Disclaimer: I unfortunately own nothing. All ingenuity goes to the great Suzanne Collins.
A/N: If you don't like Cato/Katniss, then I suggest you don't read any further. The characters might seem OOC, but hey, that's the beauty of fanfiction. This is going to be a short one - at least another chapter or so. This is my first fiction in the Hunger Games and I've also recently re-entered the fanfiction world, but I doubt I'll update as much as I used to. I'm pretty sure this story line has been overdone...but, oh well.
He Knew Her First
No, please, no. Anyone—anyone but her.
She was a vision blue-black silk of hair that flowed down to her waist, the opalescent skin that highlighted a luminous loveliness underneath the fainted glows of the room, the gentle fluttering of dark lashes, the owlish blinking of metallic grey orbs, and the look of pure boredom that would seldom elusively escape her stunning facial features. Boredom, at a time like this. Pale, stick-thin, and filled with delicate lines, she was too beautiful to live such a short life. She hadn't lived even half of it before the guarantee of death knocked on her door.
He never meant to fall in love with her. After all, he personified the cold and heartless brute very well all these years, hidden under the exterior of his devastatingly handsome countenance. It was a means of survival and one that helped him prepare for the Games that he was always meant to compete in. But she had slyly crept on him, ensnaring his body and soul intact out of the blue. He had taken the route to resist the overwhelming emotions and feelings, but that hadn't gone too well. He was a long goner before he even realized it.
Any fantasies he had over winning the Games and pursuing her after the victory tour flew out the window. His plans to date her and essentially hope to gain her love in return had diminished before his very eyes. His yearning vision for his future had been predominantly destroyed the moment he watched a recap of the reapings whilst on the train. This fragile, delicate little thing called Cato's heart had shattered into millions of pieces as he watched her volunteer for her own younger sister.
The tall male from District 2 paced about the room in agitation, his drastic inner monologue stretching out far longer than it should be as his thoughts struggled remotely to comprehend anything. First his father, then his aunt and uncle together, and now her? Was the goddamn nation of Panem intent on taking everything away from him?
"She's my sister, Cato," Katniss explained to him, her words performing an iron drill to his turbulent thoughts as she merely sat cross-legged on her own bed. "I'd never thought Prim would ever get reaped on her first year. She wasn't ready for the Games. She didn't deserve this." Sweet Prim in the Hunger Games? Hell, no.
"And you think you do?" he shot back curtly. "You really want to get yourself killed?"
Her silver eyes narrowed at his comment. "Of course not," she responded sharply. "If I had known that you would be entering the Games..."
Cato instinctively softened. "I was going to tell you…"
"Oh, really? Were you going to tell me before or after I'm watching you die on live television? How about when your mother's sending me an invitation to your funeral—is that when you were going to tell me?"
An awkward silence followed the end of her biting statement. Cato had gradually hardened at her words, but he knew that she was right. Keeping it to himself must have been one of the most tactless things he could ever do to her. He watched her as pulled her legs to her torso, her chin resting atop her knees as she stared blankly at the wall in the opposite direction, her anger having evaporated as quickly as it had sparked in the first place.
Taking Katniss' absence of sound as somewhat of an incitement, the male crawled onto the bed, planting his body right beside hers. Almost automatically, her head dropped to lean against his shoulder.
"If I had never encountered you, I wouldn't be worrying over this," he started out quietly, his voice not filled with anticipated regret but with somber thoughtfulness. His fingers enfolded over her skinny wrist warmly. "I would have been the same bloodthirsty monster I was when you first met me and I probably would have been plotting how to kill you, along with everyone else, at this very moment."
Katniss made a whimsical humming noise. "Thank God you've had the pleasure of me gracing your life, eh?"
Despite the tremulous situation they had gotten themselves into, the two teenagers both started chortling in their own expense. Rather than continuing to brood over at how their lives were really unfortunate, they reluctantly accepted their own blunder of a decision, and the consequence that followed it.
"Could I stay here tonight?" The urge to protect her started now; even in her sleep he would guard her from harm.
Her answer was a simple nod before she drew back the covers of the bed. Slipping under the blanket in a fluid motion, she patted the empty space on her left side for him to fill. Not being one to disappoint, Cato crept to the spot, pulling the covers with him and cocooning the both of them with materialistic comfort. Instinctively, the pale female rolled over until she had her nose pressed against the outline of his neck, and naturally, he wrapped both arms around her willowy frame and dragged her even closer, his lips against her hairline. Letting out a small sigh, kissed her forehead very gently, prepared to stay awake the entire night when she had already fallen asleep within the first two minutes.
He would make sure that she would make it out of these Games alive, even if it meant giving up his own life.
