"Are you serious?" I ask Clove incredulously after she reveals her "plan" to me (though I use the term lightly). "There are so many flaws in this so called "plan" of yours that I'm pretty sure you're just pulling shit out of your ass at this point. Do you want to get me killed?"
Clove is still standing, having spent most of her time in my room pacing and telling me what to do, perhaps one of her favorite pastimes. Leyla is still situated at the foot of my bed, but her face is unreadable so I can't tell what she makes of Clove's pathetic excuse for a plan. I was curious to know what Leyla had come up with to get me back into Katniss's good graces, but I'm sure Clove wasn't going to give her the chance to speak. When it came down to it, Clove would not be deterred until her newest plot was fully enacted.
"Even if this was a plan I created ten seconds ago, it'd still be better than anything your dumb ass would come up with," she smirks, and I hate myself for silently agreeing with her.
"But, what if-" I begin, wanting to voice my doubts to her before I embark on her sure-to-fail plan. Might as well be prepared as I could get considering I probably wouldn't survive to tomorrow, but if I could prolong the inevitable, I might have a chance to escape assuming I could come up with something better.
"No what if's," Clove interjects immediately. "Just fucking do it or I'll tell Glimmer you have a huge, uncontrollable obsession with her." Her smirk grows wider as she finishes her threat, and I flinch unwillingly. Clove wasn't someone who threatened lightly; she always followed through. I risk calling her bluff though, just incase.
"My god Clove," I gasp in one-hundred percent, completely un-joking, horror. "You wouldn't dare."
She sniffs in her typical bratty way. "Want to try me, Cato?" she dares. I don't, but I'll never admit it.
I look to Leyla, hoping she'll be on my side and come to the rescue as she so often does. Leyla gives me an apologetic glance before turning to Clove.
"I think you're right," she comments, giving me a small frown when I glare at her, feeling betrayed. She was supposed to be Team Cato, not Team Clove. I was number one in her heart! Damn Clove and her weird feminine ways of making people fall for her. She must be a witch or something. Maybe in the Arena she could teach me a spell or two so we could get additional sponsors.
"When am I ever wrong?" Clove questions smugly, and I can't stop myself from picking one of the many examples that come to mind.
"There was that one time-"
Clove gives me such a menacing glare that I shut up instantly and try to make up for my apparent blunder.
"Just kidding, I was mistaken, that was an error I made. As usual. You're perfect," I compliment half-heartedly, and she gives me another smirk. Ugh, that smirk would be ripped right off her face when I came back to the apartment in a body bag, a clear sign that her latest scheme was garbage. Bah, why is it always me?
"Go," Clove directs roughly as she points to the door, and I turn to Leyla once more to give her my famous puppy dog eyes. They frequently used to work on my mom, and I effortlessly got whatever I wanted. Well, they fucking failed when she kicked me out of the house, but whatever. I found them useless after that (especially since I just intimidate most people by my gigantic size and sheer perfection), so they were a little rusty. I stuck my bottom lip for added effect, hoping she'd at least help me out a little bit. I mean, this was a damn suicide mission. I am too sexy to die this young, and it wouldn't even be on TV. So not a hero's death.
"Eh… maybe we're being a bit too blunt with this plan," Leyla suggests carefully, not wanting to upset Clove. "We could work out something more subtle so Cato doesn't have a heart attack. I could page her Avox and arrange a meeting or at least go upstairs with him? I mean, I'm not supposed to let him out of my sight, anyways..."
"He's perfectly capable of going up to the twelfth floor, on his own, and asking his little Fire Chick to be in an alliance with me and Rue," Clove barks, causing Leyla to shrink back and throw her hands up in surrender. "He'll come back unharmed so you don't need to worry your pretty little head over anything."
"I was just saying," she mumbles under her breathe, and I gently pat her shoulder in thanks.
"She's going to want Bread Loser in," I point out. "What am I supposed to do about that?"
