A/N: I realize some of you probably think I'm the most awkward person to ever walk the planet. But that's great. Because I take pride in that. So here's just another little awkward Clato oneshot that I wrote especially for you guys. My inspiration in this goes to the flawless Isabelle Fuhrman (like always), the recently added playlist on my iTunes, the thunderstorm that raged outside my window, and the comfort of the delicious Easter candy my lovely grandma got me. (Hi grandma! –waves-) And for a little heads up…I'm going to start a multi-chapter Clato fic soon. While you wait…you should go and check out my crackfic for THG. Just so you know that I'm not extremely serious and stuff.
[ everybody's waiting, for you to break down
everybody's watching for the fallout
even when you're sleeping, sleeping
keep your eyes open. . . ]
All I can smell is blood.
I feel as though the world's new natural scent is blood because at the moment, it's the only thing I'm able to smell. I might as well be inhaling it, because it coats the air and suddenly I yearn for the sweet and refreshing taste of oxygen. But I am a Career. Blood might as well be what I wear as cologne. It's what runs down my face along with sweat, stained on my clothes, it's almost me. I'm on the verge of choking on the metallic taste of blood, but I can't stop now. They call me brutal and bloody, they expect this of me. Blood is me.
I'm in the desert.
They've chosen the desert for some reason; maybe they're holding onto the hope that most of us die from dehydration. They should know that we Careers aren't going to let something as simple as dehydration take away the bloodlust we all have. I don't know how many of us are left and I have no idea what to do. I don't have any sort of weapon on me; my only advantage is the fact that if anyone tried to come out at me, I'd be able to see them coming from a mile away.
My entire body is glistening with sweat and grime, and I'm starting to stumble. The Gamemakers must be deliberately making the sun bake down on us even more intensely than it should, because I feel as though I may start melting at any point. I'm not weak, but I'm slowly beginning to power down. I need something to show me that I'm not being weak, that I'm not slowly deteriorating at the speed of light in the arena.
And then I see it.
A tribute lying in the middle of a beautiful oasis.
For a moment I believe that I'm just suffering from the heat because it's very possible. Most people only see an oasis when they're fighting to get through the endless desert. But the tribute, that's very very real. It's not a powerful hallucination. They're lying on the ground, completely unaware that I'm stalking them and preparing to murder them.
Do they realize their death is upon them?
I may be weaker than I was a few hours ago, but I'm still strong. I'm without a weapon but I'm fairly positive that it won't take me much to snap the neck of the person and watch them die. Maybe their death will give me the adrenaline surge I need to kill whoever else is left. Maybe, just maybe, I can make it out of this before the night falls and be crowned victor. The oasis is the additional bonus. Water, shade, it's the perfect refuge shelter I need here in this endless deserted hell.
The closer and closer I get to the tribute, the stronger and stronger the scent of blood gets. The desert already reeked of it before, but with every step towards the tribute, there's a fresh heat wave carrying the scent. I can practically taste it. As I get closer, I can see that the tribute isn't just lying there unaware of their surroundings. They're lying there, and I can just barely see their jaw moving. I think that they're breathing, maybe gasping? Or they could be talking. And with the next heat wave that carries the fragrance of human blood, I realize something.
The smell of the blood is coming from wherever the tribute is. So maybe something-or someone, has already gotten to the tribute. I start jogging in the direction of the tribute to see what's going on. I need to know three things at this point-where all the blood is coming from, why this tribute keeps moving their mouth and most important of all, who the tribute is.
As I get closer, the scene that unfolds before my eyes horrifies me. I finally reach the tribute just to see the tiny body of a girl, no older than sixteen. Her dark brown hair is beneath her head as a pillow, matted and dried with something in it. I want to say blood but I'm not going to think of it. Her eyes are opened wide, almost lifeless. There is no spark or gleam in them. She's writhing on the ground, her mouth open but no sound omitting. She's covered in sweat and scars and I want to help her badly. She's so tiny, so familiar, and then I see it. It's Clove, beneath me, begging for me to help her. Her lips keep forming my name, and finally her screams begin to pierce my ears.
