A/N: Behold—the final chapter! I'm going to get the author's note out of the way right now, because I don't want to tack anything on to the ending:
Big thanks to all of you that have read this plot bunny, whether you've stuck with it from the beginning or are just finding it now. Spending quality time writing Cato and Clove for the last two months has been really cool, to say the least. These two have completely changed my FF experience and are most definitely an OTP of mine.
That being said, writing this ending was a little bittersweet for me. Before starting this fic I knew I'd take this direction, because I'm trying to keep Cato and Clove's story as canon as possible. I can't begin to tell you how satisfied I am with how this ended, but there's a part of me that wants to explore the alternative, and who knows? I just might one day. Even though I feel like my work is done in the Clato department, I'm sad to be leaving these two behind.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to all of my readers and reviewers. It was an absolute pleasure to write this fic, and your love and support made it all the sweeter xx
A Drug for Angels
I wake up well before dawn, and I'm not surprised to see that Cato has done the same. Good. We still needed to devise a plan and scope out the Cornucopia. It won't be long before we attack.
"Someone's dying today," he mutters in my ear.
We give ourselves another five minutes in our sleeping bag before we get up, rolling out and stretching in the dark. He's not wearing much, and neither am I. We didn't do much of anything last night. The lack of clothing was more out of comfort, because at this point the jackets on our backs are covered in grime and sweat. Maybe we kissed last night—I can't even remember—but it was mostly talking. I can't remember any of the details (maybe I said something about my dad) but I know that we fell asleep in the comfort of each other's arms.
Now we're circling around where the feast will be, picking through the forest and where we think Thresh, Katniss and Five will come from. His voice is excited and thirsty as he looks through the trees, but every time he turns to me I see that excitement diminish the smallest bit. I'm confident that we'll both be killing today, but something isn't registering with him.
"You seem tense," I say.
He laughs. "Since when did you become a mind reader?"
I smirk. "It's not hard to read someone's mind when you're exactly like them."
He snorts, but seems grateful. "So you think that I'm like you?"
"We both have an affinity for murder." I think before adding, "You're killing today, Cato. There's no way around that. So don't make yourself anxious."
"I'm not fucking anxious." He leans closer to me and puts his hands on my waist. "Just give me the girl." A wicked smile curls on his face. "Give me Twelve, and then these Games are over. She's the one I need to end."
"And what if you can't get to Twelve?"
Fuck. Wrong thing to say. His eyes bear into mine, and I can't tell for a second if he's going to punch me or kiss me.
He kisses me.
But this isn't like anything else that's happened in the arena. There's no romance behind it, no emotional tenderness and the only thing driving it is his anger towards Twelve. And, by God, do I kiss him back. I could stand like a stone wall, which was how I was whenever we'd kissed before, because matters of love were beyond me. But this isn't love. His hands everywhere, his lips are crashing down on mine and the buzzing feeling I'm getting in my head . . . this is desire, in its most potent form. I wouldn't have him any other way.
I can practically see Enobaria going, Yes, thank fucking God, FINALLY. It looks like we've given her the sexualized footage she's been looking for.
"Let me have her," I breathe. His grip around my waist tightens. "You know what I'm capable of. So if you can't get to her, let me do it."
He thinks for a long second.
"You better make it a work of art, sweetheart."
Sweetheart. He says it with such dripping sarcasm the words might as well have come out of my mouth.
"I'll give the audience a good show," I say with a smile.
That kind of romance is the interaction the audience wants to see. But as much as I hate to admit it, and as wrong as it feels, I know that tender and sweet is the way things are going to go between us once we leave this arena. Sexualized hatred won't get us anywhere; the two of us have enough spite to last a lifetime. The connection is what we need. This—whatever it is—is the only thing keeping me human.
We trudge along for a little longer. It's getting light out. He turns to me after about half a mile of walking. We're still concealed in the woods, but the Cornucopia is within eyesight.
Our plan is simple—we attack. Further instruction isn't necessary. At this point, we know how to read each other. If I attack, so does Cato. If Cato retreats, I do too. If one of us screams the other's name, it means we're in trouble. These rules are set without us having to say a word.
