Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games.
A/N: So this is the multi-chap fic I was talking about in my append story 'My Last Goodbye'. The append story was just an introduction, and this multi-chap fic is very different from 'My Last Goodbye'. It would be stupid if MLG was just a summary of this one; am I that helpless?
Anyway, please read this. for all those who love Cato, mourn for him, and wish he hadn't died, maybe even imagine that he had that special someone waiting for him, then I suppose this is the fic for you. Mind you though...I follow everything that happened. So yes, Cato does die, but there is more insight into his death and the effect it has on the people who love him. Like me. :D
"...but grief is the ultimate unrequited love,
for no matter how hard or how long we love someone who has died,
they can never love us back."
- Rosamund Lupton
Sunlight was peeking through the window, and birds were chirping brightly, prodding her to get up. Her alarm clock rang thirty minutes earlier, yet she still lay lazily on her bed, hiding underneath the covers.
It was a Saturday, the perfect day for an eighteen-year-old to sleep in and skip training.
After much deliberation, she gave a groggy yawn, and threw the covers off. She turned to her side and slowly opened her eyes, glimpsing at the bed beside her.
She sighed. Of course, it would be empty.
It always was.
She sat up, stretching her muscles, hearing her bones crack slightly. Her eyes lingered on his bed, untidy and messy. It was his habit of never fixing the bed he slept on, not even his blankets, which were all bundled up at the foot of his bed.
As always, she got up and fixed both, plumping up the pillows and spreading the sheets over the mattresses.
She was supposed to head for the shower when something hit her toe.
Looking down, she saw it was his sheath.
He always left that thing lying around, especially when he was out training. Sighing with exasperation, she bent down and propped it up by his miraculously neat side of the desk.
Well, the only reason it was neat was because it barely had anything in or on it; just a couple of picture frames of him and his family. His certificates and one trophy - nabbed for being first place in their wrestling competition a few years back - were displayed on their shared shelf, so apart from the photos, his credentials, and a box of his personal things, it was virtually empty.
"Gone again!" she said to herself, shaking her head as she stepped into their tiny bathroom. This, apart from the desk, was the only place she could say was neat and tidy, because she always made sure it was. She hated messy bathrooms.
She hung her towel on the rack and pulled off the hairband that held her dark hair up and away from her face.
She stepped into the shower, letting the warm water run through her hair and down her body.
She loved the water; it was nice and warm, and it smelled clean, very different from District 2 itself.
District 2 was not dirty or polluted like the things she heard about Districts like District 8 or 12. It has that air of mining, definitely, but it was also fresh. Probably it had something to do with the fact that the villages of District 2 were widespread throughout the mountains, not hard-packed like District 12.
She reached out for the soap dish to find that it was empty; she cursed and made a mental note to remind the custodian that they were out of body soap so he could deliver another boxful.
After she cleaned herself up, she dried her hair with the towel, pulled her hairband around her wrist for later, threw on sweatpants, a light blue cotton shirt and her training jacket. She slipped on her training boots, grabbed her sword and his empty sheath and headed for the Weapons Room, where she knew he would be.
After quite a while of walking, she made it to the room. Its doors were large and made of bulletproof glass, so you could just peek to see who was inside.
She pushed the door open. It wasn't surprising that there was no one inside the room; it being a Saturday, most kids chose to procrastinate and rest their sore muscles.
But definitely not him. A grin grew on her face as she caught sight of him in the middle of the room.
Already there were piles of decapitated and de-limbed dummies strewn on the floor around him. He was focusing on the current dummy, whose arms, torso and chest area were covered in slash marks.
He was here a long time; you could tell just by looking at him. The heave of his chest indicated his panting, the sweat that glistened off his shirtless body...
She shook her head. His bright blue eyes did not even flicker toward her as she strode over, nor did he acknowledge her presence. His eyebrows were pressed in concentration while his large muscles flexed with every slash of his sword into the dummy. Beads of sweat dropped off the ends of his blond hair as he hacked away mercilessly.
Finally, she spoke. "Cato."
He sighed, running his sword through the dummy again. "Hello, Alix."
"It's a Saturday, you know," she told him, flipping her hair way from her face.
He didn't look at her, but he said, "I know."
