Thank you for 400 reviews! As always, I write for you guys! This chapter is mostly Cato-centric. For those of you who read the last chapter, I was surprised that a lot of you didn't make the connection about Antherus. Check the first chapter for some insights!
And thanks to my anonymous reviewers: Lauren, MashedPotatoes, Guest (x4), Strawberryluv, The Persona, Allie m, and Rose.
Please remember to review :)
The Darkness Within
Stoking the Fire
Cato walked briskly through the streets of the Capitol. Despite the built in road heating, he still felt a chill of cold run down his back after being caught in a quick rain on his way back from lunch. He was just stepping back into his office when a shrill ring from his phone had him reaching for the device.
"Yes?" His voice activated the device and immediately a projection of his mother appeared. "What's wrong Mother?"
"Nothing precisely is wrong, Cato." Narcissa frowned and Cato tried not to frown back as he saw her new hairstyle: A beehive type structure with each tier marked by a red strip of hair. "But when I got back from the salon your wife seems to be … not here."
"What?" For a moment Cato couldn't process the words. Katniss had stepped out? Other than to the training center or for a meal with the family she hadn't left the house since their marriage. The girl had been acting oddly the last couple of days and Cato felt a flood of apprehension and annoyance take his system.
"Well, she is not here and William gives me the impression that she left without telling him where she was going."
For a moment, Cato wondered if she was trying to run away. He wouldn't put it past her, but it was relatively impossible to get out of the Capitol without the appropriate permits. He looked tiredly at the paperwork on his desk and reached for his umbrella, not about to get caught in another downpour, "I'll take a look for her."
"I'm sure her actions were meant in a harmless fashion," Narcissa continued, looking at him in that way he hated, the way she would look at his Father. "In fact she'll probably be home soon-"
"Mother, I think we both know that when it comes to her, nothing is ever harmless."
In the end, it hadn't taken long for Cato find her. A hour of searching the vicinity of their home had found her sitting in a park three miles away, swinging mindlessly and watching some children play.
Finding her unharmed both relieved Cato and also sent a strike of anger through him. Striding toward her quickly he grasped her arm hard, pulling her off the swing.
Stumbling into his chest, a look of surprise passed Katniss' face before it then blanked.
"What the hell is this about, Katniss?" Cato barked, crossing his arms about his broad chest and frowning as he realized her hair was wet from some of the earlier rain. Who knew what the girl could catch? She certainly hadn't vaccinations in District 12. "What were you thinking?"
"Cato?" She returned, staring up at him with innocence so obvious it had to be fake. "I went for a walk."
"A walk for over two hours?" He returned quickly, noticing a glint in her eye as his voice rose.
"Yes, I didn't realise I needed your permission to breathe, I thought this was a marriage not a jail sentence!" Katniss immediately attacked, figurative claws out.
Cato's face crumpled in a bewildered frown. "What are you talking about?" He shook his head, steering her back toward the direction of their house, "You can go places if you please, but you need to tell someone, Katniss. What is going on with you?"
"Nothing," Her pretty face lifted to the air, not making eye contact with him. "I wanted some air – you can let go of my arm, thanks!" She tried to wrench her arm from him, but Cato was having none of it and kept it firmly in his grasp.
"Do you seriously think just randomly wandering out one day is normal? Katniss, I spent hours looking for you. Hell, I'm going to have to stay late at work because of this."
"I didn't ask you to look for me, did I? I just wanted some air!"
"In a city you don't know?"
"In a city you've never bothered to show me!" She returned back, her face having that same stubborn tint it had had in the days before their marriage.
Remembering his mother's words to try and accommodate her and wondering if he had left her idling at home, Cato felt a bit guilty. Letting go of her arm, he nodded. "I have work most days but perhaps we can explore in the evenings before the training center."
Katniss looked at him and said nothing. They walked back to the house in tense silence leaving Cato to ponder why the girl who had curled into his bed, who had kissed him with fervor, who had opened up to him - had vanished.
Trying to make good on his promise, Cato decided to leave the extra work for early the next morning so he could go about the Capitol a little with Katniss that night. He returned home in good spirits, only to find his wife silent and unresponsive at dinner. When he had posed the option to go out she had quickly cited a headache and went upstairs. Expecting her in his room when he went up to sleep, he was again surprised to hear her moving about in her own room. Cato debated to enter her room but decided against it, a stirring of indignant annoyance building in his heart.
