Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, student loans would not be an issue and I would be able to travel the world. Alas, student loans is an issue and the world has yet been mine for the taking.

Pairing: Cato/Clove, Gale/Katniss/Peeta, Marvel/Glimmer, Finnick/Annie, others mentioned and alluded to.

Summary: AU. After a horrific accident, Clove McAllister is sent to live with her cousin Gale in the small town of Panem. Life, love, trust and tragedy come full force as a group of friends are confronted with falling apart of coming together.

Author's note: AU. So, no Hunger Games. Panem is a fictional town outside of Connecticut (which obviously doesn't exist, but humor me, please). Wherein Cato is nosy, Effie and Haymitch make an appearance and Clove rears the ugly side of her beautiful face.

This bittersweet tragedy

Chapter 4

Panem High is nowhere near as big as her old school but she somehow still manages to get lost. She's parted ways with Gale at this point, her feet trying to lead her to Calculus and his leading him to Physics. There is the constant hustle and bustle that always come with the first day of classes, sometimes Clove is practically thrown against the lockers, sometimes she's pushed out of the way but most of the time, she's ignored.

And that's fine with her. Because by now, the entire school knows she's new in town and that she's somehow the reason why best friends Gale and Katniss are not speaking to each other. Gale was infuriated when that one rumor reached his ears but Clove calmed him down, told him to remember their endgame. We're going to get the fuck out of here and never come back, she reminded him as gently as she could.

Even though she feels alone, she knows she's not. Gale always seems to pop up during class change and Marvel and Jo are in her World History class. She sees Katniss in the hallway, leaning against the lockers, Peeta standing next to her, whispering softly in her ear and Clove can feel her blood boil. Clenching the paper in her hand tightly, she makes a beeline to the door at the end of the hall. She steps into the class, as soon as the bell rings and she takes the empty seat in the second row.

The woman at the front of the class is authoritative in her own right. Tall, brown eyes and even darker hair; she stands straight and stares at the students with intense eyes. "Enough with the chit-chat." She says, her voice cutting through the air. The conversations end as soon as she speaks. "I take it everyone enjoyed their summer and if you didn't, I don't particularly care." Her eyes cut to the door as it creaks open. "How nice of you to join us, Mr. Lovett."

"Ah, come on, Paylor. You know I need to make an entrance."

"It's Ms. Paylor and anything less, I'll have you suspended. And yes, I can do that. Now, take a seat next to the new girl."

Please don't let it be him, Clove chants internally. Please, God, don't let it be him. God doesn't seem to be listening to her, because all she sees is a burly pale, blonde haired, blue-eyed boy sit beside her. "Hey Clovey." He says with a smirk.

"I hope you're all comfortable with where you're sitting, because the person sitting next to you is going to be you're partner for any and all assignments we're going to have in this class."

She doesn't know whether to scream or slap the smirk off of Cato's face.

"Haven't seen you in a while." Cato comments as he hands her the assigned worksheets. "Not since the bonfire."

Oh, you mean when everything blew to shit and your little group of friends, somehow disintegrated into nothing? That bonfire? "I've been spending time with my cousins."

"Gale isn't speaking to Katniss." Cato says after a lapse of silent.

"Well, it's not like Katniss is speaking to him either."

"I don't think you understand how serious this is. Katniss and Gale…they're best friends, before any of us, it was them."

Clove frowns and she turns around in her seat, "what does this have to do with me? My cousin is a grown guy who can obviously take care of himself and Katniss is being a petulant little shit. You can defend her all you want but even you know that dating Peeta is low. She'd have to be blind and stupid to not see that Gale's been in love with her since forever."

He shakes his head and his eyes are lit with merriment. "Anyone ever tell you you're really kind of beautiful when you're angry?"

She ignores the flutter in her heart and focuses on her anger. "You're tricks aren't going to work on me. You want Katniss and Gale to kiss and make-up, do it on your own. I want nothing to do with it."