It was complete and utter chaos once the countdown ended. There was a special reason why people called it the initial bloodbath because this was where a handful of tributes die by the margin in one setting.
Katniss was by far the fastest of all this year's tributes. In less than fifteen seconds, she had already picked up a stray pack filled with a miscellany of provisions and she had easily plucked the bow and the quiver filled with the many beautiful fletched arrows before quickly darting into the enclosure of the deep forestry terrain ahead of her. She ran just in time to see the way Cato - her Cato - brutally murdered a boy from District 3 from the corner of her eyes. All the other tributes were still caught up in the hazardous zone of the Cornucopia to even attempt to escape into the forest. At least this small factor gave her somewhat of a head start.
Before she could stretch her path forward, a nearby scream was omitted and pure heroism kicked in her veins. There had been no need to run far since the attack was only a couple running distances to her right. Her heart had stunted into an unneeded stop when Peeta Mellark had his ribcage shattered by the blade of an axe. The male from District 5 couldn't even make another swing before a slender arrow had lodged itself straight into his heart, immediately killing him upon impact.
She jolted forward, coming to her knees beside Peeta as she looked at him with a hardened emotion akin to guilt around her smoldering irises. The skin where the axe had touched him was a horrendous sight, edges of the smooth surface ripped raggedly from the curved metal. As his skin peeled, oozes of red blood gushed out from his body, making a small pool around the two teenagers. She was certain that she could see the stark whiteness of his bones sticking out from the mess.
"You'll…you'll tell my family?" Peeta breathed out hoarsely, droplets of blood gathering against the corner of his mouth.
Katniss nodded, already knowing what he was referring to. The night before, the two tributes of District 12 had made an unconscious and silent pact to send their condolences to the other's family if they actually won, even if they hadn't promised to protect each other. The Games had suddenly changed on her because now she had a reason to fight for. She had to at least try to survive so she could make it back to the dying bread boy's family in their home district and apologize for not saving him sooner.
A rough chuckle broke her thoughts away. "You can't save everyone, Katniss. This…isn't your fault." When she still looked nonplussed, he coughed up some more dreadful blood. "I couldn't manage to get a…a weapon, but I did get one of the packs. You should take it."
Peeta Mellark died before she could argue back.
The cameras had probably left her the moment she started to rearrange Peeta, but she didn't give a damn. Katniss had fixed her district partner's position, straightening his spread-eagled frame and folding both of his hands together before placing them upon his chest. She wiped the blood that pooled at his mouth with the edge of her sleeve, pulling his shirt down to cover his gory wound. Picking at some nearby wild flowers, she weaved some in his hair and scattered all of them around to make a soft bed of white flowers. Carefully brushing the tendrils of his hair back to reveal the kind face concealed behind it, she had finally deemed him presentable to be taken by the Capitol's hovercraft.
Aforementioned girl averted her eyes wearily. "Hey," she uttered mechanically, her motions matching with her tone as she filled her pack with all the contents in Peeta's own pack without even looking. She went towards the deceased boy from District 5, drawing the shaft of her arrow out and wiping it clean amongst the patches of grass.
"Did you kill both of them?" Cato was surprised that she had made her kills already.
"Just the one from District 5."
She was being extraordinarily curt with him, a concept completely foreign to Cato. Fuck, no… He knew this would happen to them. He knew it. He just knew they would begin to regard each other as enemies. The Games had the tendency to do that to you.
His heart pounded loudly in his ears. "Katniss, don't—"
The boy from District 2 was shortly cut off when she dismissed the beginning of his plead with a wave of her hand. Her index finger touched the crevice of her ear. The whole world is listening. Of course that was why she was being so uncharacteristically cold to him. After his brain was done processing that thought, he internally cursed himself for not being that clever. No one could know that they had been friends before the Games. He was rather ashamed that the sentimental part of him misinterpreted her succinct composition as the lethal end of their relationship.
Knowing the cameras were still trained on them, Cato could do nothing else but nod briskly at her, the glare on his face promising that he would kill her the next time he saw her, but the emotion beneath the depth of his eyes promising to do anything and everything to protect her.
Feigning a narrowed glance, Katniss ran off without a second glance, inadvertently taking Cato's heart along with her.
Two days would pass before the two would encounter each other again. That was only after he had violently slaughtered a girl from District 7, having been rowdily encouraged by his fellow Careers: Clove, his district partner, Marvel and Glimmer of District 1, and Coral and Tai of District 4. And it was only after the Gamemakers decided to set a whole distinct part of the forest ablaze.
Cato had physically and mentally panicked when he noticed that most of the fires had traveled the way Katniss had taken beforehand. After receiving his own burns to spare, he could only hope that she had managed to escape after he could find no whereabouts of her life.
