Word of warning to all fanfiction writers – never delve into the dangerous world of writing a Clato fiction, or Clove, or Cato, because then suppressed feelings begin to surface, and then this happens. Cato. Enjoy.
Part I: The Games
Cato's eyes were closed as the platform propelled him into the Arena. Despite his previous feelings, his stomach was strangely settled and his body strangely calm. The noon sun shone orange through his closed eyelids, and taking a deep breath he slowly opened his own blue eyes.
It took a few precious seconds for his eyes to adjust to the light, and when they did, he did a quick scope of the Arena. His muscular arms lay at his sides, and though his stance seemed nonchalant, he was ready to sprint, as soon as that minute was up.
He glanced at Clove, whose lips curled up at the sides. Just enough to let him know she was ready. Glimmer flicked her hair, winking at him, and Marvel inclined his head just the littlest bit.
There was the Girl on Fire. And Lover Boy. He doubted they'd be too much of a problem, as of now, though that score of eleven...and there it was. That minute up.
He and Clove were the first off their platforms, racing so quickly towards the center of that circle of podiums. That sword he'd spotted in his initial sweep had quickly made it into his hands, and it felt so natural.
That was when the bloodbath started, and that was when he realised how monstrous he must have looked, those deaths at his hand. Clove, too. Glimmer could never look monstrous, but that was because she wasn't particularly ruthless. Marvel looked like a wimpier version of himself; he fought with accuracy, but he just seemed so hollow. There was something about Marvel that made him seem so cut off from the world, and Cato could almost understand; when you were reaped, or in this case, volunteered, there were a few ways a person could react.
Marvel might have volunteered, but once you realised it was yourself against twenty three others, you began to realise the odds were slim.
That was why Cato had developed his shield; even as he cut down the kids in the bloodbath, he couldn't help but tell himself it wasn't real.
All the training in the world would not prepare him for the terrified children that fell before him, tears in their eyes as he provided them with a swift death. He couldn't even tell himself he was doing them a favour; their blood was quite literally on his hands and he realised then that this was not a game. This was very real.
The bloodlust died down, and the grass around them was stained. Clove, Glimmer and Marvel watched as...was that Lover Boy? That was Lover Boy. Cato watched as Lover Boy held another tribute in a chokehold, his strong arms slowly squeezing the life out of a tribute who had seemingly pulled a knife on Peeta.
The tribute crumbled to the floor as multiple cannon shots rang out, and the Careers all viewed Peeta, who was breathing heavily. Glimmer notched an arrow to her bow, but Cato stretched out a hand to stop her.
Peeta was trying to act unphased, and Cato admired that. He had a good idea what the guy might be feeling, and Peeta had just proved himself capable of surviving these Games for just a little while longer.
"My, my, aren't you strong, Lover Boy," Clove began, and Cato couldn't help but smile to himself. It was like Clove knew how to initiate the conversation, and he could take control. The two were a good team.
Peeta shrugged. "Guess so."
"Suppose you join us?" Cato chipped in, and Peeta looked wary of him, but nodded. Cato would have been surprised if he had looked any other way.
"Hey, Cato," came Marvel's low voice, and Cato turned around. Marvel was gesturing to the boy from 3, who had hidden in the Cornucopia. Cato took a few steps towards him, and the boy was visibly trembling.
"Technology, right?" Cato asked, his voice surprisingly soothing given his bloodied state. 3 seemed taken aback, but nodded. "Hey, think you could help us with something?"
Cato knew when to charm, how to phrase things. Brute force was not always the way, and this plan that he and Clove had discussed, well, it was just simply something they did not possess the knowledge to accomplish.
3 nodded. "Probably. What is it?"
And Cato's genius plan, aided by Clove, was put into action. Marvel and Glimmer nodded in satisfaction at what was slowly becoming a fortress, or else as close as you could come to having a fortress in this Arena. The girl from 4 walked into the scene, pausing momentarily before speaking a few words to Glimmer before Glimmer allowed her to stay. Meanwhile, himself, Clove and Peeta had proceeded to collect the remainders from around the Cornucopia and pile them up in the middle. Clove grinned at their handiwork, exchanging a look with Cato. 3 had finished setting up the mines, and it would be simpler to kill him now. Her smile faded as she followed Cato's line of sight to the boy, and she shook her head.
