She was washing her knives in the pool they'd found in the woods. Cato was laying on the bank next to her, looking up at the sky, his arms resting behind his head. Then the announcement boomed into the arena.
Two tributes could be victorious. Only if they were from the same district.
She had stopped her scrubbing, and Cato shot up into a sitting position in lightning fast speed. She turned to him, a grin breaking out on her face. A smile was on his too, but far more tender than his usual smirk and smile combination. His hand reached up and cupped her face gently. The difference in his actions were baffling to her, and all she could do was stare at him. He hadn't showed her any form of tenderness whatsoever since the day before the Reaping, much less since they entered the arena. He'd grabbed her arm when they ran a couple times to prevent her from falling, once he'd put his jacket over her while she slept and he was on guard when she began to shiver, and when the nest fell he'd yelled for her to run, grabbing her hand to pull her out of sleep and into action. But a sweet action like this? It was unlike Cato when they were home, and it was even more unlike Cato now.
"Cato…" she said quietly. She didn't know what to say. She didn't have to figure it out, though, because in a second his lips were on hers.
She dropped her knife onto the muddy bank from the shock.
Normally, she'd be angered her work to wash off the dried blood had been ruined. But after the initial shock that her best friend since childhood was kissing her in the middle of the Hunger Games, she found instead that she was more concerned with kissing Cato back, and wrapping her arms around his neck when he put his around her waist and pulled her closer. He pulled away after several long moments and leaned his forehead against hers, giving her a rare smile of happiness. His blue eyes seemed to sparkle, although she supposed it could have been a trick of the light combined with the lightness of her head.
"We're going home, Clove. We're going home together."
She smiled brilliantly back at him, confident in his word. She reached up and put her hand on his cheek, and he grabbed her small and scarred hand in his large and calloused one.
"Together," she repeated. "We're winning this together."
They were from District Two. They were Careers. They had been trained since the age of eleven to win these games. Killing was their hobby. While most friends stayed up late to gush over crushes or to talk about their lives, she and Cato would stay up late in his dorm room at the Training Center talking about how they would kill people when they were in the Hunger Games. They understood each other without the need to speak. They were forces to be reckoned with on their own, and together they were unstoppable.
So, in her confidence, she allowed herself to kiss him again and smile at him. She even curled up against his chest to sleep, her hands resting on his chest as one of his arms circled her waist and the other rested on her arms so he could stroke her hair. It was the most tender and sweet thing they'd ever done in their lives, and it was on national television.
How their mentors must be fuming.
She had never cared much for what people though of her anyway, and she found this was no different. She was happy, content, and she felt safe. She forgot that there was anyone even watching them as she laid in his warm arms. She would much rather focus on Cato's hand in her hair and how she could hear his heart thumping.
Because it was Cato, her best friend, her ally, and – dare she say it – the boy she'd had feelings for since she was fourteen. And they were as safe and alone as they could be in the arena.
So when they talked before they feel asleep, she let herself show more of the side she only showed when she was home – and even then, only with Cato. She laughed, grinned, playfully hit him on the arm. They told family stories, reminisced over past fights, talked weapons for a while, then some more about family and friends. Eventually the topic came to the future rather than the past, and they talked about what they would do when they got home. When Cato implied that maybe they could share a house since the village would need more room for the 75th Hunger Games victor, she agreed with him that they should just share. It was as close as people like them got to confessions of affection and love.
They never once mentioned being separated.
Because they were both going to live, both going to be a Victor, both going to live in a big house in the Victor's Village, both going to have endless fame and glory.
Together. They were doing this together.
The feast was something they would not do together, however. It was much more effective to split up, although Cato hated the idea. But she insisted.
Before she'd left the woods to head for the Cornucopia, Cato had grabbed her by the hand and pulled her against his chest. She'd been the one to kiss him, balancing on her tiptoes. She pulled away a second later.
"Call for me if you need help. I'll come. I'll be right here watching," he said.
