I don't own anything!
There's no dialogue directly lifted from The Hunger Games, primarily because my friend has my copy, but I tried to keep the bits that should be from it as similar as possible.
He's always had a crush on little Clove, the niece of one of District Two's victors – 52nd Hunger Games champion – and he isn't quite sure why; she's not girly whatsoever, not the sort of person you would consider falling in love with, because she's as lethal with a knife as he is with a sword. He's almost seventeen and she's barely fourteen, so anything wouldn't be legal anyway, even if she was interested in him, and it's pretty obvious that she isn't. Clove has always been focused on the Games, the idea that she could be reaped to become the new victor for her District, and nothing else really equates to it. He's almost one hundred percent sure that she only has him around because he's a strong training partner, someone who can only make her get better, and because he's known her since she was born, due to their parents being friends, but it doesn't make it any easier.
They're both popular in school, of course, because they're amongst the most beautiful of them all: he would never say that he's only attracted to her because of her looks, but rather because of the ruthless streak she has running within her, the thing that will get her right through the Games, he's positive, if she happens to get picked. She's not defenceless and doesn't need him to protect her, but he can't help but watch as she trains and tries his damndest to make sure that she isn't injured.
He could never see her getting hurt.
There's something within his heart that confuses him, something that makes him sure that he wants to make sure she gets home if she goes to the Games, that he wants the chance to tell her he feels something for her if she wants to see him before she goes. He knows she'll go; it's just a question of time. It's a question as to when she is either reaped, or she volunteers for someone else, because Clove has never been the sort of person to stand by and watch as someone else gets the glory, never, and she never will be.
(And that's part of the reason he loves her, he thinks, because she's never going to give in.)
It's the day of the reaping, and both their minds are focused on getting picked, as they both want to bring the glory to their District, to their families. It's his second to last Games now, the second to last chance that he can go and fight (win) till the death of everyone but himself, and something tells him that he'll be volunteering now, given the fact that he's at the peak of his life: he's only going to get weaker from now on.
They all dress up and walk down to the square together, Cato and Clove walking in silence, neither of them talking, even though Cato has many things he wants to tell her: he wants to wish her luck in getting reaped; he wants to tell her that she's perfected her knife throwing to the point that she could probably kill him if he wasn't paying attention; he even wants to tell her that she needs the next size in the training outfit she's been wearing, as she's filling it out a bit too much, and distracting him.
Then again, he realises that that's probably the point.
"See you later, Clove." He's the one to speak as they reach the point where they have to be separated, and it's as though she doesn't care that they're being split apart: she gives him her usual cool nod of the head, not showing emotion because she saves that for fighting.
"Bye," she mutters as she walks away, and he has to process it twice, because she actually spoke! Their relationship has always been one of near silence, besides for when they happened to spar over who could fight better (he generally won, using the age factor) or compliment one another's moves, and never, ever salutations passed between them. Love has been something saved primarily for the Games – not even their families have been given it, as all they've been raised for is to win.
And so they stand in their separate lines, Clove further forwards than him, and on the left, standing with the other fourteen year olds, all of whom clamour to speak to her, to discuss who they think will be chosen. Yet he sees her merely staring ahead at the large bowls filled with their names – one of them hers – completely ignoring her fellows.
(She's popular but she doesn't mean to be: in this District, popularity stems from your physical ability and your chances in the Games, not because of your personality.)
This continues even as their Capitol spokesperson steps forwards and announces that it's time for the "Seventy fourth Hunger Games" and "May the odds be ever in your favour" which is announced every year, with only the year of the Games changing. Clove doesn't show emotion, as far as Cato can see, even when the woman finishes talking and her hand moves towards the bowl.
Only then does Clove's facial expression change from non-existent to anticipation, to the desire to be chosen, because she wants to prove herself.
And then her name is announced, and the desire changes to elation, because she's been chosen…and yet all it does for Cato is destroy him on the inside, because there's more chance that she won't come home than her actually succeeding. Especially not without him…his mind begins to distort the situation, seeing merely lines and colours as the girl bounds straight up to the stage, for the first time in her life one hundred percent certain that this is her calling, because he's beginning to think that she's not got a chance. She needs him, not any of these other boys, ones who can't throw swords and kill people, boys who feel even the slightest bit of compassion all of the time.
(He doesn't – not all of the time, at least – because loving Clove is something that's both new and strange to him, and it most certainly wouldn't stop him killing anyone who got in his way.)
