"Did I change a lot when we were in the Games?" Cato asks when I quickly shut off the television and rush outside to the grassy meadow between Victor's Village and the next village over, Glenwood. The Games that the Capitol was about to re air were our own, and I am not prepared for that. I don't think I'll ever be prepared to watch a recap of our Games again.
"It's hard to say, Cato. I never really knew you before the Games so I don't have much to judge on," I answer carefully. The truth is, though, I do have a bit to go on. Cato was popular at the Training Center and probably at school, too. I might have gone to school in my village while he went to school here, in town, but it's not hard to guess. I saw all of the friends reaching out, trying to shake his hand or pat his back, after we got home. If Cato was popular he was probably likeable, too. In the arena he wasn't all that likeable. Instead, he was a killing machine.
"I watched the recap and it didn't even seem like me, you know," he says.
"It's to be expected, Cato. We all had to become survivalists in there and it's bound to change anyone into something that shocks them. I mean, when most people watch the recap with Cesar, they just look shocked by it," I try to be comforting, but it's never been my strong point.
"I just can't help but feel like I lost every little piece of myself to the Games and to the Capitol, Clove. I feel like I just became some senseless, killing pawn of theirs while I was in there," Cato sighs.
"Not at the Feast, Cato," I whisper.
"Yeah, but I only did that because I thought that you were too pretty to have your face smashed in by a rock," he confesses. I'm shocked.
"What?" is the only thing that I can manage to splutter.
"That was my reasoning at the time, Clove," Cato grins. "I've never been like Lover Boy with my 'feelings' and shit. I was running to save you and when I Thresh with the rock all I could think about was how he was going to ruin your face."
"Yeah, but then after that…" I begin.
"I realized how I really felt. I saw that rock hit you, Clove, and I thought I was going to lose you. I realized that I couldn't bear that thought," Cato explains and he grabs my hand. I, out of habit, wrench it away.
"Sorry, it's a bad habit of mine," I mumble.
"Maybe that could be your new talent: personalized rejection of affection," Cato groans, but I can hear the joking tone behind his voice.
"I just can't think of anything, Cato! I asked Lyme, but hers is teaching, of all things, so that helps me out exactly none, seeing as I can't stand any of the people at the Center. Brutus's is making wood carvings, and God knows that Enobaria's is probably something crazy and morbid that goes with having fangs…" I ramble.
"Maybe it's drinking the blood of failing career trainees," Cato offers.
"Shut up, you're absolutely no help! Besides, you're absolutely terrified of her and you probably don't have a 'new talent' either," I argue.
"I do so have a new talent! Do you want to know what it is?" Cato asks, grinning from ear to ear.
"What?" I try my best to sound flirty, but I probably fail at it.
Before I know it, I'm on my back and Cato is lazily strewn across me, his arms propping him up on either side of my body. He wiggles his eye brows suggestively as his bemused grin widens, almost stretching all the way across his face.
"This," he says, and he's kissing me.
By the time he's moved his kissing from my lips and face down to my neck with big, animated smacking sounds, I can't help it anymore. I let out a little, light, flirty giggle that was hiding inside of me and stops Cato right in his tracks.
"Did you seriously just giggle, Clove?" Cato asks, surprised.
"I'm as surprised as you are, Cato," I admit as I continue to laugh and giggle a little.
"You're starting to sound like Glimmer," he laughs.
I stop laughing as my breath catches in my throat. I try to stay calm and relaxed and the same as I was, but the damage has been done. Cato's mentioned not only the very Hunger Games that I was running for a few minutes ago, but also the name of our annoying, but rather harmless ally.
"Look, Clove, I'm so sorry! I- it just slipped out. I didn't mean to upset you," he whispers frantically.
"I- I'm going to Lyme's now, I think," I murmur as I push him off of me, get up, and race back towards Victor's Village as quickly as I can. Cato continues sitting in the field, all alone, disappointed in how an initially typical afternoon has turned into an almost breakdown moment for me.
