60 seconds. 59 seconds. She unclenched and clenched her fists, surveying the arena and the Cornucopia. She saw Cato a few places down from her, his jaw set. But he turned to look at her just as she looked at him, and he winked. She smirked and turned her face away from her best friend and fellow tribute to examine the supplies again.
40 seconds. 39 seconds.
She saw a large array of knives just inside the Cornucopia. Meant for her, she knew it. Her wonderful, wonderful knives. There was a sword laying on the ground as well, and she knew that had to be meant for Cato. Cato was unstoppable with a sword, just as she never missed with her knives.
30 seconds. 29 seconds.
She wondered how many people she'd get to kill today. She wanted to kill 12 with her stupid 11. How had she pulled that off? She hoped that the girl died today so she wouldn't have to deal with her later on.
20 seconds. 19 seconds.
This countdown was taking far too long. She wanted to go already. She looked around at the rest of the tributes again. How should they die….
10 seconds. 9 seconds.
Almost there. She flicked her eyes once more at Cato, who was in his position to run for the Cornucopia and snatch up the sword.
The gong sounded. She dove forward off the platform, sprinting for the knives. She got there first, snatched up the knives and took a split second to take in the current situation before she decided who to attack.
A boy and the District 12 girl were yanking away at a backpack, so she sent a knife flying into the back of the boy. One down. She heard a girl scream behind her and Cato laugh. Two down, most likely. She sent another knife at the girl, but she rolled the backpack in front of her and the knife lodged into the pack. The girl took off sprinting for the forest and she decided to let her go and get her later when she had more time to savor her death.
She turned around and saw Cato fighting with another tribute, and threw a knife at the boy. Cato stabbed him in the heart just as her knife hit the boy in the eye. Cato drew out his sword and the boy fell to the ground. He grinned at her, and she grinned back.
"C'mon, Clove. Only three down."
They took off together and met up with the tributes from District One and the girl from District Four, whose partner had already been killed. By the time they were the only ones left at the Cornucopia, eleven were dead, and they had all the supplies and food they would need.
She hated her. Really, she did.
Stupid girl with the perfect blonde hair and pretty eyes. She was tall and thin and just what every guy wanted. Flouncy and giggly and girly. No original thoughts in her head. She wouldn't last a day if she wasn't from District One and tradition allowed her to be in a Career alliance.
But how Clove just wanted to send a knife through her pretty little face.
The floozy was currently chatting up Cato, hanging on his arm and giggling. Clove's fingers tightened on her knife. She wasn't jealous. She just frowned on such unprofessional behavior when they were trying to kill people here.
Annoyed, she walked ahead of the group. She could still hear them chatting behind her, but she didn't want to walk next to the flirting Glimmer and Cato, not to mention she never had liked Marvel and didn't want to risk him actually trying to talk to her. And then there was Loverboy, who was hanging back and using his position of knowing the girl from 12 to preserve his life. No. No way would she speak with him.
"What're you doing all the way up here?"
Clove spun around, and there was Cato. Glimmer, Peeta, and Marvel were back several yards, out of earshot, sitting on a couple of logs to rest. Cato had one of his eyebrows raised as he looked at her.
"Why can't we just kill them already?" she hissed. "I'm sick of her stupid voice."
"Don't tell me you're jealous, Clove," Cato teased, leaning forward ever so slightly. Clove made a face at him and took a step back.
"Don't try to use me to inflate your stupid ego. She's just a whore and he's an idiot and the other one is really an idiot and I don't like them. We'd be better off without them."
Cato laughed at her. Her grip tightened again on her knife. This wasn't funny. She was being serious. She opened her mouth to tell him so, but he spoke first.
"You've got no reason to be jealous, Clove. She's nothing compared to you."
She just stared at him, but he didn't notice. He had already turned to call back to call to the others to join them. Clove turned away and resumed her lead, but when she turned around to see where the rest of the group was, Cato was looking at her, not Glimmer.
Cato had actually been the first to fall asleep after they'd chased the 12 girl up a tree. One of his arms was flung out as he slept, and Glimmer had taken the opportunity to use it as a pillow. He didn't even notice.