Clove blushes a little the mention of the District 12 scum, and I want to rip my eyes out, while simultaneously stabbing a fork through my brain at the same time. Dramatic, possibly, but the protective brother in me, coupled with the hatred for this useless excuse for a boy, was raging inside my head. Clove blushing was weird to begin with, and the fact that my mortal enemy was the one she had a crush on was just something I can't handle. God, why couldn't she like Thresh? At least he was cool. He didn't talk so I have yet to find myself annoyed by him, as I was with the other tributes. They were all pathetic, but he seemed to be decent. And since I was feeling more complimentary than usual, he also had potential to be pretty badass. I would support that relationship completely. Maybe I should talk to Rue and find out if he has a girl back home? If not, I could totally play matchmaker like the girls were doing for me. I'd absolutely be much more successful at it because I'm fucking awesome and magical like that.
"Improvise," she commands calmly after getting her blush under control. "I mean, he'd be useful for sure, but I also don't want to have to deal with your jealous rage fits and worrying that you'll kill him the second you two are left alone."
"I resent that, dearest. I have more self control than you're giving me credit for," I huff, not bothering to argue further. I mean, she was right, as usual. I'll run my sword straight through his heart the second I could pin the murder on someone else. Shit, if we were in an Arena with mountains or large hills, I'd shove him down one as soon as I had the chance. Fucking loser didn't deserve to be in an alliance with me. There was no way he would get my protection, no matter how much I could tell Clove wanted me to offer it to him. If he was as remarkable as she seems to think he is, he could simply survive on his own.
"I think you should get going now," Leyla sighs, patting me on the shoulder like I had previously done to her. "I believe in you, Cato, you'll be fine," she smiles encouragingly.
"Yeah, Cato, just pretend like you're going into the Arena," Clove proposes, finally attempting to be helpful. She fails, because the first image I see is me thrusting a sword through Bread Douche's heart as he sleeps, and regrettably, I don't think this is what she had in mind.
"Jesus, Clove, at least I'm prepared for the Arena! This plan of yours is a whole cluster-fuck of things I don't know how to do," I exclaim as I slide off the bed to stand in front of the mirror.
"JUST GO BEFORE I CALL GLIMMER UP HERE," Clove shouts threateningly, apparently fed up with my efforts at stalling my fate. "I'm sure you'd be much better company than Marvel."
"Oh god, why?" I moan, trying to get the image of Glimmer trying to put moves on Marvel out of my head. They were both just so gross that it upset my stomach. Ew.
"Can I shower at least?" I ask when I realize all I did today was sweat. Somehow, I didn't think Katniss would find that sexy.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Hugs?"
Clove briefly weighs the options in her head before sighing and stepping into my outstretched arms. I give her my typical Cato-Bear-Hug, which causes her to giggle (Cato-hugs usually come with a few tickles here and there, if I'm feeling generous).
"Put me down, Cato!" she squeals right into my ear, and I wince in pain. I add "ability to deafen tributes with piercing shriek" to her list of qualities that could potentially help us in the Arena. "You're delaying, again, and I'll knee you if I need to."
I wince again, remembering one of the times in our wrestling matches where her knee went flying into my crotch. I stayed on the ground for an hour in pain, thankfully in the privacy of our dorm room.
"Alright, no need to get testy," I retort as I place her back on the ground with a pat on the head. I give Leyla a quick tickle-free hug before assessing my reflection in the mirror.
I'm as sexy as ever, still clad in my tight-fitting training uniform that I wasn't even going to bother to ask to change out of. Running my fingers through my hair to spike it up a bit (for it had fallen flat after a day's worth of training), I sniff one of the colognes on the dresser. Deciding the dark, musky one would suffice, I give myself a quick squirt of the scent to make sure I don't smell from all the exercising I did today.
"Here goes nothing," I say plainly, ignoring their final pep talks and encouraging words. Opening the door, I step out into the living room to find a group of Avox that I've never seen before are still cleaning up the mess I made in the apartment. Feeling guilty, I tap the nearest one on the shoulder. The girl jumps back in surprise, eyes wide in fear.
"Sorry," I grunt, using my right hand to gesture to the destruction. She nods hurriedly, eyes scanning the rest of the room in panic, and I suddenly remember the "rules" when dealing with Avox. I've certainly been ignoring these when it came to Leyla, but I guess my Avox was different from most of her peers. She wasn't here because she's a traitor of the Capitol, whereas most other Avox had committed some sort of rebellious act that the Capitol didn't approve of.
