Thank you so much for reading this and I really hope you enjoy it. I would really appreciate some feedback, opinions, or just general comments.
Disclaimer: Just fantasizing about what it would've been like to live in District Two…
Clove was not a believer.
She did not believe in God. What God would allow the ruthless murders that ruled Panem's entertainment policy?
She did not believe in faith. What use was faith if sin ruled the world?
She did not believe in happiness. Why would anyone wish for happiness when there was nobody to share it with?
She did not believe in luck. Wasn't luck just the bastard son of coincidence and ill fate?
She did not believe in love. What kind of love came from a man and woman that conceived for the sole purpose of teaching that child how to kill?
But she did believe in death.
Clove Easton knew death like the back of her hand the very hand that dealt death with a graceful flick of the wrist.
Death was her oldest friend. Death was her only friend.
She stared down at the glistening red liquid the dripped from the edge of her favorite knife. Her father had given her a knife on each birthday, this one being the latest for her sixteenth. The sleek silver blade was recently polished and sharpened, glinting dangerously in the little bits of moonlight that peered through the dirty window. The handle was thin and unadorned, save for the Capitol insignia inscribed near the bottom, a sight that made her stomach tighten in disgust.
A drop of blood appeared on the windowsill and Clove stared at it silently. Blood fascinated her in a strange, twisted way. In the dark of the night with just a sliver of moonlight, the perfect circle of blood looked purple, a beautiful, regal purple. In the bright daylight of the sun, blood screamed a violent red with just a dash of yellow-orange. Against the pale skin of her wrist, blood was a murky red marred through with streaks of brown and black.
Startled out of her morbid thoughts by that voice, Clove yanked the sleeve of her blouse over the thin red line on her wrist and dove into the dark blue sheets of her bed, pressing her face into the pillow and hastily arranging the covers around her body.
As the door was wrenched open, slamming against the offending wall, Clove clenched her knife under the pillow with controlled irritation.
"Clove!" A hand yanked the warm sheets from her body, snatching up her wrist in a bruising grip, "Get up, you useless piece of shit."
Clove let go of her knife as the young man dragged her roughly out of bed, nearly yanking her arm out of her socket. Barely stifling a hiss, Clove moved with the cruel movement, having long ago learned not to resist.
"What do you want?" Clove tried to keep her voice neutral, barely able to suppress the fury and contempt she could feel roiling in her limbs.
Clove gazed up into the face of her older brother, Aaron, imagining the knife under her pillow was in her hand and she was driving it deep into his abdomen, twisting it just to see the agony that would be splayed across his face.
Aaron barely glanced at his little sister, shoving her towards the door, "Clean up my mess before Dad gets home."
Clove said nothing, grinding her teeth so hard she was surprised her jaw didn't break. One day, one day, she would be able to cut his throat and watch him suffer without the threat of their father looming behind her back.
As Clove crept silently down the stairs, relishing the feel of the weathered wood beneath her bare feet, she could hear the familiar sounds of sobbing from the living room. She didn't bother to turn on the lights, having done this countless times before. Aaron's latest victim lay sprawled in front of the giant flat-screen, where he always left them after he was done with them.
With stiff muscles and clenched fists, Clove maneuvered around the broken girl on the floor, opening the grate and feeling for the knob just on the inside of the opening. As she turned the dial, fire sprouted from the darkness, alive and brutally revealing.
The girl had ceased crying, her hiccups punctuating the cold silence in the Easton house. Naked and shivering, she slowly sat up, tangled blonde locks falling into her wide blue eyes. Her face was deathly pale and she shook in terror as Clove glanced her way.
"You need to leave." Clove steeled her voice to be as emotionless as possible as she used the stoker to lift the ragged pieces of clothing off the floor.
"W-what are you doing to my clothes?" the girl croaked in a hoarse whisper.
Surprised, Clove answered without thinking, "Burning them."
None of them had ever had the strength, nor spirit, to speak after Aaron was done with them. Clove allowed herself a second glance at the girl.
The girl stared straight back with soulless eyes that made Clove stiffen and look away. Ugly bruises dotted her ribs and thighs, blood trickling from a gash near her hairline. Nothing on her face, arms, or legs to indicate any type of abuse.