"Wait. Keep him as a guard. Just for a while," she stated, watching Glimmer start a conversation with Peeta. He seemed unresponsive, pale, and Clove shook her head.
"You'd be better off killing him now. He's not going to lead us to Katniss. He'd probably kill us in our sleep before leading us to her," she murmured quietly, her hand resting on Cato's arm, "You know it. I genuinely don't think he was faking it for the cameras. You should have seen his face earlier, when I almost got Katniss," she stated, walking off towards the main group, giving him a pointed look over her shoulder.
It was clear what she meant; bide their time. There was no point in them killing the rest of their Career pack now, because then it would only be the two of them, and then it would come down to the two of them. And neither really wanted to kill the other.
They ate a relatively hearty meal at around four. Then Glimmer grinned.
"Think we should try for a couple more?" she asked, and while it almost made Cato lose his lunch, he realised she was actually enjoying this more than he was. Marvel kept his eyes trained on the ground, and Peeta turned an apple over in his hands. Clove picked up her knife belt, and Cato pulled his sword from the dirt.
"Stay here, 3, 4," he stated, motioning for the rest to follow him as they set off into the woods. Glimmer and Clove held what only Cato could identify as uneasy conversation. Clove always seemed more like one of the guys when it came to gossip, and that quickly dissolved. Marvel and Clove held better conversation, and Glimmer tried to start conversation (see: pointless chatter) before he held up a hand for everyone to stop talking, after a few hours of walking. It was nearly morning, he realised, which would be why he was hungry. Marvel had clicked a flashlight on, the dim yellow at least illuminating their path.
Then, tendrils of flame flickered to life in the near distance, and as if on cue the entire pack followed him as he broke into a run. They would have killed her by stealth, had Peeta not broken a branch and woke her up.
Her glassy green eyes widened, and she looked to Peeta.
"Oh, God, please! Please, please, please don't!"
Cato observed Clove's face tightening, trying so hard to hide her discomfort. He could tell this was getting to her, and like lighting she flicked a knife from her belt, into her hand, and then straight into the girl's throat. She screamed, a horrific sound that caused Clove to turn away.
"Good job!" Glimmer decided to offer. Marvel murmured his assent. Cato smiled at Clove, catching her eye.
"Good job," he added, but he didn't mean it like Glimmer did. He meant it in the way that she had stopped the girl begging. She had prevented him from questioning himself. She had done what they hadn't wanted to. She'd proved herself more than capable, and he knew that she was still human. He didn't judge her. "Twelve down and eleven to go!"
This time, everyone added an appreciative hoot, though he was not sure exactly how half-hearted they are. Even Peeta joined in, and Cato thought that maybe he had underestimated him. He might be a lovesick puppy, but he'd quickly figured out how these Games worked.
Clove was right. Cato needed to kill him. And it had to be Cato. It had to be him. It wouldn't be Clove. Glimmer and Marvel checked the girl for supplies, but they couldn't find any. Cato decided to move out, and he had become the unofficial leader. The rest decided to follow him, going back the way they came, before stopping in a clearing.
"Shouldn't we have heard a cannon by now?" asked Glimmer, her hands on her hips.
"I'd say yes," Marvel agreed, "Nothing to prevent them going in immediately."
"Unless she isn't dead," tested Glimmer, and Cato immediately knew she was trying to start something with Clove, and unless this situation was mediated, Glimmer would quickly become a pincushion.
"She's dead. I stuck her myself," replied Clove, still calm.
"Then where's the cannon?" answered Glimmer, her voice falsely sweet like she was talking to a child. Marvel exchanged a glance with Cato. He understood what was happening.
"Someone should go back. Make sure the job's done," Marvel said, calmly. Cato nodded once to him. But Glimmer was dead set on starting a fight.
"Yeah, we don't have to track her down twice." She was still sickly sweet, and she was sending a meaningful look in Clove's direction.
"I said she's dead!" Clove exclaimed, almost hysterically, and Cato quickly realised that the last encounter had affected her. She was terrified to think the girl was still in pain. Glimmer went to shoot another snarky comment.