"You missed a spot right there, go clean it," I attempt as an apology to the girl, giving her a little wink at the end to show I wasn't just being a typical District 2 douche bag . She gives me a small smile in understanding and goes to sweep up a few ceramic pieces form one of the plates I broke. I smile to myself at the memory of how refreshing and satisfying it was to destroy the Capitol's furniture. Perhaps, if I won the Games, I could make it into some sort of therapeutic habit.
As I ride the elevator to the twelfth floor, I review the plan Clove set out for me.
"Just go up there tonight and ask her to be in an alliance. If you want to confess your feelings for her, than do so, but that's up to you. Rue already told me what you promised her, and since you won your stupid net climbing challenge, we'll begin our alliance with her once we take care of District 1 and 4. Be careful, and don't reveal too much of our little conspiracy until you're sure that she's on board with everything. We don't want her to stab us in the back in the Arena or sell us out to District 1 before we get the chance to slaughter them."
I plan to talk to Rue the next time I see her and go over a few things that she'll need to know to survive in the Arena. First and foremost, when you have a potentially diabolical tactic with someone else, you don't go and tell their best friend about it despite how much the other person seems to trust them. I'm actually shocked Clove didn't massacre me for not telling her about my promise to the little District 11 girl, but maybe she thinks Rue would be useful, too.
The little bell dings and I briefly wonder why the Gamemakers allow security to be so lax when it comes to the apartments. Tributes could easily sneak into the elevator, ride to another floor, and murder another tribute before sneaking back to their floor as if nothing had happened. Maybe they didn't think anyone had the balls to do it? Or they were hoping someone would in order to make the Games more exciting? Either way, I'm glad it was easy to sneak around at night.
I step out of the elevator and into the District 12 penthouse apartment. The room is dark, but the gentle light emitting from the TV allows me to see most of their living room. I can tell their set up is different from ours, and I'm a little irritated by how much grander their place is compared to the District 2 apartment. Maybe the Capitol felt bad that their tributes lived in poverty for their entire lives until this moment and tried to make up for it. Not that any of this really mattered since most of their tributes died in the first day of each Game, but wasn't it the thought that counts?
"Come to try and kill me again? You must be really bored, but I suppose we can have another go at it since you failed last time," a voice says from an armchair on the side of the room, and I manage to keep my face in a stoic mask despite my surprise. I expected the place to be empty, but low and behold, I run into the last person I wanted to see. Fuck my life. If I made it back, I was going to give Clove a very unhappy lecture on how important it was to think through the flaws of all future endeavors.
"Not everything is about you, 12," I spit in disgust to Bread Douche, who I still couldn't see. Who the fuck was this kid to challenge me? I feel my temper rising and know that I can't spend too much time with this loser or something unpleasant was going to happen. Well, if I was to be honest with myself, his death wouldn't be that unpleasant but dealing with Clove, Leyla, and all his other fan club members would be annoying.
He rises from his seat and steadily walks towards me. I lean on the wall next to the elevator, my back pressed firmly against the metal and cross my arms. I glare at him as he walks even closer, and he finally stops about two feet from me.
Bread Douche attempts to stare me down and I stare back defiantly. Was he seriously trying to intimidate me? I tower over him by at least seven inches, and my arm muscles are like the size of his head. I can tell he's strong too, his muscles rippling in anticipation under his t-shirt, but there was no way he could ever take me down in a fight. "What are you doing here, then? Katniss doesn't want to talk to you," he finally growls, still not breaking eye contact.
"I'm positive that she doesn't like you speaking for her," I retort, knowing it was true. Last time he attempted to talk for her, she twitched slightly while her face remained impassive. It had been kinda cute. "And I'm sure you're just scared that she'll fall for me and leave your ass alone in the Arena. You'll be so easy to pick off, I can barely contain my excitement."
He actually has the nerve to snort at my statement, and I find myself fighting the urge to punch him in the jaw. The things I do for the women in my life, and yet they were so ungrateful.
"You seem to be awfully sure of yourself, 2," he chuckles darkly, eyeing me up and down as if I was his prey. I'm starting to think he doesn't like me very much. How upsetting.
At this point, I find myself in a dilemma. One punch to the head, and I could scoot around the unconscious body of my enemy to go find Katniss's room. Although their apartment was larger and decorated more superiorly than mine was, I still had an idea of where Katniss's room was. However, her District partner had positioned his body in front of mine so I can't just maneuver around him to get to my destination. Disappointingly, knocking him out wouldn't give me any brownie points with Katniss. So I decide to do what my mother taught me and ask nicely for him to move.