He doesn't hear anything, doesn't know what's going on because words turn into one long, unfaltering sound that irritates his eardrums to the point that he just wants to scream. Even as he watches the Capitol woman dig into the boys bowl he can't hear anything; the only way he knows who has been chosen is by the movement of a boy from the younger ranks.
Someone who could never protect Clove.
His mouth is opening, words issuing out of it before he can stop himself, before he can think of whether or not this is the right idea, because he may love her, but only one of them can come home. Volunteering won't help her, not in the long run, especially if it comes down to the two of them, because then he'll turn into the feral monster within him and destroy her, regardless of his feelings. Only afterwards, when he's won, will he feel the complete and utter devastation for destroying her…but now he's volunteered, so there's no going back.
He may as well protect her for as long as possible.
As he walks towards the stage, his senses returning as he realises that he's finally doing this, he's finally going to the Capitol, to the Hunger Games, because he knows something.
He's going to win.
(Even if it means the destruction of Clove because, like the alliances in the Games, love only goes so far…he just hopes he doesn't have to kill her himself.)
When he moves to stand on the stage, she narrows her eyes at him, as if to say, "why the hell are you here?" but he doesn't do anything but smile for the cameras, knowing she'll probably never know why he's here with her.
On the train to the Capitol, she finds him. It isn't hard to find him, to be honest, as he sits in the living space closest to their bedrooms, and he's stunned to actually see some emotion on her face.
"Why did you do this, Cato?" she's barely able to stop herself yelling the words, instead spitting them at him as hard as she can. "Only one of us can come home, you know that! And I don't want…I don't want to have to kill you." As she takes a deep breath, she manages to control her emotions, getting them under a reasonable enough check that means he won't be able to think that she cares too much.
"I…I don't know," he's honest as he answers, holding a glass of water in his hand that he swirls in a manner far older than what someone of his years would normally do. "I just found myself volunteering because I didn't want you to go alone. I didn't want you to go with that thing."
She shakes her head slowly, her lips forming a dangerously sinister smile, yet her eyes are clouded with something he can't read. "That would have been better, Cato. As then I could have come home and we could have trained together, for your Games. I could have killed Fonio quite easily, if I had to."
He watches as she turns to walk back through the door she came through, unable to form the words he desperately wants to tell her, even though he's never going to confess love to her. Then she turns back.
"All you've done is ruin it, Cato. You ruined the plan. And now one of us is going to pay for it."
It's all he can do not to bury his head in his hands when she leaves, because she's right: one of them, ultimately, is going to kill the other. And he's damned well sure that he'll be killing her.
(Not that he wants to, of course, but that's the nature of the Games: they make previous relationships seem like nothing. Victory is the only option. Love comes second. Always.)
They arrive in the Capitol amidst a flutter of excitement from the residents, their intense joy that they can see the District 2 tributes (amongst the favourites, as always) arriving plain for all to see. Neither Cato nor Clove wave, smile or look as if they want to win over their potential sponsors, because they already know they're going to be the ones everyone looks at: they're Careers, they're strong, powerful and, above all to the shallow Capitol people, beautiful. And this show of power, the way that they don't even need to look as if they want sponsors…it shows that they're amongst the most lethal of the tributes, and that the viewers had better watch out.
There's silence as they disembark the train and head to the car, nobody speaking, not their mentors or their Capitol go-between, or even themselves, because what would they say? That they're looking forward to watching the two of them battle it out, because they're going to be in the final, that they want to watch Clove destroy Cato (or the other way around) because it always makes the best viewing, two former allies fighting it out to the death. It's only now, really, that Cato understands that he's not going to be able to allow feelings to influence anything, that he probably never did feel anything for Clove, that it was just because they were always together. They never had anything and, because of the arena, they never will – and it's all because of him.
And so he goes to his prep team as she goes to hers, next door to one another…yet he's never felt that they've been so far apart, not really.
(He's sure that she doesn't feel anything for him, so he may as well get knuckled down to only wanting her as an ally to destroy the other tributes.)
They speak that night.
"We need to destroy District 12, as fast as possible," she informs him as she slips into his bedroom at almost midnight – yet there's nothing romantic about it. There never would be.
She's dressed in her training outfit, and he can tell that she's been throwing knives at the wall, in an attempt to continue her rigorous training regime right the way through.
"Relax, Clove," he rolls his eyes as he tells her to chill out a bit. "They're District 12. They're coal. The last time they won was in the Quarter Quell, and everyone agrees that it was a bit of a fluke. So they got the stylist who thinks it's cool to make an impression with fire, so what? We looked hotter."