They're bloodcurdling, so shrill and high that the hairs on the back of my neck are standing straight up. She's screaming mindlessly, for someone to help her, for me to help her, and I want to badly. But every bone, every joint, every muscle in my body is locked. I can't move. I'm frozen in place as I have to watch the girl on the ground thrash and scream at my feet and do absolutely nothing about it. I don't see any blood anywhere, but then I realize the worst. The lake in this beautiful oasis is where the blood is at. It's a lake of blood.
And then I'm sitting upright in my bed, back at in my room here in the Capitol. It was all a nightmare. I'm sweating and the sheets are tangled between my legs, sticking to me because of the heat. I struggle to catch my breath, and as I lay back down, I hear the screams come from next door. Clove's room.
That was the first night I dreamt to the rhythm of Clove's screams from her own nightmares.
Sometimes during training, I'll let my eyes wander to where she is.
She's lethal, that Clove. Everyone automatically makes two assumptions about Clove. She's tiny and she's weak. Yes, she maybe small in size, but calling her weak is a lie. With every knife she throws, it hits the heart of every dummy. Her aim is spot on, and I'm fairly positive that if someone in training dared to piss her off right about now, she'd aim for their heart.
And kill them.
She hasn't been sane since we got to the Capitol and begun training. To everyone else, she just looks like another one of the demented Careers who has insanity sparkling in their eyes. But to me, her district partner, she looks like the better half of insanity and insomnia has begun to catch up with her. Every night, I have another completely crazy dream thanks to her screaming from her own nightmares next door. And every night, she wakes me up.
Usually, I think it's Lyme that goes in and calms her down; reassuring her that everything is okay quietly. I'll always lie motionless just so I can hear the conversations in hopes to see what hell bent nightmare she keeps having that always ends with the both of us waking because of it, her in screaming fits. But I never do find out. I know that if I dare approach her about it during training, I'll get seriously injured. She's got some sort of ruthless killer look going for her. She wants to make sure everyone knows that she's not kidding around and she's not meant to be messed with. Her size probably leads everyone in the wrong direction, which is why she wants to seem merciless.
I wonder how everyone would take to knowing that the great Clove Laurelwood awoke every night screaming due to a nightmare.
I'm very careful to not bring up the nightmare subject in front of Clove. I don't exactly want to start the Games with my face carved. We're getting closer and closer to the day in which we go into the arena and begin, well, killing each other, and Clove's nightmares must be getting worse. I can hear her in her room every night, her screams so loud that sometimes I think she's right beside me. But I've kept my mouth shut. It's tonight at dinner that everything goes wrong. Horribly horribly wrong.
Lyme and Clove are at the far end of the table, talking about something. I'm guessing it's something along the lines of advice in the arena because the word 'knives', 'Cornucopia', and 'tribute' appear more than they should. Brutus is telling me something, but I'm blatantly ignoring him. He knows that I'm focusing more on Lyme and Clove's conversation, rather than our own.
Looking at her, it almost makes me sick. How can a girl who lies in her bed every night, waking up and screaming because of some horror she's dreamt about go around and put on the world's best poker face and pretend that she's still this ruthless, deadly Career that has no problem with the Hunger Games? God knows how much of what I know about her is all a part of her little act. It's like a slap in the face. Someone give this girl an award, I think.
And the next thing I know, I'm talking. "So Clove, have any more nightmares lately?" I say, smirking. She's ignoring me at this point, stabbing the piece of beef with her knife fairly hard. She looks down, focusing on her plate. Lyme and Brutus seem to be handling my statement differently. Lyme is giving me a look with every warning sign possible, and Brutus has moved on to a bottle of liquor, not bothering with the situation.
I look down at my plate and get another forkful of potatoes before I continue talking. "What happens? Do you dream of getting killed in the Hunger Games or something?" There's more silence and I'm watching as her face contorts. A smart human being would shut up at this point, but I keep going. "Might better stop dreaming about it and start accepting that it's reality."