Clove had crashed with her backpack under her head, a short distance away from Glimmer and Cato. Marvel and the District four girl were a few feet away from her. Peeta was sleeping with his back against a nearby tree trunk.
She awoke to a peculiar buzzing. What was that?
Suddenly, she heard Cato roar out something. Glimmer screamed. Clove snapped into a sitting position – although still disorientated and sleepy – in time to see Cato throw Glimmer off his arm and run toward her. His large hand latched onto her small one.
"Run, Clove!" He yanked her to her feet and took off sprinting. Glimmer was still screaming. Clove thought she heard her cry out for Cato to help her.
But Cato had a determination in his eyes, and he was sprinting away from the tracker jackers with Clove's hand in his.
Marvel had gone off on his own to look for some food. Someone had blown up their supplies, and they were running low on food. Or at least that was his excuse, because he'd been awkward and suspicious of them ever since Glimmer died and Cato cut Peeta. He probably had only been hanging around to eat their food. If he was breaking off the alliance, that was fine with Cato and Clove. Less people to deal with that they weren't killing.
They'd found a river than ran through the forest while they were out hunting for tributes, and Clove and Cato had taken the opportunity to stop and rest before they continued on. There was a small waterfall that came down from a rock formation and filled a little pond. Clove had climbed to the top of the rocks to wash some of the dried blood and dirt off her arms. She was beginning to feel a little too grimy.
Cato was hanging out on the bank, sharpening his sword. His jacket was off and hers lay next to his. The sun was out and it was warm.
The rocks were slippery, but she was moving carefully as she walked toward the edge were the water fell. She wanted to use the pouring to blast off some blood off that was not scrubbing away no matter how hard she'd clawed at it. She had great balance, but even she fell sometimes. One of the rocks wasn't lodged in as tightly as she thought, and the wobbling caused her to slip and fall.
She smacked into the pool that the waterfall had created. Underwater, she distantly heard a cannon fire. Huh. Who died?
Suddenly, a strong grip latched onto her forearm and pulled her roughly to the surface. She took a deep breath when she emerged into the open air.
"Oh, thank God, it wasn't for you."
Cato was standing in front of her and grabbed her in a hug before she could respond. Her eyes widened as she found herself pressed against his hard chest. Slowly, tentatively, she wrapped her arms around him as well. Another cannon fired, and Cato only grabbed onto her more firmly than before.
The longer they had been in the arena, the colder the nights seemed to be getting. Tonight was a particularly bad one. She had always been one to naturally get cold easily, and her jacket was her only source of warmth and was performing below her standards. She shivered again, pulling herself into a tighter ball, drawing her hand that held her knife closer in.
She heard Cato move slightly beside her, and a weight was put across her waist as she was pulled against a hard surface. Instinctively, her knife hand began to move down to stab what was grabbing her, but her wrist was pinned to the ground.
She heard Cato's voice growl into her ear, his breath puffing against it. "It's just me. You were cold. Body heat, babe."
She rolled over, trying to throw his arm off in the process, but he kept it firmly planted on her side. "Do not call me 'babe.' And we don't need to share body heat."
He grinned cheekily at her. "Hey, sharing is caring. Don't you remember kindergarten, babe?"
She shot a glare at him and huffed, rolling her brown eyes. "And since when do you care so much?"
She looked back at him. His eyes had softened from less of a hard, cold blue to a warm blue, one that vaguely reminded her of the ocean in the summer. They found themselves staring into each other's eyes for several long moments. She could see her reflection in his, just like how she could see it when she leaned over and looked at the surface of water.
"I've always cared about you, Clove."
He closed the space and kissed her. It was strange, and very unlike Cato; Cato was an aggressive person, but he was being tender and gentle. His lips were warm and soft, and she found herself kissing him back. He drew her against his chest, and she thought that maybe sharing body heat wouldn't be so bad.