"I'll go in for the girl—you try and take out the Five and Eleven."
"They'll be waiting in the woods."
"Exactly," I tell him. "We need to be in two places at once."
He nods. He thinks for a second before finally saying the piece of advice I know he's been thinking this entire time.
I turn to him.
"We're going to win."
"I know you know, but . . ." he runs a hand through his hair. "Don't hold back, don't play on the defense, and give the audience what they want. But remember your humanity."
I throw my arms around him, not giving myself much time to think on what he's said because the sky's getting lighter by the second. I whisper in his ear so only the two of us can hear me say,
"You ass, you are my humanity, and I think it goes both ways. I'm never going to forget that."
I don't even know exactly what I just said. But I know that it's true.
I pull away, and now I'm getting nervous. It's almost dawn. I give him a look that plain as day says, you should go. Time to get down to business.
He nods. "We'll make sense of that later," he says. His voice sounds far off.
I give him a smile. I press three fingers to my lips, but I don't hold them out to the sky. I keep them right there, and back away from him, not daring to turn around until after I've lost sight of his blue eyes.
The bush I'm sitting in is a good fifty yards away from the backpacks. When I see the redhead dark out from the Cornucopia, I have half a mind to send a knife after her. But I stay where I am, because Five's run off in the woods, and Cato will no doubt see her there. Wait for Twelve, I remind myself. She's the one you're killing today.
And then I see her.
The second she bursts out of the trees, I already have a knife flying in her direction. She deflects in with her bow and loads an arrow, shooting it at me. I dodge it as much as I have to—it's not a fatal hit—but the weapon lodges in my left arm. I touch the wounded flesh, profanities running through my mind. Infuriated, I rip it out, looking back up to see she's already reached the table.
"Bitch!" I hiss, sending a knife right at her.
My face flushes in excitement as I see that I've gotten her in the forehead, not fatal enough to kill her but still gory enough to satisfy. Yes.
She staggers for a second, confused, and it's just enough time for me to knock her to the ground. I pin her down, knees on her shoulders, and watch as she struggles under me.
I give myself a second. I take a second to take in the look of her, all bloodied up and helpless. I don't see fear in her eyes or any form of plea, which makes me snarl. This girl isn't like the other tributes—she's a fighter. She won't go down begging like the others.
The braver they are, the more they'll bleed, I think with relish.
"Where's your boyfriend, District Twelve? Still hanging on?"
It's a catty jab, but it works they way I want it to. She's angry.
"He's out now. Hunting Cato." My breath hitches at the sound of his name. Then she screams at the top of her lungs, "Peeta!"
It's out of instinct that I jam my fist against her windpipe, and then I turn to the woods and scan them for any sign of Lover Boy. So she wants to make this a showdown of the star-crossed lovers, does she? It's not like she knows what's going on between me and Cato, but her threat is effective. It almost scared me.
"Liar," I say with a smile. "He's nearly dead. Cato knows where he cut him." My grin widens with her reaction to this, and I know that another word about Peeta will have her out of her mind. "You've probably got him strapped up in some tree while you try to keep his heart going. What's in that pretty little backpack? That medicine for Lover Boy? Too bad he'll never get it."
I open my jacket, deciding that the look of rage in her eyes is only a small taste of what I really want. Now I want this bitch to hurt. I want to end her, and I want to make it a long, beautiful work of art. Because she's the real enemy here, with her defender-of-the-helpless and star-crossed lover act. I smile, thinking of the stark difference of our romances and how they grew in the Games. How mine and Cato's were vetoed by Enobaria, and if any footage is passed it's meant to highlight our brutality. We have to hide our romance, to keep it a secret from the Capitol. But this filth, this bitch from District Twelve, her "chemistry" with Lover Boy is a sad excuse for a strategy that would help her win the Games. Too fucking bad for them, because right now, it looks their efforts were wasted.
Oh, how mine and Cato's chemistry would dethrone theirs at our victory interviews. Because once Cato and I are Victors, there won't be a point to hide what's going on between us. Whatever the cameras have caught, I'm sure it's better than the fake sap Twelve's putting up.