"I won't need any help, Cato. I'll give them a good show," she replied with a smirk on her face. "You know that."
He grinned. That was his Clove. "I know."
So they separated and she left him in the woods to watch while she got the pack and slaughtered whoever dared to expose his or her location.
He'd seen the fox-faced redhead dart by, and began following her path. But she was faster and sneakier than he was, not to mention quieter; most likely why she hadn't managed to meet her end yet.
But he would make sure she did by his sword.
He stopped in his tracks and wheeled about as the scream pierced his eardrums. He thundered through the forest, branches slashing his legs, arms, and face as Clove's voice screeched his name.
"Clove!" he screamed. He was coming. Why wasn't he there yet? Her voice called for him again, and he responded. She sounded so scared. Clove was never frightened. What had happened to her? He bellowed her name again.
He had gone too far into the depths of the forest. His first priority was to spot Clove, not to track the redhead girl. How could he just leave her like that?
He broke into the clearing. The District 12 girl was scampering away. District 11 was running away with his own pack and the one labeled with a 2. The figure on the ground was moving ever so slightly, moaning. He saw Clove raise her arm to her head, her shaking hand coming back drenched in bright red.
He loved seeing blood. But not Clove's. Hers never should have been allowed to leave her veins.
He dropped to his knees next to Clove. Her skull had become horribly misshapen, a large dent pouring red blood marring the side, although her face remained untouched. She was shaking and limp as he grabbed her bloody hand, pulling her up to him where her head rested against his chest. One arm supported her back as she slumped against him, and the other clenched her warm and sticky red hand.
"C'mon, Clove. You're strong. You're going to be all right. Stay with me, Clove. Don't you dare close your pretty eyes on me now."
She moved her head ever so slightly to look up at him. "I'm sorry, Cato."
"Shut up, Clove. Don't say your goodbyes. You're fine."
She laughed, but it was one he didn't recognize in Clove. It wasn't her doubling-over laugh of joy interspersed with gasps for breath when something hilarious happened, and it wasn't her insane, murderous laugh she sometimes gave right before a kill. It was weak. Weak and Clove did not fit together.
"We're winning this together, Clove. Remember, we're going home."
"You're going home," she said quietly. He growled out that she needed to stop lying, because she was absolutely fine. She raised her other hand, the one that was not tightly gripping onto his own, and pulled on the chain of her district token. The necklace snapped and she slid the charm off it. She pressed the metal disk into his hand. He recognized it. A silver disk, her name on one side, a clover on the other. A series of numbers was on the front under her name, which most supposed was her training number, but it was actually the date he'd met her.
It was probably the most sentimental and sappy thing he'd ever gotten her for her birthday, which is why they never spoke about it. She just silently wore it everyday underneath her shirt.
It had taken her months to figure out the numbers, and she didn't tell him when she did. She'd just smiled and known exactly what he would get for his birthday.
"Wear it," she said. "With yours." He had a chain hidden under his shirt as well, a token strung around it that she had in fact bought for him after he'd given her the necklace. His had a sword on the back and the same set of numbers. He nodded.
She smiled at him, the color draining from her face. Tears were forming in the corners of her brown eyes, and the sight caused him to fell his own tears pricking his eyes.
"I love you, Cato." She herself was shocked she had said the words – but dying did funny things to your mental filter, she reasoned. And she meant it, besides, with all her heart. He should know. Panem should know.
"I love you too, Clove," he whispered, the tears starting to fall on her face as he pushed his lips against hers. He pulled away and stroked her face. Her eyes wandered skyward as the light in them began to drain, her spark going out.
"Win, Cato. Win for me."
"I will. I promise."
She turned her eyes toward him once more. "Cato…" she began quietly, but she never finished. Her light went out and the cannon boomed.
And the volume of his scream of anger, sadness, pain, loss, love, and anguish rivaled the explosion of the cannon.
He carefully placed her body on the ground. He closed her eyes. He picked up his spear.