He can tell straight away that she's only halfway placated, that because he doesn't believe his words himself, she won't either. District 12 is their only real competition outside of the Careers – he could tell that from the way that the girl volunteered, from the second that he saw her – and he aches to be able to destroy them for trying to steal their popularity.
(He's already making plans to make sure it's as slow as it possibly could be, because there's something about that girl that suggests she'll be trouble.)
"I talked to Enobaria already," she continues, as though he hadn't said a word. "Apparently they managed to get their waste of space mentor to sober up, so he can get them sponsors! Don't you see, Cato, they're gaining on us! They think that they can get sponsors!" she hisses this at him, spitting the words out as though they were knives, and they feel just as sharp to her fellow tribute.
"Then…then we'll make sure that they're the first we kill in the arena, alright? We'll destroy them, have District 1 on our side, and then we'll destroy Glimmer and Marvel, and then…" he trails off, because they both know what happens after Glimmer and Marvel are gone: one of them has to kill the other.
She smiles, and he can see something sinister in it, something in the way that she holds his gaze for just a second too long for it to be friendly; he's never going to be scared of her, never going to allow her to kill him, but he knows that she's threatening him, in her own way.
"We'll get rid of them somehow, I'm sure," she agrees, and her voice takes on this more sickly sweet tone, the one that he recognises from when she wants something. Or, in this case, when she wants to hide just how vicious she is. "I'll see you tomorrow, Cato, for training. But don't worry. We'll be the best in there, I'm sure."
When she leaves, clicking the door shut behind her, he rolls over in his bed, suddenly feeling constricted by the thickness of the duvet, and knows that she's right. She's always right when it comes to training; it's part of the reason that he decided to train with her, anyway. Clove is the most ferocious female he's ever seen, he's sure of it.
And he's pretty sure that she wouldn't care about killing him, that she would do it in a heartbeat.
They don't bother to discuss the conversation from the night before when they eat breakfast, or even when they go down in the lift to the Training Centre, because there's no need to repeat words. When their mouths open, it's to do with what they think this will look like, since only tributes and Gamemakers come down here, and what they think the weapons will be like.
It's better than they could have ever imagined when they step out of the lift.
The back wall is where their attention is grasped first of all, what with the rows and rows of swords, knives, axes – every sharpened weapon that they could hope to ever envision, they can see before them, aching to be in their hands, to be flung at the colossal amount of targets around the room. All the other stations are merely given a cursory glance, because why would they need to know edible plants? They're the Careers: they always get the food from the Cornucopia, get the chance to take whatever they want, because no other tribute would dare to go near them, when they're this ferocious.
Neither of them pay attention to the woman discussing the rules about what happens down here; they merely exchange excited glances, both of them unable to contain their excitement at being able to show the rest of the crowd just how talented they are.
"Show 'em what you've got, Clove!" Cato grins as they get released from the discussion and head straight for the back wall, their District One counterparts following in their wake. All this proves to Cato and Clove is that they will be the leaders, that their other two Career members (because this year's Fours don't account for much, if they're honest) will follow them in their mission to destroy Twelve personally, as what they will say will go.
And so Clove does what he says; she throws ten knives successively into the hearts of dummies lining the room, waiting for the admiration from the other tributes that she knows she will get.
Her eyes scan the room, and her mouth twists into a wider smile this time, more of a grin, as she notes the fear in the eyes of everyone she can see.
Everyone besides District 12.
(Cato knows that she's going to make it even more of a personal vendetta than before, but it's already that way for him, to be honest, so they're going to be fighting over who they get to kill.)
He's standing closest to the Cornucopia, waiting for the necessary minute to be counted down, but he doesn't spend it looking at the arena's landscape; it doesn't really matter to him. Instead, he's calculating how many will get close to the mouth by the time he's ready to wield his sword, how many he thinks he'll be able to take down in one stroke – and he's hoping with all his might that Katniss will be amongst them, because then he can destroy her before she's even had a chance.
The claxon sounds and he's running, ignoring the yells issuing from people's mouths as Marvel decides to begin with hand-to-hand combat, in opposition to using a weapon, before he slams straight into the side of the Cornucopia. Instantly, his hand wraps around the end of a sword and he swings in into use, eyeing up possible victims at the same time as throwing a set of knives across to Clove: they're a team at the minute, and he's more than certain that she'll get as many with them as he will with this.