Clove is furious with me now. Her knuckles are white as they clench the butcher knife tightly. I chuckle as I lay my fork back down on the plate. "Mad are we?" That's enough to throw her over the edge. Before I know it, the butcher knife has left her hand and goes flying directly for my head. I duck down as it flies into the wall near me. I jump up and scowl at her. "Bitch," I mumble.
That's when all hell breaks loose. Clove's face is blood red, and she's shrieking, howling profanity in my language. For someone as tiny as her, she's putting up a really big fight as Lyme grabs her and struggles to pull her off to her room. "CATO HENRY I HOPE THAT SOMEONE ELSE KILLS YOU FIRST BECAUSE I'LL MAKE YOUR DEATH FEEL LIKE HELL ON EARTH!" she screeches as Lyme finally confines her to her room. Brutus just looks at me, his face solemn.
"You've screwed up."
Clove is done talking to me.
It's not like she was my biggest fan to begin with, but she's going out of her way to make sure I get the message across that she is never going to talk to me again, and that she's rooting for me to die. I don't know why I dared to open my mouth in the first place; Clove's not only extremely dangerous but she's smart. She's smart enough to know who to ally up with to make sure I die the most painful death possible. I don't know why I said she'd die off first. She's got a good chance of winning this.
But I guess I'm too egotistical to admit that. I'm a Career; I'm not here to look out for and place my money on Clove to win. I'm here to win this myself. I'm here to bring pride and honor to my family, to my district, I'm here to win. Not be a sixteen year old girl's sponsor from inside the arena.
During our private sessions with the Gamemakers, Clove makes sure to ignore me. It's a really good thing that we're in District Two, because the cold shoulder act that Clove is pulling is really starting to eat at me. I'm getting anxious. She's shooting me daggers and I'm beginning to have to bounce my leg or look occupied in some way. They call her first, and after fifteen minutes, they call me.
I don't even remember what I do for the Gamemakers. I'm so absorbed with the fact that Clove may have that brute from Eleven signed up to decapitate me at the Cornucopia that everything I do is in a blur. Maybe she's got the other Careers turned against me-planted these seeds filled with lies in their brains and they're already growing, blooming, blossoming into this little 'Let's Get Rid of Cato' campaign that I have no say in what happens. I keep going for the Gamemakers, aiming for them to root for me, wanting them to like me. But it's Clove I want to like me. I want Clove to realize that I'm not the bastard she thinks I am. And then, before I realize it, I'm dismissed, and it's off to our floor in the Training Center's building.
That night, we watch for the scores. Clove is on the opposite end of the couch, our stylists, Lyme, and Brutus separating us. I'm pretty sure that if the Avoxes could talk, they'd later on speak of how awkward and tense it was in the room. I lean forward to get a quick glimpse of Clove. She's wearing a black tank top with a pair of sweatpants, her hair in a bun on top of her head. She's balled up, and her head is focusing directly on the TV. It's as if I don't even exist.
Caesar Flickerman appears, starting to announce the scores. I ignore the two blonde show dogs from One; it doesn't matter if they're my ally or not, I don't care for them and their scores mean nothing to me. We move onto District Two, and I receive a nine. A nine. It's not double digits like I would have hoped for, but it's good. High up there. I showed the Gamemakers I have potential. I think I'll sleep quite easily tonight. Brutus rests a hand on my shoulder, and I know that in some way I've made him happy. Making Brutus happy is like trying to tame a wild lion.
Then Clove appears, and the number ten emerges beside her picture. I'm not jealous of her; if anyone, Clove was the one that deserved the ten the most. She's smiling a bit as Lyme pats her on the back, congratulating her. I want to shoot her a smile at the least, but I'm scared that she'll just throw another knife at me.
We watch the rest of the scores in silence. The rest of the tributes aren't showing much promise, most of them are fairly low. It's all fives and sixes mainly. The little girl who looks as though she's nine ends up with a seven, and her district partner gets a score somewhere higher up there. Then there's twelve. The boy gets an eight, and the girl, the girl on fire is what they call her-she gets an eleven.