But for now, I'll just have to get under her skin some other way, because the star-crossed lovers of District Two are still a secret. So I decide that the defender-of-the-helpless Katniss Everdeen could use some heartbreaking.
"Forget it, District Twelve. We're going to kill you. Just like we did you pathetic little ally . . . what was her name? The one who hopped around in trees? Rue?" Her eyes widen in anger at the sound of her name. "Well, first Rue, then you, and then I think we'll just let nature take care of Lover Boy. How does that sound? Now, where to start?"
I have her right where I want her. I survey her face, wiping the blood away from her wound, wondering, do I gouge out her eyes first? Or do I go for the lips? How about I rip her teeth out, one by one?
She tries to bite my hand, but I yank her by the hair, forcing her head back on the ground. "I think . . ." my heart is racing in excitement, "I think we'll start with your mouth."
I trace the outline of her lips with the tip of my blade, thinking of how thin and pale they've gotten over the duration of the Games. This girl isn't the beauty the Capitol cracks her up to be. In my opinion, she's the ugliest creature in these Games.
She stares me down, and I know what she's thinking. You won't defeat me. I'm not going to scream, and I'm not going to cry. I'm going to die with dignity.
Well, I figure, I'll just have to challenge you on that.
"Yes, I don't think you'll have much use for your lips anymore. Want to blow Lover Boy one last kiss?"
She spits in my face, and I know, I know that I'm being that girl right now. I'm being that bitch, that Career, that villain that can't wait to get her bloodthirsty hands and on her victims. But that's what feels right for me. That's the path I've chosen, and it's the path I've been on since I was ten years old.
I was born to be a demon.
But my face is flushing, because now I'm thinking of the alternative, and I'm trying to push it to the back of my mind as I say, "All right then. Let's get started."
I barely have a chance to break her skin before I feel the Earth being yanked from under me.
I'm dangling in the air, and I whip around and find myself facing the monstrosity from Eleven. His nostrils are flared in rage, and there's only one thought that forces its way out of my mind in all of the panic.
This isn't happening right now.
He flips me around and flings me to the ground, and I scramble back on all fours. He shouts at me, and it feels like the ground is shaking under me, because the boy from Eleven is loud.
"What'd you do to that little girl? You kill her?"
That's what this is about!
I flail in my surprise, not knowing what to say, because that little girl's death seems so trivial to me. "No! No, it wasn't me!"
"You said her name. I heard you. You kill her?" His eyes widen in anger as he screams, "You cut her up like you were going to cut up this girl here?"
Fuck you, Marvel! is what I would say, under a different circumstance. But this is no time for sarcasm, because this is real, this is real and right now and the possibility I never accepted is staring me in the face. There's a chance I could die, and I won't be able to stop it.
"No! No, I—"
I see the stone then. It's large, and in his hands, I know that it's deadly.
That chance I was talking about? Now it's becoming a reality.
"Cato!" I screech. "Cato!"
I hear his answer. It's far off, but it's there.
I don't have any more time to scramble away as Thresh brings the rock down against my head.
My heart beats. My breath slows. The pain isn't immediate or even really present for that matter, because I'm dying, dammit, and adrenaline is coursing through my body. Even when I should be in agonizing pain, it never comes. There's a static buzz in my head, and it makes the next minute a blur. Are Twelve and Eleven talking? Has he decided to spare her? I have no idea.
But now I know it's done. I'd force a tear or two out of my eyes (even though I've never cried before in my life) but I can't because of the buzzing. So this is what it feels like to die, I think. This is what a slow death feels like. It's agony, alright, but not in the way I'd expect. It's agony because I'm lying on the ground paralyzed. There's nothing I can do to prevent the inevitable; all that's left is for me to wait for the end.
Cato's voice pierces through the air, and it's closer than ever, with a tone of definite desperation. That's when I feel the first wave of emotion wash over me. My heart (or whatever is left of it at this point) pounds out of my chest, and I want nothing more in the world to be able to cry right now, because fuck it, I've just lost everything. I'm dying in the field I spent years dreaming about. I'm dying in the Games I'm supposed to win. I'm dying holding hands with a boy that's probably going to die soon too.
