He was dead the moment he volunteered. No one is to blame for this, since no one would have known. He was a trained killer. A youth made of pure muscle and determination. Yet the very second he stepped forward in pursuit of the ultimate glory, he was destined to die.

He just didn't know it.

He watched the Reaping footage, focused on every opponent, listing off how he would kill each and every one. Very few faces stood out in his mind, with the exception of the other Careers and the District 11 male. He was ready to turn the TV off, convinced District 12 wasn't worth watching. Then he saw the little one. He saw her fear. Too young, too small, too inexperienced. She wouldn't last a day. His heart was ready to drop, imagining himself having to kill one so little. Then he saw her, and his heart skipped a beat. The volunteer. Never does District 12 have volunteers. Yet there she stands, and there she shouts, begging to take the girl's place. And so she does. He stared, dazed by the turn of events, his heart now beating in overtime. At this moment, his heart knew it was destined to stop beating.

He just didn't know it.

So he ignored his rapid heartbeat as he shut off the TV and left his compartment for dinner. He counted his steps as he walked, slowly calming himself down as he kept thinking,

"Breathe, just breathe."

He forgot about District 12 until the night they were presented to the people of the Capitol. No one caught his attention as much as he caught his own. Golden armor and hours of preparation left him looking more powerful and handsome as ever. So he gloated and basked in his glory, wearing an expression that spoke "I am District 2. I am Cato. I am a Victor." He caught flowers from women screaming themselves into hysterics. Waved at approving men. Caught the President's eye. Suddenly, it stopped.

As quickly as the attention came, it was gone. So he looked and he saw and his heart tore in two. He saw District 12. He saw her, engulfed in flames, eyes screaming "I am determined." He saw her flawless features as a smile graced her face and his knees grew weak as she caught a flower and blew kisses to all in the audience. Kisses he suddenly wished were directed towards him. He was numb and ignored the President's speech as the tributes were circled around him. He saw District 12 holding hands. He saw her total ignorance as to his existence, and suddenly he burned with a desire to leap from his chariot and strangle her until she was forced to acknowledge his presence. As his fists clenched and unclenched, he had to remind himself

"Breathe, just breathe."

So he stared at her after the ceremony until she saw. She gave him a questioning look as they locked eyes, and then she was whisked away by her mentor. Yet he was content, because the brief encounter they just had meant she would be thinking of him for a bit. So his heart sang, for it was glad, if only for a moment.

He pushed her out of his mind until Training. Then he was forced to confront his fascination with her for hours upon hours. She avoided the weapons. She avoided eye contact. In some form, she even avoided him. It didn't matter, because they had no reason to talk. He already formed an alliance at lunch and she would be of no use. Yet jealously sprang from his heart as he watched her stick with the male from District 12 and he wished he could throw a spear through his head to end the friendship between those two. Instead, he threw a spear through countless dummies and mangled nearly a dozen others with his sword. He felt her eyes trained on his every movement for that time period, and he felt satisfied.Until he saw them leaving together. He then slaughtered another five dummies and was not content. He pictured strangling the boy, blood draining from his face and hands shaking. He imagined roping the girl to a tree and making her watch him display his superiority as he killed her partner. Before he got lost in the fantasy, he had to remind himself,

"Breathe, just breathe."

So he pushed her out of his mind until after the private sessions with the Gamemaker's. He obsessed over what score she would get and wondered as to what talent the girl could possibly possess if she hardly seemed adequate with weapons at training. He wondered how soon she would die. Until he saw that score. 11. It haunted his dreams and taunted his waking hours. She beat him. She beat her partner. She beat every Career. And so she was destined to win. And he was destined to die.

He just didn't know it.

He threw the dinner plates, smashed the china cabinet, ripped the furniture and screamed at the Avox boy. Yet he was not content. He would never be content, because she beat him, and she came from nothing. How could a mere District 12 female steal both his heart and his glory? Then again, his heart would not love anything less than greatness, and she was greatness.So he threw a tantrum to satisfy his blind rage, and after all the destruction, he had to stop and say

"Breathe, just breathe."

