck and the screams. He hates himself for not doing anything about the screaming, just listening to it. When the tributes that he's killed screams, it's alright. It's a sign that he's done a clean job, a sign that he's one step closer to winning. But when she screams it's different. "I would ask why you volunteered, but it's pretty obvious," she says, absentmindedly twirling a piece of grass. He look down at her.
"Obvious? Well, what is it then?" he says lightly. The corners of her full lips twitch upward.
"Revenge. You couldn't stop what happened to Cordelia, so now you feel like you're taking matters into your own hands, in your own sick, twisted way," she said unusually thoughtfully. He thinks and, with a jolt, realizes it's true, and is mildly disappointed. He liked to think it was his subconscious prodding him to volunteer just so he could protect this seemingly frail girl, but knows that anyone who thinks she's frail is bound to get corrected with the aid of one of her well-placed knifes.
"And why couldn't I have volunteered for the fame and glory like everyone else?" he says, and her eyes peer up at his through dark lashes and suddenly the moment is so important and he's so aware of every muscle in his body, of every breath he breathes and each hair hanging in his eyes.
"Because you're not normal," she whispers, and then he's leaning down as she's leaning up and somehow their lips meet in the middle and everything's more alright than they've been in nearly two years.
At first, he didn't believe it was actually her screaming for him. After all, why would she need him to come protect her? She was strong and deadly, plunging those knifes into anything that so much as twitched. But then he hears it a second time and he takes off running, his feet not going fast enough. He sees the big one from District 11 that was always a threat-Thresh- holding her above the ground, a stone in the other hand. As if in slow motion, he slams it into her head, dropping her to the ground as he turns to Katniss.
Suddenly all he has to do is get to her, because if he can get to her in time he can save her and everything will be okay, because none of this can happen because for some screwed up reason he suddenly cares about her, and he disgusts himself because caring about her means he's not as indestructible as he'd been believing all along, but that doesn't change the fact that everything depends on this fragile second as he races to her side. Katniss scrambles off-presumably to go find Lover Boy, and Thresh scoops up his and their backpacks, taking off. But he'll deal with that later, because right now is all about making sure she stays there with him.
Her eyes flutter open as she moans and clutches his hand, and he can't even hold back sobs (so pathetic) or keep from looking in horror at the dent in her head. And then he's not at The 74th Hunger Games anymore, watching one of the only people he's ever felt something more than vague disinterest for dying, but at home, watching his little sister clutching at her bloody stomach and crying. He can't even tell the difference anymore because now Clove's so so tiny and her eyes are so full of pain and something else and she's curled up and it's not Clove, he's watching Cordelia die all over again. He knows that if he can save Clove then he can save Cordelia, but Clove (stubborn as always) won't listen, and fades away with the whispered words of "Win for me, Cato," and he knows he will.
He suspects that the thunderstorm was planned to add drama, but that's alright with him. He enjoys watching as Thresh's blood mixes with the rain, staining the wheat a beautiful red that makes him grin. Cordelia has a red dress. Clove has her nails red. He can hear them whispering to him as he spears through Thresh's body, hearing him howl in pain. The whisper that they miss him, and that he must win. He somehow knows that if he can win, he'll see them again. Because neither of them are dead, no, it's simply another trick by the Capital to make the games more gruesome.
"Let's see how you like it," he hisses, and he can't see anything but red and Clove as he slams a heavy stone into Thresh's skull again and again. The cannon sounds, but he doesn't, can't stop, because it must be brutal enough for the Capital to give them back. They have to give them back, they must. "Pathetic," Clove sneers at him. "You've gone soft on me, Cato," she comments idly, watching as he slams the rock into what remains of Thresh's skull.
"Never," he pants desperately as she purses her lips. Just to prove it to her, he covers his hands in the bloody water, rubbing it through his hair (she liked to threaten to cut him apart, starting with one hair at a time)and over his face (she often said if she had to kill him, she wouldn't want to touch his face because it was too nice to mess with).
He knows they want the body now but they can't have it because he hasn't done enough, because Clove still isn't impressed and they won't give her back if he can't make it gruesome. He looks at the bloody sword lying on the ground and at Thresh's battered body, and he can hear the whispered do it.
"Still think I've gone soft?" Cato looks at her as she smiles. They're sitting in the wheat, watching as Thresh's body is lifted up one limb at a time. Her hand brushes his.
"Eh, you've still got some improving to do," she winks and smirks as Cordelia snickers from her spot a few feet away.
He was going to kill all the muttations. He was going to kill all the muttations and then Lover Boy first-he wanted Katniss to know how it felt, watching someone you care about die an agonizing death and being helpless to stop it-then kill her the way Clove had wanted to, cutting up her face all delicate and precise. She would've too, had the Capital not taken her away. But he'd get her and Cordelia back when he won, and they'd go back to District 2 and be famous and it'd be okay.
Then he saw the tiny mutt with dark hair and dark familiar eyes and he couldn't do it. And he doesn't hear Clove saying how pathetic he is because she's dead and she's not coming back to him and neither is Cordelia and suddenly he doesn't feel, because there's nothing he can do because they're gone. Forever.
It might have lasted minutes or days, he didn't know. It soon grew to a numb feeling all over as he tried to avoid seeing those brown eyes. Then he looks up and there's Katniss, looking at him with pity (and, if he's being honest with himself, he is pretty pathetic at the moment), and he mouths the word. Please.
Then the arrow slices through the air and the last thing he sees is those brown eyes.