Cato hums, "and why is that? Your cousin just lost his best friend and you're not trying to patch things up. That seems, backwards, doesn't it?"

It is backwards, Clove will admit to that, but Gale has been her rock. Gale has been her everything since the accident and she doesn't want to lose that. She doesn't want to be left alone in a new town, in a new school with people who don't know her and as of this moment, probably don't even like her. She doesn't want to be left alone with her nightmares of being the only survivor of her family. So, she hasn't tried to patch things up between Katniss and Gale because it really is none of her business and for once, she just wants to have the knowledge that Gale will always be by her side. "What are you trying to say?"

"They've gotten into fights before." Cato says, ignoring her question, "and I mean fights. But they always manage to make up within the day. But this…this one is epic. And it's been a couple weeks, which leaves us all on edge and makes us wonder, I mean it is curious, Gale's attachment and commitment to you. He snaps at anyone who insults you, he's protective of you and the only person outside of his immediate family that he protects is Katniss." He leans back in his chair, "I'm not saying anything. I'm asking. What happened in Manhattan that made Gale change and made you move?"

"None of your business."

"Lovett, New Girl." Ms, Paylor snaps, "stop flirting and do your work."

Clove counts to ten to ensure that her heartbeat goes back to normal.

After Calculus she has a free period, so she makes a beeline for the library. It's not a large library, but it's big enough to hide her and that's all that Clove cares about. There's hardly anyone in the library, most students in their classes or on an extended lunch break.

She makes her way to the back of the library and plops down on one of the chairs, head on her arms. She doesn't want to be here. Doesn't want to be in this town. In this school. Doesn't want to feel so alone. She's known as the new girl to students and teachers. No one cares about her. Not that she can blame them. She hasn't exactly been the nicest person.

But Cato…that damn boy manages to get under her skin and he always, always asks about Manhattan. Always asks about what happened, as if he knows there's something more going on with her than just a change of scenery. As if he knows she's volatile, one misstep and she's on the dissent into a darkness that she knows no one will be able to pull her out of.

She lets out a small sigh and frowns when she hears high pitched talking. "No! Darius, he obviously meant no harm. He's just…well, yes I understand that…I'm at work…is he hurt?...he did what? Oh, that insufferable inebriate fool…no, I understand. Right after work, I promise to pick him up…thank you ever so much, Darius."

Clove bends forward and sees a tall women in stiletto heels, a pink skirt and white shirt. Her blonde hair is loose. She's an older woman in her late twenties or early thirties and obviously, according to her nametag, the librarian. The woman lets out a small shriek as soon as she sees Clove. "Oh! Hello, dear, I didn't see you there."

"Drunken trouble?" Clove asks conversationally.

The woman sighs, "I suppose you can say that. He's sleeping it off in the drunk tank. I swear, he sleeps there more than in his own bed."

"So, then why put up with him?" Clove asks, as if it's the most obviously thing in the world. Not that she should even be asking. It's so obviously none of her business but there's something about this women, this tall blonde haired blue eyed woman that seems sad and lonely and trying to cover it up as much as she can. And Clove…well, Clove finds that she can relate.

The woman lets out a sad sigh and her entire demeanor changes, "it's a very long and complicated story that I wouldn't wish on anyone." Then she brightens up and claps her hand, "oh! How silly of me to forget my manners, my name is Ms. Effie Trinket, Librarian. Is there anything I can help you with my dear?"

Clove shakes her head, "Just…catching my bearings."

Effie nods, "Of course! It's such a big big big day for you isn't it?"

Clove manages a small smile for the woman. "Sure. I guess it is."

"Clove." Annie breathes as she makes her way through the library. "There you are, I've been looking everywhere for you."

Clove frowns and looks away from her textbook and notes. "What for?" She likes Annie. There's something about the brunette that is…different.

"It's lunch and I want you to sit with us."