"I'm sure I'm going to fucking murder you if you don't relocate your malformed body out of my way so I can find Katniss."
"Do I sense a challenge, 2?" he questions, and I mentally snort in amusement. This fucking idiot was trying to pick a fight with me. I was pleased that his balls seemed to have finally dropped now that no one was around to see his true behavior, so I decide to play along with his game.
"Perhaps you do, do you dare to see?" I retort, moving away from the wall and closer to the shorter boy. Arms still crossed, I finally take the opportunity to flex my muscles and puff my chest out in preparation for a brawl, knowing that the other boy won't call me a tool like the girls did. His eyes rake over my defensive stance, and I see his eyes briefly flicker in fear before he returns to his calm facade.
"I love a challenge," he all but purrs at me. I find myself slightly distracted by this conclusion. Was he flirting with me? Or just trying to intimidate me?
Noticing my preoccupation, the younger boy lunges at me, tackling me to the ground and pinning me under him. He punches me in the mouth, before I gather myself back together, and use my greater strength to flip him over.
"Big mistake, 12," I snarl, primed to beat him to a bloody pulp. I take a second to savor the feeling of him under me as he struggles to gain the upper hand again, and I bask in the glory of my dominance. If only we were in the Arena, I could play with my prey a bit more and then watch gleefully as his life ends by my own hand. I slowly pull my fist back as far as I can, before letting go and sending a vicious blow to his jaw. He grunts under me just as I hear the unmistakable sound of a door opening down the hall.
"Fuck," I mutter, before jumping off the boy. Grabbing his arm, I roughly pull him off the ground, glancing over at him to make sure he isn't bleeding, which thankfully he isn't. He gives me a confused look and I bring a finger to my lips, which are suspiciously damp, and signal him to be silent as I point in the direction of the bedrooms. He nods swiftly in understanding before reaching into his pocket and handing me a handkerchief and pointing to his own lip. Easily comprehending his gesture, I dab the cloth over my lip, relieved that it isn't gushing blood like I thought it was. Bread Douche stares at me before sighing and moves closer to me. I instinctively tense up, expecting him to try to get the last hit in, but he just smoothes out my training shirt that must have been ruffled in our fight.
I suppose we have some sort of unspoken truce for the time being. Neither of us wants to get caught in another scuffle and face the wrath of the Gamemakers. Or worse, our escorts.
"Paranoid much?" he whispers harshly, and I send him a hasty glare before the intruder to our fight reveals themselves. My features are schooled back into my blank mask by the time the District 12 Capitol escort enters the living room.
"Peeta, what's going on?" the woman asks in her thick Capitol accent as she looks at me wearily. I can't blame her though since the last time she saw me I was choking out her male tribute that's currently standing peacefully next to me. I'm sure she's waiting for me to pull a knife out and murder them all.
"Cato just came over to apologize for attacking me at the tribute parade," the baker replies coolly, and I wish I did have a knife stored on me. What the fuck, how embarrassing! I would rather die a million brutally painful deaths than apologize to him.
"That is so polite of you!" the pink haired woman chirps as she sticks her hand out. "My name is Effie, dear."
"Good evening miss, my name is Cato," I say charmingly as I shake her hand. I might not be able to woo girls my own age, but I have a certain knack with older women. "I'm sorry for coming by at such a late hour and disturbing you. I just need to talk to Katniss really quick, and then I'll be out of your way."
"Oh, of course deary, I'm sure Peeta will be hospitable and show you the way to her room. There's nothing we love more than manners!"
"That'd be great," I respond with a slight smile, mentally cringing at the lie. Of course I didn't mind lying, but I hated having to spend more time with the enemy than I absolutely possible.
"I can do that," he smiles kindly back at his escort but I see his jaw clench when she looks away. Ha, good, he didn't like spending time with me either. "It's this way."
"Goodnight, Effie," I purr, reaching down to take her hand and placing a gentle kiss on the top.
"Oh my, it was nice meeting you too, Cato," she squeaks, and I see out of the corner of my eye that she's fanning herself as we walk away. If only Katniss could have that reaction every time I talked to her…
Effie remains in the living room as we make our way down the long hallway of rooms. I patiently follow behind Bread Douche as he leads me down the dark hall and dab my lip with the handkerchief once more.