Winning wasn't something they could do together anymore.
And everyone would pay dearly for that.
For Clove. He was doing this for Clove. He wasn't sure if he even wanted to win anymore, now that Clove was gone. He had hoped it wouldn't have come down to the two of them, and in his recent thoughts, he thinks he would have let her win the games anyway.
He knew the announcement was meant for Loverboy and his pet Kat, but he wanted it to be for them. He wanted Clove and a life with Clove with them both as victors of this godforsaken game, and if he couldn't have happiness after the games with a fellow tribute, then no one could.
And he'd promised Clove. He'd given Thresh an agonizing death to avenge her. He'd screamed things at him about Clove that he doesn't even remember as he whacked him apart and made sure that Thresh was barely recognizable when he'd been the one to find a rock and bash in the only mostly untouched part of him, his skull.
He laughs at the girl pointing an arrow at him as he holds her boy toy in a headlock. "Shoot me and he goes down with me," he taunts. The girl's eyes flick about in response while he smirks at her. He's already dead inside, so it's her call now. Will she let him die outside as well and take her happiness away in the process? He almost hopes she does.
He feels Loverboy draw an X on his hand and his smile drops. The arrow pierces his hand and his reflex is to drop the headlock. He slips, and he plummets over the edge. The mutts, the horrible creatures, tear at his flesh, eating him alive piece by tiny piece. But the most painful thing is that when the mutts are dragging him about and ripping him to shreds, one of them had the deep, feisty brown eyes of Clove, with the spark of murder in them he loved to see when she began to fight and prepared to kill.
It's some form of sick comfort to look into those horribly beautiful eyes and forget that the malice is aimed at him and put them in Clove's face instead of seeing them in a disgusting and bloody face of a dog that has pieces of his flesh caught in its teeth.
He plays all his memories of those eyes in his head. The surprise in them when he punched out the 17-year-old boy who had her 13-year-old self pinned in a fight. The determination in them when they sparred. The pride in him when he told her he would volunteer this year. The shock and then strength and courage in her eyes when her name was called in the reaping. The brief flash of worry when no one volunteered to take her place and she realized she'd be fighting against Cato. The intensity of the gaze when their eyes met before he lunged forward to volunteer to go in with her, although his thoughts were in a massive jumble of confusion. The sparkle in them when he finally got her to laugh on the train, and then again in her room at the Capitol. The glint during training when her lips curled into a knowing smirk when her knives killed a dummy. The fury and rage when District 12 scored an eleven. The power when they'd shared a glance during the countdown. The gleam of malicious joy in them when she turned to grin at him with her blood-splattered face at the Cornucopia after her first kill. The softness the night they kissed. The rare affection and sadness in her eyes when she told him she loved him.
The mutts left his eyes alone in their mealtime. He can still see. He sees the District 12 girl lean over the side in the dim light, an arrow in her bow. She searches for him, and when she spots him he tries to tell her.
"Please," he mouths, because his throat is too beaten to do much more than breathe in air and his own blood. "I want to be with Clove again." Because dying and death are things they can do together. He'd never been a believer in an afterlife, but all the love you have has to go somewhere, right? His love can't just die when he does. It's much too strong to simply vanish when something as weak as death appears. There must be a place for love to meet again after death.
The girl seems to understand and raises her arrow, pointing it at him with a pitying look on her face. Don't pity me, he thinks. I'm going somewhere much better than this place. As the arrow drills into skull, he thinks about how Clove's last word was his name, and so he uses the small amount of strength he has left to croak out her name. He hopes Panem hears. He hopes Clove hears.
And the cannon fires.
Author's Notes: Soo...my first fanfiction for The Hunger Games! Clato kind of snuck up on me...I didn't expect to love it as much as I do. I honestly love their dynamic. They rival Katniss and Peeta for my OTP for this series. Anyway, what did you think? I'd love to hear your feedback! ~Juliette