"Clove, this is for both you and also for Cato. If- no, I mean when- President Snow asks you to design weapons or run a training center or publicly endorse the Hunger Games…" Lyme begins after I finish cleaning off the practice dummies that she is planning to take to the Center later in the week.
"Don't worry, I'll say no," I finish for Lyme. It's almost dinner time and Julius is planning to make something special tonight because Grammy turns sixty tomorrow.
"Clove, please do me a favor and just say yes," Lyme whispers desperately.
Something clicks and I put together Lyme's empty house, her frequent visits to the Capitol, Penelope and Oliver's (two other victors) constant visits to the Capitol, how Brutus always seemed to be disappearing on the Victory Tour, and the way that Enobaria was always sneaking back into the apartments late at night while the preparation for the Games or the Victory Tour was happening.
"You're not serious, are you? He doesn't really- I mean…" I shudder because even the mere thought of what Snow has been doing to the Victors make me sick.
"So just say yes, Clove. And make sure that Cato does, too, if Snow even gives him the choice" Lyme whispers sadly. For the first time, I can see the emptiness in her dark hazel eyes and I know that what she's telling me is the truth.
"Will he give me a choice?" I ask cautiously, nervous for the answer.
"I don't know. He usually does give a choice when the Victor isn't too rebellious or popular and, well, District Twelve was supposed to win last year…" she trails off.
"But because Cato and I didn't kill each other like the Game makers had intended, he might not give us an option," I finish.
"I'm amazed that you didn't come home from you Victory Tour to an empty house, like Haymitch Abernathy did," Lyme says and I gaze at her curiously.
"What do you mean? Did he refuse President Snow on both offers?" I ask.
"I'm not sure, but he was the example that Snow convinced me with. He's the one President Snow holds up to Victors like Finnick or Cashmere or Johanna. It's Snow's way of making sure that he either gets the support he needs financially or through an endorsement of a Victor," Lyme explains.
"How long do you think Cato and I will have as a grace period?" I ask her.
"Less than a year. I'm surprised that he didn't ask you while you two were on the Victory Tour, although that might be because you weren't sixteen yet," Lyme sighs.
"Before Snow started… well, you know. Did you ever… I just mean… um," I can't seem to formulate my sentences correctly, but who could blame me? I just found out that I'm going to be 'working Colfax' until something better wins the Games.
"Yeah, but it doesn't really help all that much, looking back. If I'd had someone like Cato, though, it might have helped a little bit more, but even then, the whole ordeal is absolutely terrible, Clove. If he gives you a choice, please, Clove, just take it. No one will blame you if you do. In fact, that's what most of us would have done if we could," Lyme explains.
"I- I don't even know what to say, Lyme. I'm so confused," I whisper.
"It's okay, Clove. I just thought that I would warn you ahead of time instead of throwing you to the wolves like Brutus did when I won or like Penelope did to Enobaria. You know what they say: Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power," Lyme sighs.
I nod slowly, still trying to comprehend Cato's- as well as my own- fate.
We're in the kitchen and Cato's arms are wrapped around my waist as he kisses my neck from behind. Julius and Grammy are both out, so this is pretty standard Cato behavior: sneak over and kiss me as many times as possible before either Julius or I draw the line.
"Cato, stop," I mumble, "I have to talk to you about something serious."
"No thank you, Clove." He murmurs as his lips reattach themselves to my neck.
"Cato, I'm serious," I hiss, trying in a vain attempt to move out of his embrace, but he quickly pulls me back in (not that I resist all that much).
"And I am too. I'm not letting you get away from me, Clove," he chuckles a bit as I roll my eyes, but he quickly starts in on kissing me even more than before. It's not really the best time for this, but Cato doesn't see that.
"Can you keep it in your pants for just one minute and let me talk to you?" I snap, glaring at him as best I can.
"Geeze, Clove, take a pill, you sound like my mom," Cato sighs as he untangles himself from the knot he had formed around me. I roll my eyes again, though his comment stings. He could have any girl that he wants and he chose me. I will never understand this boy.