Six. Only six left. They were the last Careers, and everyone else was in hiding for the most part. Normally, the alliance would break around now for good. But they were still together, holding hands as they prowled through the forest. So much romance in these games, Clove thought to herself. She wondered what their mentors were thinking of their relationship. It was so unlike them, so unlike District 2, that they must be livid and smashing tables. She found didn't care, and when she whispered her thoughts to Cato, he laughed, pecked her on the lips, and said to screw everyone else.
They had never much cared for opinions.
It was dark and getting cold, so they decided to stop and make camp underneath a tall tree. There was a large indent in its trunk that Cato leaned back into when he sat down, wordlessly opening his arms for Clove. She sat down on his lap, facing away from him. He wrapped his arms around her and she leaned back against his chest as he propped his chin on her shoulder. She grabbed one of his hands and intertwined their fingers.
Suddenly, Claudius Templesmith boomed into the arena. He had an announcement. Two victors would be allowed, as long as they belonged to the same district.
Clove whipped her head around to look at Cato, grabbing his face in her hands and kissing him firmly. He kissed her back eagerly, and they both grinned as they pulled away. Cato grabbed her hand and threw them up to the sky.
"The Victors of District 2!" he bellowed, shaking their clasped hands toward the sky as Clove laughed happily.
Things had been quiet. No cannon shots. No tributes to be found. They'd been hiding out in a grove of willow trees that allowed them to be concealed from view so they could be the ones to attack if a tribute happened by. Some sponsors sent them food, which they rationed and shared together. This evening, Clove was sharpening her knives, inspecting each and every one intently before deeming it proper or not. Cato watched her, a small smile on his lips.
"You're a lot like your knives, you know."
Clove flicked her eyes in his direction for a moment, but resumed her focus on her current knife shortly after. "How so?"
"Beautiful. Small. Delicate but strong. Precise. Lethal."
"Hmmmm," Clove responded as she smiled at her knife, lifting it up to examine it. "You could say the same about you and your sword, Cato. Large, strong, brutal, deadly, bloody, sharp." She finished with her last knife and put it back into its place in her jacket. She walked over to Cato and sat down next to him. He flung his arm around her and pulled her in to rest against his side. She closed her eyes.
"When we win…do you want to share a house in the Victor's Village?"
"Of course. It'd be stupid to have separate homes when we'd just be spending most of our time at the other's, right?"
Cato smiled, leaning his head down to rest on top of Clove's as they prepared to sleep.
The trumpets blared in the arena and they both looked up to the sky and stopped their conversation to listen. A feast at dawn that would provide them with what they needed desperately.
"What do we need desperately?" Clove asked, turning to look at Cato. They'd been faring pretty well, considering that their supplies had been blown up.
"Food," Cato responded, looking off into the distance as he thought. "There haven't been a lot of animals around and the berries aren't growing back on the bushes. Some blankets wouldn't hurt, since they've been messing with the temperature. Mainly what we need is to just hurry up and kill them already." He turned to Clove and they both grinned in their bloodthirsty manner.
"12 needs something for Loverboy's leg. She'll come for sure."
"I cut him deep. I'm surprised he's managed to even make it this long. She'll have to come because he can't last much longer."
"I'll take 12 and the backpack. 5 and 11 will be around there somewhere, you take them out after they retreat if they manage to get past me. Then all we have to do is wait for Loverboy to die, and we're home."
Cato frowned. "You want to split up?"
"More kills that way than if we both go charging in. If you lie and wait out of sight, they're more likely to come in since one person is less of a threat than two in their stupid minds."
"We've always had each other as back up. I don't know if this is a good idea."
"Oh please, Cato. We can handle ourselves."
He pushed her hair behind her ear and stroked her cheek. "I know. But if you really want to be the one to go in, I want to at least be spotting you close by instead of catching them as they retreat and following them away from you."
Clove sighed. "Fine. But your first priority is killing the other tributes if I'm busy with one, got it?"
"You're my first priority, Clove. Always will be."
She laughed and shook her head, but leaned in to kiss him. "You've gone soft, Cato."
"You're getting soft too, babe."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, shut up." He just laughed and kissed her again.