"Glimmer, shut up, okay? Clove knows what she's was doing. She's not afraid to chip a nail here and there...unlike some," Cato replied, shifting the heat from Clove. As strange as it was, he didn't want anything to happen to her. And she wouldn't like him standing up for her, but he was, and she could suck it.
"Oh, okay, sure. Start picking on me, it's not like I did anything -"
" – except suggest that we don't know what we're doing –"
Marvel looked helpless. "Hey, keep your voices down –"
"We're wasting time! I'll go finish her and let's move on!" finally interjected Peeta, and Cato stopped, shocked, but a slow grin then covered his face. That was not the Peeta he was expecting, but he did just stop a fight that Cato didn't want just yet. Shift the attention from the District 2 tributes to Lover Boy. Perfect.
"Go on then, Lover Boy," Cato taunted, "See for yourself."
Cato realised that Peeta was actually quite bruised and bandaged from the initial bloodbath, and that was good to know. He'd be in worse condition when Cato decided to finish him.
Peeta went by himself. As soon as he was out of earshot, Glimmer's false smile was back. She seemed to think she was on to something.
"Why don't we just kill him now and get him over with?"
Clove nodded, sending Cato a pointed look. Why was it up to him? He shot Clove back the pointed look.
"Let him tag along," was Clove's verdict. "What's the harm? And he's handy with that knife."
Cato hadn't witnessed Peeta using the knife. But maybe Clove had, he guessed, and he nodded. If Clove was saying that, it meant something.
"Besides, he's our best chance of finding her," Cato added.
Glimmer wrinkled her nose. "Why? You think she bought into that sappy romance stuff?"
Clove shrugged, their disagreement obviously forgotten now. "She might have. Seemed pretty simple minded to me. Every time I think about her spinning around in that dress, I want to puke."
Cato grinned at Clove. He loved the way she was just so blunt. It made sense to him.
"Wish we knew how she got that eleven."
"Bet you Lover Boy knows," Clove said, batting her eyelashes and talking in a breathy tone, before winking suggestively. He and Marvel laughed, before Glimmer held a finger to her lips, alerting them to Peeta's return.
"Was she dead?" Cato asked. Peeta looked troubled.
"No. But she is now."
As if on cue, the cannon fired.
"Ready to move on?"
They all nodded, and Cato once again led the way, though they were returning to their campsite, if only for a few hours. They all decided to sleep, Cato staying awake on first watch. Clove stayed near him, and before long the others were asleep. Clove was still awake, Cato knew, and he nudged her with his elbow. She rolled over to look at him.
"Sorry," he stated, tucking his hands behind his head. He was fairly confident no one would try to attack them. "I live to annoy."
"I am aware. I swear to God, if your snoring gets us killed..."
"At least I don't talk in my sleep."
"Yep. Definitely. Every night at the Capitol, you were all like, 'Oh, Cato! Hold me!'"
She rolled her eyes. "Right. Of course."
"You wanted it."
"So did you."
He laughed quietly, before changing the subject. "What do you want to do about Lover Boy?" he asked, his voice so low that even if Peeta was awake he couldn't hear them. Clove shrugged.
"Wait. Definitely wait."
Cato trusted her judgement.
"He'll run out of his uses soon. I'll get him."
"Someone else will get him. He's not cut out for this."
"Same deal as Marvel."
Clove paused, before laughing. "She's totally into you, you know. You could totally get yourself Arena-laid."
Cato bit back a laugh. "I could get laid whenever I want."
"How humble you are."
Cato grinned, before it faded. His face became serious, sad, older again. "No, seriously, I think I'll kill her."
Clove raised an eyebrow. "And miss out on all the sex?"
He smiled again. "Trust me, if I wanted sex with something that shallow, I'd fuck a puddle. Which is something I'd never do because that's wrong on every level."
"Wow. Okay," Clove stated, rolling onto her back, "You've definitely lost it."
Cato laughed again. "Probably."
They were silent again. "This is harder than I thought it was going to be," Clove eventually stated, and her voice sounded pained. Cato nodded.
He realised that the reason that Clove's voice sounded so pained was because she was crying, and something deep within him seemed to twist. Without thinking, he wrapped an arm around her. At first, she jumped and went to push it off, but decided against it and rolled into him, so her face was on his chest.
