HI GUYS! IT'S BEEN FOREVER, RIGHT?! I've missed all of you so so so so so so SO much, and I hope you're all still sticking with Miri and Cato and their journey so far. This chapter is a bit on the darker side as far as my chapters go, and it really dives into how Cato feels about the aftermath of the games. I also dabbled a bit into Clove and Cato's relationship in the Games and how her death really played out. So, without further ado, I'll leave you all to enjoy this chapter that's been four months in the making (jeez that's a long time XD) and I hope you all read, review, and enjoy!
He never left the hospital. No one, not matter how hard they tried could get him to even consider the thought. As soon as he'd gotten himself together after her accident, he ran straight to where he knew they'd take her for treatment, and when they wouldn't let him in to see her, he'd seated himself on the linoleum floor right outside the door. Every once in a while, a nurse would come by and ask if he needed anything, but he always declined. His mind was too clouded over with worry for him to focus on anything but her. He twisted his hands together in his lap so tight that when one of the nurses walked by, she'd gasped at the welts he'd given himself and insisted on wrapping them in gauze. He wanted to tell her that it was no use, but she looked so happy to help him that he didn't want to break her spirit.
The days seemed to pass by in a blurry haze, nameless faces leaving and entering his vision, then disappearing down the hall. A knot had settled in the pit of his stomach, and it seemed to grow larger with every hour he didn't see her. Once in a while, he would get up and begin pacing in front of the door, trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening inside the operating room. Though, every time he happened to glance through the window, all he could see were silhouettes flitting back and forth. Every time, he was disappointed.
After two days of him sitting outside her door, Finnick arrived with a package in his arms and a comforting smile on his face. Cato looked up at him, wiping his eyes for fear there were still tearstains left on his cheeks and greeted his friend with a nod. Finnick nodded in return and set next to him on the floor, setting the box between them.
"It gets better, you know."
Cato could barely let out a laugh. "How could it?"
A moment later came Finnick's reply. "If it didn't, neither of us would be here right now, would we?"
Leaning his head back against the wall, Cato closed his eyes for a moment. He knew Finnick had a point, but at the moment, it seemed impossible to accept it.
"She wasn't a Career, Finnick. She wasn't taught about how to handle the games after you make it out." He paused. "If you make it out."
Finnick flicked his eyes over to Cato's. "Mirabelle's stronger that what people think. You of all people should know that."
It was the first time he'd heard her name since the accident. Just hearing it brought back every single memory of her he had: her stumbling into their car on the train; her holding a knife up at him the first night he became her mentor; her in his arms as they danced on the rooftop of the training center. He swallowed painfully, his hands slowly curling into fists as he tried to block the images from his head. They'd only bring him suffering, and he'd done enough of that ever since the year before.
Ever since Clove's death.
Miri had reminded him of Clove in many ways. Sometimes he questioned if that was the only reason he became interested in her in the first place. He could see Clove in the way she refused to give up on anything she set her mind to, in the way she sacrificed herself for Flint at any chance she got. The more he got to know Mirabelle, the more she reminded him of his district partner, and sometimes, it became to much for him to bear.
The morning of Clove's death, they'd been walking in the woods, looking for food more than anything else. The little girl from 11 had managed to blow up what was left of their food supply and it had made Cato so pissed, he gave orders to Marvel to hunt her down at any cost. In retrospect, he regretted it, but at the moment he'd been seeing nothing but red and he'd completely let it overcome his senses. Little did he know that in sending Marvel out to kill the little girl, he was also sending Marvel into the arms of Thresh, who, at the sight of the girl's speared body, dug his axe into Marvel's heart. So, the morning after, they woke with no allies, no supplies, and growling stomachs. It had been Clove's idea to look in the woods for food, and knowing that she'd at least spent fifteen minutes looking over the edible plants station during training, he'd agreed.
"You sure these are okay to eat, Clover?"
She rolled her eyes at him and popped one in her mouth, swallowing before she answered. "If they weren't I'd be dead by now. And, no matter how annoying you are, I don't loathe you enough to kill you."
He smiled, sliding a dark blue berry between his lips as well. "I wish I could take your word for that."
"Don't trust me, Kingsley?"
"Not one bit."
Clove let out a laugh, and Cato relished it. It was a sound he was beginning to love, even though he'd never admit it. It was one of the many tings he was starting to enjoy about her, and he planned to commit each and every detail of her to memory in case of… well, things he didn't want to think about. He knew the chances of her death were slim to none, especially with the new rule already in place. Two victors, if they both came from the same district, could win the Hunger Games. Nothing like it had ever been done before, and it seemed like almost a blessing in disguise since he and Clove were the only two tributes from the same District left in the competition.
