AN: Because I need something to distract me from life right now. TCBS will be updated soon (I AM working on it; no way I'm leaving it to collect it dust!), and Pebbles too; I apologize for the insane lack of updates but I can't process a lot at the moment.
And I apologize to Kat and Cat; you two have become my outlets for the moment; my poor OTP…
Remember that you will die.
There's just the sound of his breathing and her breathing as the world spills blood from clear blue skies.
The birdsong resounds within the dense brush, even as death draws close, cold air and hot rage colliding, causing a strange mixture of warmth to seep into their tired bones and weary souls.
This has been going long enough.
She takes a step back, wanting to run into the safety of the forest, where she knows who she is and how to survive.
Why bother surviving? The world has crumpled into a shriveled disgusting version of itself.
Everyone she's ever loved is gone, darkened into blue and black by the harshness of Snow.
The rest of her people are in hiding but she may as well be the last. In her mind, she is the last of District 12—a living, breathing fossil, a reminder that humans can go extinct too. They almost had before. And it will happen with her now.
The rebellion had gone too out of hand. She still posed a dangerous threat however—every district was in complete submission to her or forced to follow; her rebels could be just as ruthless as any Capitol citizen and they proved it every day with their courage; without courage, one cannot claim to desire freedom.
She is not sure where she stands anymore.
She wakes in shadows, screaming for people to run, to survive, to escape the heat of bombs and fire and the shroud of smoke.
The Girl on Fire could not control the flames so well as all believed.
It proved that she was still only a human girl, thrust into the responsibility of protecting her nation from itself and its higher powers; the democracy that favored dictatorship.
Katniss cannot remember the last time she'd been able to sleep without dreaming of black fire, cold bodies dwindling to ash and the sound of screams louder than hurricanes. A lifetime maybe…
She's spent a lifetime running from ghosts and she never even guessed that she was running straight into them.
He stands there, holding his sword ready. He's always favored swords. She knows this because he likes stabbing, both in and out of the arena. But she never expected to see him again, not here, in the land of the living dead.
The sardonic side of her chuckles; it fits: he is the living dead, walking a little closer, his footsteps the only sound to mingle with their shallow breathing. Each step causes a small amount of dirt and debris to float up, a soft puff of dead dust.
He burns into her with his gaze, staring forever until she moves away. He only closes the distance.
He was sent to kill her; she didn't fear him, necessarily—every fear she's had has come true: she lost all she loved—but she was cautious. That natural instinct again…
"They didn't patch you up very well,"
He shrugs, his fingers automatically moving along his face, upon the reddened lines of his face.
"Is that what they'll reward you with? A new face?"
Cato looks to the right, where the sun is setting, looking beautiful in its grim halo of reddened rays.
"No," he murmurs, his tone raspy, torn by the claws of manmade beasts, "They told me there's nothing they can do,"
She doesn't believe that. The doctors in the Capitol are the closest things to gods—their technology can heal everything, cause anything to happen, the creators of all disease and cures in the Pandora boxes of their minds. And they can't fix his face? They can't do anything for the scars that run down his face, the deep grooves of missing skin in his neck and shoulders? His eyes are still as blue as ever.
"I know what you're thinking," He says, bringing his sword nearer, "That they're lying. But I don't care."
She tries to stall, "I would've thought you would."
"We're in the middle of a war because of you. Reconstructing my face is the last thing on my mind."
For some reason it nettles her sorely—how his voice filled with contempt because of her, how voice lowered when he spoke of his face; does his family look at him the same? Does he truly blame her for the attack from the Mutts? Is that why he swore to Snow that he'll go and kill her, not just because he's ruthless, not just because he's one of the most violent and powerful tributes seen, but because she failed to kill him with her arrow in time and they could still revive him?
She can't help but wonder.
"Stop looking at me like that!" he hisses then, glaring at her with loathing.
Katniss glances away but immediately focuses them back. A strange thread of empathy decides to tangle itself around her heart and give it a strong constricting squeeze.
"These are still the Games," he says to her, incredibly near now and their hearts pound with adrenaline. "Remember that you will die. That's how the Games go. Nothing's changed."
Katniss smiles, a sad little thin line, "I know. Nothing's changed."
To prove that nothing's changed, she kisses him full on his scarred mouth, feeling the ragged and bumpy lines beneath her tongue and he moans into her mouth, forgetting that he has to kill her physically to be done with her. But they die every single time they play this game, the same one that's been stirred in the Hunger Games—that he pursues and she evades; she invites and he succumbs.
Dying is a natural end to all people, no matter who they are. The blow is eased when in the company of someone who hates another because it's still a person there; the pain is intensified when in the presence of someone who loves another but it oddly dissipates into something kinder. And death can be finally be faced with grace.
It's a horrible tale of death if one's ever heard one, but it doesn't matter to two people who've already died before.