"She's acting like such a little uppity bitch!" He complained, arms straining mildly beneath the weights as Filius sat on a nearby weight bench, examining his own face in the mirror instead of doing any exercise or spotting Cato as he was supposed to do. "It's so weird, we were making real progress and now it's like I invited the Ice Queen of the Artic into my house."
"Did you have a fight?" Filius stretched out, tugging at the small white whiskers on his upper lip. "I think you might be right, Cato, these whiskers-"
"-Are disgusting? Yeah, I told you that last week, why do you never listen? And no, one day we had a bit of a misunderstanding, nothing worse than before - but since then she's been a complete witch. Always sullen faced and in such a drawn mood. It looks as if her attitude adjustment was something I must have dreamed-"
"Cato Crawley unable to handle his own wife? How marvelously pathetic." Cato's hackles raised at the familiar voice. "All this training is just for show, then? Too weak to manage a little female?"
"Go to hell, Antherus. Don't you ever get tired of ghosting around Cato? I'd think you have a mighty crush on him the amount of time you've spent bothering us." Filius was quick to defend as he always had been, even in the days when Antherus was much bigger and older.
Cato hooked the weights in place and sat up to watch Antherus'' face turn red, clashing terribly with his green hair (now with white polka dots) as he glared at Filius.
"If you think all the training is for show, I'd gladly give you a repeat performance of last time." Cato bared his teeth at the other man.
Antherus looked down his nose at them. "Typical district boy. Physical intimidation the only means to end, and yet …you can't even handle a little woman."
"As if you would last two seconds with a Victor." Filius scoffed.
Antherus' eyes were cold and dark. "Oh, I've lasted many times with a number of Victors. They're the ones bending to my whims, with my marks."
"You are such a perverted freak." Cato spat, "I'm not like you."
"I'm also a Capitol gentleman, something you also aren't." The other man returned, "Something that the council will soon see. Your type of boorish brutality has no place here."
"You mean unlike your psychotic brutality behind closed doors?" Filius looked disgusted, "Everyone knows what you're like, Antherus. Still that same snot nosed weak bully. Money won't get you everywhere."
"It got him out of a reaping, didn't it?" Antherus laughed, moving toward the exit, "But I suppose it can't get him love. Afterall, who'd love a monster like that!"
"Obviously you, with the obsession you have!" Filius shouted after him as he left. Rounding on Cato, his friend frowned, "You should have hit him!"
"Too many people here today," Cato sighed, adrenaline pumping through his system. He made a beeline toward the punching bags, not bothering to wrap his hands and instead slammed into the heavyset structure, sending it swinging wildly, "I hate that bastard."
"I think he assumes you made a deal for Katniss." Filius noted.
"I know," Cato grunted as he hit the bag once, twice, thrice. "It doesn't matter now, all speculation."
"It does matter though!" Filius frowned, "Maybe you should be stricter with her, Cato. She is probably pushing boundaries to see where exactly they are."
"She's right on the edge." Cato said forebodingly, so focused on the bag that he didn't even feel as his knuckles split, blood trickling down his fist, "Right on the edge."
Narcissa left to visit some of their family in District 2 the next day and immediately after, Cato found himself on the brink of losing his mind. With his mother out of the house, Katniss became increasingly impossible. She made dinners so disgustingly unappetizing he felt sure she was doing it on purpose. She was snappish and sullen, nothing close to the open, budding girl she had been a few weeks prior. Twice when he came home from work he found no dinner ready and her asleep, completely unfussed on how he was.
He tried to engage her but was turned down at every turn. She refused any meals out, walks, or trips to the training room. Instead, swallowing his confusion and annoyance, Cato would go by himself and take out his aggression on the dummies. One night he reached for her hand only for her to immediately snap it away and give him such a withering glance that he almost laughed.
A week and a half of this and his temper was reaching its bursting point. Despite his words to Filius he hadn't really wanted to reign harshness onto his wife. After following his mother's recommendation to give her space and to be kind, he had seen a beautiful side of Katniss. She was lovely and innocent and he would much rather have that woman back instead of one whose spirit he had to break first.