Clove lets out a little laugh and shakes her head. "Yeah, no. That's not going to happen."

Annie frowns, "well, why not? We're all going to be there."

Clove sighs and pushes her chair away from the desk. "Look, Annie, I like you. You seem really cool and maybe, one day, I will sit with you guys at lunch but right now…I just…it's a little overwhelming."

The brunette is silent for a few moments, rocking back and forth on the heels of her feet. "You know, you don't have to go through this alone. I can tell that…you're sad and I just…it's better to have a support system. So, when you're ready, we'll be here. We'll all be here, because that's what we do."

Clove nods slowly. "Thanks Annie." Then she turns around and goes back to studying.

Annie leaves a few seconds after that and Clove is left listening to the clock as it ticks time away.

She manages to get through the rest of her day (AP English Literature and Chemistry with Gale) with little to no trouble. She's in Katniss' AP English class and thankfully, the teacher is all about alphabetical order, so she and Katniss are on opposite sides of the room. Not that it really matters because Katniss Everdeen is the last thing that Clove cares about.

Gale has practice after school, so she tells him that she'll wait around. It's nice out, she says, I'll do my homework outside. Except, it turns out the rest of his friends think so too. So, Clove spots Jo, Annie and Katniss sitting on the bleachers and watching the boys play football.

She doesn't want to deal with Katniss. Doesn't really want to deal with any of them so, she makes her way onto the field, clutching the straps of her backpack and finds Gale through the mesh of sweaty teenage boys. "I'll meet you at home." She tells Gale.

Gale turns around from his conversation with Finnick and Cato and frowns. "You don't know the way."

"Yeah," Finnick smirks, "we wouldn't want you to get lost."

Clove rolls her eyes, "this town is a square. If I somehow managed all of New York, I think I can handle Panem."

"Are you sure?" Gale asks worriedly.


"We still on for tomorrow?" Cato calls out loudly.

Clove grasps her straps harder. Right, she forgot that she was going to meet him at lunch to go over Calculus. Fantastic. And now, the rest of the school knows it too. He's wearing a small smirk, as if knowing how uncomfortable it is. "Sure."

"It's a date then." He challenges.

Clove bristles. "It definitely isn't but hey, whatever makes sense in your deluded mind. See you at home Gale."

"What the fuck is going on with you and my cousin?" Gale snaps as he turns around to Cato.

So, even though Panem is literally a square, Clove manages to get lost. Or maybe she just doesn't want to go back to the house. Or maybe…yeah, no, she's lost. It's not that she meant to get lost; it's just that, it happened. Naturally of course.

She hears huffing and a shrill familiar voice and a male voice bellowing. She frowns and turns around to see Ms. Effie Trinket, the school librarian struggling to carry a man nearly twice her size. He's not making it any easier for the librarian.

"This is your fault."

"How is this my fault? Did I shove whiskey down your throat at the break of dawn you insufferable oaf?"

"I hate you."

"Well, you're no picnic either." She snaps.

"Ms. Trinket?" Clove asks, "Do you need some help?"

The man squints at the new voice, "who's the midget?"

"Oh. My. God. Your lack of manners is appalling!" She smiles brightly at Clove. "No dear, it's alright, I've got this. Run along and have fun."

Right. Have fun. She would, if she knew where the fuck she was going.

In the end, it's Vick who finds her. She's long since, given up trying to find her way back to the house, so she camps out at the gazebo, where she takes up the bench with her homework and buries her head in analyzing poems for English.

"Jesus, Clove!" Vick yells, "we've been looking everywhere for you!"

"Oddly," Clove muses, "that's the second time someone's said that to me today."

Vick rolls his eyes. "Gale came home without you and mom asked where you were and Gale was like 'she came home earlier' and then mom was like 'um…no. No. She didn't.' Gale went so pale and now we've split up looking for you. I'm going to call them and let them know. You couldn't have called us?"