He swipes and stabs and makes as good a job of it as possible, but he can't find the girl; she hasn't bothered to come in for the melee of violence, something that disappoints him, since he was sure that Katniss Everdeen would have some special weapon, especially since she scored higher than him in the rankings.
"Urgh!" he can hear the scream of indignation from Clove and decides to run to her, to find out what's wrong; it isn't as though there are any living tributes around here anymore, besides for them two, the District One lot, and the boy from 3 that they decided to recruit, to protect their supplies.
"What is it, Clove?" he's almost out of breath as he reaches her, his sword dripping blood in his wake, as he drags it behind him. "Did you get her?"
She screams and whirls around to face him, her face contorted with anger, before a stream of profanities escape her mouth as a result of the intense fury within her; she failed. "No! She got the damned bag! She's got something in there, Cato…and she got one of my knives. I missed her!"
He can understand straight away why she's so angry; not only did she miss the chance to kill the girl on fire, but she lost one of her knives at the same time. For the first time, his fellow tribute has missed her target, and he's suddenly glad that they're on the same side. As this side to Clove is something that makes him wonder how much chance he's got if it comes down to the two of them.
(Then he remembers that he passed his fierce one-mindedness onto her, and a student can't be better than its master, so he's got nothing to be worried about.)
"Come on," he pulls her by her sleeve back towards the lake on the far side of the Cornucopia. "We need to get away so that the Capitol will get the bodies. I for one, don't want them stinking this place up any longer than they need to."
The next day, they bump into the boy from District 12, and they're immediately suspicious when they find out he wants to join them, to help them hunt down his partner, as that's who they're looking for. If they find any other tribute first, that would be a bonus, but their primary focus – all four of them – is Katniss Everdeen, to destroy their greatest opponent before she becomes too comfortable in the situation they're in.
"Fine, you can join," Cato decides instantly, knowing that he's not exactly strong, and that they could overpower him at any point if they wanted to. "Let Lover Boy direct us to where she'll be; as you'll know, right? You know where she'll be heading."
Even as he talks, he can see Clove pouting, but he doesn't care; this isn't about what she wants, or even what he wants – this is about finding the damned girl so that they can annihilate the opposition and get closer to finding out who gets the leave the arena. Maybe they should have tried the star crossed lovers approach, even though it'd be a bigger lie than the Twelve's is, but he knows that it would have been pointless. Neither of them can pull off love for anything besides The Kill, and that wouldn't exactly persuade everyone that they wanted to be together.
They walk on, and as they do, he finds Glimmer talking to him more than anyone else, finds Glimmer hanging onto every word he says. He wouldn't lie to himself; he thinks that she's attractive (more than that) and that she's definitely someone he would be interested in, if they could have both gotten out of here alive. She's handy with a weapon – though not so much with the bow and arrows she insisted on picking up from the Cornucopia, as they go on their first daily trek – and agrees with everything he says, so that makes a nice change from Clove, who thinks everything he says is wrong.
"Why are you so funny, Cato?" Glimmer giggles as they carry on walking, and he can't help but think that she looks far better in a braid than Twelve ever could, before he shakes himself out of it. It's the ones who can't fight, who somehow scored highly without having any special talents, who have to pretend to be in love: he can manage to win this thing through his sheer strength, his lack of morals and no regrets when things happen.
"Come naturally, like the way that I'm such a ferocious predator," he smiles, enjoying the sound of her laughter, because it reminds him that he's got all the power. She hangs onto him, not the other way around, and whenever her usefulness ends, so does her life. He may as well enjoy her for the time being.
(It's not like Clove wants to talk to him, is it?)
They spend the next couple of days in the same fashion, killing one boy on the way, because it's one less to get rid of later, and yet they can't find Katniss still.
"Why don't we get rid of him already?" Clove mutters to Cato as they walk on, this being the first time she's spoken to him since the bloodbath, really, and he shrugs.
"He'll find her. You know he knows her skill; he may as well prove himself useful and find her…and then we'll kill them both."
Her face lights up for a moment, before going back into its usual state of indifference, yet with the hint of sadistic desire lingering beneath because of where they are, before she talks. "Go back to Glimmer, then. Since you prefer her company to mine, you can go back and laugh with her." her voice is sourer than he's heard it before, besides for perhaps in his room that night when they discussed Twelve, and he doesn't understand why he thinks this, but he's under the impression that she's jealous of Glimmer.