A goddamn eleven.
Clove isn't pleased. She thought that she had the highest score and then the girl from twelve outshines her with an eleven. But her face shows no emotion. She does not want to show that she's upset that someone else shows more potential than her. She wants to be the best of the best, the one who shows the most potential. Doesn't everyone, Clove dear?
I decide to call it a night early. I see no purpose in hanging around for any more strategy talk. I find that if I hear anything else about the Cornucopia or strategy, my head might explode. Or I'll just kill everyone. Brutus demands one of the Avoxes to bring him a bottle of liquor while Lyme and Clove talk about what to do in case there aren't any good throwing knives in the Cornucopia. I'm sick of it all. Slamming the door shut to my room, I flop down onto my bed and groan.
Cato Henry doesn't accept defeat usually, but tonight, I think I'll accept it quite easily.
And then I find myself in another arena.
I'm in the mountains. It's snowing, sleeting, and I'm fairly positive that my face is blue. The Cornucopia must rest at the top of the mountain, because my feet won't stop moving. I'm trucking forward and no matter what, I will not accept defeat. I feel as though I'm programmed into heading for the Cornucopia. And I feel as though it's all just stimulated, because there are no tributes in sight. I haven't seen the slightest sign that there's anyone around.
There's a thick coat of snow on the ground, and it continues to beat down, snowflake upon snowflake. It's probably added a few inches in the past few minutes and by the time I reach the Cornucopia, there will probably be a good foot and a half covering my tracks up. Once again, I'm weaponless, and instead of being exhausted from the heat, the cold is threatening to turn me into a Cato-sicle.
I can't feel my fingers or my toes, my face is getting chapped from the wind, and my eyes are watering as I keep going for the top of the mountain. Just make it to the Cornucopia, I tell myself. You make it there, and you'll be safer there than you are here. As I continue to make my way up the mountain, I find that it's a lot easier to keep my focus on the ground. The wind and snow doesn't hit me head on, and it's slightly easier to see what I'm doing.
But when I look down, I realize that the snow is spotted red.
At first I'm assuming that I'm just stepping on berries that are buried underneath the snow. I'm not sure how deep it is at this point, and I'm not sure what the setting would look like without the snow. So as I keep stepping, more and more red appears. The red is beginning to become thicker and more obvious before I realize that I'm not stepping on berries. I never was stepping on berries.
I'm following a trail of blood to the Cornucopia.
So I'm not alone in the arena. There is someone else here with me, someone that's gone before me that is slowly bleeding. Bleeding to their death, I'm not sure of that, but they're bleeding. The red gets heavier and heavier and soon I find myself walking in nothing but red snow. The smell of blood is strong and I can smell it even though I couldn't smell anything before. Is this what all Careers have to experience? Do all Careers lose all their senses, but once blood comes into play everything changes?
I see the Cornucopia. It's there, and it looks so warm, so enveloping, so inviting that I begin to pick up my pace. Once I'm in its embrace with all of what seems to be untouched supplies, maybe I'll be okay. The snow is crimson and if there's any white, it seems to be a mistake. Everything is red, and for a moment I wonder if it's snowing blood. But it's not. I keep moving, I'm so close to the Cornucopia that I do all but headlong sprint to it.
And then I stop short. There's a body lying in the entrance that's twitching, convulsing, bleeding heavily. They're screaming, screaming for someone to save them, someone to help them, and I wonder why I didn't hear them before. The snow around them is so red it looks black, and I don't even recognize the figure. They're pale, turning blue as they freeze and bleed to death, a slow and sure death. Their eyes are sunken into their face, and it's when the eyelids fly open that I realize who's at my feet dying. It's Clove.
I want to scoop her up in my arms and tell her it's all okay, she's going to make it, but suddenly I find the ground moving beneath my feet. Clove is dying and we're becoming separated, farther and farther from each other. Damn the Gamemakers! I want to scream for them to stop and to let me help her, that she's just a child, a little lamb that they're letting die on their account. She's my district partner, let me help her! But they won't. The ground continues to move apart and she continues to die, and I'm forced to watch. Maybe it'd be better if I just jumped off the edge, to quit watching this torture. I look at the blood that has dominated the snow, and Clove's cannon fires.