He let her cry, but she didn't cry for very long. It wasn't like Clove to cry; he knew that. He'd known her for a long time, and so he knew she'd stop. But she stayed in that position for a while, and for some reason, unbeknownst to himself, he held her closer. That was when she moved away, and he could have kicked himself.
"No, Cato. One of us is going to die."
That was her bluntness again. And he had a distinct feeling that said she wasn't talking about herself.
She rolled away, and Cato knew that people wouldn't perceive her as a good person; she'd be sadistic because of her talent with knives. It would be her fault, all the deaths. No one would ever think for a second that she hadn't orchestrated these Games.
And he would be arrogant, and cocky, and brash and rude. He knew because that was the persona he'd developed for the camera, and that was how he intended to finish out his time in the arena. That was how it had to be.
They would both be the villains, he knew.
They slept on and off for the rest of the day, and by evening the smell of rabbit roasting roused them all from their slumber. 3 had set up some kind of ingenious traps, and Clove shot him a look.
He has his uses, it seemed to say.
After another relatively hearty meal, all of them, except 3, slung backpacks over their shoulders, gathered up their weapons and set out again.
The chat was a bit easier this time, and Cato even talked to Lover Boy. This was quite uneasy, as Peeta withheld any information he had concerning Katniss. He definitely did care for her, and Cato was aware of it. He wondered if he would ever care for anyone like that; he might for Clove, if she let him. But she was a lost cause in every sense of the word, because he was going to win.
He wasn't sure if he envied Peeta at any rate, because from what he'd seen Katniss seemed like a very unresponsive, dull and perhaps manipulative person to be in love with.
It was dusk when they set out, and by early morning they'd covered a good expanse of land. Quite suddenly, the roar of fire rushed over their ears, closely followed by the heat and observation. They sprinted, jumping logs and generally getting a good cardio work out. Clove ran at the same pace as Cato did; they would not be beaten by fire. Peeta and Marvel were close on their heels, Glimmer just inches behind them. 4 was lagging behind, but was still keeping up with them.
They were running for a long time, before the fire died down. They knew they had to be close to someone, or else the Gamemakers wouldn't have stopped the sudden onslaught of fire.
They took a moment to rest, drinking water and having something to eat before moving on. It was evening before they found a pool of water, stopping to splash their faces. It was as Cato looked up that he nudged Clove, pointing to what he saw. She nodded once.
"Hey, Lover Boy!" she murmured, "We just found the Girl on Fire!"
"Oh, just tragic, Lover Boy," Glimmer stated, shouldering the bow before they all took off splashing through the pool.
Katniss scrambled ahead of them, and Clove lifted a knife from her belt, ready just in case.
Cato gritted his teeth as she climbed a tree, as fast as a monkey even with her wounds. She was better than he first thought.
"How's everything with you?" she called down, and Clove rolled her eyes, folding her arms. She doubted she'd do any damage from the distance and at this angle. Cato put on a fake smile.
"Well enough. Yourself?"
"It's been a bit warm for my taste," Katniss called, "The air's better up here. Why don't you come on up?"
Cato laughed again. Katniss actually knew how to play the cameras. But so did he. "Think I will."
"Here, take this, Cato," said Glimmer, and Cato recognised it now that Clove had pointed it out. Glimmer was sucking up to him.
"No," he said, "I'll do better with my sword."
The truth was he was never any good at archery. But he didn't want to show his weaknesses.
He wasn't very good at tree climbing, and before he had much of a chance to climb very far, she began skittering up the tree again. He thought he was making good progress before he put his weight on the wrong branch and fell, hard.
"Shit," he stated, groaning as he got to his feet. "Holy fucking shit. Ouch."
Glimmer gave him one more honey-sweet smile before scaling the tree. Marvel shrugged at him.
Glimmer proceeded to climb the tree, but as the branches creaked ominously, she gave up, returning to the ground. She tried to shoot Katniss with her bow, but both he and Clove had to stifle a laugh – there was no point in her having the bow. She was terrible. Katniss waved the arrow at Glimmer, and Cato could see a small smile on Peeta's face.