He ignores the jibe within her words and instead merely goes back to the front of the group, taking the bottle of water from Glimmer and downing half of it in one go. After all, they're the Careers; they have an abundance of everything within the arena. Yet, as he walks along with Glimmer, his eyes alert for anything that could be Katniss Everdeen moving around, he begins to think that he understands what Clove meant, though it makes no sense to him.
He thinks she likes him.
(And no, not in just a friendly manner, because they have no friends.)
As they wait for Katniss to come down the tree, for them to kill her slowly and painfully, Cato decides to speak to Clove, because he's irritated with the constant giggling from the girl who he used to find nothing but endearing. She's an irritant, and he misses the cool-headedness and silence that Clove's company brings. He longs for the days they spent on the hillside, throwing knives and spears at long distant targets, telling one another how to improve, as those were the best days: the days when nothing was in question, that their brute strength and violence set them apart from the rest visibly, that they could be as close to friends as their natures could allow. He can tell that they won't have long left like this, that, sometime soon, they're going to be facing a moment when they have to break off the alliance and fend for themselves…and hope that someone else kills the other, so that they don't have to fight.
"When she's dying, you can have the final blow." This is the only way that he could possibly have won round the girl from his District once again, because it's obvious that she's more than put out with him since she became second best to Glimmer. Despite all his intentions about breaking their, for want of a better word, friendship, he can't let things continue like this; he misses her, though he would never say that, because he's always been happy to know that he had someone he could trust watching his back. Back home, Clove was that one person who he would allow to stand behind him if he partook in team fights, because she was the only one he knew wouldn't hurt him; she needed him as much as he needed her.
(Just to train, of course, because neither of them loves anything but the fight, since that's all they were brought up to love.)
"You serious?" her face lights up brighter than he's seen it since the first time she killed in the arena, even brighter than it was when she was reaped for the Games a few weeks back.
"Sure," he smiles because she's happy and they're sharing in the violence, as they always do. "You deserve it. Just make sure you do it slowly, alright? Cause her as much pain as you can."
"Oh, Cato." The way that she smiles makes him want to shiver slightly. "Don't you worry, she'll be begging for death."
It's in this moment that he realises Clove was jealous of Glimmer, an emotion that returns to her features as soon as he moves away from her and returns to Glimmer, just to discuss who is first on the rota for the watch tonight, incase the girl tries to escape in the dead of night. Not that she will, of course, but he can't be anything but careful.
He turns back to face Clove for a second and her face can't hide the emotion fast enough; she's confused, he can see that in her eyes as the predominant emotion, but she's jealous of why he would rather be with Glimmer than her.
(He could never tell her that it's because he could never let it get down to just them because he wouldn't be sure if he could go home again, knowing that he'd killed her.)
Before they get the girl on fire, though, they get the chance to mortally wound her lover, the baker boy, the one who thought he could trick them into thinking he wanted her dead, when he actually just wanted to do anything he could to keep her alive.
(He ignores how, if they were different people, he may have done something along the same lines for Clove. If the two of them could win the Games, that is.)
"Let's go back to base," he growls, realising that one of their number is gone now, so they'll have to be slightly more vigilant; if every other tribute joined forces against them, there's a chance that they could be beaten now. Katniss probably has the bow, so she's almost as strong as he is with his sword (as he would never say that she could be better than him, would he?) and so they need to protect themselves slightly more, as well as trying to destroy the rest of the tributes, one by one.
"What are you going to do without your Glimmer now?" Clove is strangely gleeful as she discusses the loss of the District One girl, the one who Cato is sure she was jealous of, and he heaves a sigh. All it means is that he's one closer to having to kill this girl himself.
"We'll survive. We always do, don't we, Clove?" he supposes he's startled her, reminding her of the times they've spent together on the far side of their District for the entire night, getting used to spending the nights under the stars for their time here, in the arena.
She can't disagree with him, can't find a flaw in what he's said whatsoever because that's the truth. They've always been able to make it through, when they've been together, and that's all that they want to do now…but they can't.
There can only be one winner.
And he has to make sure that it's him.
"We'd better get back, make sure that he hasn't tried to run off and booby trap us out of our own food," she suggests, her face hardening as she looks at the path they're heading down, the one that's right in front of her. "Actually, wait, Marvel. You had better stick around for that 11 girl. She'll ally with that bitch and you'll need to kill her."