"I talked to Lyme today…" I start, but I quickly trail off, unsure of how or even what to tell him.
"Yeah, I assumed so, Clove," Cato rolls his eyes as he replies. He must see my look of confusion because he looks a bit annoyed when he continues. "You shouted it at me when you ran away," he explains, trying to be patient or nice or something to cover it up, but I feel the sharpness of the venom behind it anyways.
"I'm sorry," I start.
"Don't be. It's not my fault that all you do is just stand around and stare at the wall," Cato spits. I'm surprised and hurt by this new development.
"Where is this coming from, Cato?" I manage to ask through my complete and utter bewilderment. He just storms out of the house, though, slamming the door behind him. I collapse into a chair, both puzzled and hurt by the day's events.
A hand covering my mouth wakes me from my nightmare (another one that I cannot manage to remember). I immediately chomp down as hard as I can manage. I hear a familiar hiss of pain as the intruder crushes me to him and starts moving towards the window. I struggle a bit, but I'm almost positive I know who it is, so I take it easy.
"Cato, what are we doing?" I hiss as he carries me down the pine tree outside of my window.
"Just shut up, will you?" he hisses and soon enough we're concealed in the woods.
"Cato, I need to talk to you," I say when we finally stop.
"Same here, Clove. I'll go first," he decides. I nod, deciding that, given the circumstances, he should get the floor first. After all, he practically kidnapped me tonight and he should apologize for blowing up at me for absolutely no reason earlier today.
"I have an ultimatum, Clove. I have until the next Games are over, Clove, and then I'm fair game for Snow to sell out to whomever he wants," the words barely register with me. I thought that we would have at least a little bit more time. Cato must take my silence as confusion, though, because he says "I know, you probably don't get it, but-"
"No, Cato, I do get it. that's what I wanted to talk to you about earlier. That's what Lyme and I were talking about today," I whisper.
"That's why I was mad, Clove. I- I just didn't know what to do. I still don't," he sighs as he collapses on the ground. I kneel next to him.
"It's okay, Cato," I whisper gently as I wrap my arms around him. "We'll figure something out. We have to figure something out. I promise that we will."
Cato turns abruptly and kisses me fully on the mouth. I squeak in surprise because its intensity, but I soon begin to kiss him back. I can feel his hands gripping my waist, pulling me to him, and my lungs scream for air. I break away gasping for breath.
"I love you, Clove," I hear Cato whisper, as he presses his lips to mine again with the same amount of hungry intensity as before. Something inside of me wants to stop, but in the end, I give up and just let myself melt into him.
I sit on Cato's lap as we watch special recap of the two previous Quarter Quells that are shown just before President Snow announces the newest twist in Quarter Quell to all of Panem. Haymitch Abernathy's ally, a blonde girl, has just died. I can feel Cato gripping me tighter and I know that he's thinking about how that could have been- no, was supposed to be- us. I lean into him more than I am already doing.
"I love you, Clove," Cato whispers into my ear and I shiver as his breath tickles my cheek and neck.
"Me too, Cato," I whisper back.
Before I realize what's going on, Cato has flipped me onto my back and is smirking in his trade mark fashion.
"Who? You or me?" he grins.
"Well me, obviously," I joke. He looks a little confused until I laugh.
"Did you seriously think that I meant me, Cato?" I ask, laughing.
"You never know, Clove! Especially with you," he defends. I am about to make my smart reply, but the show catches my attention.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, here is the moment that you have all been waiting for! The announcement of this year's Quarter Quell!"
Cato and I both sit up straight, though Cato's arms are still wrapped around me.
"It'll be okay, Clove. I think that Oliver and Enobaria are planning to mentor this year, so we're off the hook for now," he whispers.
"Not you, Cato. You still have to go," I reply sadly.
"I will always be yours, Clove," he whispers. "I will always come home to you. Not to anyone else but you."
"Or your mother," I grin, knowing the he soft spot that he has for his mom.
