Today will be easy.
Today is the knife throwing examination at the Academy.
Clove leans against the wall and casually twirls her knives between her fingers with ease. She's been flawless at throwing knives since she was seven. It's the reason why she's top in her Level, the reason why everyone whispers about her when they think she's not looking.
She wouldn't say she's disliked. It's the opposite, actually. She's respected. But no one really wants to be her friend. But that has never bothered her. Clove doesn't need friends.
The Instructor arrives, followed by an Academy Official with a pen and clipboard clutched in his hand. They're scores will be evaluated based on their form and which spot on the target their knives land. This will be a piece of cake.
The Instructor calls for everyone to line up and that's when she notices him. Cato is standing at the very back of the line, arms crossed over his chest. He's trying to look confident, but Clove knows.
They've been neighbors all their lives. Clove is very familiar with how loud Cato's dad can yell. She also knows that Cato hasn't shouted out in agony since he was eight. At first she thought it was because his dad had stopped smacking him around. Soon she realized that Cato just got better at hiding his pain.
She'd heard what his dad had screamed to him last night. Don't come in last. If you do then don't bother coming home. Performing well is a big deal here in District Two. Never mind that Cato is an absolute monster with a sword in his hands, or that he towers over everyone else in their Level. No one ever sees people's successes her in the Academy.
You're supposed to prove your worth through bloodshed.
Clove figures she'll volunteer seven years from now, when she's seventeen.
The kids at the front of the line take their turns throwing their knives and being evaluated. They're decent by the Academy's standards, terrible by Clove's.
She looks away and watches how he moves. He has a slight limp, virtually unnoticeable. But Clove's eyes are as sharp as her knives. He's hurting and he's too proud to let anyone know.
Ignoring the reprimanding of the Instructor, Clove gets out of line and moves to stand behind Cato. He shoots her a funny look before focusing on the targets. She knows how badly he wants to succeed. She nearly pities him.
The line moves along at a quick pace and finally it is Cato's turn. He stands the required distance away from the targets, knives in hand.
Clove narrows her eyes. His stance is all wrong, and when he throws his wrist movement is off. The knife manages to hit the target, but just barely. She sees how his fingers start to shake and how he's starting to become frustrated with himself. His next to throws have similar results as the first one.
When he finishes he slams his fist against the wall and receives irritated looks from both the Instructor and the Academy Official.
It's Clove's turn now. The Instructor smiles at the Official and nods in Clove's direction.
Clove has to resist the urge to laugh.
She sends the first knife clattering to the floor. For the second she flicks her wrist the wrong way and the handle of the knife bounces off the target. For the third she sinks it into the wall above Cato's head. He's staring at her in astonishment.
She doesn't smile at him and she ignores the shocked expressions coming from the other kids in her Level.
She's come in last and now Cato will get to go home tonight.
She has become his safe haven. She's not one hundred percent certain when this happened; sometime between helping him out in the knife throwing evaluation and letting him have her dessert the next day at lunch, she thinks. Either way, he now sticks to her side like glue.
Right now he's beating the shit out of an older boy in an upper Level who said something rude to her.
What the boy had said was honestly true—she really is flat as a pancake and has no hips. She's almost thirteen but puberty hasn't hit her like it's hit the other girls. She was planning to let the comment roll off her back. But Cato took offence on her behalf.
Other kids are surrounding the fight. No one chants or tries to break the fight up, everyone just watches. Fighting is a central part of their lives.
Cato is thirteen and he's pummeling a sixteen year old into a pulp. That's when people start to whisper. Strong as an ox. Imagine him in the Games. He'll be a killing machine.
Clove turns around and walks away just as Cato breaks the other boy's jaw.
He doesn't seem so strong a few hours later when he's banging on her front door.
She answers and isn't all that astonished to see blood on his cheek.
"My dad pulled a knife," he explains, face stony.
She opens the door wide and lets him slip inside the house. It's just the two of them. Her mother is out doing who knows what and her father, being a Peacekeeper in District Five, is never around anyway.
She grabs him a bottle of water and they both sit on the couch and watch some mindless Capitol nonsense on the television. "Brand new interview with the 64th Hunger Games Victor, Finnick Odair, coming up after the break!"
Cato just stars at the floor as Clove wipes away the blood on his face with a wet cloth. He catches her wrist in her hand and slowly turns his head to look at her. His body is calm, but the look on his face betrays him. He is pained.
She is too young for this sort of murderous feeling, but something inside of her snaps at the sight of him. He was a furious thing to behold earlier and now he's been reduced to this because of his wretched father.
Clove stands up and storms out of her house and over to Cato's.
He's right on her heels. He grabs her shoulder but she shrugs him off. "Don't," he warns desperately. "Please don't. You have no idea what he'll—"
She is through his front door. His father stands in front of them in the kitchen and before he can getout a weapon Clove pulls a knife out of her boot and sinks it into his right bicep. The man shouts in pain.
"You leave him alone," she growls, radiating fury.
Cato's father yanks the knife out of his arm and laughs at his son. "Sent a little girl to do your dirty work, huh? You're pathetic."
Cato turns red with shame.
"Did you not hear what I said?" Clove screams. "You leave him alone!"
But she can tell by the look in this man's eyes that he never will. There is no love lost between this father and son.
So she does what she knows is best. She yanks a knife out of her other boot and flings it. Her aim is perfect.
Cato's father gurgles, clutching at the dagger now protruding from his throat. Seconds later he slumps over onto the floor, dead.