"Stay with me, Clove," he pleas. Oh, my God, this isn't happening right now. This is not real, because the murderous brute from District Two is not crying over my practically-dead body. And the insane girl with the knives is not wishing for consciousness, not begging for it above anything else in the world (including life itself) if it means getting to give this boy the goodbye he deserves.
But this is happening right now.
I am begging to speak, I'm begging to God (or whatever deity is out there) to give me my voice for just a minute if it means being able to say what I want to say.
I'll miss you,
We should've won.
You made my life different.
I think I love you.
But I can't. I can't say anything, because I'm dying, slowly and more painfully than any old flesh wound.
I don't catch most of Cato's futile pleas, because my ears don't want to function. They're shutting down, along with everything else. But one plea does make its way to my ears, and it's the only one that matters.
"This is it for me, Clove. There isn't going to be anything left of me if you die." His voice breaks. "You are my humanity, you can't leave me, I need you because I need me . . ."
And that's all that I need to hear. His hand continues to grasp mine, and I try with all of the energy I have to left to give him a squeeze back, just so he knows that I listened.
He's right, about his humanity. I don't know when and I can't explain how, but at some point, I realized it would be either both of us or none of us as Victors. When one of us went, so would the other. Maybe not physically, but mentally. How was I supposed to stay mentally in check when the lifeline I was tethered to was Cato's? How was he supposed to (scratch that, going to) do the same, now that I'm gone?
He's dead. Maybe not in body, but in soul.
But I try not to think about that. I don't ask him to try to win for me, I don't ask him to move on, I don't ask him to be strong, because that all means the same thing. If he survives, there's no way around it—he'll lose himself.
My parting thought was this, and it's one that I desperately hope he heard:
Go looking for me when we burn in hell, and I'll meet you halfway.
If I tried sneaking into heaven, I know what would happen. Gabriel would catch me right away, grab me by the shoulders and give me an angelic—but sad—smile. "Nice try, kiddo," is what he'd tell me before I was carted off to Satan.
Thankfully, I didn't try any shit with Gabriel. I laughed at the gates and checked myself in where I belonged. There was a pit of fire with my name on it, just as Cato said. Clove Fuhrman.
I didn't have to wait long for my District partner to join me. My death didn't break him by any means—it made him stronger, if anything, because after I died he became the monster he always wanted to be.
Monsters win the Games, after all. It's too unlucky he died.
That being said, I wish the best of luck to Katniss fucking Everdeen, who I'm sure will be joining me in Hell soon enough. But I can't say the same for Peeta Mellark. He's not a demon, he's just one lucky bastard. I'm sure Gabriel would let him right on in through those pearly white gates.
But now? Now I'm living in the inevitable. I'm being charred down to the bone every waking minute for the rest of eternity. The difference between this agony and the last agony I felt on Earth is that there's no adrenaline to save me. But I'd take this pain any day.
I'm damned, but I'm whole now.
There was never a glimmer of salvation in my life. Even when I realized I loved Cato as I took my last breath, humanity was wasted on a girl like me. Maybe if we'd won, things would be different. Maybe if we had years of growing together and becoming tender and soft, we would see the light and find our way to goodness. But that's the tricky thing about dying young. You don't have time to change your mind and take the other path. You're stuck with whatever path you were going on.
I'd be a demon over an angel any day. Being a demon is what lead me to Cato. That's not to say that whatever lead me to Cato is the greatest common denominator, not by any means. But right now, it's a lot sweeter holding someone's hand while I burn than being alone.
I don't know how I did it for so long. I don't know how I tolerated being alone and shutting everyone out, because now that I have someone, I can't imagine life (or death) without him.
Days, years, and decades go by. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don't. It's a difficult thing to do in the burning.
He turns to me and says, "I wouldn't have it any other way, you know."
I smile. "I know."
"But d'you think we'll leave this behind one day?"
I shrug. I never really thought like that. I always figured that Hell is where I belonged. But then again, that was when I was young. That was before I had time. With an eternity, I could give salvation a chance
"Maybe," I say finally. "We can find ourselves and do all of that shit, if you want. But I'm not going without you."
He pulls me in for a kiss, but just before he does that, he whispers in my ear,
"Light or dark, I'll follow you anywhere."
And I know he means it.