And just like every other night this week, I sit upright in my bed. Sweating? Check. Sheets intertwined with my legs in a sticky, hot mess? Check. Clove screaming next door? Check. I settle myself back down into my bed, head resting on the pillow. It's almost like a schedule. In a few moments, Lyme will be back in Clove's room to wake her and reassure everything is okay. But minutes tick by, and Clove is still screaming. Why the hell is Lyme not doing anything? Where is she?
I roll out of bed and begin to make my way down the hall. Clove is still in her room raising cane and Lyme is nowhere in sight. Do they want her to suffer? It infuriates me to know that they're just going to let her scream and not save her. "Clove," I say quietly, the word slipping out of my mouth almost naturally. "Clove!" I repeat, saying a lot louder than last time.
I finally reach her room and the screams that are coming from behind the door are a lot worse than what I hear from my room. It sounds as though she's in there being tortured, dying. I don't realize how bad it's really been. No wonder she threw the butcher knife at my head that night. I twist the handle and the door opens. I quickly enter and shut the door behind me, hoping her screams don't wake anyone up.
I walk over to her bedside and just look down at her. She's rolling around, shaking her head on the pillow as she screams, panting. "NO!" she shrieks, her eyes clenched shut as she grips the sheet. She's sweating badly and I can guarantee that the sheet is knotted up in the weirdest of ways around her body. "CATO!" she screams again, and my heart plummets.
"Clove, Clove, wake up!" I say quietly, shaking her gently. She thrashes about, and I continue to repeat myself until her eyes open, wide and scared. I sit down on the edge of her bed and roll over to where I'm resting on the side of her bed and listen as she tries to catch her breath. "Clove?" I ask, faintly. And with the last pant that escapes her lips, she collapses into tears.
She just continues to sob into my chest, and I don't know what else to do except for envelope her in my arms and hug her. My shirt's getting pretty wet now, but I don't dare say anything. I just stroke her hair as another wail escapes her lips. "Shh…" I try my best to comfort her, but it seems pretty useless. She doesn't seem as though she's going to stop crying any time soon.
My heart hurts. I've sat here and taunted this girl for having nightmares because she's supposed to be a Career, someone who's ruthless and merciless and doesn't let emotion step in the way of bloodlust and winning. But it's worse than I thought. She's just a girl, a little lamb who's so young and innocent and is offering her life up as slaughter. It's how Careers work. I scold myself. Not all Careers block out all emotion like you, Cato. She's a girl. She's sixteen. She's scared. And on top of all that, she's crying into your chest just after crying out your name in her nightmare.
After awhile, she sniffles and begins talking. "I w-was in the arena, and I was s-stung by tracker jackers…I kept seeing y-you dying, but I didn't know if it was r-real or not. And there was s-so much…pain…and you couldn't hear me…" I continued to stroke her hair as she mumbled and let out the last of her tears.
"Clove?" I said after she pulled herself from my arms and nestled back into her bed. She looked up at me, her eyes slowly but surely beginning to close again. "I don't know what we're gonna see in that arena, but I'm going to do my best to protect you. I promise." She's already out like a light, but it's not stopping me. I lean down and press a kiss onto her forehead. She's got a grip on my hand, and I figure that it'd be mean to wake her again. So I find myself lying next to her. She rolls over and nestles into me, already feeling safer I'm guessing.
The last thing I remember before sleep covers me is that maybe, just maybe, that I, the brutal and bloody Cato, may not have that black of a heart after all.
Mother of god. This took forever to write. I think my legs are numb from where I've been sitting here, determined to finish this. Also, thanks so much for sixty-three followers on Tumblr in under a week. That just amazes me seeing as how I'm pretty…boring, I swear you guys are the best. Be sure to leave some reviews! Isabelle will love you if you do… ;)