A/N: This is something I've had in my head that I felt the need to write down. This fic is not meant to be artsy or different or award-winning by any means, its purpose is to satisfy us Cato/Clove shippers out there, because Suzanne (genius that she is) didn't give us a whole lot to work with. I hope you guys enjoy this, I had a blast writing the first few chapters of this fic. It'll probably wind up being somewhere South of 15K, that's my estimate from what I've written so far.
A Drug for Angels
By Wild Pomegranate
I know I'm insane. I know something's wrong with me. And that's why I like me so much.
It's Wednesday, and that means we have sparring. I don't mind physical contact with the other trainees, but I'm not the biggest fan of it. Going weaponless makes me feel naked—the only time I don't have a knife on me is when I'm in the shower. It's not like anyone will hurt me here in sheltered District Two, but it's a force of habit. Being without knives doesn't make me totally incompetent, though.
Take sparring, for example.
Alia has me grabbed by the hair, and it's so amateur I almost roll my eyes. In a matter of seconds, I have her back in a headlock, flipped over on her side and leaving her to thrash on the floor. I don't even realize it when my hand goes for her windpipe.
"Thank you, Clove, that's enough."
I look up and I'm facing Marius. To our district he's a peacekeeper—to me, he's my teacher.
I get to my feet, tightening my ponytail as Alia sits up, coughing and shooting glares in my direction, I'm sure. But I don't look at her. I look at the faces of my other classmates—as I was fighting I noticed the room had gone silent. That doesn't usually happen when Alia and I are fighting other people, because the winner is always us, and everyone knows it. Alia and I are the frontrunners in our academy. This showdown was something that everyone (regardless of gender) wanted to see.
Alia's friends, who usually whisper amongst themselves whenever I'm around, don't look like they have anything to say. Even her suitors seem to be dumbfounded. I notice that Cato, who usually has something to say about everything, is quiet.
Good, I think. I guess your girlfriend isn't the total package after all.
There isn't a whole lot I have to say on the topic of District Two's golden boy. I've known the kid for forever—being the top of his class, he's notorious. Over the years we would subconsciously make a point to talk to one another, spending the bulk of our training time over by the blades station, which feels like home to us. Even though he's the school charmer and I'm basically an outcast, we get along. It's easy to talk about knives, at least.
He probably thinks I'm crazy, like the rest of them do. But at least he respects me.
I walk off the mat, throwing the best grin I can in Alia's direction. Cato turns to me.
"Good job," he says.
I don't say anything, I'm making a beeline for the knives and Cato isn't exactly on my list of priorities. He walks behind me—he's probably headed to swords himself. "Looks like the knife girl can do more than hit bullseyes."
Ugh. He's so cocky.
"If I'm going to win the Games, I'll have to be well rounded," I say.
"What makes you think you'll be picked?"
I glare at him. There are ten people in my grade, and when we turn eighteen, only one of us could volunteer. He smirks, saying, "Kidding," and he grabs a knife and throws at a target. It's not a bulls-eye, but it's pretty damn close.
"You know enough about swords and knives," I say. I take one from my belt, throwing it at the furthest target. A dead-on bulls-eye. "Word on the street is that Mikael beat you in the mile last week—I'd get on that if I were you."
He clamps his hands into a fist, and I can tell I've hit a soft spot. "I guess I should. But I'm not sweating it—I hardly train to begin with. I'll beat him tomorrow. Sides, you shouldn't be talking—you've easily been here an hour today."
I don't give him a response because to be honest, he's pissing me off. He could do that sometimes.
"Your sparring's pretty good," he says after a few minutes.
"Yeah. Better than your girlfriend's."
He laughs. "She's not my girlfriend." He throws a knife, and this time, he hits a bulls-eye.
"Let's hope she doesn't hear that. She'll be devastated."
We both laugh at that. He's right, because to him, Alia isn't anything special—he's been leading girls on since before he could walk. Lethal as Alia might be, she's stupid as hell. How many of her friends had gotten with Cato before? Clearly, the girl can't see Cato for the charmer he is.
Oh, yeah, Cato has this habit of having to be the best at everything—he has to be the strongest, the fastest, and whatever girl he's screwing around with has to be gorgeous at the very least. By now, he'd been with most of the seventeen and eighteen year old trainees. He could've tried something with me, but for some reason, he never did. It's probably because I'm too young and too mentally unsound for his liking—either that or he has a glimmer of respect for me. He wouldn't be throwing knives with me, otherwise.
