Clove nail's dig into Cato's back, her hands press bruises into his neck.
"You know this doesn't change anything, right?" she asks him between kisses, her fingers lingering on his skin and her hot breath against his face.
Cato grins. "I know," he says.
And he does know. Things like this don't change anything. They never have.
It's the night before the Games, and naturally Cato has ended up in Clove's bedroom to be with her one more time. This certainly isn't the first moment when they've touched or kissed or fucked; there's been plenty of other occasions back at the Academy, in the gym or in their dorms or in their beds.
Now, in her room at the Capitol, Clove smiles at him, showing all her teeth. Her irises, dark as coal, sparkle and dance, as bright and fierce and alive as they've always been.
"I'm going to kill you, you know," she says, trailing her fingers over his collarbone. And he can practically feel her thinking, feel her calculating, feel her planning exactly how she's going to do it; exactly which knife she'll use, exactly where she'll force it into his chest.
He laughs and, in one swift motion, switches their positions so he's the one pressing her against the wall.
"Maybe..." he murmurs, as he watches her eyes, watches passion flicker in and out of them like a broken streetlight.
"But I might kill you first," he finishes, and then, as if to prove his point, he grabs her arms, pins her wrists to the wall, presses his body against hers, renders her motionless-it's so easy, he notices, that it's like she's paper and he's a paperweight. He's always been stronger, he knows: older, and larger, and bigger.
And then her lips are on his, and he disappears, fades into the shape of her mouth and the curve of her hips and the darkness of her eyes. It's a bloody, violent affair: sucking lips until they turn blue, biting tongues until they start to bleed, pulling hair out of heads, shoving into walls and breaking bones.
But that's how he likes it, that's how she likes it, that's why they like each other.
And eventually, of course, they end up without their clothes, Clove's dress on the floor and Cato's clothes next to it, ripped and torn; and then they're falling into each other, each falling into the other body that he knows as well as his own.
And that night, Clove counts every bruise, every cut, every scar she's ever given him; every mark she's ever left on his skin, from the shoulder wound she gave him on the first day she met him, to the still-healing shape of the injury she'd inflicted on him just yesterday, shoving her knife into his thigh at the training center.
"Twenty-three," she murmurs to him, once she's finished counting, once she's finished tallying the marks; once her fingers have traced every bruise, her nails have picked at every cut, her mouth has been on every scar.
"Twenty-three," he repeats, mostly to himself. It's more than he expected.
She's marked him, scarred him, permanently changed him twenty-three times.
Twenty-three. She's made herself a part of him, eternally and irrevocably, twenty-three times.
And as her mouth finds its way back to his lips, and her tongue finds its way between his teeth, and her fingers find their way into his hair, he feels every one of her moves burning him; every kiss, every scratch, every touch feels like fire on his skin; feels like a train crash, feels like a plunge into ice water.
It feels like she's marking him, every touch leaving just one more scar.
And the next morning, before he leaves, the last thing she says to him, with a toothy smile and those bright eyes, is "I'm going to kill you."
And he laughs and grins back, smile cocky and arrogant and confident as always. "Maybe," he says.
But as he walks out of her room, softly closing the door behind him, he can't help but think that it isn't a maybe. It's definite. He thinks of all those bruises, all those cuts, all those scars, and all he can imagine is her, throwing a dagger into his heart, marking him one last time. He can't imagine it any other way.
However, his imagination wrong. The last mark she gives him is not a wound in the chest, or a slit on the throat, or a blow to the head.
The last mark is a dark red stain, her blood running through his fingers; it's him, holding her in his arms, crying for her to stay with him.