So he bottled the rest of his fury and was determined to save it for the games, where he would kill the only person that had ever surpassed him. He was calm and collected, won the heart of every audience member during interviews, and sat back at ease with himself. He was a winner. He was greatness. He was glory. Until he saw her on stage when his heart stopped beating for a second. She radiated beauty. Her smile caused him to see stars. She was the girl on fire. She was the girl that set his very soul on fire, and he had nothing to alleviate the symptoms. So she twirled, she smiled, and she spoke from the heart. He was starstruck until halfway through her partner's interview when he heard the crowd's cheers and gasps and awes. His ears suddenly listened intently to what was being said and his heart started to sink as he guessed as to what the boy was saying.

A crush on a girl from back home. She never knew the boy until the Reaping. She came with him.

Suddenly they flashed her image on the screen and her face showed a mixture of confusion and shock. She hadn't expected that. She should have, because the boy seemed to follow her like a lost puppy, but she was blind to his affection and ignored any signs of attention. Cato's heart burned with hatred and he felt envy of the boy who grew up knowing this girl. Envy of the fact that the District 12 boy now had at least a small amount of her attention. Envy to the fact that he didn't think of pulling a stunt like that on his own. So he sulked and burned with hatred and had to remind himself as his mentor spoke with him to

"Breathe, just breathe."

Of all the people he imagined loving, she was the last on his list. Yet she shot an arrow through his heart and became his obsession.

For that, he hated her.

He hated her with every fiber of his being. The thought of her caused his hands to shake and his vision to go red. Sweaty palms, skipping heartbeat, butterflies. He had all the symptoms of love.

He just didn't know it.

It took all his self-control and dignity not to hunt her down snap her neck in two the moment they entered the arena. He confused his emotions with hate, for he didn't know anything else. He didn't know what love felt like. The signs of affection. The feeling of compassion. None of these were meant for the arena. He was never trained to handle this. During moments like this, he had to remind himself:

Breathe, just breathe.

He blamed it on envy. On pure hatred. On bloodlust. Trying to convince himself these were the signs a warrior felt when one found the ultimate prey. He imagined stabbing her. Skewering her with a spear 15 yards away. Cutting her throat and watching as the blood spilled from her dying body. These fantasies kept him sane and saved him from the dreams he had. Dreams of lying in the grass by her side, starring in awe at her as the sun lights up her face. Tangled under his bedroom sheets, his fingers running through her unbraided hair. Swimming in the river back home, splashing water at her, wrestling in the shallow waters, kissing her rarely smiling lips. These are the dreams that haunted his early mornings, stole his sanity, and damaged his morale. The dreams of what could have been. Despite his daydreams of slaughtering her, his real dreams showed what he hid in his heart.

He just didn't know it.

So he stumbled upon Lover-Boy and lured him into the alliance in hopes of finding the girl. Finding her so he could kill her and he would feel sane again.

They found her and his heart sang. She was injured, alone and weak. He could finish her off and be done with his obsession. The others yelled that they wanted to kill her. But she was his. So he chased her up a tree and tried to climb to reach her until a branch cracked under his weight and he fell. So they camped out under her tree in hopes of finishing her off in the morning. He saw Lover-Boy glancing up at her occasionally, worry in his eyes. If only he could claw those eyes out, he would feel better. But he couldn't, so he watched as Lover-Boy looked up at District 12 and his heart broke again, because it took all of his self-control to not let himself climb up the tree again, kidnap the girl and try to run away with her. The thought was not in his mind long, but it passed through nonetheless. So they waited, they slept and he dreamt of her. He was destined to die so she could live.

He just didn't know it.

The next day, the alliance woke to find themselves surrounded by bees. Trackerjackers. So they ran and he looked back to see Glimmer succumb to the toxins released from the stings. He made it to the pond and returned to the campsite after a few minutes, stumbling the entire way. There she was. District 12. Girl on fire. Katniss. She stood over Glimmer's disfigured body, clutching the bow and arrows close to heart. He wanted to kill her and hug her and strangle her and kiss her. All at the same time. Then Lover-Boy appeared and yelled at her, forcing her to flee. He ruined Cato's chance at confronting her, and he would pay dearly. So he slashed and cut the air in front of him, desperate to kill Lover-Boy, yet failing due to the hallucinations that were slowly creeping up. So Lover-Boy ran, bleeding profusely, stumbling through the woods. Cato stumbled and fell through the woods until he passed out on the ground.