From her strewn position atop a high tree branch, Katniss shifted from sleep when a silver parachute landed with a small beeping noise on top of her flat stomach. She was shocked to have a sponsor gift only an hour after escaping the tribulations of falling trees and burning debris. The Girl on Fire had made a better impression to the citizens of the Capitol than Katniss thought she would. Applying the cream generously to all her burns, she let a small grin come to her face to feel the cooling sensations.
"Hey there, Firegirl."
Her trademark bored expression made its way onto her face as she capped the small pot of burning cream. It was Cato's voice that addressed her. "Good to see you, Cato," she paused demurely. "And you too, Clover."
"It's Clove," Cato's district partner gnarled in offense.
"How's everything with you?" Katniss smiled down at the group of Careers that were loitered at the base of the tree.
Cato smirked back. "Well enough. How about you?"
"It's a bit too warm for my taste." She could almost hear the laughter ranging from the Capitol. She shifted her position precariously, letting her thin legs dangle from the branch. "The air's better up here. Why don't you come up?"
"Think I will."
Katniss' ears trained on their conversation as she listened to Cato decline on whatever Glimmer was offering, claiming that he'd do much better with his sword. As he started to climb, the Careers still afoot miss the reversal of expressions that design Cato's face. The expected arrogance slipped steadily from his face and his blue eyes gleamed with a nonverbal thought that she understood well from her point of view. I won't hurt you.
As though he had proclaimed the very thought aloud, it was not a coincidental act when Cato managed to slip his footing on a branch, causing it to snap and letting his back collide with solid ground. Concealing the grimace that came with the short, yet sharp pain, he turned his facial features into indignant anger for the rest of the Careers.
After much growling to each other, Coral comes up with the brilliant plan to just camp out near Katniss' tree. There was much brash talking from that crude Tai of District 4, but Cato was oddly quiet about everything. From her position up in the tree, she laughed quietly to herself after having witnessed Glimmer's useless attempts at flirtation with Cato. Dear Lord, no wonder why people enjoyed watching the Hunger Games so much.
Or she could be jealous. No.
Once Cato knew that all the members of his group were asleep, he pushed himself away from his sleeping bag, his eyes rolling when he noticed that Glimmer was about a foot closer to him before they had started to sleep.
He approached the tree again—why did his heart have to drum so damn hard? "Katniss."
Katniss' face appeared above, white and beautiful as an angel. "Cato, what are you doing?"
"Are you okay?" Unbeknownst to him, his brows knitted together as he reached out to grasp at a thick branch. He climbed as high as he could, but his massive build is far from Katniss' more agile and lissome one. His head tipped upward, gaze never once wavering from her face.
"I'm fine," Katniss replied, silently jumping off branches with such enviable ease. She met him halfway towards the secondary level of branches, crouching on her heels whilst Cato was still just one branch below her. In her palm sat a small pot of some sort of something he didn't quite know. "You're burned," she noted the charred and blistered skin of his neck.
She poked two digits into the jar as she sat above him, rubbing them together before reaching down to gently spread the healing balm across the couture of his wounded neck. The effect was almost magical, erasing the pain on contact and leaving many soothing tingles behind. Sighing pleasantly, Cato lifted his arm, letting his fingers instinctively intertwine with the fingers of her other free hand.
The Capitol must have been confused by their implications by now, just as Cato always was when around her.
"I'll keep the others away from you." Cato pressed their locked hands against his cheek with temperate fervor. After daring to kiss the inside of her wrist in front of the cameras, he made another affirmation. "They won't touch you."
"They might not have the chance to." At his inquiry of a glance, she nodded her head up at the branch she was currently using as a means of a bed. His eyes widened at the sight of a large tracker jacker nest. It was only a few short inches of where Katniss' head would be in her own sleeping bag.
"You…?" The blonde male was momentarily too stunned to speak.
Katniss nodded to confirm his suspicion. "Three-fourths of it is already sawed off. I'm going to saw the rest of it off the next morning, before they all wake up," she squeezed his hand tightly to get his attention. "When I give you the signal, you need to get the hell out of there. Go to the lake—say you're getting more water. Just make up an excuse, okay?"
Shocking Cato in earnest, and nearly giving him a heart-attack in front of live television, Katniss leaned down and placed her mouth over his forehead, her lips gently brushing over the tip of his right brow. Smiling slyly at him, she wiggled her hand out of his grasp and swiftly scurried up the length of the tree.
To be continued...
Another A/N: Don't hate me. I had to kill Peeta for a reason - writing it broke my heart too ;( So, what do you think? I'm trying to stray from the original story line. Review if you can please!