He watched her climb up on a fallen log and walk along it like it resembled a tightrope. It was plenty wide enough for her to travel without much trouble, but to increase it's difficulty, she closed her eyes and held her arms out to her sides. For a few moments, he let her walk in silence, but then couldn't resist breaking it, asking her, "Do you miss home?"
She answered without missing a beat. "I miss my father. I miss Leonidas."
"You miss that old goof?"
Her eyes popped open and zoned in on his face, the circles of green hardening to an emerald. "He's NOT an old goof. If I recall correctly, he won the games within barely 7 days almost single-handedly. And he's also the man who taught me everything I know about knives." She smiled, the expression lethal. "Now, does that leave you with anymore insults?"
He shook his head. "Point taken."
She nodded and then hopped off the log, landing lithely on the ground. She made her way over to where he sat, pulling a knife out of her hair and fiddling with it in her lap. "Do you miss home?"
He paused a few moments before responding. "I miss my family the most. Especially the little ones because they barely even know the reason why I'm in here." He swallowed and continued, "When they came to see me after the reaping, I had to tell them that I was going on a long trip…but I promised them I would come home. Looking back, it seems kinda selfish, giving them false hope like that."
"It's not selfish, Cato. You are going back to them. Everyone knew that from the beginning." He looked over to see her still playing with the knife in her hands. A strand of her dark hair had fallen out of her braid, and he reached out a hand to tuck it back in place, saying, "You're going home, too. Don't forget that, okay?"
She barely nodded in return and made a move to stand, but he gently grabbed her chin, turning her face to look at his.
"Clove, you and I are going to go home together. I promise on my life that I will do anything and everything to make sure that you see District 2 again. All right?
This time, she granted him a small smile. "All right."
He grinned and leaned in to kiss her temple. "Good."
Suddenly, a voice rang through the trees, startling them to the point of jumping up and drawing their weapons. When he realized it was a Capitol announcement, he sent a curious look at her, and she returned it with the tiniest of shrugs.
"Attention all remaining tributes! A feast is going to be held at the Cornucopia at noon today, and we all know there is something that each of you need desperately. We plan to be…generous hosts. This will be the only announcement."
As soon as the message was over, Clove had already started tucking her knives in place. Cato frowned, saying as he took a step nearer to her, "We don't need anything desperately, Clove. Why bother going?"
"We need food, nimrod. And last time I checked, it wouldn't be bad idea for them to send us some extra weapons, now would it?" She slipped a knife back into her hair and looked up at the sky. "The feast should start in about half an hour, so if we want to get there in time, we'd better leave now."
Clove began to start moving in the direction of the Cornucopia, but he reached out a hand to gasp her arm. She turned her head slightly to look back at him in annoyance. "Cato, let me go. I don't need a fucking babysitter."
"And I don't need you making dumbass decisions, or getting yourself hurt."
"I'm not twelve years old! If anything, I can get rid of some more tributes while I'm at it and get us home sooner rather than later!"
"Or you could get yourself killed!" His grip on her arm had tightened so much that he was positive it was going to leave bruises. She was glaring up at him now, her face contorted with so much anger that he wondered whether she was contemplating about shoving one of her knives straight through his skull.
"I'm not a little girl you have to protect, Cato. I can handle myself." She ripped her arm out of his grip, and took a step away from him. "I'm going whether you come with me or not."
Cato stared at her for a few moments, and then sighed. It was a waste of time for them to even consider getting involved with a stupid feast, but he'd promised to get her home no matter what the cost. "Fine, go. I'm going to go look for the big guy from 11, but meet me by the lake as soon as you get our bag. Don't try to mess around with any of the tributes until I get there, got it?"
She smiled a deadly grin. "No promises."
"Fine, fine. I'll save the redhead for you, if you want." She walked a few trees away from him, and then turned around. "Be careful, okay?"
He nodded. "Same goes for you, Clover."
She rolled her eyes, and tossed him a playful smile. Then without another word, she scampered off into the woods, making barely any noise as she went.
There had been no sign of any other tribute for miles. He'd trekked for a solid hour and not a single person had stumbled across his path. Wiping his forehead, he cursed under his breath and paused beside a large oak tree. God, why couldn't some goddamn sponsors send him water or something? He swore the temperature had reached at least a hundred degrees, and if he didn't get some water soon, he was going to pass out. Wouldn't that be fantastic to do? Totally get him loads of sponsors.
He sighed. Clove was probably waiting by the lake for him, wondering why the fuck he wasn't there on time. If he were lucky, when he got there, she would chuck a knife at his head, instead of his junk. Just the thought made him wince.