"We're here," he remarks coldly as we stop outside one of the dark brown doors.
"You knock first so I know you aren't setting me up," I demand suspiciously, noting that if we were in reversed positions, I'd leave him at Enobaria's door.
"And what if I say no?" he counters, and I feel a sense of déjà vu coming on again. If he wanted to get his ass kicked outside of Katniss's door, then I will happily oblige.
"You won't," I sneer as I move closer to the boy. He won't catch me off guard, not this time. My lip pulses in a painful reminder of how my lack of concentration can be detrimental.
"Yeah, says who?" he argues, moving even closer to me. We're practically nose to nose, and his breath stings my lip.
"Says me," I respond, roughly shoving him against the wall, cringing at the loud sound his body made in the quiet hallway.
"Peeta?" a voice from behind the door asks, and I freeze at the sound. It's Katniss, so I suppose he isn't as evil and smart as I made him out to be. He gives me a look that says, "I told you so," before answering her.
"Cato wants to talk to you."
She doesn't respond, but soon cracks open the door.
"Oh," she squeaks in response when she sees me. Pulling herself to her full height, she glances over to Peeta who has straightened himself up against the wall. "I thought you were joking."
"Nope, he's all yours. Call me if you need anything," Bread Douche responds before walking down to his own room, not even glancing at me as he passed.
"Thanks, Peeta," I call at his retreating back, smirking when he turns to give me a short, shocked looked.
" 'Welcome," he grumbles back as he opens the door to his room.
Finally alone with Katniss, I look awkwardly at her as I try to decide what to say. She opens the door a bit more before turning around and walking back into her room. Taking that as a signal that I can come in, I leisurely walk in to give myself time to pull back together. It's game time.
Taking a deep breath, I try to calm my mind and shake off the thoughts that I needed to go back and finish beating the shit out of her District partner. He clearly didn't respect me and that was something I'm not familiar with or could accept.
"What are you doing here? I don't want to talk to you," she bites out, pausing as her eyes scan my face. "Are you bleeding?"
"Your guard dog got me," I respond evenly after I lick some of the dried blood off my lip. "He hit on me." I laugh at my own joke.
Katniss shoots me a confused look before her eyes light up in understanding, and she lets out a low laugh. "You two seriously have some issues you need to work out."
Quickly glancing at my reflection in her mirror, I see that my lip is swollen but no longer bleeding. "I think we worked out a few things tonight," I answer calmly as I turn back to face her. She's not wearing her training clothes like I am, but instead a blue tank top and sweatpants. They look good on her, though I might be biased since I think she looks fantastic in everything.
"You still didn't answer my question," she points out, and I decide to answer her honestly.
"I wanted to apologize," I begin uncertainly, hoping this whole experience would go smoothly. So far, it was somewhat of a disaster, though I was thankful for the chance to fight Bread Loser again so soon. "When I laughed earlier after I won the net climbing race, it wasn't to make what's-his-face mad. I was just relieved that the whole kiss thing went smoothly, and you didn't decide to publicly humiliate me."
"Uh huh," she murmurs distractedly, catching me off guard. I pretty much admitted my biggest fear to her, and she barely blinked.
I eventually notice that instead of four white walls, she has all of them turned into a beautiful, lush forest panorama. She's staring unseeingly at the one behind me and clearly not paying attention to anything I say, lost in her own thoughts. Knowing that I require her complete attention, I take the risk and move to sit next to her on the bed.
Katniss stiffens as I sit down but doesn't shift away from me.
"I didn't mean to upset you," I try again, and this time she turns to focus on me. Encouraged, I continue. "I'm really just an awkward person, believe it or not."
She snorts at me declaration, and I find that I'm not annoyed by her snort like I was with her District partner. "Well, that's obvious, Cato. But why'd you come all the way up here to apologize to me at eleven at night? Couldn't it wait until morning?"
"Well, there's something else…" I pause, unsure, and she raises her eyebrow at me to go on. "Clove and I want to form an alliance with you."
It was important to tell her that Clove accepted the alliance. I didn't need her scared that'd she be gutted the second she fell asleep.