Then came the first night of Quell Madness. It was two weeks before the Quarter Quell would be announced and the Capitol was in a flurry of excitement. The celebrations began with a large ball held by the upper echelon of society where bets on the twist would be made. The Quell was rare, held only every 25 years, and the fervor was taking the Capitol by storm.
Cato had charted her former team to help Katniss dress for the event and Cinna had done well. He dressed her in Cato's blue: a long gown that draped effortlessly from her waist, with a sweetheart neck that accentuated her generous chest. As she approached him at their front door, her beauty had struck him and he had leaned forward to kiss her with affection.
"You'll mess my makeup." She snapped, pulling away and walking outside.
His mother, arrived back from District 2 that afternoon, sent him a startled look before following her to the car.
He wouldn't have believed it but the rest of the night was even worse:
Katniss got drunk. Extremely drunk. She was loud and clumsy and Cato watched in abject horror as his wife stumbled into various citizens.
While talking to some colleagues she smiled ironically to them as they congratulated her on their wedding.
"Well, with this guy here you can't say no. Literally. I couldn't."
His colleagues had tittered awkwardly as Cato's hands tightened around his glass.
Then came her obvious flirting. While with him she was an utter cold fish, Katniss sauntered up to every male in the vicinity, giving demure glances and purring comments.
It finally reached a crescendo when he saw her saucily dancing with Finnick Odair who for once in his life looked uncomfortable with what was happening. She shook her body against his and swung her arms around his neck.
Cato only saw red.
Striding to them he wrenched her away from the other Victor with viciousness that he completely meant to use. She tried in vain to pull away but Cato would have none of it, he dragged her out of the hall and into a nearby room before rounding on her.
"What the HELL do you think you're doing!?" He roared, pushing her against the wall.
Katniss looked shocked and stumbled back, "What, I'm having fun!"
"FUN? Embarrassing me? Throwing yourself at those men? Is that what you consider FUN, Katniss?!"
He was shocked when she met his gaze with a level one of her own.
"Yes." She enunciated the word carefully as if she wanted him to feel it.
And he did, indeed.
"You vicious little bitch - if you think that's fun, I think it's time I showed you what I consider fun!" A thundering rage was at the tip of his mind and he grabbed her, kissing her brutally.
She fought against him, but he kissed her harder, punishing her. His fingers kneading into her arms so tightly that she would surely have bruises. Cato pushed his tongue past her lips forcefully as he pressed her against the wall with his body. He would show her. He would show her who she belonged to. She would never step out of line again.
Katniss' hands scrabbled against him, a futile struggle against his greater strength. Growling, he grabbed her wrists in one hand, pulling them to the side as she yelped in pain. "I've had it with you – it's time you learned –"
His mother's voice came lashing like a whip and it broke through the fog in his mind, leaving him feeling as if he had just come up for air after a particularly nasty swim in dark waters. The blonde woman stood in the doorway, eyes wide but lips set determinedly. "She is drunk, Cato. Please. She has barely ever drunk before –"
"Mother, her behavior-"
"I know. It was atrocious. We can deal with it tomorrow. Please, not here. It is public and she is not well."
He turned back to his disheveled wife. Against the wall, Katniss looked small and panicked. Although she didn't seem drunk to him, not with the way she had looked at him defiantly, his mother's words hit him hard. His anger had passed and in the bleak reality that was left, Cato struggled to figure out what had happened. What had he been about to do? Hit his wife? Assault her? His mind was so muddled. He had just been so very angry.
Regret and shame flooded through him and he found himself stumbling for words. "Take her home then. Now."
He pushed past his Mother, not bothering to cast a second glance at his wife and when he reentered the ballroom; went straight to the bar.
He avoided his wife for the next week. He stayed at work until late and went straight to the training center afterward. There was nothing right in what he had done. Katniss had been out of line, but his reaction had been disastrous. Driving home, Cato found himself looking at his reflection in his rearview mirror, taking in the blue streak in his hair and the casual brightness of his eyes. His father wouldn't look like this. His father wouldn't have felt badly about what he had done. Cato was not his father. He was NOT his father.