He started towards where he thought the Cornucopia was and hacked through some of the grass absentmindedly with his sword. It wasn't like it would kill her to wait a few minutes. Scaling over a fallen log that looked similar to the one from earlier, he tried to pinpoint which direction Clove had went in. He was about to head through some foliage that looked suspiciously like poison ivy when something from the opposite direction made him pause.
'No. Not her. Please let it not be her.' Cato instantly flipped himself around and ran toward where her voice was coming from. He pushed around trees, and jumped over roots, his sole focus on her and making sure that she came out alive.
Her voice sounded strained, like she knew her death was coming. Somehow, he still had hope, that if he could get to her in time, he could save her. But a voice echoed after her scream that crushed any chance he thought he had.
"Say her name!"
Thresh. The little girl from his district. No. No.
"LEAVE HER ALONE!" Cato screamed, plunging through the trees just in time to see her body fall to the ground. Just in time to see Thresh glaring down at her for a moment before making a run for it back into the grasslands.
A second later, her cannon boomed.
"Cato! Cato, snap out of it!"
He startled, jumping a bit as he turned to look at Finnick, blinking furiously. His friend looked concerned, and he guessed that Finnick had been trying to get his attention for a few seconds or so before he came back to reality, but when he happened to glance around the room, he saw that they weren't alone. Cinna, Effie, and Haymitch had joined them outside of Miri's hospital room in the few minutes Cato had been 'out', along with a few nurses.
"S-Sorry. What's going on?"
Finnick stood, and helped Cato up before picking up the box he'd brought with him when he first entered. "The doctor said she's now allowed visitors." He smiled, and nodded to the door behind them. "We feel like you should be the first to enter."
Effie looked like she was about to say something in regards to Finnick's statement, but a look from Haymitch silenced her. Cato swallowed, looking at all of them for a few moments while he allowed himself to realize that he was actually going to see her. That the operations had been a success and she was really still alive. He almost had the nerve to laugh from all of it, but instead let himself smile, the first real smile he'd shown since the beginning of the games. He turned himself to face her door, and placed his hand on the doorknob.
This was it.
He slowly turned then knob, and pressed against the sterile wood until the hospital room was in full view. Almost instantly, he zoned in on her bed and the tiny figure laid out underneath the covers. He didn't know what he'd been expecting her to look like after she got out, but as he got a closer glance, he didn't imagine it to be anything like she was.
She'd lost more weight than he'd noticed, and the effect it had caused her to look like a shrunken version of herself. Her skin had a paleness to it that looked unnatural in the fluorescent lighting above them, and her hair seemed to be more limp than lush. He relaxed a fraction when he realized any scrapes or scars on her body had been cleared away by the Capitol medicines, but it still wasn't enough to prepare him for when he reached out to hold her hand.
It was warm, and he could sense a faint pulse that told him she was alive, but at the same time it was lifeless. It was like whoever's hand he was holding didn't belong to her, even though it was attached to her body. It felt more like he was holding the hand of a dead moose.
He couldn't build up the courage to pull away from her, not for a few moments at least, but when he finally decided he was going to, her hand suddenly tightened around his. His breath caught in his throat, and it seemed to be stuck there until her eyes fluttered open, blinking a few times to get used to the harsh lighting. Then, her eyes flickered over to his face, and the world stopped completely. There was no one in Panem, no one on the entire Earth except him and Miri.
Hesitantly, he reached his other hand out and brushed a lock of hair back from her face. "Hey there, angel."
She still stared up at him, her gray eyes locked onto his face. His stomach clenched when he though of the possibility that she might have forgotten him, but his fear was soon washed away as she said, "Hey, Cato."
Her eyes left his face then and traveled around the room, taking in the images of everyone else before returning back to him. For some reason, he was almost sure that she was going to ask if they had any chocolate ice cream handy, and smile at him to see if he remembered that first night in the training center. Instead, she opened her lips and asked a single question that made Cato's heart ache.
He took a shaky breath, and tried to force back the formation of tears that he knew were inevitably going to come. Stoking her cheek with his thumb, he said in the calmest voice he could muster, "Angel…Flint's dead…"
A rush of emotions went through her irises. First horror, then pain, followed by rage, and ending with disbelief. Her face twisted into an expression so angry that it surprised him features as sweet as hers could contort in such a way. The hand he was holding dug its nails into his palm, and she managed to lift herself into a sitting position as her other hand rose to hit him.
"You're lying! You're a liar! He isn't dead, you're a liar!" She began to hit his chest with her fist, and when he let go of her other hand, it joined the first. He tried to console her, but her screams only rose in pitch and she glared fiercer at him. "You're a LIAR! You're a FREAKING LIAR!"
Cinna tried to step in, but as soon as he got within Miri's line of sight, she unleashed her fury upon him as well. She scratched at his face, attempting to dig her nails into his eyes, and shrieked, "YOU'RE ALL LIARS! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU IS A LIAR!"