"Shut up," he laughs.
"I believe that's my line seeing as Snow is getting on screen," I point out. We both become completely transfixed by the screen.
"Fifty years ago, each District voted for their tributes as a reminder that the rebels had put themselves into this situation and that it was their own fault that their children were being sent to the Games. Twenty five years ago, each District sent in twice as many tributes as before to remind them that for every Capitol citizen who died in the rebellion, two rebels were killed."
President Snow pauses briefly to let the message sink in. I just want for this to be over already.
"This year for the third Quarter Quell, each District shall reap two victors to compete for glory in the Hunger Games for a second time. Districts that cannot produce the required number of victors will reap their tributes from past victor's remaining relatives," President Snow grins and I know that 's directed at us, but I don't care.
The world is swimming around me as I race for the door. I need fresh air. I head for the woods.
I can hear Cato following me and the cries of out rage coming from the other victors who were watching the announcement of the Quarter Quell. Enobaria throws something out of a window. Penelope's door is slamming loudly behind me. I can even hear that Oliver's kids are shouting ad crying as he tries to calm them down.
"Clove, please stop," Cato calls softly when I reach the woods.
"What are we going to do, Cato? Don't tell me that everything is going to be alright now. You don't honestly think that I'm that stupid, do you?" I challenge. For the first time since I've met him, Cato falls silent. He can't even pretend anymore.
I tug at the collar of my red reaping dress. It's the same one that I've worn since I was twelve and it's finally starting to get tight on me. The first year I wore it, it felt like a tent, but now it feels too tight and hot and stuffy. It's a tradition, though, of sorts. I've always worn it to my reapings and I don't plan on stopping now just because it's a little tight around the bust and waist.
Enobaria is currently mounting the stage. I couldn't believe that I wasn't reaped for a second time, but I guess that maybe the Quarter Quell wasn't designed to punish Cato and me for our actions during the previous Hunger Games. My breath still catches in my throat as Gaius struts towards the glass bowl containing the names of the male victors.
"Cato Peters" Gaius reads. My heart nearly stops. I should have known that me not getting picked was too good to be true. I look around the small group of male victors, but none step forward to volunteer, not even Brutus who had seemed excited at the aspect of being able to fight in the Games for a second time. I can see the white sling on his arm but I still thought that he would go back in for the glory and the gore, too.
Cato shakes hands with Enobaria and the bile rises in my throat because I know that no amount of begging or pleading will ever convince Enobaria to sacrifice so that Cato can win and come back to me and his family.
The ceremony finishes in a blur and Cato's mom nods when I reach the Justice building, motioning for me to be the first one to see him. The Peacekeepers part when I reach the door.
"Ten minutes," the one grunts. I nod and enter the room.
"Clove," Cato whispers into my hair. I have barely stepped into the room and his arms are already around me.
I know that I should tell him. I know that I should but I had been planning to tell him after the reaping, if we were both spared or die with this secret if we were both reaped or if I was the only one that was reaped. I had never expected for him to go and for me to be spared. I was almost positive that Brutus was planning to volunteer, but I guess that our luck had run out. And mine was about to as well.
"What is it, Clove?" Cato asks.
"What?" I reply, hoping to avoid the subject altogether.
"Clove, tell me what it is. You've been too quiet," Cato says.
"There's nothing to tell," I lie, but I can feel the tears starting to rise behind my eyes.
"Please just tell me, Clove. We may never have another chance," Cato begs. I shake my head.
"I can't, I can't, I really can't. You don't even know, Cato. I just can't tell you and it'll just put you off of your game, and who am I even kidding. Even if you do come back, this is going to be the world's most messed up kid because we're too young and the Games are too horrible," I ramble.
"What?" Cato gasps. I realize what I've just said and clap my hands over my mouth.
"Please don't be mad, Cato," I whisper.
"So it's true, then? You're pregnant?" he asks, his voice strangely calm.
"Do I need to clarify that you're that father?" I ask.