"What are we going to do?" Marvel asked.
"Well, it's obvious none of us can get her," Clove stated, blunt once more.
"Oh, let her stay up there. It's not like she's going anywhere. We'll deal with her in the morning." Lover Boy again. He seemed so detached; it would have been sad, if the outcome of this Arena was anything but death.
Everyone agreed, and Glimmer offered to go on first watch. Cato and Clove settled down uneasily, and Clove murmured, almost incomprehensible, "I'll watch her."
Cato nodded, almost imperceptible, before drifting off to sleep.
Cato woke to a sharp shake from Clove, who was already scrambling out of the way. He ran after her, quickly understanding.
"To the lake! To the lake!" Clove was screaming, and Cato saw that both 4 and Glimmer were stung viciously. He doubted they'd make it, as he and Clove sprinted to the lake. Marvel wasn't far behind, and he wasn't sure where Peeta was. Maybe with them. He didn't care, wanting only to outrun the furious tracker jackers. His heart rate calmed as he plunged into the lake, a splash next to him signalling Clove, and then Marvel, and Peeta.
The tracker jackers soon disappeared, and the four clambered back to land. Peeta was ahead of them.
"Let's go back for our stuff," he suggested, the stings beginning to take effect, and Cato nodded. They weren't sure if the cannons sounded for 4 and Glimmer, but he assumed so.
Cato clambered after Peeta, sopping wet.
And he saw, as he struggled through the growth, Peeta let Katniss go, and anger bubbled over. But he could feel the tracker jacker stings taking hold of him, and as they stumbled back to camp, he let anger take over.
He could have died. Clove could have died. And Peeta had proved useless.
They made it to camp before they passed out. 3 had taken some stings too, and all of them were in bad shape. He could hear Clove screaming hysterically near him. Marvel was moaning in an agonised way. Peeta was silent, which worried him more, and 3 was barking. That would have been funny, had he not been hallucinating wildly.
The sun got so large that it exploded, the pain on his arms increasing tenfold. Then Clove's face swam into view, whispering things to him, things he would never remember, but they terrified him. Then she smiled a Cheshire grin, her teeth elongating to knives before one pierced through his kidney. He blacked out, before awaking to thousands of Peetas swimming into view, and then lessening to two. Then one.
He wasn't sure how long he was out, but Peeta had tried to thrust a knife through his heart just as Cato had lived through most of the tracker jacker side effects. That was no hallucination.
He rolled out of the way, and Peeta realised what was happening, turning tail and running.
That was when Clove stopped writhing, and Marvel woke up.
"12!" Cato shouted, angry. Clove and Marvel had regarded him, but Clove seemed too bleary to really place what was happening and Marvel's mind was sleep addled.
Peeta swivelled around, and Cato didn't wait, slashing wildly with his sword. Of course he missed. He needed to focus, and calming down, they began to fight for real. Peeta only had a knife, and Clove and Marvel watched.
His focus was on the sword. Peeta quickly realised that this was no time for knife fighting. There was no way he would be able to reach Cato before Cato sliced him open. So he flung the knife at Cato's face, something Cato had registered a fraction of a second before it happened. Cato ducked out of the way, the knife embedding itself in the ground behind Cato. Peeta took off, but Cato was quicker. Cato raised his sword, but Peeta suddenly swung around, another knife in hand. Cato had failed to realise this, and he danced out of the way not a second too soon; the knife didn't go as deep as it would, but it still gouged his side. He bit back a yelp of pain, realising how close Peeta had just come to killing him. The knife had a wicked point and would easily have inflicted a terrible gut wound if Cato hadn't been so quick.
Cato realised his aim was off; there was an acrid taste in his mouth, and his vision was still undulating, depth perception off and aim not quite right. Fucking tracker jackers.
Incensed, Cato swung the sword, this time more skilfully. The result was perfect; a deep wound in his leg, which would be fatal due to disease. A little bit deeper and it would have crippled him. Cato was about to deliver the final blow, but Peeta was good with that knife, as Clove said, and Cato felt a searing, warm pain across his stomach as Peeta slashed him again. He cried out, and Peeta turned and ran. Adrenaline must have been keeping him going, but blood had stained most of Cato's shirt and so Cato let him go. He'd be dead soon, anyway. He knew where he cut him.
