The bunker's door swings open, dust settling around its frame. The Sergeant yells an order of awakening. Cato rips himself out of bed with all the others.
It's abhorrently early - four years in the Victors' Village has weakened Cato's once-meticulous regime.
Before the 74th, he'd wake at 4.30, swig a little of the foulest drink known to mankind that branded itself as an EnergyTwist, then run up the mountain and back down again before heading into the Training Centre at 6. He's spar for an hour and a half, take a break and change shoes, then participate in whatever the Driller wanted to drill them in that day. Then lunch, then more sparring, then Survival Class - learning about plants to eat in different environments and shelter construction and knot-tying or whatever. Then another break, before afternoon sparring. Brutal, but predictable. No variation. No need to think.
Retirement from that was a shock. Getting back into it is worse.
His feet ache from the neverending tiredness that he yearned for in the Village - the sort of exhaustion beyond the point of sleep, where sheer adrenaline keeps your veins pumping. The Sergeant gives sharp instructions for the day ahead, split in hourly sections. They are to be memorised and adhered to without question.
"Breakfast. Cardio. Cardio. Artillery. Lunch. Management. Management. History. Stamina. Dinner. Settle. Lights-off." Orders are barked at the Peacekeepers-to-be. There is a chorus of "Yes Ma'am!" from the soldiers. The Sergeant stamps her feet together, and proceeds to the next bunker in her block.
Cato swallows his sticky oats as best he can. A splinter from his spoon jabs under his nail. He curses lowly, picking at it as Gale sits next to him.
"That knife under your mattress," Gale says as the splinter finally comes free.
"What of it?"
"Why d'you have it?"
Cato frowns. "Why d'you think? I liked being armed."
"Yeah, but not with knives."
It's the first thing like conversation Gale's made that doesn't revolve around the training.
"What do you mean?"
"You never touch knives whenever we have artillery. Why?"
Cato grinds down the last of his oatmeal with his spoon, then shovels it into his mouth before answering.
"I just don't like any other knives," he says.
Gale frowns, but Cato moves away, stacking his bowl and spoon on the dishes rack. Gale shrugs and does the same, knowing he won't get anything else for a response.
Cato goes back to the bunker. He pulls Clove's knife from under the mattress, nods in affirmation of its continued presence, then replaces it. He doesn't like that Gale knows about it. But he won't know the real reason he doesn't do the knives in artillery.
No one can do the knives justice. No one flicks them with as much skill as she ever did.
Touching the knives would be an insult to Clove. Throwing them would be like spitting on a masterpiece.
A/N: My name is Emma and when I do write fanfics I update them at months at a time pleased to meet you. I need a holiday project, so I guess this'll be it, then. Hope it suffices...