Leave no visible evidence, Aaron was good at that. Clove shoved the rest of the fabric into the fire and hoping the girl would have some sense to just leave. She fetched a bucket of cold water from the sink, grabbing the sponges she'd learned to leave at the back of the left cupboard for situations like this.
When she returned to the living room, the girl was gone, much to Clove's relief.
This was her life, cleaning up after Aaron's despicable games. Her mother looked the other way while her father supplied Aaron with tools, as if he was proud of the monster his son was becoming. Klaus Easton was a formidable man, having won the annual Hunger Games with his ruthless machete. He dominated his family with an iron fist. Ever since she had been little, her father had mapped out her whole life based on the Hunger Games. It was all train, train, train, train for the Hunger Games. And the one thing that he'd beaten into every bone of her body was the notion Kill or be killed.
So, at the tender age of sixteen, Clove's petite, graceful figure, luscious brown hair, and forest green eyes were all conditioned to hide the malicious killing intent Klaus Easton had drilled into her very being.
Nobody ever looked close enough to see past the blood, the layers, the masks, to see the fragile heart that hid behind the locked, steel, impenetrable wall she'd built. The heart that contained all her insecurities, her fears, her worries, her dreams, her joys, her humanity.
Sixteen years of death, blood, and darkness had weathered that lock to glass.
This was the moment. A blade, a drop of blood, one last depravity, could crush that lock and demolish any remaining warmth inside her soul and the darkness would set forth to mutilate her.
A kiss, a touch, a look, could shatter that lock to finally release that potential of love, a love so great it could destroy the world.
When Clove returned with the bucket sloshing with freezing cold water from the sink, she discovered that for some reason, Aaron had decided to clean up after himself this time. The carpet was no longer saturated with blood like it always was after the game and the tripod behind the couch was gone, locked away in the attic again. He'd probably taken the camera into his room to replay and replay his sick, twisted little fantasies.
It had been like this for a little over a year, ever since Aaron lost his chance to volunteer for the annual Hunger Games. He'd been this bitter, nineteen year old monstrosity ever since and developed this repulsive game to earn back the approval of their furious father.
The first night Aaron had brought a girl back home, raped her, beat her, videotaped it, then left her there Clove was awoken by the most chilling of screams. For the first time in her life, Clove was afraid; afraid to hear the desperate insanity in each scream, devastating pain rippling through the sound so that it twisted and clawed at the steel walls around her heart.
Hours later, when the screaming had finally stopped, Aaron had barreled into her room, dragged her from her bed, and forced her to clean up the horrific scene downstairs. She'd learned not to feel anything for the girls Aaron had lured into his trap, cleaning up quickly and efficiently.
The first few times she'd retaliated, he'd threatened to do the same to her. Clove wasn't afraid of his empty threat their father would never let Aaron damage his killing prodigy. But Aaron was good at things like getting her meals taken away, breaking her training knives, and just overall being as intimidating as possible.
But Clove had learned not to be afraid of her brother. He was nothing. He couldn't even make it into the Hunger Games. But Aaron despised his little sister because he had fallen from grace to leave her the coveted pride of the Easton family. Clove knew how to twist Aaron's mind into insanity. She knew his shame and knew his fears and she wielded them just as gracefully as her deadly knives.
In reality, Klaus Easton was the only thing preventing between the Easton children from ripping each other to shreds. In a sense, they're hatred of each other was fueled on each side by a push here and a lift here from their father and then they were at each other like rabid dogs. Clove knew he only kept them around for his own entertainment. The day was coming when he'd put them both in a room and only Clove would come out alive.
She yearned for that day.
Cato liked to believe that he was the bloody, brutal Cato that everyone else saw him as. He was vicious, heartless, and completely merciless. But it hadn't always been that way.
Unlike, Clove, Cato had been born with the capability to love and to be loved.
There was no one in the world that Cato loved more than his mother. Sweet Lysandra Braxton was a dainty little thing with the fiercest of tempers. Angelic blonde hair and baby blue eyes hid the stubborn and strong heart within. Lysandra was like a ray of sunshine in Cato's life. She liked to belt out random lyrics in a horribly out-of-tone voice, yet her lullabies were gentle and soft, the kind Cato liked best when he was little. She doted on her only son with fervent maternal love, drilled into him the precious gift of love, kindness, and happiness.
Cato was happiest when he was with his mother.