"I didn't think that the identity of the father would be some big mystery to you, Clove," Cato murmurs.
"Oh, no, it's not! I just thought that since you're acting so strangely that you might be worried about that," I say.
"Well, how did you expect me to react? We're you even planning to tell me?" Cato glares at me as he says this, and guilt overwhelms me.
"I- I wasn't expecting for things to be like this. I thought that Brutus would volunteer. I didn't think that you'd be going, Cato. If we both stayed out, then yes, I was planning to tell you. But- but I couldn't let you know that I was pregnant, not if we were going into the arena again," I admit.
"I'm coming back, Clove," Cato declares.
"What?" I gasp, confused at his words.
"I am coming back, Clove. And then I'm marrying you," he repeats.
"But what about Snow, the Capitol?" I ask.
"And what about the kid, Clove? He's not going to grow up a bastard or without a proper father. Not like with me, Clove," Cato says again, but with something more than just force behind it- I can hear the pain in his voice when he mentions his father, or, rather, lack thereof.
"How am I supposed to tell your mother, Cato? Or Julius? Or- or Grammy?" I shudder at the very thought of telling Grammy that I'm sixteen and a half and knocked up. She'll flip. And then, if Cato lives through the Quell, Julius will kill him for this.
"I'll tell them. Send in my mom first, then Julius and your Grammy. I'll tell them for you, Clove. They can't get too mad at me, I'm about to go back into the Hunger Games, after all," Cato says.
"Please come home," I whisper as I wrap my arms around him.
"I will. I promise," Cato says as he kisses my forehead.
Mrs. Peters walks out of the room looking shaky and I can't say that I blame her. She approaches Julius and Grammy first and tells them that Cato wants to see them before he goes. Then she heads for me. I feel sick as she approaches, but, thankfully, she doesn't look mad.
"It would be easier for me to yell at you if I hadn't been in the same situation," she admits. "At least Cato is a good man, Clove. He'll take good care of you if he gets back. His no good, sorry excuse of a father, on the other hand…" her face turns stony. I put my hand on her arm. She doesn't need to explain it to me. I already know.
"I was planning to tell you all after the reapings if we weren't drawn," I say.
Just then, Julius comes storming out of the room. He looks beyond angry; he is literally seething. I am amazed that smoke is not billowing out of his ears. Grammy hobbles out behind him. Grammy doesn't look too pleased either, but when she sees me she just sighs and murmurs something about how I'm just like my mother: getting pregnant young and out of wedlock.
"I'm sorry, Grammy," I whisper. Julius has stormed off by now.
"If he gets back, I expect you to marry that boy," Grammy says and with that, we are off.
The arena explodes into a blaze of lights as Cato, Beetee, and Chaff fight off Cashmere, Gloss, and Enobaria. Finnick comes running through the rain carrying Mags and dragging Johanna. The screen immediately goes black.
I race to Lyme's house as quickly as I can, but she is already outside.
"There's a safe house for us. The Capitol and the Peacekeepers will be here any second, Clove. We have to get out of here now," she says and we take off running into the woods.
"What happened, Lyme?" I gasp.
"Oliver, Beetee, and Haymitch as well as a few others came up with a plan to break the victors out of the arena. We're going to start a rebellion, Clove, with the help of District Thirteen," Lyme explains as we continue racing through the piney forest.
"Why were Cato and Finnick and Johanna there, too? Why-" I start to ask.
"On the Victory Tour I told them that I was planning to tell you two about the rebellion. Oliver knew that as well, so he would have told them to become allies in the Games," Lyme pants.
I peer past her and I can see the outline of the so called "safe house". It's a dilapidated old shack that was probably built back before the dark days. But it's probably better than being in District Two or the arena right now.
"How do we know who got out and who didn't?" I ask.
"Plutarch is supposed to be picking us up at any moment, but I have this strange feeling that he might be occupied with other things," a voice to my left says. It's Penelope and Marcus.
"He's not here?" Lyme asks.