He woke and was determined to find her. The stings throbbed horribly and he was drained of energy, yet he walked back to the campsite and tried to regroup. Time passed and his search efforts failed. Then a smoke fire appeared one day. Stupidly hoping it was her, he went off with his partners and left the sight unattended. They walked for some time, and by the time they reached the fire and discovered it was set up purely for distraction, he heard the boom. The boom that shook the forest and made the ground shutter beneath his feet.

So they tore through the woods, knowing what they would see yet hoping it wouldn't be true. Where food and supplies once stood, there were only deep craters. Debris and rubble littered the campsite, and he was furious. No more did they have food. They would starve. His heart sank and he knew who was to blame. No one else would dare destroy supplies unless they could get by without the supplies. He was screwed. She won again, and his vision turned red. He snapped one of the boy's necks without a second thought and ran in search. She was near. And she was as good as dead.

Time passed, and all he had left was Clove. He didn't mind. The less people in the alliance left, the less number of mouths to feed. They were so hungry. But the feast came, Clove went in alone, and he watched as Thresh killed her, sparing District 12 her life. For that, he was both furious and thankful. If she was to die, it would be at his hand. Clove knew that, and she paid dearly for ignoring his wishes. Yet he still mourned her death and went in search of Thresh in the name of revenge. His thirst for blood was soon satisfied, and he basked in the glory of his success. Yet he was still destined to die.

He just didn't know it.

All was calm until the dogs. They were horrifyingly bloodthirsty and vicious, and he ran for his life. The Cornucopia. Safety. Refuge. All words that crossed his mind and he fought desperately to reach the safe haven. District 12 seemed to have the same idea. So there they were; himself, Lover-Boy, and Girl on fire. He tried to kill her. He could have thrown her over the edge, snapped her neck. Instead, he tried strangling her. Then he looked in her eyes.

Instead of submission, he saw determination and fire. Girl on fire was fitting for her. He relaxed his grip only slightly and brushed her cheek with his thumb. Confusion flashed across her face. Then Lover-Boy pounced. So they struggled until he had Lover-Boy in his grasp and District 12 had an arrow pointed at his head.

Suddenly, he saw it all. He loved her. He just hadn't known it before. He was destined to die because he couldn't kill her. He just hadn't seen it before. And she would live happily ever after with Lover-Boy. He just hadn't seen it before. So as Lover-Boy marked an X on his hand, he steadied himself and thought

"Breathe, just breathe."

For it would be his last peaceful breath, this he knew. So she shot his hand and he fell at the feet of the muttations. He was at their mercy. And they felt no mercy; the Gamemaker's wouldn't have allowed it. So he slashed blindly through the air with his sword, staring into the eyes of his deceased competition. Clove. Glimmer. Thresh. Marvel. All were determined to carry out one simple task: Devour his flesh. So he screamed. He cried. His vision turned red. His limbs were slowly torn apart and he lay in hours upon hours of agony as the dogs taunted him and used him as their chew toy.

Finally, when there was nothing left to fight for and he was in such excruciating agony that his pride could not fight anymore, he knew it was his time to die. He would not make it out of the arena alive, and he accepted that. So he looked up with his one functioning eye and saw her staring at him. A look of pure pity and sadness graced her face when he attempted to mouth the word…"Please". Nothing seemed more appealing than death. Not being able to feel this physical and emotional pain. So he allowed himself to get lost in her eyes one last time and mentally willed her to do one thing.

"Breathe, just breathe Katniss."

She took a deep breath and let the arrow fly from the bow. She knew it would hit her target. She always did. So he looked up at the sound of the arrow cutting through air and despite all his excruciating pain, the last beat of his heart was of happiness, for she cared enough to feel sympathy for him. The expression in her eyes showed she realized he felt something for her. Her eyes, those eyes…he loved her simply for allowing him to see those eyes one last time. For allowing her eyes to be the last he saw in this world. He loved her because he knew that only his girl on fire could put out the fire that was his life. And so he let out one last breath.

And he breathed no more.