A/N: It took a while to find something I was satisfied with, but the last name I assigned to Cato is "Ferrum," a Latin word defined as "iron, sword." I thought it fit his choice of weaponry and his personality. Cato's mother is "Likos", a Greek word for wolf. His father is "Lupus," a Latin word for wolf. Considering Cato's ultimate fate (destroyed by the mutts) I thought I'd use some irony in the naming of his parents.
One of Cato's fellow Careers' names, "Ignis," is Latin for "fire." Zane is just a random, fictional name; so are Roy and Nate.
Thanks for the reviews on the last chapter. To those of you reading this who haven't reviewed, please do so if you have time! It means a lot. I wasn't originally going to do Cato POVs, but the review requesting that convinced me.
I'm not particularly thrilled with how this chapter came out, to be honest. But I'm setting things up for Cato to meet Clove, so please bear with me. And I am, at least, happy with the names I found for my characters.
May the odds be ever in your favor!
POV: Cato Ferrum
The older boy's fist drives forward, clenched tight, shooting over the arm I've raised to guard my face – and the bones of his knuckles jab sharply into my ribs. I wince, sucking in a big gasp of air to keep from yelling in pain. I'm just raising my knee to grind it into my opponent's chest when I feel an impact strike me squarely in the jaw.
The hit is jarring. Blinding. My whole skull rattles, pain shooting through my teeth, and I can see a flash of white light launch across my vision. I'm not sure but I think I go flying, maybe flip in the air, but the next thing I know, I hit the dirt on my back. Dizzy. Struggling to breathe.
"Can't take a few blows, Cato?"
I groan. Grit my teeth so they won't see the raw, burning gasps dragging up and down my dusk-choked throat.But I don't try to get up yet. I feel nauseous enough to figure that it wouldn't end well. I'd probably throw up what little I'd eaten for lunch.
Nate stands over me, his green T-shirt sweaty and sticking to him, his arms crossed in arrogant pride. He turns to the others, his golden-brown eyes aflame with rabid joy. "Did you see that?"
Roy gives him a playful punch to the shoulder – the only kind of encouragement a fighter ever really gives to another. "I saw it, alright!" Roy laughs, his metallic green eyes wide. He's practically manic over this. His dirty blond hair is thrown in every conceivable direction, adding to his feral appearance.
Zane nods, characteristically gruff and silent. His cropped brown hair is basic, and his pale green eyes are almost always unreadable, but there's a trace of amusement coloring his stone expression at the moment. "Good fight, Nate," he says.
Help me up, maybe? I mentally shrug. Better not to ask. This is bad enough already. I gradually test my lungs – inhale, exhale – and begin to recover breath.
Ignis, the only girl in our Career pack, stares down at me with vivid auburn eyes. She runs her fingers through her red mane of hair with contempt. "Disappointing, Cato."
I glower at her, force myself to sit up even though I can feel stabbing pains climbing my spine, a headache pounding in the back of my skull. "I'll teach Nate his lesson next time."
"Oh, really?" Nate taunts.
No way I'm going to let that one slide. I slowly, slowly pull myself to my feet. Nate might have a year and a half on me, but I'm tall for a ten-year-old. Towering over him by a long shot. I glare at him. Feel my gaze smoldering. Revel in how much stronger I feel when I have to look down to meet Nate's eyes. "Don't try me," I warn.
Nate doesn't waver. "You want to go again, Ferrum?"
"I'm not stupid," I growl, my voice black. "I've got nothing to prove to you. I've beaten you before. Now shut your mouth before I shut it for you."
"Do it," Roy urges. "Do it! Teach him a lesson."
Nate wheels on Roy like an animal, black hair whirling in the sudden wind as he seizes him by the shirt collar.
"Hey!" Roy yells, and tries to kick him.
Nate drives his knee into the other boy's gut and Roy goes silent, panting, almost doubled over, his eyes bulging with pain. "Watch it," Nate warns. "Think about whose side you're on!"
"Oh, shut the hell up, Nate," Ignis sighs. She's almost twelve, almost eligible for next year's reaping – thinks she's cool because she can swear and get away with it. "We're all Careers. Allies. We're supposed to be training, not acting like kids!"
I feel my hands curl into fists at my sides. "Ignis is right."
Nate still has Roy by the shirt.
Zane groans. "Let him go, Nate."
Nate gives him a look that could kill, but he drops his captive. Free or not, I've never seen Roy so annoyed. He looks like he might kill someone. Maybe he will. Wouldn't be the first time our pack picked off a target that nobody would miss.
District 2 learns to turn a blind eye to the scattered killings. Most of the time, people just know it was the Careers and leave it be. You just have to do it away from the Peacekeeper training centers. Out on the edge of the masonry, by the older, abandoned forges or work sites.
And you have to pick targets that won't matter. People who won't have families or the government all that riled up once we finish them off.
It's common knowledge that people occasionally disappear on the outskirts of District 2 – and if a Peacekeeper does see, he usually lets us slide. After all, we're practically population control. We're preparing for the Games, and the Capitol's soldiers like to see it.
They might just be seeing it again tonight. Roy has the promise of murder in his furious eyes. He turns his back and begins to saunter away.
"Hey, wait!" I shout after him. "Roy! Want to kill something after dark?"
He nods stiffly. "If you're up for it," he calls over his shoulder. There's a minute of silence while he debates whether or not to turn around, but eventually he does. "Who else wants to come?"
"I'm in!" Ignis agrees.
"Forget it." Nate crosses his arms. "I need my sleep," he says, "so I can beat Cato again next time."
"Alright," Roy says. "Zane?"
Zane shrugs. "No thanks."
"Then it's just us," I say, nodding at Roy and Ignis. "After dark. Meet at the western quarry?"
Roy nods. "Deal!"
Ignis smiles. "This should be fun."
We disperse. Melt away. Go to wait until nightfall, when the real fun will begin. When the fiery sunset will match the crimson we spill under the darkening sky.
Because even the strongest stone has cracks to slip through.