I'm not going to deny it—I can see why the other girls fawn over him as much as they do. Maybe if I wasn't so keen on winning these Games, I'd give it a shot myself.
Cato and I snap around at the sound of our names a few days later. Like usual, we're there before anyone else is, warming up at the blades station and going at it with the swords. Marius is waving us over, turning on his heel as he walks into his office.
"I wonder what that's about."
"I guess they don't want us at knives," Cato says as drops his sword. "D'you think he's going to scold us? We're only supposed to be at this station for three hours a week."
"Doubt it. I exceeded that limit my first day here."
"Yeah, if they were going to start enforcing that rule, there's no reason to start now."
He smiles, not having to finish his sentence, because I know what he means. The Games are exactly ten weeks away, which is usually when the selected tributes start to spend intensive time focusing on their strengths instead of the menial requirements (which is running, plants, and Games History for most). In the event Cato and I are picked, it wouldn't make much of a difference, anyhow, since we both grew up around swords and knives.
As we walk into the office, though, I'm expecting some lecture about how I never handed in my essay on the strategies used in the 64th Games, and maybe something about Cato not meeting his expectations in the mile. Little stuff. Just a few nit-picky things before our end of year evaluations, that's all.
We take a seat, and it barely crosses my mind that my academics and Cato's are completely unrelated. All I'm thinking of is the look on Marius' face, which I'm having a hard time reading.
Before he can open his mouth, I say, "If this is about that essay, I stand by what I said—there's no point in writing about a year that's already so famous, Finnick Odair has more limelight than ten other victors combined—"
"And Marius, don't even start about that mile, I'll get Mikael by our exams—"
It's enough to shut us both up, because we're his favorites and he's never used this tone with us before.
"Your essay can be handed in at a later date, Clove." He turns to Cato. "And as far as that mile goes, I expect to see significant drops within the next two weeks. If the two of you spent less time in blades, then these problems would be solved in no time, I'm sure."
Cato—who's blonde haired and blue eyed—turns red immediately, and I clench my hands into a fist. "Is that why we're here?"
"No." Marius' eyes flicker away from our faces for a second before he leans forward in his chair, dropping his voice the smallest bit. "I don't know how I'm going to phrase this . . . well, I guess I'll start with a pop-quiz. Cato—how many years has it been since District Two has crowned a victor?"
He barely has to think before saying, "Seven, if you don't include this year."
He looks at me for a second, and I'm rolling my eyes. Typical, cocky Cato.
Marius ignores his comment. "Correct, seven years. That's seven years too many, and not only by our Districts standards, but by the Capitol's. Mayor Regent has been lenient with us recently, but he's made it very clear now—this is the year that District Two needs a winner."
Cato's looking at me again, only this time, he doesn't have a smirk on his face. I could tell what's he's thinking. Could it be…?
"Is that what this is about?" I ask. "Who's going to volunteer for tribute? Because if I had to cast a vote for the girls, I'd go with Alia."
And now Cato's the one rolling his eyes. "He means you, Clove."
"Yeah, no shit." I'm acting as indifferent as I can be, but on the inside, my heart is racing.
Marius isn't unsettled at all, because this is a reaction he was probably expecting. "I talked to the board, and we're well aware that this isn't a practice we usually condone, since by typical standards, fifteen is too young. But you two are our best and brightest. As far as the lovely Miss Roy is concerned,—"now he's talking about Alia—"her spot in these Games would be put to better use if it went to you, Fuhrman."
And, for a minute, all of my skepticism disappears, because I can't help the blood rushing to my cheeks from one of Marius' rare compliments. My signature smirk stretches across my face.
Now he turns to Cato. "I know you're not surprised. But if you so much as slack one day in the next ten weeks, the spot goes to Mikael."
"Don't assume we will let your arrogance slide anymore." He thinks for a second and turns to me. "That goes for both of you."
"So what about exams?" I ask.
"You will take them in two weeks as normally planned, with the same precedents as if this conversation never happened—exams decide who goes to the arena and who doesn't. The difference is that since you two will already know who's been selected, your scores are expected to be . . . exceptional."
I can tell Cato's mulling this over in his head, but honestly, my head was somewhere else entirely from the second he said "the spot would be put to better use if it went to you."
Not Alia, me.
"And that's it?" Cato says. "We keep it from the others?"