His father, Edward Braxton, was a shadow within the early stages of his life. Cato didn't see much of his father except for the constant presents of swords and the private training he was always required to undertake in the afternoons.
And because he didn't really know him, Cato didn't really hate his father.
Besides, after training, his mother would take him out for ice cream and sometimes, if she was in one of those times of inspiration, she would let him paint with her. Cato's favorite room in the house was the piano room, where the walls, floors, and ceilings were covered in the brushstrokes of the incredible evenings he spent with his mother. She taught him how to play the piano so that she could dance and paint while he played her favorite pieces.
As much as Cato loved his mother and her gentle arts, he was a man at heart and he did take an interest in training. He loved the power and handsome grace that came with the art of the sword. He took no pleasure in killing, but he had pride and he did want to make his father and mother proud. And the only way to do that in District was to be in the Hunger Games.
Other times, when Lysandra was too busy to spend time with him and baby him, Cato envied the other boys who spent time with their father, sparring and crafting and all sorts of boy things. As the executive director of the masonry institute, Edward Braxton had little time for leisure. But the rare times that Cato did spend time with his father was when he would stop by the training center to check up on his son's training and Cato would work extremely hard just to earn that precious moment of acknowledgment.
Then the world changed when his mother became pregnant. A baby girl! Cato, come feel mummy's tummy. This is your little sister, Cato! She's the most precious thing in the world, after you, my handsome Cato. And because he saw how great his mother's love for the unborn baby was, Cato developed a fierce, almost frightening dedication to his unborn baby sister. He loved the baby for all that it would be, because his mother had given him the capability of that love. He spent all his time helping his mother build the nursery room, set up the crib, and oh, paint the walls! Little birds and flowers and trees and all the baby things Lysandra constantly talked about. Even before the little Braxton girl was born, nobody could possibly have loved her like Cato did.
And then the world changed again the night six years old Cato discovered he was a coward.
He gripped the little basket in his small hands and kicked the little pebbles out of the way as he made his way home. Finally, finally, mummy had trusted him to get the bread by himself. He was a big boy, he could go out by himself and he wanted to help her as much as possible since she was pregnant. A flood of warmth clutched at his young heart as Cato thought about his unborn baby sister.
When she was born and mummy said it was ok, Cato would bring her to the backyard and show her the swing he'd made by himself and they would play in the sand together and he would make sure she didn't eat any of the toys and that she wouldn't get her dress dirty before dinner and then he would show her his swords and then she would clap and giggle and love him just as much as he loved her.
A scream and then a scuffle startled Cato out of his thoughts and he held the basket tightly as he went to investigate. His heart was pounding too fast and his hands trembled as he approached the alley where the scary noises were coming from.
He was glad he'd taken his newest sword without mummy knowing. Maybe there were bad guys in there and he would rescue whoever it was and then when his little sister was born, he'd tell her the story proudly and then she'd look up at him with the cutest little blue eyes with pride and wonder. Yes, he would do that. He would be a hero.
When Cato rounded the corner and the street lamp illuminated the shadows in the alley, he dropped almost dropped the basket in shock.
Three large men stood over a shivering, sprawled body on the concrete, her white dress torn and blood-stained. His mummy was wearing white dress that looked like that today, too! Cato forgot the sword and the basket as he recognized the mason's uniform on each man. They worked in the masonry, maybe under his father.
One of the men roughly grabbed the woman's legs and another her arms, effectively trapping her in between them.
"No, no, please, stop!"
Cato was struck with bewilderment as he recognized his mother's voice. But he'd never heard the terror and pain in the pleasant voice that always sung him to sleep. Cato was just about to charge forward with his sword and show these men just how trained he was when one of them pulled out one of those loud things the Peacekeepers always held.
"Shut up, whore."
"Maybe this time, Braxton will listen to us, the bastard."
Looking back on this moment, Cato didn't know why he didn't react or why he didn't do anything, but that was just the way it was. Maybe, if he had done things differently, he would have been a different person. But things happened the way it did and that night, Cato discovered his cowardice.
He stood rooted to the spot in bone-trembling fear as the men first raped and then murdered his own mother.
Then when they were done and she was dead, Cato finally moved, tripping in his haste as he scrambled back up the street and back home. He hid in his room, clawing at the tears that tracked down his cheeks and horror, pain, fear, disgust, and fury clashed inside a heart too young to understand.
And that night, Cato's belief and capability in love was destroyed.