The blonde had regret for his actions. He had regret that he had responded the way he had and he had regret that he had even brought Katniss in his life to begin with. It was like that horror film about a Capitol couple who adopted an orphan from District 11 only to find out it was a murderous dwarf who killed their whole family and drank their blood. The comparison of Katniss to a murderous dwarf amused Cato as he pushed into his home and walked to the study.
Inside, he found his wife sitting at his desk.
They regarded eachother for a startled moment before Katniss shut the drawer beside her.
For a second it filtered through Cato's mind that she had been snooping around his study before it also occurred to him that it was all too perfect. He took in the messy papers and obviously shifted books and realised that either Katniss was the worst spy in the world or she was purposefully trying to get caught.
He turned startled blue eyes toward the pretty woman.
She was trying to make him angry?
Exhausted at this sudden realization, and unwilling to attempt to process it, Cato dropped his briefcase. "Can you just go upstairs."
"I wasn't doing-" Katniss looked confused and stood, hands clasped before her. "I mean … I was just looking for paper."
Cato ran a hand through his blonde hair, feeling the stiff peaks. His pinky catching as always on the blue streak that no matter how his mother insisted, always felt different than his natural hair. "Whatever."
Katniss's lips plumped and she blinked, "Actually, since you're here, I wanted to ask you if I could have an accounts card."
What was she doing now? Cato was so tired he could barely even bring himself to listen to her. "You want an accounts card? You must be kidding, Katniss."
"No," She lifted her face in the air, "I have my own money from the Games - isn't it right that I have access to it?"
"Why, so you can run?" He smirked, amused, "So you can vanish from this house?"
"No." He could hear the familiar challenge in her voice. "So I can not feel like so much a prisoner."
"You know what," His ire was sparking, and sarcasm dripped from his lips, "let's drop the pretense. You are a prisoner here, Katniss. Are you buoyant at knowing the truth? You're a prisoner so please just shut up and leave me be."
"You're terrible! How dare you!" It seemed to be her go to statement and Cato turned to face his blazing wife. "Is my life just a game to you, Cato?!"
After the Ball, Narcissa had bundled Katniss home and the girl had found that she hadn't had to pretend at all. Cato's reaction had terrified her and she had dissolved into a mess of tears and horror once they had been in the car. Narcissa had been so gentle and sweet to her that Katniss had found herself guilty, knowing full well that as her mother-in-law had comforted her with words that it hadn't been her fault, she had in fact, purposely tried to illicit the response.
Although it had been her hope to have Cato expose that darkness within, a small part of her had also wished that he wouldn't have had. She thought of those nights in his room, of his smiles and of his kisses and her heart ached terribly. There had been the urge to run to him the next day and apologize for her behavior but he had made it easier on her by not being around the house at all.
Her regret had passed quickly and Katniss had found herself steeling herself once more, attempting to figure out ways to enrage him. She knew her behaviour was childish and borderline ridiculous but it had become an obsession. She wanted to know her enemies in order to fight them and Cato was hard to break.
Narcissa had however, helped her cause, as after the ball, stroking Katniss's hair as she cried, Narcissa had explained further detail on Cato's father. A dark, controlling, abusive man, there had been no love lost by Cato. The boy had lived in fear of the man. Katniss' love for her father was her weakness; she was sure Cato's hate for his was his own.
As Cato showed no signs of anger at her attempt to get caught snooping in his private study, she swung a different way, pulling at ideas to get him talking, to get him shouting.
"Is my life just a game to you, Cato?!" She cried, watching his face get more and more agitated as she persisted. "Your mother is right, you are a monster – a terrible, twisted man - just like your Father!"
As her words rung through the air, Cato's face changed, blue eyes turning gray as a storm. Katniss's words dried on her lips as he loomed over her, his expression livid. There was only pure anger on his face and she suddenly realised she had put herself in an arena with a terrible foe and no way to escape.
To be Continued ….
Uh-oh, what has Katniss done? Again the question: Is Cato more monster than man? Do you think he is capable of the things Antherus accused him off? Do you think that Katniss and he can find their way to love despite all the issues? And what about the Quarter Quell…what will that hold for our lovebirds?
I was a bit disappointed as the last chapter was the least reviewed of all the ones before it, I hope you all are still interested in this story. Please let me know if you want more by leaving a review. I will always reply. :)