They'd been fighting all morning. It was a stupid series of arguments, really, but neither of them was the type to just back down and apologize. They hadn't had anything to eat for breakfast before the feast because they'd eaten it all last night and Cato had just assumed she knew and neglected to tell her, which set her hungry self off. Then she dropped a knife and he nearly stepped on it, which made them both scream at the other. Then she'd somehow managed to trip on a tree root and knock into him and send his sword into a mud puddle. Now he had the nerve to try to get her to agree to go in together.
"I've got a bad feeling about this, Clove. We're a team! Let's just go in together."
She scoffed at him. "I don't need your damn protection, Cato. I can do this just fine on my own. Since when did you even listen to your feelings over logic?"
Cato growled and glared at her. "You're not going in alone, Clove!" His voice was getting dangerously loud, and Clove hissed at him to quiet down before someone heard them.
"Are you calling me weak? I can do this alone, Cato! For God's sake, just shut up and stick with the plan!" They both caught a glimpse of long red hair flying across the clearing out of the Cornucopia. "Damn you, Cato! 5 got away!" She shoved him hard and smacked him on the arm. "Fuck you, you'll see how weak I am when I chop 12 to bits! Shut up and wait for Thresh!" She got out of her crouched position and ran toward the Cornucopia as she saw 12 begin her run for the bag. She threw a knife, but it glided past 12's face. An arrow pierced her arm, and she cursed loudly, ripping it out and throwing it to the ground.
She hurled another knife, this time catching the target in the forehead. Smirking, she pounced on her prey.
"Where's your boyfriend, District 12? Still hanging on?"
"He's out there now. Hunting Cato." 12 screamed for her partner, but Clove punched her in the neck, but still looked around in worry for Cato. She might be mad, but she still worried about an unforeseen attacker. She soon realized the girl was lying, however, and smirked and told her she's caught her little lie. 12 struggled, but Clove was stronger and had accessible weapons. She was enjoying the first drop of blood, her heart full of malicious joy when she was roughly grabbed and thrown off of 12.
"What'd you do to that little girl? You kill her?" 11 demanded, towering over her. She was gripped with a paralyzing fear. She didn't even hear him approach. She managed to scramble backwards but couldn't bring herself to stand.
"No! No, I –" It was Marvel! She wanted to scream and tell him who really killed the bird-girl from his district, but the rock in his hand made the color drain from her face and it's all she can do to scream "Cato!"
"Clove!" Cato answered. He's so far away, though, it seems. She screamed for him again, the panic and fright rising in her voice. He answered again, louder this time. The rock smashed into her skull and a massive dent appeared as she fell back to the ground.
Everything was spinning, shiny, and blurry. She heard 12 and 11 talking and their receding footsteps. Then Cato was there, and he brings some clarity back into her world gone mad.
He pulled her head onto his lap, and she was surprised to find she was crying. She could feel the trails of water running down her dirty cheeks. When did she get this emotional? She groped for Cato's hand and he grabbed hers, and she clutched onto it with all the strength she could muster.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you, Cato," she choked out.
"Shh, babe. It's okay. Stay with me, Clove. We can win this. Together, remember?"
She didn't acknowledge his statement much. "You were right. I need you. I've always needed you. I was wrong. I should have let you come."
"It's my fault, not yours. I shouldn't have gone so far away. C'mon, Clove. You're strong. Hold on."
"Cato? You know I love you, right?"
He smiled at her. He was beginning to tear up. Was this really where it all ended? Everything they'd worked for? He wiped a couple tears off his cheek with his hand and then went back to stroking Clove's hair on the undented side of her skull.
"Of course I do. I love you, too." He leaned down and kissed her softly. He pulled away and stroked her hair again. Everything began to get blurry again, and Clove gasped. She clutched his hand harder in a panic as her last adrenaline rush seized her veins.
"I don't want to go, Cato. I don't want to go." Her voice shook from the tears pouring out of her eyes and the small sobs she had given up trying to hold in.