A team of Capitol doctors suddenly burst through the door and swarmed around her bed, pulling her back down onto the mattress. Still screaming, she struggled against them and kicked at the sheets that covered her lap. With every noise she made, Cato's heart began to crumble and after a while of watching them try to detain her, he struggled to intervene. "Just let me see her…let me help her, please."
"Sir, you need to stay back." One of the doctors pushed at him, making it clear that he wasn't allowed to be anywhere near her, and a bubble of anger swelled in his chest. He tried to shove through them, but this time a couple of doctors broke away to hold him back, getting a grip on his arms. Something inside of him broke in that moment, and he thrashed about, yelling at the top of his lungs. "I need to see her! God damnit, just let me see her!"
"LIARS! YOU'RE ALL LIARS!" A bloodcurdling scream followed her statements, and at that, he lost it. He kicked, he bit, he scratched, he yelled until his voice began to give out. Finnick stepped in soon after that and helped tug him from the room, telling him to calm down, that everything was going to be alright. Cato barely could pay attention to him, and focused himself on Miri, watching helplessly as a doctor plunged a needle into her arm. Slowly, her shrieks began to die down, and she fell into unconsciousness while mumbling incoherent nonsense.
When they managed to drag him out into the hallway, the doctors holding him back retreated into the room and slammed it in his face. He started to raise his hands to pound on it, but Finnick soon came into his vision, taking Cato's face in his hands and shaking him gently. "Cato! Cato, calm down, she's alright! They're not going to hurt her!"
It was like he'd just spun around and around on a carousel, and it had suddenly come to a halt. Everything was starting to map out into more defined images, and he could make out just how worried Finnick was. Taking a few deep breaths, he managed to relax, leaning against the wall beside them. "I… I'm sorry… I don't know what happened to me in there…"
"S'fine." Finnick ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "You forget that I dealt with the same thing for a while after Annie got out of her games."
Closing his eyes, Cato questioned softly, "Is she gonna turn out like Annie?"
For a long time, Finnick didn't answer. But just as Cato was about to open his eyes to make sure he was even in the same room with him anymore, he replied, "Remember that she's stronger than you think, Cato. A lot stronger."
He came back every day to see her, but almost every time, he was ushered back out into he hallway. She would always wake, greet him, and then ask where Flint was. It broke his heart to tell her the truth, but nonetheless he would say that Flint was dead, and she would scream at him that he was a liar. The attacks seemed to gradually get worse, and they escalated to a point that on an afternoon where he'd brought Finnick with him to see her, she'd tried to lunge off the bed at him with a fork in her hand from a meal that a nurse had brought to her.
In the evenings, he would crawl into bed and bury his face in a pillow, shouting into it until he couldn't shout anymore. He locked his bedroom door so that he wouldn't be disturbed, but sometimes he would hear pounding on the wood and either Brutus, Finnick, or even Haymitch's voice. Eventually, he stopped leaving his room altogether, ignoring any meals or appointments he was supposed to go to, and after a while, the knocking stopped as well.
A morning about two weeks after his first visit to her room, he woke to the sound of someone picking the lock on his door. Sitting up, he stared at the doorknob until it started to turn, and then a strip of light from the hallway flooded into the darkness. He swallowed as the person poked their head inside the doorway, and he was surprised to see Effie's face, instead of one of the men banging on his door earlier. She seemed disheveled from everything that had happened after Miri had fallen off that cliff, and with every day that her precious tribute deteriorated, her perkiness faded into a barely complacent demeanor. Once she saw that Cato was fully clothed, she decided to enter and walked to the foot of his bed, gingerly placing her gloved hand on the mahogany footboard.
"The doctors decided that since she's gone without an attack for three days now…" Her voice sounded tight, like she'd spent her own fair share of time crying, and she took a few moments to compose herself. "…They've decided that she's stable enough to return back here for the time being."
Cato let the news sink in. He asked, cautiously, "Has she been awake in the past few days?"
Effie nodded. "Finnick has been staying with her, and Cinna visited her yesterday afternoon as well."
"How soon will she be coming?"
Effie smoothed out her wig shakily, and swallowed before answering. "Around 11 in the morning." She looked like she wanted to say something else in regards to Mirabelle, but instead just nodded her head in confirmation of her statement, and said in true Effie fashion, "Breakfast will be served soon, and it's going to be a big big big day."
It was all Cato could do to nod back in reply, and watch her retreat out of the room. Mirabelle was coming back to him, back to all of them. Finally.
There you have it folks! Your (belated) Christmas/New Years present! I hope you all enjoyed it and I promise that my next update won't take me as long as it did with this one :)