I needed a break from writing my current multi-chapter story. I'm sorry to those who have been waiting for me to update that one but I really felt the need to write this. I promise I won't abandon "Of Hospital Gowns and Utility Closets", cross my heart and hope to die.
Anyway. Here goes.
Attempting to mindfuck you in 3… 2… 1…
A Hunger Games Oneshot
"The 74th Hunger Games. One victor. Twenty-four fallen."
"Getting into a good position is as important as the technique in which you throw your knife," the instructor says, and then turns to the dark haired, freckle-faced girl who is awaiting further orders. "Heart and neck. With grace, Clove."
Clove positions herself. The blindfold tied around her head is tight, rendering her dependent only on her other senses to hit the moving target behind her. She can hear the whispers of the other students in the training center, the humming of the ventilation system and the footsteps of her mother, who happens to be the instructor. Listening carefully, she makes an estimated guess that the target was around six feet away from her. Blade throw it is then, she thinks to herself, flipping both the knives up and catching the blades between her unscathed fingers. The whispers grow louder. She takes a deep breath and in one fluid, continuous motion, she pivots around on her right foot, landing on her left, and releases the knives in a spin throw.
The other students are buzzing with excitement, but they speak in low voices. They're not as bad as the lower class. They were loud. And to think that this was her first day to be transferred to the upper class. She would have expected more than the hushed comments she hears now.
She removes her blindfold and sees that she hit the target right at the heart and right at the neck. She smirks. Too easy, mother. She looks at her, hoping to find a smile or a glint of pride in her normally cold, dark eyes. And as expected, she only gets a look of disappointment.
"I said, with grace, Clove."
The rest of the class quiets down and she glances at the group. They're all a year or two older than she is, as she was advanced a year up. Her gaze stops at Cato, the other 74th volunteer-in-training. He's giving her a smug look. She scoffs in her mind. If she wasn't "graceful" at throwing knifes, Cato would have been far worse. He couldn't possibly know how to handle these things with the techniques she had been practicing since she learned how to walk and talk. She shoots him a glare.
"Do it again. A headshot, this time. And set a better example for the rest of your class. Give me a 13 out of 12," her mother says, referring to the scores tributes get after showcasing their talents to the gamemakers.
She puts her blindfold on again. And does the same as she did a few moments ago, only this time with a single, heavier knife. She removes her blindfold, inspecting the target. Right at the center of the forehead.
"That better?" She says blankly.
"You're about as graceful as a dancing hog."
The rest of the class snickers. And Clove puts her arms on her waist, "Yeah, well since when was this dancing class?" Everyone shuts up. Nobody was allowed to talk back to any instructor. Especially this one.
"A hundred laps around the center."
Clove rolls her eyes and walks off to start her laps. "Fuck this," she mutters under her breath. "Some mother you are."
The knife-throwing instructor ignores Clove and turns back to face her class. "You," she points to Cato. "Get over here."
Running at a steady pace around the center, she watches Cato as he approaches the knife rack. He picks the heaviest knife. Typical. No blindfolds for him, of course. No barking from her mother either. He spin-throws the knife at a target ten feet away. It goes straight through the heart.
"Good," Clove's mother says. "Next."
Bitch, Clove throws all kinds of profanity at her mother in her head and every time she passes the group, she makes sure to shoot a glare at anyone who looked. No one dares to, of course. Except Cato, his smug expression replaced with what seemed to be concern. Or pity.
Whichever it was, the last thing Clove needs was pity.
Along with a few others, she stays every after class in the training center, throwing knives again and again and again. He watches her from the dueling area. It's ridiculous how they chose her over Felicia. She would have made a decent partner during the Games. But this little girl? Ridiculous. Sure, she throws knives and is almost as fast as him, but what else can she do? Does she even have the drive to win? Judging by today's performance, she didn't seem to even want to impress.
Cato decides that if he's going to be paired up with her, he might as well talk to her. He walks over to the knife throwing area. The boy who was with her seems to have disappeared. She seems too focused on the targets to notice him approaching her. She does the same routine she did this afternoon, this time without a blindfold and this time with four lightweight knives. The knives land on the head, the heart, the abdomen and the… Ooh. Cato winces as he tries not to imagine the piercing pain he'd feel in his manhood. Admittedly, he was impressed, but not entirely convinced.
"Fuck off," she says without even looking at him. So she had noticed him. He snorts. Who the hell does she think she is? He watches her as she pulls each knife from the dummy. "It's not very… polite to talk to your seniors like that."
"I'm in the same class as you, Cato. And since I'm younger than you," she says as she sorts out the knives, her back still turned to him, "I think we're equal. In terms of skill. Come to think of it. Maybe I'm even better than you."