For once, Cato doesn't argue with Clove making the decisions, because she's right, and so Marvel nods his head slowly before turning back the way that he came. Cato manages to keep down the, "well, we don't even know if 12 is going to be alive for much longer, so it's not like 11 could ally with her then is it?" as well as the idea that Marvel could return to base as well, because, no matter how much it makes him feel weak to think it, he wants to spend a day with Clove again. He wants a day like before, before there was the pressure that one would have to kill the other to win, because that was perfect and he would go back to that in a heartbeat.
Within days, the entire arena has changed again. Rue is gone, Marvel is dead, and the Careers are down to just the two of them. They've been outsmarted again by that 12 bitch, and they're down to hunting for food now, something that doesn't reap the greatest amount of goods, because neither of them bothered to learn how to hunt, or forage for berries, in training. But, more than those other changes, there's been a rule change: so long as they are both from the same District, two tributes can win.
Neither of them believe it, though; they know that this is for 12, for them to play the star crossed lovers to the point that the Capitol falls in love with them, and that they're the excuse for it being able to happen. Cato and Clove aren't naïve enough to think that this rule change can be permanent; it would have been instated before the Games if it was, alongside the only other rule that consist basically of no cannibalism. They're not both getting out of this, yet it's nice to be able to pretend, in his mind, that they could both go home and train together on the field at the back of her house, because that's where all their happiest memories are.
"Who do you think is going to kill us?" for the first time, Clove doesn't sound one hundred percent certain that one of them is going to win, and it stuns Cato. He's never heard her be anything but confident, never heard a single word out of her mouth that could equate to her being nervous about the end; she would never be scared, would she? This is Clove, the most ferocious girl in the entire of their District, and she wouldn't let that change just because their allies are gone.
"They're not." He tries to be more confident as he replies, to boost her confidence because he doesn't want her getting cold feet and striking out wildly. He wants them to be focused when the call for the feast happens – it's a yearly thing; it can't be that far away, since there are so few of them left now – and that means that she can't be thinking that there's a chance that they could be defeated. They need to be stronger than anything that could be thrown their way, need to not walk into traps, and they can only do this by ensuring that they're the most confident that they've ever been.
"Only one of us goes home, Cato; one of us is going to be killed by someone else…unless you'd rather we killed one another." The sinister edge to her smile is back, yet there's desperation in her eyes, and he knows that all she wants to do is just go and destroy everyone out there, probably including him, and go home, because the Games aren't exactly what they're cracked up to be. He expected them to be easier, to not feel as though he has to work for every kill he gets, because he's a Career and he's been trained for this moment for his entire life, so it should be more simplistic than it has turned out to be.
"There's still this rule change…maybe it's more permanent than we think. Maybe they'll let us both go home. Mellark can't be that far off death – whenever the call for the feast goes out, it'll be medicine for him that's in the bag. Kill the girl, and you kill them both. And we can go home. We can bring double the joy to our District. But only if we both win. We have to both win, Clove, so we both need to fight. We need to be more confident than before, because we are the best; we've trained for this, we know that we're going to win. We can do it. You know we can."
She hesitates for a moment before leaning forwards and wrapping her arms around him. It's the first time they've ever had physical contact outside of training, and he has to admit that it feels weird, to be holding her in his arms; it's not romantic, nothing of the sort, but it feels almost as though they need each other.
(Or she needs him, he thinks. Because if it comes down to it, he'll survive just fine on his own, probably even better, so if she dies, it won't be an issue.)
As they're getting further into the Games, he's beginning to see that he's changing; any feelings he had towards Clove, even in the friendly nature, are giving way to seeing her as a fellow rival. They're down to the last six now, the last six tributes in the entire Games, and things are going to be heating up soon. Everything is focused on winning, on destroying 12 and the others, so that he can go home.
Now, he even thinks he'd be happy to kill Clove, because then he gets to live the life of luxury in District 2.
And it means he's alive: something that is always a bonus.
She's about to speak when the voice of Claudius Templesmith rings out across the arena, inviting them to the Cornucopia tomorrow at sunrise, where they'll all receive something that they need, that is required for them to even stay alive another day.
Cato smiles as he points to the 'roof' of the arena, letting go of Clove. "That's where we're heading tomorrow, Clove. That's where we're going…and that's where we're going to mutilate Katniss Everdeen, so when her Mother receives her body, she won't even be able to recognise it as her."
"That sounds perfect."
"I know. Now shut up and get some sleep. We'll have to be up early tomorrow."