Of course, four years later, after careful planning and patient waiting, three mason workers disappeared from District without a trace and a sword went missing from Edward Braxton's collection. Cato threw himself headlong in his training with an appalling dedication, ruthless and undeterred. At the age of twelve, Cato was the strongest. At the age of fourteen, Cato was the best of the entire training center. The only thing left to live for was the Hunger Games, his last and only choice.
He would kill anything and anyone.
When he was six years old, Cato lost the two most important people in the world and with them went his will to love.
All that was left was a massive shell filled with blood-lust, fury, pain, and mindless cruelty.
But one does not simply lose what has been instilled in him since birth. Brought up by a tender woman, Cato was not at all cruel and insensitive to the female species. In all honesty, he tried not to have anything to do with them. But if Cato had any kind of soft-spot, it would have been for Clove Easton.
Raised as a gentleman, Cato Braxton was constantly surrounded by a hoard of girls falling at his feet for his handsome structure and heart-shredding smile. Although he turned down nearly every girl that had the courage to approach him, he was stiffly kind and gentle, a quality that just made all the silly girls in District love him more.
He was irresistible and unattainable.
Normally, Cato would never have paid an inch of attention to a little thing like Clove, but they had not meant under normal circumstances.
Eight year old, Cato cursed under his breath as he rubbed away the blood on his torn knuckles. Walking back from the Training Center, Cato had released his daily fury and frustration on a group of arrogant twats that thought they could take advantage of one of the younger female trainees. Cato had no patience for boys that treated girls like dirt, used for pleasure and discarded once done.
It was days like these that made Cato hate the whole world and the darkness that crawled through every crevice of the Capitol. Murder, blood, filth, every imaginable sin existed in each corner of the wealthier Districts who had the resources and means to cover up their indiscretions. The world was a dark place, an environment that fed his roaring hatred.
He stopped to watch when he saw one of the older trainees approach an abandoned puppy on the side of the road. Knowing his District, Cato waited for the older boy to stomp the life out of the pitiful thing. But before the boy could do anything, a little girl stepped in between him and his prey, holding a glinting knife threateningly before her. Cato stayed his position in the shadows, watching amused.
"Leave it alone." The girl tilted her head up defiantly, her striking, dark green eyes unwavering.
"Get out of my way, little girl." The older boy scoffed jeeringly and made to shove the girl aside.
A flash and a cry of pain.
"I said, leave it alone, idiot."
The older boy clutched his hand to his abdomen, blood dripping from his fingers. Cato's eyes flickered back to the blade in surprise, seeing the blood on the blade. Subtly impressed, Cato studied the small girl again.
The puppy cowered behind the girl's slender legs. Her soft, midnight brown hair was neatly plaited, hanging below her waist. She wore nondescript jeans and a T-shirt, typical. Sharp, angular cheekbones just losing their baby fat and a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose.
"Why, you little – "
Cato looked away when the older boy made to grab the smaller girl, prepared to resume his walk home and let whatever happen, happen,. Lightning fast, the girl had the older boy on the ground, crouched over him. Cato watched, mesmerized as she brought her fist up and then drove the knife through the right hand of the boy. He howled in pain as she yanked the blade out again.
"I said." She huffed coldly, "Leave 'im alone."
"Fucking bitch." The older boy sat up, cradling his injured hand and sending the girl one last mutinous glare before stumbling away.
Cato was surprised again when the girl wiped the blade on her T-shirt, then stuck the blade in the waistline of her jeans. Her blank, cold expression morphed into one of tender melancholy as she picked up the puppy with small, gentle hands.
"Hey, you." She murmured, "You're just looking for trouble, aren't ya?"
The puppy licked her nose and Cato's heart stuttered as the most delightful smile spread across her face. It had been a long time since he'd seen such warmth in a human's eyes.
"You're adorable." The little girl rubbed her nose against the puppy's face comfortingly.
Cato watched her leave with an indescribable ache in his heart where he used to love.
Just that one insignificant act by a girl with a turmoil heart revived the smallest inkling of warmth in Cato's dark and tortured soul.
In that one moment, Cato had allowed himself to believe that maybe there was some goodness in the world after all.
Please, please, please review this story for me, readers! I would really love it!
I hope you enjoyed this setting. This chapter's really only about their background and what makes them them in this story.