He rolled up his shirt as Clove and Marvel finally came to their senses.
"I got him. He'll be dead soon," he spat, examining the wounds. Marvel regarded them, hollow as normal, and Clove actually looked worried.
"God damn it, Cato," she spat back. He was relatively confident he'd have sponsors to help; he'd killed a good few at the blood bath, put up a good show with Peeta, but he'd have to redeem himself soon.
It made him feel sick again; but was that pain, or the idea of killing again?
Clove and Marvel gnawed their lips, unsure of what to do. But upon his arrival to the scene, 3 held up a parachute.
"This came while you were...Oh," he said, observing Cato's condition. Clove ripped open the container, and Cato didn't even know what it was. It was some kind of salve, and it lessened the pain. He wasn't quite right for a few days; he was feverish and warm and out of it. But when he woke up, he woke up to Clove looking after him, and he groaned.
"Shit. How could mother fucking Lover Boy do this?" he moaned. Clove jumped.
"Jesus, Cato, some warning?" she exclaimed, hugging him quickly before clearing her throat and sitting back on her heels, blushing profusely, "Don't get so freaking cocky next time. You've never lost to anyone before."
"I was still suffering from those god damn tracker jackers."
"Fucking hell," she stated, and he ate some food, feeling much better suddenly. He stretched, excusing himself from the group while he went to the bathroom. There were some necessities of life which couldn't be put off by the Arena.
He finished his business quickly, aiming to head back to camp. But through the underbrush, he saw the boy from 10 hobbling parallel to him, heading in the opposite direction. He hadn't seen Cato yet, and grimly Cato snuck up behind him. The boy turned around and tried to fight Cato, but Cato drew his sword too quickly, ramming it straight through 10's stomach.
He looked down at his own stomach in disbelief as Cato removed the sword, wiping the blood on the moss. 10 crumpled to the floor, and the cannon went off. Cato made his way back to the camp site, trying to eat some food before leaving to vomit. He blamed it on his wounds, still, but he quickly realised it was to do with the sudden change in his personality, that he'd killed that boy so swiftly and easily, like another part of a daily routine. He had a feeling Clove knew, after he let them know he'd killed 10.
They all still had welts on their bodies from the tracker jackers, and 3 fiddled with a box as the other three talked.
Cato looked up to the sky, before recognising a giant cloud of smoke. He pointed, and possibly too loudly made it known to Clove and Marvel. They all picked up their weapons, getting ready to move out.
3 hovered awkwardly, and Marvel shook his head. "No. He's not coming."
"Why not?" Clove asked.
"Because he needs to stay here and guard everything," Marvel stated, reminding Cato strangely of the way Glimmer would talk to Clove. Everyone seemed to forget that Clove was seventeen, due to her small stature. Everyone seemed to forget that Clove was just as formidable an opponent as he was. Everyone seemed to forget that she never missed.
"He's coming. We need him in the woods, and his job's done here, anyway," he began, shooting Clove the briefest of looks, but she understood. He'd run out of uses to keep him alive. "No one can touch those supplies," Cato said, happy with their ingenious strategy.
"What about Lover Boy?" asked Marvel. Cato rolled his eyes.
"I keep telling you, forget about him. I know where I cut him. It's a miracle he hasn't bled to death yet. At any rate, he's in no shape to raid us," replied Cato. He picked up a spear, shoving it into 3's hands.
"Come on," he said, leading the small group towards the woods. The tracker jacker stings were still causing him pain. "When we find her, I kill her in my own way, and no one interferes," he said as they entered the woods. Clove shook her head as the light grew dimmer in the woods.
"No way. You got your chance. My turn," she stated, and Cato was taken aback. There had been a sudden shift in both tribute's minds, and he nodded grudgingly.
"Fine," he replied, heading towards the smoke. Then, Marvel pointed out another cloud of smoke, and Cato and Clove exchanged a look.
"Shit," murmured Clove.
"We've been set up," answered Cato, and the small group turned on their heels, running back towards the way they'd come.
Cato knew they were too late when the sound of an explosion shattered the relatively calm air.
"No!" Clove screamed, and they increased their pace.