"Apparently things didn't go completely according to plan, Lyme," Marcus says.
The rebels come to us in packs of tens and twenties. They are the quarry laborers, the factory workers, the miners that risk their lives for the Capitol's pleasure. A few merchants and foremen appear here and there, but the majority of them are the laborers- the proles. I don't think that any of us knew how many there were. We would have started a long time ago if we did.
Every day I search for my family or for Cato's family and I never see them. I don't know if they're trying to wait out the war in the safety of Victor's Village or if they've been killed or are siding with the Capitol, but I can never find them.
Lyme and I make battle plans together. Soon we have taken every one of the outer villages- some more easily than others. Glenwood, Leadville, and Silverton join us easily. Idaho and Copper take a little longer to fall. But, eventually, only Justice Green, the main village in District Two- home to the Green Peak and the Justice building- remains in control of the Capitol. It's been a month and a half since the Quarter Quell ended as abruptly as it did and Lyme and I have still heard nothing on the status of Cato, Finnick, Mags, or the rest of the tributes.
"Clove! Clove Silvers!" it's Oliver's voice that I hear.
"Oliver? Is that you?" I gasp.
We embrace each other tightly as Lyme comes racing from her tent.
"Oliver? What are you doing here?" she asks.
"Plutarch finally got a hovercraft to take us home. We're just waiting for the Capitol and the Green Peak to be taken now, Lyme. We'll be needed there, though, soon. There's a craft here to take the remaining victors from each District back to Thirteen before it's too late." Oliver explains.
"Who else is still alive?" I ask.
"Just you two, me, Cato, and Enobaria from District Two, although Enobaria is still in the custody of the Capitol. Beetee is still with us as are Finnick, Mags, and Annie. Johanna just yelled at me about morphling withdrawal. Chaff is still refusing to replace his arm and Haymitch is as drunk as ever. Blight keeps on disappearing so I don't know if he counts either, like Enobaria," Oliver explains.
"What about Penelope and Marcus?" I ask.
"Dead in an explosion," Oliver tells us.
"Is there anyone else?" Lyme asks, clearly astounded at the death toll of the victors.
"Not that we know of," Oliver grimaces.
"You'll be going to compartment twelve- twenty two, Clove. Your schedule will be printed on your arm every morning and you will be expected to follow it to the minute," Boggs explains to me as he escorts me to room 1222.
"Yeah, well, I'm not planning on staying for too long, so that shouldn't be a problem," I reply nonchalantly. Boggs does not look amused.
"Just follow the schedule, Ms. Silvers. Please? We've already been having enough trouble with the other victors," he sighs. "Here you are. This is your key- don't lose it, Coin is very fussy about these things- and we expect you at the eight thirty meeting tomorrow morning to discuss the execution of President Snow that will be taking place in a week," Boggs turns to leave before I can ask any questions, so I open the door and step inside.
"Clove?" a voice gasps. I freeze as the door shuts behind me. He looks thinner and grayer than the last time that I saw him. His hair is unkempt and longer than usual. But his icy blue eyes are still the exact same.
"Oh, Cato," I whisper and we fall into each other's arm crying like fools.
"Is he alright? The baby?" he asks quietly after we collapse on the floor, wrapped in each other's arms.
"I- I think so. Lyme had me stay out of the fighting," I explain.
His hand comes to gently rest on my stomach, which is just barely beginning to show even though I'm almost three months along. Maybe it has something to do with stress or always running around trying to be productive. But the kid (or Fido, as Lyme had dubbed him/her) seems to be just fine, so far as I could tell. I was more worried about Cato, to be honest. But now that we had each other, we weren't letting go any time soon.
Well, there you have it. A three shot by yours truly. I hope that you enjoyed it.
For those of you who enjoy my writing and wish to read more, I have a Gale/Madge story that will be updated next weekend and a Cashmere one-shot that you should all check out. There's also a bunch of stuff that'll never be finished that you can look at too.
Review and don't forget to check out some of my other stories if you liked this one!