They're in the woods around the Cornucopia by an hour before sunrise, armed to the death with all the weapons that they can carry on their person, and ready to attack when the moment comes. Everyone will be here, they're sure of it, because they all need something to carry on in the Games, and this will be their downfall.
Cato's sure of it.
"Let's split up – then there's more chance that we can get her, yeah?" he suggests as they get closer and closer to dawn, the artificial sun on the horizon inching closer and closer to being classed as being 'up'.
"See you later, Cato," Clove replies, seeing no issue with this plan because she's just as skilled with her knives as he is with his sword, and if she gets the chance to kill, she'll take it instantly. It matters not if it is Thresh or the girl from 5 before Katniss, because it means that she's closer to the end than she already is. Everything will be over in the next couple of days, she's sure of it, and then either Cato or her will be victor.
He watches her walk around the side of the Cornucopia, knowing that the table with the gifts won't be out yet because it isn't sunrise, and knows that there is more chance that one of them dies here than anywhere else.
(He also knows that if she calls for him, he won't go to her, because otherwise it'll mean that he has to kill her later. So he may as well allow another to do it.)
He twirls his sword in his hand, anxious for something to do, and begins to imagine what life would be like if he won. How his life would change if he emerged victorious, not any of the others, what glory it would bestow on him, on his family. There is no other option in his life: he either wins or he dies, simple as that, and he's damned sure that it'll be the first one. Damn any feelings he had for Clove, damn them to the deepest depths of the ocean, because he knows that she doesn't feel anything for him.
(Actually, he's wrong; she realised that she felt her approximation of love for him when he was flirting with Glimmer, but she would never tell him that, for fear of appearing weak or as though she may not kill him. After all, feelings only go so far, especially in the arena.)
Finally, the sun rises, and he can see the table emerging from the ground, from a hole that didn't exist before, and piled on it are five bags: two for their District, one for 5, one for 11, and a tiny one for 12. But before he can react, try to go for his District's before then attacking the girl, he's startled by the movement of the girl from 5 and the way that she was actually hiding in the Cornucopia! He would never have thought of it, and the moment of anger at himself for missing such an obvious hiding place is all that means he doesn't run out for the table next.
That's all that means he doesn't encounter Katniss Everdeen,
That's all that means that Clove goes after her instead.
That's all that means that he watches as Clove is killed.
He's rooting for her at first; he can see that she's got the advantage over Katniss, that she could be dead by now if she hadn't promised to make it slow. The wounding of her head means that the prey won't be able to get far, he thinks, without having to stop and rest, and she can't anyway, because Clove's got her pinned beneath her. Part of him dares to hope that the new rule is the truth, that they could go home together as joint victors, as when Katniss is dead, they'll be the only District pair left.
There's a moment where there is nothing but silence across the arena besides for the sound of Clove's voice, telling Katniss how she was the one who arranged Rue's death – which is the truth, he'll give her that – and he's pretty impressed with the way that she's using emotional facts like this to prolong the torture in more than just a physical manner. This is why he left her to Katniss, because he wouldn't be able to work his way into her brain.
As he admires Clove, he notices how Thresh is advancing from the trees, and he knows he ought to shout a warning, to alert her to the fact that there's a chance that she could be killed. Then again, if he killed Clove, he'd also kill Katniss, so that's better odds for him to win, right? It would be down to him and the girl from 5, as Peeta wouldn't last another day without medicine, and then he'd be sure to win.
Whilst his brain is preoccupied with dreaming of this new scenario, he almost misses Thresh picking Clove up by her neck, yelling in her ear, a huge brick in his hand.
He almost misses her death.
"Cato!" she shrieks his name, and it's all he can do not to run to her, not to break the pact he made in his mind that he wouldn't run to her aid. "Cato! Help me!" she continues to yell and scream for him, an intensity in her voice that makes him almost try and trick himself into thinking that she cares for him – but she doesn't, not really. All she wants is to be saved from Thresh.
(She does. It's just she chose the wrong moment to try and persuade him.)
He watches as her head is caved in, barely able to keep the possibility of tears contained well within him, as he shouldn't care that she's gone. He should only think that now there's only five of them and that he can destroy them all easily, especially with the vengeance within him that makes him keen to avenge Clove's death. However, the sound of the cannon is still something that almost causes him to fall to his knees, something that makes him realise that he should have been beside her when she died, because that's what they promised each other, right?
"Cato," she had said his name softly, the softest voice she had ever used with him, one Friday evening after they had trained, "If one of us is dying, the other'll be there, right?"