Clove retrieves her knives and as she cleans them she says, "Call a peacekeeper. Tell them that your dad offed himself. Sound hysterical."
Cato gives a jerky nod. He's watching the pool of blood growing bigger and bigger on his kitchen floor.
Clove goes home.
"I'm volunteering tomorrow. I told everyone in training about it." Cato sounds confident, like he's been set on this decision for some time.
He's sixteen and shirtless in her bed, back against the headboard. She's lying next to him, still in a post-sex haze. She slowly turns her head and looks him over.
He's huge like everyone knew he'd be and he's solid muscle. In reality she is tiny compared to him, but this has never bothered her. She is sharp and deadly in her own way. Cato respects that.
"Yep. I don't give a shit whose name they call for the girl's. I'm doing it." He cracks his knuckles and stretches his arms over his head.
"I'll volunteer in a year or two," she says lazily. She worms herself down underneath her blankets and sighs in contentment.
"When you and I are Victors"—he says this like it's obviously bound to happen—"we'll fucking run the Capitol."
She smiles because she can imagine it all in her head clear as day. They'll both be winners and they'll both be happy. But importantly they will be together.
She falls asleep blissfully unaware.
The next morning her name is called and Cato volunteers, true to his word.
They're on the train and he's shaking violently and she knows why. They were both naïve enough to think that the odds were going to be in their favor.
It is a good thing that Clove is an excellent liar. "Don't worry. I'll slit your throat so fast you won't even see it coming." She gives him a devilish smile and casually plays with one of her knives. He visually relaxes.
Clove's not sure if she could actually do it. She just knows that Cato needed to hear that she believes she can.
He's snapped the boy from District Three's neck.
Cato is gone. It's not the killing that's made him disappear. It's the rage he's in now. He's screaming and swearing and when he looks at her there's nothing but hate in his eyes.
Deep inside she thinks she might understand. She's still here. She knows that Cato doesn't want it to be a problem, but it is a problem.
She's pretty sure she'll kill him. It's either that or plunge one of her knives into her heart. She knows he won't be able to handle having her blood on his hands. She guesses she'll just have to wait and see how she feels when the time comes.
And it is coming, of that she can be sure.
"Calm down," she snaps. She knows their time is not now. She eyes the smoldering ruin that was once their supplies and opens her mouth to suggest that whoever blew it up is most likely dead when suddenly he is on top of her.
Their time is not now but he's still trying to sink his sword into her flesh. He cuts into her shoulder and now there's blood running down her arm but she still manages to back off a few steps.
"Calm down," she says again, but he's not listening. He's filled with so much rage that he's not thinking straight. He comes after her again.
They fight for a little while, to the point where Clove starts to think that maybe Cato didn't disappear, but that he's simply gone for good.
She pivots around one of his attacks and then she's reaching up and grabbing a fistful of his disheveled blonde hair. She presses her knife into his throat and is only satisfied when she sees a trickle of blood start to run down his neck.
"Cato," she says, forcing her voice to be soft. "What are you doing? We swore we'd make sure it was the two of us in the end, remember?"
They really haven't made any such promises, but Clove hopes that he won't remember that.
He is frozen, eyes forward. But finally his gaze swivels to her and she sees him. Cato.
She lets go and he stumbles away from her. He doesn't clutch at his neck. He looks guilty. "Someone blew up our supplies," he states. "I needed that in order to take care of—" he cuts himself off and presents his back to her.
She decides to ignore him. He'll not want to talk. She makes a fire and fixes them both something to eat from some of the food that she still had in her backpack.
He eventually sits down next to her. It's then that he notices the cut on her shoulder. "I'm sorry."
She pretends that she didn't hear him. "We have enough food to last us a few days. Maybe a week. That's all we need." She looks at him, conveying her hidden message. He nods.
He darts forward and then she's in his embrace and he's apologizing in her ear again. Then he says something else that makes her grip on him tighten.
"You too," she mutters back.
If she is being truthful, Clove is fairly certain that she has no idea how to love. But she's pretty sure that this is as close she'll ever get to understanding.
She buries her face into his neck and prays that the cameras can't see her tears.
His blood will be on her hands.
"Attention tributes, attention…"
The first thing she thinks of after she falls to the ground dying with her head bashed in, is how she hates it when Cato calls her 'Clover'.
It's a stupid nickname, one that he'd only use occasionally and only to annoy her.
She wishes that she could hear it now. She wishes that she could hear anything. There's a ringing in her ears, a constant noise.
Someone is calling her name. She can't hear it, but she can feel it.
Then he's beside her on his knees. She doesn't even have the strength to squeeze his hand.
You stay with me. There is pain on his face. She hasn't seen him like this in a long time and had planned to never see him like this again. She was always supposed to be there to chase the pain away. Don't you leave, Clove. Don't you fucking leave.
She would like to reach up and touch his face. She cannot.
She would like to reassure him, tell him that he'll make a fantastic Victor and to give the District Twelve hell for her. She cannot.
There's that look in his gaze again. The look of hate and of rage. Cato is not supposed to be like that. He's supposed to be smug and reassured and vicious. Nothing is ever supposed to stop him.
Clove would like to save him. She cannot. Not anymore.
There is a rumbling, and she soon realizes that he is pounding his fist into the ground next to her head.
She uses the last of her strength to smile at him. She knows that he'll win.
She is going…going…gone.
Got this idea in my head a few days ago. Had to write it out. Hope everyone enjoyed this despite the heartfail and please remember to leave a review!