This sets off his short temper and he grabs by her collar, tugging her backwards. She lets out a pathetic squeal as she stumbles into a rack of knives, barely grabbing hold of the handle to steady herself. She laughs. "Oh, did I hurt your feelings?" Her tone is mocking. Man, she's a feisty one, Cato thinks.
He clenches his fists but manages to keep his temper under control. He inhales deeply. "Look, if we're both volunteering as tributes this year, we might as well learn to get along." She smirks then turns away, going back to sorting knives. Cato stares at her in disbelief. And a stubborn one, too. He walks up to her and places a firm grip on her arm, trying to stop her from what she was doing. She shoots him a glare, pulling her arm away. "You and I, getting along? You're joking, right?"
"And you expect two victors to come out alive this year?"
"No. There's only been one victor each year."
"You don't say," she scoffs. "That was rhetorical. Know what that means?"
"I'm not stupid, you know." She begins flipping one knife over and over with one hand, the clanking against the metal surface of the rack echoing throughout the empty training center. The sound further irritates him and he grabs hold of her small hand. Almost as if it were a reflex, she stabs a knife into the counter, leaving barely any space between the blade and the skin of Cato's hand. He raises a brow. "Neither am I," she says and places the weapon back where it belongs.
"Then you should be smart enough not to make an enemy out of me," he stares intently into her dark brown eyes.
"Truce?" He extends his hand toward her.
She shakes it. "Sure."
A truce. Although they both know well the very definition of a "truce." At some point in the Games, one of the two will have to kill the other one off.
"Isn't it enough for you to know that I'm beneath you?" Clove begins to squirm under his weight. He grins widely and lets out a small chuckle. He had volunteered to teach her hand-to-hand combat techniques and what she thought would be simply throwing punches and kicks, turned out to be a wrestling match in the outdoor training grounds. She shifts uncomfortably against Cato, who seems to have no problem pinning her down like this, chests pressed against one another. Her face begins to redden. "You mean, literally?" He smirks. She groans and starts thrashing underneath him, kicking his thigh with her free leg. He loosens his grip on both her arms and finally releases her.
"Fucker," Clove mutters loud enough just for him to hear it and sits up. He simply offers her a hand. She tentatively takes it and he pulls her up as if she were a rag doll. She squints her eyes, the heat of the midmorning sun getting to her. "You weigh twice as much as I do. That wasn't fair."
"Nothing is fair in the Games, Clove," he reaches over and she flinches momentarily, before realizing that he was just going to dust off some dirt from her shoulder. She stiffens at his touch. He looks at her with the same expression of concern he had on his face last week. No boy, no person, other than her family, has ever dared to touch her in all of her 14, and a half, years of existence. She stands there uncomfortably, thinking that she ought to just go back to practicing with her knives on her own. "A head butt would have made the odds of you escaping higher, by the way."
"That could have resulted in a concussion."
"Yeah, head butting with someone as hardheaded as you? I think that would result in a concussion." She crosses her arms. Yeah, no way in hell would I listen to you, she thinks. He simply stares at her for a moment before speaking. "That was a joke, Clove. Learn to take one."
She looks away and doesn't respond, avoiding eye contact with him. He, of all people, should know that you don't just joke around with Clove. He sighs and starts to head back inside. Clove looks up and sees that he has no intention of asking her to follow.
Alone time. Good.
At the very least, Cato expected a stiff "thank you" or a silent smile, but no. There was a look of shock, surprise, and most of all, a look of glee on her face as she ran down to hug him. Cato had ensured that the baker used just the right amount of sugar, as Clove wasn't much of a fan of sweets, and had ensured she was upstairs when he set the cake on her dining table and lit up the candles. Through all that, he expected very little from her. But here she is, hugging him, wide-eyed and giggly.
He's as surprised as she is but he manages to speak. "Happy 15th, pipsqueak." She playfully punches his arm as he calls her by the nickname he had given her. This side of Clove is strange. Though, it's a nice kind of strange.
"So," she stares at the cake, "I just blow the candles right?"
"And make a wish!" He smiles, pulling her by the hand towards the table.
"I've never had a cake for my birthday before," she looks a bit hesitant but he urges her closer. "Well today that changes," he tells her.
She leans on the table, blowing out all fifteen candles and straightens up.
"Already did," she grins. He can't help but feel pride inside. He's never made someone feel so giddy. Never had any siblings for any of that. Nor any special girl. At least, maybe not until now. He looks at her, picking at the blueberries that decorated the cake. He doubts for a moment that Clove shares the warmth and pleasure he feels, when she's around. It surprisingly didn't take them long to get along. But. It just didn't feel right. Feeling this way for her. Certainly not because she's a mere year younger. It was something else.