"You don't even know what I can do," Katniss argues, but I expected this from her. There was no way someone intelligent would readily accept an alliance with the sworn enemies without asking some questions first. Besides, she was right about me not knowing anything about her. I have no idea what talents she has besides being fucking beautiful, but my gut told me she had many other useful ones.
"I know you're fast," I counter, and she smirks because I basically just admitted that she beat me at the obstacle courses. Ah, well, at least no one was here to hear me admit I lost to a girl. "The Capitol already loves you, which will help us secure sponsors."
"You already have plenty of sponsors as a Career tribute even if you fuck up your interview. What about the alliance with Districts 1 and 4? There's no way you can create an alliance with like, half the Arena." I didn't anticipate for her to accept my invitation right away, but I'm flabbergasted by how many arguments she has against the idea. Clove told me not to reveal too much, but Katniss was practically demanding I spill everything to her.
"I'm not who you think I am," I start, wincing at how pathetic and cheesy it sounds. God damn, I was already fucking this up, and I had barely started. "What I'm about to tell you cannot leave this room."
Katniss nods slowly, undoubtedly confused by how serious my tone had suddenly become.
"I hate Districts 1 and 4, with a burning passion of a thousand suns. Forgive my dramatics, but it's true. When I was fifteen, my sister volunteered to be the District 12 tribute at the age of twelve. Because she wasn't cleared by the Academy to volunteer, the Career alliance would not be allowed to include her. With the help of her ally, they killed the leader of the Career pack, and the tributes from Districts 1 and 4 tortured her to death for hours despite giving the District 7 kid a quick death…"
I trail off; choked by the images I couldn't keep away. My parents had let me attend the funeral, mostly to avoid the bad publicity that would come from shunning your only remaining child from his sister's funeral than out of kindness. I had demanded that one of the funeral attendants lift the top off the casket off so I could see my baby sister one last time. The funeral home workers had done their best to make her look recognizable since the Capitol refused (even they didn't like the idea of a tribute from a Career District volunteering without clearance from their schools) but the image still haunted me. The little girl in the casket was not the sister I wanted to remember.
"I remember her," Katniss says quietly. "Prim was devastated when she died."
I smile sadly at the younger girl next to me, not even slightly pleased that her little sister was a fan of my own sister. It really didn't matter since Citali was gone and would never come back.
"A lot of people loved her, especially Clove," I reply unemotionally, not allowing myself to fall apart now. I have a job to do, and I can't afford to fuck it up. "We can't forego an alliance with them since it's pretty much required of us. Clove and I plan to work with them through the initial Bloodbath, and then slay them as soon as we set up camp. And that's where you would come in."
Katniss looks at me expectantly, but I can see the sympathy in her eyes. I hate when people feel sorry for me because it makes me feel weak. Ignoring my irritation, I continue with my little speech. "Clove and I plan to rid ourselves of them, and then meet up with you and Rue somewhere else in the Arena."
I of course leave out the details of how brutal and bloody the deaths of Glimmer, Marvel, and the District 4 tributes will be. I couldn't protect Katniss from everything, that I knew, but there were some things I could keep hidden from her.
"Rue?" she questions, surprise evident in her voice.
"Could you kill Rue?" I contest, smiling when she shakes her head 'no'. "Exactly. And who would be a better spy than she would? Get her some night vision goggles, set her up in a tree, and we got eyes on every tribute in the Arena."
"I could definitely see that," she giggles before pausing and staring at me the wide eyes. I bite my lip, hoping she agrees to accept my alliance offer. I didn't want to think about what would happen if she said no. "One more thing. Why me, Cato?"
It's now or never.
"Because I care about you, I thought it was obvious," I attempt to joke, hoping to lighten the mood. It was awfully stuffy in here.
"It is, but I don't understand why."
I open my mouth to respond, but before I can get a word out, Katniss leans forward and places her delicate lips on my own.
A/N: Cato finally gets some lovin! About damn time, aye? This is officially the longest chapter I've ever written, so yay! All of your reviews from the last chapter inspired me to write this, and I just couldn't find a stopping place!
Poor Peeta though, he really just doesn't like our darling Cato.
Next chapter: Will Katniss accept the alliance? If so, what does that mean for Peeta?
I love all of your comments guys, they're amazingly helpful and inspiring so keep it up :)
I also went back and read the rest of the story up until this point and realized my tumblr link didn't show up. If any of you have one, my link kb928 . tumblr. com