She crossed her arms. "Did you even have breakfast?"
He stabbed the sword deep into the heart of the dummy. "I don't need breakfast."
"Yes you do," she told him. "I know you. You're cranky on an empty stomach."
"I'm not," he said defensively, looking at her for the first time today.
"That's what you think," she retorted. "Quit the training for a while. I'm starving and I'm not eating without you. C'mon, let's go, we can practice later."
He shook his head. In a swift movement, he cut off the arm of the dummy. "You go. I'm not hungry."
She gave a stubborn huff, and before he could split open the dummy's head, she was standing in front of him, her hands stopping his from going down.
"Give me the sword," she said.
"Let go, Alix," he growled, his grip on the sword tightening.
"No can do, Cato," she said teasingly. "You move that blade and my hands will be bleeding in no time."
She saw him grit his teeth. "God, why do have to be so stubborn?"
"Because apparently you think it's better to starve yourself to death," she said. "Ever thought your muscles need protein to grow stronger, Cato? And where can we find protein? Oh, yeah, FOOD."
Cato sighed with exasperation. He shook his head and she felt his hands slacken. She let them go so he could drop them to his sides."You annoy me like crazy."
"That's what best friends do," she shrugged, taking his sword from his hand. "Now go take a shower."
"Yes, mother," he said mockingly. Then he laughed when she punched his shoulder.
"Ugh!" she groaned, wiping her knuckles on her pants. "You're so wet!"
He laughed again and picked up his shirt from the floor. "You know how wrong that sounds, right?"
She stuck her tongue out at him and slipped the sword back into its empty sheath. She followed him and waited outside the shower room, watching as three trainers took away the dummies Cato destroyed.
They all had a look of both awe at Cato's abilities, and annoyance that he ruined another week's worth of dummies again.
That was Cato for you. Ever since she could remember, Cato had already demonstrated a fierce liking for violence, and although violence was highly credited in the Academy, it credited less than a pooping monkey for Alix.
But, again, that was Cato. It was a part of him, and Alix knew that, dealt with that. She'd rather kiss the pooping monkey than reject Cato for all he is. She liked the whole package, and she'd paid that price several times over, without any regrets.
Which is why they were best friends.
Technically, they grew up together. First time they met was when they were five, on the first day of training.
She noticed him first. All the kids in their class were in awe and eager for their training, but Cato was special. He wasn't just in awe..he was enthused.
His blue eyes shone with excitement and Alix knew he would be different from all the other District 2 kids who grew up, training for their chance at becoming a tribute.
Unique, and one-of-kind.
So she tried to get his attention. She walked near him during the tour; when the trainer asked questions, she raised her hand even though she wasn't called, and even if she didn't know the answers.
It soon became apparent to her, however, that her tactics were not working, and the day was almost over. So she did the last thing she could do: she decided to say hi.
Her chance appeared when they neared the Weapons Room. He was the first to reach it, clearly mesmerized by the shiny blades and various weapons. The class gave little 'oohs' and 'aahs', but only Cato leaned against the glass, wanting more than anything to have that barrier between him and the weapons broken.
Slowly, she approached him, and carefully positioned herself next to him, admiring the weapons as well.
He didn't pay attention.
But she waited for him to notice.
All the children had already followed the trainers away, leaving both of them behind. Still, she waited for him to notice this.
In the corner of her eye she saw him turn his head and look at her.
She turned to him, and smiled as pretty as she could.
He was looking at her strangely, so she did the first thing that popped into her head and stuck her hand out, remembering what her grandmother told her about manners when introducing yourself.
"Hi," she told him, her knees shaking, but she told herself to hold her ground. She could do this. She wanted him as a friend. "I'm Alix."
When he slipped his hand into hers, happiness spread throughout her and she knew that she and he would get somewhere when they grew up. That she made the right choice of friend, and that pushing away her nervousness paid off.
She never told him about that, and he never knew why she did it, not even now.
He didn't know her reason, and he didn't know how she felt when they became friends.
They spent their childhood together; training, playing, growing up. He was there for her when she needed him, like when boys bullied her, or that time when she sprained her ankle during training.
She was there for him when he needed her, like when he got unbelievably low marks for their end-of-the-year examinations because of his cramping leg, or that wonderful time when his baby sister was born.