He had spaced out and before he realizes it, there's cake all over his face. She smirks and licks icing off her fingers. "Oh no you didn't," he says coming towards her. She backs away, grinning like an idiot. "Oh yes I did."
He grabs a handful of cake and chases after her. She runs across the room but not fast enough for in a few seconds, one of his arms wraps around her waist and lifts her off the ground. She's giggling like mad as he ensures her face is nicely and evenly covered in icing, with chucks of cake and blueberries.
They're both killing themselves laughing and it takes awhile for both of them to calm down, gasping for air. Once they have, he realizes that they're arms are both wrapped around each other. She doesn't stiffen. She doesn't flinch. She simply looks up and says, "Thanks Cato."
And before he knows it, his lips are on hers.
Difficult as it may have been with her mother and the people back in her district, Clove manages to please not only Caeser Flickerman but also the Capitol audience. Or at least, that's how she feels when they all laugh almost genuinely at her witty remarks and comments.
"You look incredibly lovely tonight, Miss Clove," Caesar draws attention to her current appearance. She's wearing a flesh-colored strapless dress, with a sequined bodice, and a ruffled skirt that puffs out and stops just above her knees. Her skin is covered in just the right amount of glitter to make her glow under the bright stage lights and her hair is up in an elegant bun. And although her makeup is light, so as not to change much of her face, she looks far different than the vicious, feisty Clove.
"Why thank you, Caesar" she beams brightly and then leans closer to him as if she were telling him a secret, "Although with all the ruffles here and there, I feel like a cupcake."
The audience laughs.
"Well you ought to be one of the finest cupcakes in the Capitol."
They continue their banter when Caesar suddenly asks, "Now, Clove. Is there any special boy back home?" He smiles, "I mean, who wouldn't love such a darling cupcake like you?"
Everyone wouldn't, Clove thinks. She smirks and says bluntly, "The word 'darling' is quite the opposite of what they'd have to deal with."
He chuckles. "Well then, is there any person willing to deal with that?"
"No, none back home."
She makes it sound as if he were here without revealing too much. None back home. Although, there isn't anything "special" going on here in the Capitol either. Ever since he kissed her back in District Two, she completely avoided any alone time with him. They still talked, yes. But there was no mention of the kiss. Which, Clove can't deny, is a relief.
"Oh, don't worry. They'll be at your feet sooner or later," Caesar pats her hand. Sooner or later. If I come out alive. "Well looks like our time is up. A round of applause for our darling cupcake Clove!"
When everyone else went off to his or her bedrooms after their last dinner before the Games, Cato couldn't help but feel compelled to pay her a visit. He stands there tentatively in front of her door, debating whether or not he really should. Would they have time to talk before heading out to the arena? Most likely not. But then again, they would be together during the games. They do have a pre-made alliance, along with the other Careers. Then again, everything they would say or do would be seen or heard by the audience. Finally, he knocks softly.
A few moments pass and no one responds. Maybe that wasn't audible enough. He knocks again, louder this time. Again, no response. He twists the knob, finding that it wasn't locked. Curiosity gets the better of him and he pushes the door lightly. The room is dark but there is enough light from outside the window for him to see that the bed is empty. She must have been lying there before he came in because the duvet seemed to have been thrown aside. As he steps in, he notices a cool breeze circulating around the room. The sliding door to her balcony had been left open, the curtains flitting about.
He's suddenly overcome by distress and walks across the room, towards the balcony. No, she wouldn't do such a thing. There was a force field that would stop her, right? He steps out quickly and breaths a sigh of relief. She's standing there, her back turned to him, her hair being blown about in loose strands.
He startles her. She turns around, smiling stiffly. "Hey."
He knows very well that she'd been avoiding him ever since her birthday but he also knows he can get past her stubbornness far more successfully than anyone else, even her own mother, whom she tries so hard to please.
"Look," he walks over to her. "Last time. Your birthday. It… it just happened. And I'm sorry it did but if it isn't obvious yet, Clove, then I think you ought to know before we go into the games that—"
"Cato," she stares at him. There's a sad look in her eyes and he starts to feel a dull ache at the center of his chest. "Cato, we can't afford to let go of our emotions."
We. So she does feel the same way. Doesn't she?
She begins to tear up and in a second she buries her face into him, wrapping her arms tight around him. He does the same and he can feel her shaking, her breathing is unsteady and it takes a moment for him to realize that she's sobbing. "I'm so scared, Cato," she says. Hearing this from her scares him as well. She's one of the toughest people he has ever met and seeing her breakdown like this caused him to become terrified. Of the Games. Of his fate. Of hers.
He tilts her chin up and kisses her deeply on the lips, then plants one on her forehead. He makes a promise that he knows will cost his life, "I won't let you die, Clove. I won't ever."