And now I return to reality because Cato's expecting a reaction from me, even though he doesn't show it. He doesn't turn to face me again and he doesn't have to say anything, because I know what's running through his head. Going into the Games as a fifteen-year-old, stacked up against built eighteen-year-olds like me—do you have what it takes?
Yes, so there is some mutual respect between the two of us, but there's still a question of whether or not we actually like each other as people. I think he's more self-absorbed than he's worth, and he probably thinks I'm completely psychotic. It's not like I care. Idle chit-chat at the blade station usually consists of us bashing our classmates—it's not the healthiest bond in the world, and Cato is definitely a bond I could deal without.
He's just a boy I throw knives with.
My smirk never falters. "May the best District Two tribute win," I say to Marius.
Weeks pass, and with little time at all, the Reaping is staring myself and Cato in the face. Commenting on exams is useless, because the turnout of that was no surprise—Alia had her ass handed to her. Even categories I barely brushed over (like history and plants) I swept her in. I'd say something about Cato, but to put it bluntly, I didn't pay much attention to his performance, or anyone else's except for Alia's. She's the only remote competition I have. Immediate competition is what needs focusing—I can deal with Cato when I get to the arena.
I grew up around blades not because my parents were conditioning me to be a future victor, but because we lived in an apartment complex where the floor below us was a store for novelty weaponry. I worked there once I turned thirteen to make a quick buck, while my father worked in armory full time. He doesn't like the Games too much, and has little to no respect for the victors—"you need to be insane to be a Victor." What he didn't know was that when he said that to me at the very malleable age of seven, I was hiding Capitol magazines of victors like Finnick and Enobaria under the floorboards. I wanted to be just like them—I wanted the fame and fortune, but more than anything else, I wanted something to fight for, because I spent most of my childhood too goddamn bored to remember having anything to care about.
That's when I decided to become insane. Because when that would happen, I would be one step closer to winning the Games, giving me eleven years of fight and preparation and all of the fame and glory and respect I would ever want when I did win.
He doesn't say much when we're in the Justice building after the Reaping—he walks into the door and throws his arms around me, acting as if a lifetime of hostility never existed.
"Dad. Clove, call me dad." He faces me, and the sight of the tears welling in his eyes is enough to send me reeling in shock. He wipes them away, saying quickly, "I'm going to keep this short, since I know you have more on your mind right now. But I'm sorry, Clove. I'm sorry that your mother and I couldn't build the home that was right for you."
The mention of my mother makes me grit my teeth. Her and my father ended their marriage when I was eleven, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm dirt in her eyes. "If you'd built any other home, I wouldn't be here right now."
"And that's why I'm sorry." He takes a deep breath. "I don't want this for you, and you shouldn't want this. Nobody in their right mind should want this."
"Dad, if all you're going to do is make a comment about how crazy you think I am, you should leave."
He ignores this. "It might not always seem it, but Clove, I really do care—"
And as he's leaning in for another hug and is barely able to keep it together, I find myself almost slapping him away. "Don't start, not now. Not after fifteen years of not caring."
And to that he doesn't have much to say. I can tell I've hurt him, and all I think is "good." Being his first and only child, he didn't have the right to fifteen years of emotional absence—now, whether by fame or by death, he'll have to deal with a whole lifetime of knowing he's lost me.
He barely manages to choke out, "We'll talk when you come home, then," before turning on his heel and running out, wiping his eyes furiously as the door slams behind him. I sit back down, looking at the clock and wanting the hour to pass faster. I'd have no other visitors. There was an incredibly slim chance my mother would make an appearance after four years of not seeing her, but to no surprise, she doesn't. Good. Hurting my father is an unexpected bonus from becoming a tribute, but I don't have any reason to hurt mom. Besides, deep down, I always kind of liked her. She kept me grounded, even though she wasn't around for to watch me grow up.
As I look to the door that I know will have no other visitors pass through for Clove Fuhrman, I think of the number of people that are probably saying their goodbyes to Cato right across the hall, and how all of them will lose sleep worrying about him in the next few weeks, more so than my mom ever will about me.
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed this! Please, feel free to review or contact me if you have any feedback. Yes, I know that Cato and Clove's last names aren't Fuhrman and Ludwig—but I can make parallels to the movie if I want. (That and I absolutely loved Isabelle Fuhrman and Alexander Ludwig in it . . . #sidenote.)
Song title is from Florence and the Machine's Strangeness and Charm
Check out my other Hunger Games fics!
Words Not Spoken
The Other Games
Little Girl, Gentle Giant