He had smiled at her, the closest time he had come to telling her that she meant more to him than just being a training partner, and shrugged. "Sure. I mean, we're nearly always together; I'm sure that we'll do it for one another. I wouldn't want to die alone."
Then she stood up and asked him to spar again, as she wanted to practise more hand-to-hand combat, and it was as if the entire conversation had never happened.
But it had.
He waits, he wills, he begs anything he can think of that Thresh will turn to Katniss and end her now, like he ended Clove, because that would be the only way Clove would have accepted going out: if Katniss had gone with her, the same way.
But he doesn't.
He lets her go, lets her grab her bag and leave, before he runs to the table and grabs his own bag…and the two from Two.
Thresh steals his bag, Cato's bag, and Clove's, and suddenly all that runs through Cato's head is that he needs to get revenge on Thresh first, before he can attack Katniss. He needs to avenge Clove's death by killing her murderer, and then he can kill the others and win.
Now, though, the win won't just be for him. That small part of his insides that want to admit that he'll miss Clove more than anything sparks up, and reminds him that he'll be winning for her, too, because they were a team and they had the chance to win it together, down to the rules. He had abandoned her; she had never had a chance to do that to him. If he had gone to her, he could have saved her. They could both still be here, Katniss and Thresh could be dead, and they could be that extra step closer to winning.
It's all his fault.
They're here, at the final night.
He's in the final three.
No, they're in the final three, him and his memory of Clove, and he's damned sure that he's going to win this thing, because he's strong and able to kill for revenge – just look at the state of Thresh's body, if you want proof of that. He killed him for Clove, killed him like Clove would have killed Katniss if she had had the chance, and he's proud that he managed to do it, because he doesn't feel as guilty about Clove anymore. He knows that she would have done the same for him, if that had happened, and probably have stayed in the shadows like he did, protecting her own back.
(That's what they did. And it's strange for him to talk about them, Cato & Clove, in the past tense, as they've been a team for so many years now, talking about them being over is wrong.)
He's chased by the mutts, the genetically altered wolf things that the Capitol have put in the arena in order to scare them, and probably to kill one of them, and he's scared for the first time in his life. Up ahead of him, on top of the Cornucopia, he can see the dream team, the two lovers who probably aren't even in love (scratch that, they're not; he could see it in her eyes that it's all a lie) and his heart immediately sinks. He's not getting out of here alive. There's no chance.
It hits him all of a sudden as he's climbing the side of the Cornucopia, determined to try and get rid of one of them to make sure that the Games stay as they are, because he knows that he was never going to be leaving here. As soon as he volunteered for that other boy, in order to stay with Clove, he should have known that the guardian always goes down. He came to protect her (silly him, since she never needed protecting, and when she did, he didn't help) and though he's outlived her, those who protect are always slain as well as the protected. Everything about the Games has reaffirmed everything about his personality, and he's beginning to hate himself; he hates the way that there's been nothing substantial in his life other than these, and now he's going down as merely another slain tribute in the 74th Hunger Games, he's absolutely sure of it, as there's no way that Katniss or Peeta are going to be beaten now, is there? They're the team that everyone wanted to get to the end, the ones who everyone has rooted for right the way through, and all he's turned out to be is a piece in their Games. No matter how he tries to spin it, that's all he is, that's all Clove was, and they played right into their hands. They wanted it, the chance to be crowned victor, and when they came together, they should have known right away that it wasn't ever going happen – or, at least, not after the interviews.
She had no chance. He had no chance. They had no chance, and they should have always known that. The Hunger Games are not to be trained for, and one should never underestimate the audience, like he has. Like she did – they all did, to be fair, and they never expected that they could play the audience, like Peeta has done.
And so when he tries to kill Peeta, he should have known that he would be foiled yet again, that his plan could never be completed, because he isn't meant to destroy this; they're the final two, and he wouldn't want the showdown to be anything other than electrifying, when the Capitol reneges on its rule change.
He falls down to the ground, down to the mutts, down to the last moments of his life that will be pure agony. Everything about this is wrong, given that he shouldn't even be here – none of them should be.
Only with death does he realise that the Hunger Games are barbaric; only with death does he realise what most of the other residents of Panem have known their entire life; only with death does he realise that he should have at least told Clove she meant something to him before she died.
With an arrow to the heart, it's all over.
Just like she went, he goes.
And, for Cato and Clove, it's all over.
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