Cato bit his lip, trying to stop his own tears from falling. He had to be strong for Clove. He focused on keeping a comforting pattern of strokes of her hair, took a deep breath, and spoke in his most soothing tone. "But think of where you're headed, Clove. The Victor's Village. A big, tall house with a hundred rooms. All the knives in the world. A fireplace in every room that you can burn all the time so you'll never be cold again. Those flat screen TVs you liked so much in our rooms at the Capitol. You can eat your favorite food – those little apple tarts – everyday."
"And you?" she asked weakly. "Will you be there?"
"Of course, Clove. It'll be our house. Everything you could ever imagine, we'll have it."
"The Victors of District 2." Her eyes closed halfway as her breathing slowed.
"That's right, babe. You and me."
"Until the end."
"I love you."
"I know. I love you, too."
Her eyes closed, and he let himself shed the tears that had built up in his eyes as he watched the last few precious rises and falls of her chest. Her grip on his hand slackened, and her chest was still. The cannon boomed. He laid her down on the grass and kissed her one last time. Her lips were still warm. She could be sleeping. Yes, he liked that idea. Clove was just sleeping.
He picked up his sword and then took her favorite knife. He walked off in the direction Thresh retreated. He'll kill him with Clove's knife, his sword, and a rock.
Thresh was dead. He'd cut him up just like Clove would have and then bashed in his head with a rock. He found his backpack that Thresh took, but it didn't have what he needed desperately in it. Clove wasn't in the backpack.
It was down to just him and District 12.
And he knew who would win. He knew who deserved to win. Because living without your love was more painful than any wound in the world. Whole people should be victors, besides. He'd been torn in half when Clove died.
Now he was holding Loverboy in a headlock and the girl from 12 was aiming an arrow at him.
"Go on, shoot. Then we both go down, and you win. Go on!" He was begging her for death here. Couldn't she just shoot him already? "I'm dead anyways. I always was, right? I couldn't tell that 'til now. How's that, is that what you want?" He was crying. He could tell he was. The blood from his wounds on his face was thick, though, and covered his tears. It ran down his face in larger amounts than tears ever would. What more could he say to get her to kill him?
He kept going, word tumbling out of his mouth, a strange jumble of brutal, bloody Cato and wishing for death Cato. "Nuh-uh! I can still do this! I can still do this! One more kill! It's the only thing I know how to do. Bringing pride to my district. Not that it matters." Nothing mattered anymore. Clove was all that had ever mattered, although he'd been too stupid to realize it until they were put into an impossible situation and faced with death. Killing and the games were never important. Love and being with that person was. The trained side of him was screaming at him, but he refused to listen to the brainwashing and heartlessness that had been drilled into him any longer.
So when the arrow pierces his hand, he drops Loverboy and jumps backward over the edge to the dogs. The mutts descend on him and rip at his flesh, and he feels like he should be screaming. But he can't scream. He's too numb, and he's already dead. He died inside when Clove died. He was born and trained to fight and die. He wasn't supposed to give up, but that was before he realized everything. How much love actually matters, and how cruel these games are, and how he'd rather be anywhere but here since Clove has gone somewhere else too.
So he thinks about where he's going, just like he told Clove to do. He thinks about his house with Clove in District 2 in the Victor's Village, the big, tall white one with the wooden steps up to the front door. They'll be so happy together. He even thinks about how good Clove would look in a white dress with his late mother's wedding ring on her finger.
When he opens his eyes, he sees District 12 with an arrow in her bow. He knows what she's doing; she's come to let him go. He wants to smile at her, and let her know he wants her to be happy with Loverboy because they earned it, but he can't do that. His mouth has been ripped off and his throat is so badly wounded he might only be able to form a sentence, if that. He must chose his last words carefully. "Please," he says quietly. He doesn't know if she can even hear him. "Clove is waiting for me at home."
The arrow hits him in the skull and he closes his eyes. He sees Clove, leaning against the doorway of their house in the village. She's smiling and laughing, her brilliant brown eyes sparkling. He runs up the stairs two at a time. As he catches her in his arms, he hears a cannon fire in the distance.
Author's Notes: Thank you so much for reading! Clato is my new Hunger Games OTP, it's official. I just love these two. I spent a good day on this, so I hope you all liked it! Please tell me what you thought! ^^ ~Juliette