They were more than friends, and after years of this, it became an unspoken agreement that they weren't friends at all.
They were partners in crime.
They had each other's backs, and no problem was too difficult to overcome, as long as they did it together.
Sometimes, people mistook them for a couple, because they were always together; training, eating, strolling in the school gardens, alone on his roof...you name it, they did it before.
By the time they reached thirteen, like the rest of the Academy kids, they were required to dorm in the Academy away from their parents until they turned eighteen. By the time they reach eighteen, they leave the Academy and the empty rooms are replaced by a new wave of thirteen-year-olds. It was standard routine.
It was an arrangement no one understood, yet no one questioned, either. They all thought that probably it was a strategy to make the children stronger and assertive, since they lived away from their parents and were free to choose what they wanted to do, as long as they trained.
No one really cared about gender. A boy and a girl as roommates? Why not? The children were too focused on their training to even think about relationships, dating, and other things. They were not worth the time.
There were never any cases of unplanned pregnancies in the Academy, which all the more supported the fact that they were too preoccupied with their training. There will still those parents who were paranoid and personally requested for their children's roommates, but Cato's and Alix's parents didn't mind.
It was no surprise when the roommates they chose were each other; everyone saw it coming.
The room assigned to them became their new home, the same room she fixed up and left just minutes ago. Their room, just like all the other rooms in the Academy dorms, was small, but there was enough space for two beds, a shared closet and a shared desk. Each bed had their own trunks underneath for personal things, and connected to the room was a small bathroom.
Most kids usually left their rooms unkempt and messy, since they didn't really care much for anything. But Alix didn't like messy bedrooms, and neither did Cato - well, to some extent.
She was nudged back to consciousness by Cato, whose hair was still dripping wet. He had a towel in his hand, and he was wearing a fresh shirt. The shirt he picked up off the floor a while ago must be in the laundry.
"Look at you," he told her, grinning as he slung his sword sheath over his shoulder. He motioned for them to begin the walk to the cafeteria, which wasn't too far away. "You look mad."
"Like pissed mad or insane mad?" she yawned, pulling up her hair in its usual messy ponytail.
"Both," he told her, pushing open the doors of the cafeteria.
The cafeteria was a really big room with plenty of windows to let in fresh air. Food was served in carts, almost buffet-style, and you could eat as much as you could. There were plenty of those round tables with stools around them, which were almost always kept clean by the custodians.
There were only a handful of people here; some kids skip breakfast to go home to their parents' house and spend the weekend there. During a school day the cafeteria was packed with students, but during the weekends they were free to manage their own time.
Breakfast today could be eggs, toast, coffee, orange juice, milk, muffins, or pancakes - a rare treat only reserved for when the Games were approaching.
Ah, the Games. It was a month away.
Warmth stirred inside Alix. She and Cato were eighteen this year. After the Reaping, it would be over for both of them, and she would be able to sleep peacefully at night from that day forward. No more worrying about losing your life or getting called...or worse...watching him get called and fight to the death on live TV for other people's unnaturally barbaric pleasure.
She hated the Games, which was an unusual thing for a person from District 2. She trained for the Games because it was required, but she wasn't blind to what the Games were, like the others.
And to think these people just volunteer risking their lives for entertainment...
She didn't like that. She wanted to have a long life, live a long life. There were so many things she wanted to do, and participating in the Games was not one of them.
Probably it was because of her parents. Her father was an ordinary stonecutter, working deep in the mines day after day to cut and haul large chunks of rock to be used for buildings. Her mother was just a housewife, though she did the additional stuff like cooking meals for the neighbors when they don't have time. It earns them extra income.
Being, well, not poor, but close to that, definitely gave Alix a different perspective as to how the Capitol ruled. They were, in her eyes, crazy, manipulative, and barbaric, not good, merciful people like many from 2 believed.
Even Cato believed that. It was one of the few things they disagreed on, and that topic usually sparked a shouting match between them.
She couldn't blame him. His own parents worshiped the Capitol like they were gods, and they lived the good life, as far as life in the Districts was concerned. He had no cause, no reason to think rebelliously like she did.
Cato's voice entered her thoughts and shattered her momentary black out.