It is all they both needed. A feast at the Cornucopia. It was enough to give them their most needed supply, food. And to give them a chance to kill off the other two remaining tributes. Thresh. And Katniss, whose little lover boy passed away a few nights ago. Poor boy, Cato didn't even give him the chance of having a quick death. Instead, he left a gaping hole in his leg. Enough to keep him alive for a few days so they could use him as bait for Katniss, but just enough to ensure that if he didn't get immediate help, he would bleed out. Who would have thought such an airhead like him could be so smart, Clove thought as he listened to him explain why he didn't kill Peeta immediately.
They had lost track of the bleeding boy, however, and he eventually died so they had to find a way to quickly change their strategies. This feast gave them exactly, if not more than, what they needed. Bait and food.
Cato and Clove watch from behind the shrubbery near the lake as the feast begins, waiting for the other two tributes to take their supplies. They both agreed that since Clove had more range in terms of her weapons, she would be the one to initiate the attack. Cato would be watching her back in case the other tribute decides to come out and join the bloodbath.
Clove spots some movement in the bushes at the right side of the mouth. Soon she sees Katniss darting forward, heading towards the Cornucopia. "Just call out my name," Cato says quickly as she bolts toward her target. As she goes around the huge structure, she throws a knife just as Katniss turns around to make a run for it. She barely dodges it, the knife causing a deep gash along her forehead. This stuns her for a moment and Clove viciously tackles her to the ground. She's got both hands full as she pins her victim down by her arms. Katniss thrashes about but on the spur of the moment, Clove head butts her, causing Katniss to weaken under her grip. Clove smashes her right foot onto Katniss' left hand, causing her to cry out.
With her free hand Clove quickly slides out a knife from her belt and smiles sadistically. "What's it like, losing your little lover boy? Hmm?" Katniss groans in response, trying to free her hand from Clove's grip, but it's no use. "Tell you what, I'll put you out of your misery. Though, I'd hate to do it so quickly, so I'm going to make this a slow, slow death. Just like we did to little Rue."
"You did what?" A booming voice roars behind her and before Clove knows it, her collar is being yanked from behind. Just as she's being flung away though, she quickly hurls the knife straight towards Katniss' head. Bullseye. "Cato!" She screams just as the cannon fires.
Thresh tosses her backwards and steps on her chest. She shrieks. He looks down, towering over her. He says through clenched teeth, "You did what to Rue?"
"It wasn't me! It was Marvel! Not me! Please, please, don't." He raises the rock that was in his hand and he's about to smash it into her head when there's a sudden loud, sickening sound behind him. He drops the rock and it hits her head with force, but not enough to knock her out. Her vision blurs but she can see the tip of the sword piercing through Thresh's abdomen. He drops to his knees, clutching the wound just as Cato pulls out the weapon and sticks it right through his chest once more.
The deafening boom of the cannon echoes in the arena.
Cato drops to his knees next to Clove, whose head wound is bleeding profusely. He carries her into his arms and onto his lap. Clove notices that his breathing is shaky. Tears start to flow from both their eyes. Cato begins to sob.
"I'm sorry, Clove."
"Shhh, it's okay. It's okay."
"I'm so sorry. I love you so much Clove," he tries hard to control his breathing but he's gasping and his throat seems to tighten and the tears don't seem to stop.
"I love you so much too, Cato," Clove whispers.
"I'm sorry I'm so sorry I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Just an act of deception, for a title of glory. A lie was all it was. A harmless little lie. The victor of the 74th Hunger Games basks in fame, luxury and veneration from the entirety of Panem. The victor bathes in riches and feasts like those in the Capitol.
But why was there a feeling of emptiness inside?
Why did it feel so wrong to be standing in the middle of all this grandeur?
A lie was all it was.
It was just like any other strategy the previous victors used. Setting up snares, killing off the weak ones first, scoring low on the session with the Gamemakers only to come out as the strongest among all twenty-four victors. Deception. It was a strategy of pure psychological manipulation and of pure, crafty genius.
But with lies, as with any other misdeed, comes guilt.
The victor of the 74th Hunger Games did not know the value of "knowing what you have" until now. When it was long gone.
She missed him too much.
And "too much" was enough reason for her to knock the chair over from under her feet.
Did you notice the hidden message? I hope you didn't see it before you finished the fic, it might have spoiled the entire mindfuckery. But oh well. Reviews are much appreciated. (insert less than 3 heart thingy here because FF doesn't allow that to appear properly)
edit: Wish I could reply to you more personally, sadey, but thanks for the review! This is also so future readers won't be so confused about it. The message just implies what the "lie" was. Getting along isn't at the very least difficult when it is all just an act. Again, thank you to all who review and favorite this story, and my other one. Really gives me motivation to write more.