I had refused to believe it until I saw him in person. Even watching him on the recap of the reapings seemed surreal. It couldn't be him. It just couldn't.
But here and now, at the opening parade of tributes, I knew it was him. My childhood friend. When I looked into his sky blue eyes, I saw recognition in them. Recognition and panic. I'm sure they reflected exactly how my own grey eyes looked.
We had met when we were little. Before my father died, he would take me hunting all the time. Once, the mines were under repair for two weeks, so he had two weeks free from work. We both faked sick with an extremely contagious disease so no one would come looking to see us, and we snuck off into the woods. We packed light: a change of clothes each, two canteens of water, our bows, and extra arrows for hunting.
We hiked for days, hunting as we went along. He taught me about new plants I had never seen before in District 12. He showed me new animals, and new techniques' for hunting. After about a week of traveling, we reached the place he was looking for.
When my father was young, his own dad took him here and introduced him to the Stone family. They lived in District 2, but they had been family friends for generations. My father became friends with Cyo, and in turn, I became friends with his son Cato.
We were both so young at the time, I hardly remember our ages, but we instantly became best friends. He had the same passion for hunting I did. He taught me ways to kill with just my hands, and I taught him tricks with my bow.
We were more than hunting partners though. We were joined at the hip. We never left one another's side. We laughed and played in the woods, and sat by the lake at night watching the stars. Of course we were young, there was nothing romantic.
He told me about how he wanted to be in the Games someday. He wanted to bring honor to his family. His older sister had won it at age 14, and ever since then it had been his dream. His sister and his younger brother were his world. He wanted to be a role model for his brother, and continue the line of victors with his sister. It meant so much to him. Of course, I never fully understood it.
When it was time to leave, we both cried. We held hands until we had to separate, and I made him promise not to look back when me and my father left. We both looked back. We revisited the Stones two other times before my father died. Each time was a few years later, and me and Cato grew closer every time.
The last I saw him I was 10. It was just months before my father died. I closed my eyes and remembered our last moments together.
We sat by the lake. Our camp was set up about half a mile away where our fathers were singing songs together. We had taken a hike to our favorite spot to say goodbye before I left again.
"Katniss," he began, turning his piercing eyes to mine.
"Yeah?" I nudged his shoulder playfully, hoping to lighten the mood of our last night even though it was always sad.
"My dad was joking around the other day about us getting married and having babies. He said they would be fighter children, like warriors." He chuckled at the thought. Our children would be warriors, survivors. They could live in the woods forever if they wanted to with my survival instincts and Cato's fighting nature.
"He said we would get married?" I scrunched up my nose jokingly. The idea was funny, at the time, but I felt a slight tingle in my stomach.
"Yeah, can you imagine that?" He poked me in the side, tickling me.
I giggled and rolled away from him. What I didn't tell him is that I could imagine it. Of course at 10 I didn't understand the concept of love. But I could imagine us, living in the woods together, raising our children away from the horrors of the Capitol.
That goodbye was bittersweet. We had planned to see each other in just one year rather than a few, but still a year is a long time. Our goodbye hug was more lingering than the others, as we both took in the other.
I could still remember his smell. It had always reminded me of the woods after it rained. Fresh. Clean. Natural. I hadn't seen him since then. When my father died, I never had another chance to go back. Cato and Cyo never even knew of his death.
I stole another glance at him from my carriage. His face was cloudy, his eyes dark. I knew what he was thinking. There was a good chance we would encounter each other in the Games. Both fighters, there was an even better chance we could be in the final few. Maybe even the final two. We were both warriors. And we both knew what this meant.
My face clouded as well as my thoughts aligned with his. One of us may have to kill the other.
So this idea has just been stuck in my head for a while, and I really needed to write it. I know the whole "they knew each other before the games" concept is done and done again, but I really wanted to do my own spin on it. And this chapter was pretty much just an intro, they will get longer. Thanks for reading, please review!