"Are you gonna eat or what?"
She blinked and took a step back, startled. Then she looked up at him. He was grinning cockily at her, an eyebrow raised up to tease her.
Already his tray was full; piles of pancakes, one muffin, 2 eggs, several slices of toast, and two tall glasses of orange juice.
She looked down at her own tray - still empty. Her stomach growled, and she heard Cato laugh.
"Here," he said, carefully placing a piece of toast on her tray. On it was some sort of smiley face that he made using bits of muffin.
Alix stared at it, then laughed. "You're crazy," she told him, sliding an egg next to the toast. She grabbed a pancake and some juice, and they settled down on an empty table, facing each other. "Well, let's eat."
And eat they did. Actually, 'eat' was too mild a term for Cato.
He was stuffing himself - yes, all that food, good enough for two people, was for him - horking everything down. She didn't think he even bothered to chew.
"You are so glutinous," she told him in a disgusted manner. She was barely even picking away on her pancake.
"I'm starving," Cato told her, stuffing another piece of toast in his mouth.
"And just a while ago you said you weren't hungry," she said in a challenging tone, leaning closer to him. "Hypocrite."
"So I'm a hypocrite, big whoop," Cato said, scowling slightly. "Shut up and eat your food."
"Nah, you can have it," she told him, pushing her tray toward him. He stared at it in disbelief.
"You barely even touched your food!"
"Hey, I ate the egg," Alix said, sipping her juice. "But I'm not hungry. Not really."
"And just a while ago you said you were starving," Cato said mischievously, throwing back at her her previous comment about hypocrisy.
"Oh, shut up," she laughed, throwing a muffin piece at him. He caught it easily and tossed it into his mouth.
"You suck," she said, hitting him again on the shoulder.
"Of course I do," he grinned, sarcasm dripping in his voice. He stood up, taking both their empty trays in one hand, then said, "But then, if you didn't have me, where would you be?"
"The top of the class," she teased, throwing their sheaths over her shoulder and standing up. "Since if you weren't here, I wouldn't be below you in rank."
"Just admit I'm too awesome to be beaten," he told her, dumping their trays into the dishwashing area. "So, where to? Wanna go train?"
"Yeah, and end up with a stomach ache while we're at it," she said sarcastically, pushing the doors of the cafeteria open.
"Then where do you wanna go?" he asked her, taking his sheath from her shoulder and slinging it on his own.
She looked up at him, smiling slightly. "How about...the usual place?"
Cato's grin softened. "The usual place it is, then."
The 'usual place' was the school gardens. Nobody went there much, considering they all were too busy with their training that they all seemed to forget that they needed to chill once in a while.
It was fresh and quiet, so it was the perfect place for both of them to just sit down, laugh and talk about things.
Whenever they just needed time - or whenever Cato wasn't too busy training his butt off - they would go here. Sometimes, they'd catch a couple of people there, trying to escape the confines of training, just as they were, but mostly, they were alone.
Just the two of them, and Alix liked that.
"So..." Cato said, breaking the silence as they walked down the path. He put his hands in his pockets. "What now?"
"You know, we don't have to talk," she told him softly, running her fingers through her ponytail. "I like it when it's quiet."
Cato sighed, and they kept walking. Alix loved it, but she could sense Cato was too jumpy to do this right now.
She shook her head at him. "You can't keep still, huh?"
Cato grinned ruefully. "Sorry about that."
Alix shrugged. "No big deal," she told him. "You know we can't train right now, since apparently you" - she punched his gut lightly - "ate too much."
He laughed when she punched him, then rubbed the spot she punched. "Or risk getting a stomach ache," he said teasingly, poking her side.
This was them. Best friends, constantly doing this without harm, without shame.
She didn't care about what other people would say - or constantly kept saying - about the two of them. She enjoyed Cato's company; she just hoped he enjoyed hers as much as she did.
"Okay, okay," she said, trying to bat his hand away. He knew absolutely every ticklish spot she had, and she didn't want to get tickled right now. "Today is going to be one of those boring days, I just know it."
"How so?" Cato asked her. He looked around, then dumped his sheath on the ground. He threw himself down upon the grass, holding out his hand for her, inviting her to join him.