Upon barrelling back into the camp site, Cato ground his teeth, recognition that all their supplies just went up in smoke clear on his face. He pulled his hair, shouting at nothing. Clove merely chewed her lip in agitation. And Marvel was hollow. Always hollow.
3 threw some stones into the ruins of what was once all of their supplies.
"They're all deactivated," he stated, and Cato whirled around, anger blazing over his features. He kicked a few scattered containers. 3 did his job so well; so fucking well.
"What the fuck happened?" He bellowed, before 3 took off running. Cato was faster though, always faster, and he grabbed him in a chokehold. It didn't take much for his strong arms to break 3's neck.
And his rage subsided marginally, as he dropped the boy from his arms. God, he knew he was slowly losing it. It was so clear. He didn't take pleasure in this, he didn't at all. He wasn't a machine; he was a kid. He was kid who had been trained as a soldier since he was young, just like Clove, and he was losing it. The Arena got everyone.
"Let's go back to the woods," he stated, still trembling.
"Cato..." Clove began, resting a hand on his arm. He shook it off.
"It's alright, Cato, we'll have sponsors..."
"And someone fucking blew up everything!" he stated. Marvel gestured to the sky.
"And they'll be dead," he added, satisfaction clear on his tone.
"We should move," Clove stated. "They'll want his body."
Cato allowed Clove to steer him away, and Clove dug around in her bag for the night vision goggles they'd picked up. They put them on as the sun vanished, and Marvel lit a torch. And finally they went back to the woods.
Once in the woods, they split up. Marvel suggested it, and Cato was pretty sure Marvel was just afraid he'd be next. Marvel went to check a trap he'd set up not long ago, and Clove and Cato went elsewhere. They figured it would be safer that way.
About half an hour in, a cannon fired. And then, not long after, another. Clove and Cato exchanged a look. Was it Marvel? Peeta?
"I'm starting to worry about the boy from 11," Clove offered, after a long period of silence. Cato swore.
"I forgot about him," he stated.
"I think he's going to be more of a problem than we initially thought. Did you see his arms?"
Cato smiled jokingly, if a bit strained. "Oh, of course. He was just so dreamy, I couldn't take my eyes off him." He was sure Clove was blushing in the dark light.
"Shut up, dickwad. He'd give you a run for your money."
"Peeta sure did."
"I told you, tracker jackers," he stated darkly, finding a small cave. They settled in there, huddling. Clove's stomach growled.
The Capitol anthem played, and both Clove and Cato fixed their eyes to the sky.
Marvel's face flashed up, and Clove cleared her throat.
"Told you so."
Then the girl from 11. "Surprised she made it this far," was all Cato said. Some food floated towards them, attached to a silver parachute, and they ate it greedily. It suddenly seemed to dawn on them that there were only six of them left. They were running out of time.
They stopped, looking away from each other. Cato wanted to say something, anything. But he couldn't.
"I should go," he stated, abruptly. "I really don't want to kill you."
"Neither do I. Want to kill you, I mean."
"You never miss," he told her, hurrying away. Away. He wasn't sure where to, but just somewhere. Anywhere.
This was the first time he'd been alone. By himself. The first time he'd been free in his own thoughts, where he was alone with all the people he'd killed, their faces swimming into his vision over and over again. This was the first time he realised he may never see Clove again; rival. Friend. Ally.
Someone he cared about. No. Not love. It was something much stronger, the bond shared by two people who just understood the other. Suffered the same as the other. Knew they were going to die. Knew how the other must be feeling, knew how their mental state was just deteriorating. That was what he felt, and he knew he may never have that again.
And this was the first time he'd admit he was scared. Mortality was so real in here, and though death was so banal in Panem, so often (he witnessed twenty three on live television every year, for example), and vicious wounds seemed everyday (see: The Hunger Games on television every year of his life), he was suddenly aware that without an ally, he could die so easily.
Trumpets suddenly blared, and Cato continued running. He only stopped when he thought he'd heard the words wrong.
He paused for a moment, waiting for him to repeat it. Then he turned on his heel and ran back the way he came, thundering through the growth.
"Clove?" he dared to call.
After a sudden disturbance in front of him, Clove broke through the growth.