She slipped her hand into his, then sat down on the grass beside him. Again, to most, they'd find that simple gesture malicious. But honestly, they were just friends. Best friends, as far as anyone's concerned.
"I don't know. I just...know," she said, then when Cato laughed, she pushed him. "Okay, that sounded stupid, but - "
"But nothing," he chuckled. "I get what you mean. 'Sides, we seem to be the only two in this school, anyway. But they'll be back by Monday. As usual."
"We're not the only two here," Alix said, lying down, although she wasn't sure if Cato was wrong. It could be possible, since they were the only ones who didn't always want to go home. "No, I bet Clove's still here, somewhere. Or Dyan. Oh, wait, he went home last night."
Cato snorted. "He's your brother and you don't remember where he is," he said mockingly. "What kind of sister are you?"
"Shut up, Cato," she laughed. "I happen to be a great sister, you know."
"Well, so am I. A great brother, I mean."
"You don't have to tell me," she said, playing with the grass. "I believe you. Your sister adores you."
"She's five," he said dryly.
"So?" Alix said, turning on her side to face him. "If you weren't a great brother, she wouldn't adore you at all."
"I suppose you're right," he sighed.
"I bet she misses you," she said softly.
"I know she does," Cato said, "But I'm not going home."
Alix sighed. "Again? Why not?"
He turned around to face her too. "I just don't want to. You know how it is. You know how he is."
The 'he' Cato was referring to was his father. Alix knew about Cato's dad, how the man didn't seem to truly care for Cato at all.
She knew. She heard him every night when they were still living with their parents, scolding Cato for some small thing like missing a target by a measly centimeter.
It was as if Cato's dad cared more for the Games than he did for his son.
She also had the feeling that Cato's dad didn't like her at all. She couldn't understand why. She wasn't hurting Cato in any way, not like he was.
"Are you going home?" he asked in a quiet voice, looking into her eyes.
She hated it when he did that. Every time he did she had to control herself, to keep herself from blushing. It would give her away, and he'd find out, and everything would be ruined.
She shook her head vigorously so he wouldn't notice. "No, I'm not. Dyan's home; for Mom and Dad that's enough. They know I can take care of myself."
"You don't have to stay here for me, you know," he told her.
"Who said I was staying here for you?" she said defensively, but she was laughing.
He chuckled, but he said, "Be serious."
She smiled. "Okay, so maybe I'm staying here for you, but you're not the only reason."
"Enlighten me, then," he challenged. "What are the other reasons?"
Alix's mouth scrunched up. He knew she didn't have any other reason but that.
"See," he said, laying on his back again so he could watch the sky. "I don't know why you do these things for me."
"You're my friend, Cato," she sighed. "My best friend, remember? Always."
He chuckled. "Partners in crime."
"You?" she held out her fist.
"And me," he completed, touching his fist to hers.
That was already an old thing. They started it way back when they were ten, the first time they acknowledged to each other that they were best friends.
He suggested it. They were feeling awkward since they admitted to each other that they were best friends now, so he declared they make a handshake or something like that, to solidify it.
It's been their thing ever since.
"Alright," she said, getting up, "Time to stand up."
"Damn," Cato said, resting his hands behind his head. "Just when I feel comfortable already."
"C'mon, you lazy butt," she said, poking her sheath into his stomach. He laughed. "Do you want to train or what?"
"Fine, fine!" He said, standing up too. He threw his sheath over his shoulder again, taking a deep breath. Then he looked at her, a challenging glint in his eyes.
She looked at him suspiciously. "What?"
"I'm going to beat you this time," he told her, crossing his arms. "Hand-to-hand combat. You up for it?"
She smirked. She'd won against him, three days in a row, and what she'd realized was that all she had to do was smile at him. Then he'd seem to go off a little, then she could tackle him.
She didn't know what to make of that, but she took the opportunities gladly. "Like I couldn't beat you."
"I'd like to see you try," he said, grinning as they made their way back into the Academy.
A/N: Please review! This is my first Hunger Games multi-chap, and I sincerely hope you guys liked it!
This is only the starter chapter, and I've got the second chapter already here in my arsenal...it's just up to you guys whether or not I'll release this little mockingjay out into the world. :D
Again, please review!