"Phone died during school." She explains. "I didn't mean to worry anyone."

"Yeah, yeah. Can't wait until mom gets her hands on you. She's going to wring your neck. Not to mention Gale. He'll probably kill you."

Her aunt Hazelle takes one look at her, bursts into tears, hugs her and then promptly grounds her.

Gale however looks at her with amusement, worry and a little bit of anger. "A square huh?"

"Octagon?" Clove supplies.

Despite her prior wishes, Clove gets involved with the entire Katniss and Gale drama. She wasn't planning on it, but she sees him staring at old photos on his phone when they're sitting on the couch and it saddens her to see how sad he is, so she sighs and asks, "how come you haven't made up with Katniss yet?"

"Because she doesn't want to." Is his reply.

"Do you know that?" She presses.

"Why would she when she has Peeta?" The bitterness is definitely there.

"Because you're Gale and she's Katniss or your Catnip, or whatever."

There's silence before he lets out a huge sigh, "I told her I loved her. I mean, I actually told her and she hasn't said anything, hasn't texted anything, hasn't done anything. If that's not rejection, I don't know what is."

"She's confused." Clove rationalizes, even though it physically pains her to defend Katniss. "She thinks she's supposed to be with Peeta probably because you never made your move and then she loses you. Loses the only steady thing in her life, probably and she freaks. Gale…talk to her."

"And say what? 'hey, sorry, I blurted out I love you, let bygones be bygones even though I really fucking hate your boyfriend? Oh and by the way, yeah, I still love you.' Yeah, Clove, I'm sure that'll go over great."

"Gale." She says sharply. "Get your head out of your ass. She is right here. She is right in front of you. She goes to school with you. She has the same friends as you. You're wasting your time with this petty argument. Okay, I get it, she took out your heart and stomped on it but she's been your best friend since you were kids and she's alive. Nobody has forever Gale. Would you rather her in your life as you best friend or not in your life at all?"

"Can't I have her as a best friend and a girlfriend?"

"Maybe someday but it's obviously not going to be today, or like, anytime in the near future."

"I'm not apologizing for telling her I love her."

"Never asked you to."

He blows a raspberry and nudges her thigh with his foot. "You doing okay?"

She lapses into silence, is she doing okay? What, is he joking? "No." She answers him truthfully. "I'm not."

"What's going on between you and Cato?"

She groans and puts a pillow over her face. "Nothing!"

A week passes and Clove is still not doing okay. More than once a day, she has to count to ten to try and control her breathing, her thoughts, her emotions. She's waiting for the day that things get somewhat easier, still helplessly waits and hopes that maybe, just maybe, time really is all she needs. Then she remembers her aunt Hazelle and realizes that the older woman is right. Time healing all wounds is a crock of shit.

She manages to control her hysteria around Posy though. Trying her best to smile and when she feels like sobbing, she goes all the way downstairs to the living room and smothers her cries in a pillow.

Nights hurt the most. Because all she can remember is creeping down the stairs in her old home and curling on her favorite couch with her favorite blanket and watching old black and white movies. All she can remember is waking up to the smell of coffee and her mother sitting at the kitchen table smiling warily at her. At least during the day she has school (and oddly Effie) to keep her distracted but everything comes rearing its ugly head at night when shadows of who she used to be creep up on her.

Katniss and Gale made up. He told Clove late one night that he texted her and early the morning, Clove wakes up to the sound of muffled voices. She can make out Katniss and Gale's voices and since she doesn't hear any screams, she figures that they're okay. That everything will somehow work itself out between the two of them.

Clove doesn't sit with them at lunch. Instead, she makes her way to the library and buries herself in her schoolwork. Sometimes, Cato meets her there to work on Calculus. He'll flirt, she'll steady her heartbeat and nonchalantly reject him.

Today is one of those days that he's in the library with her. They're working on an assignment that she wants to get done because she still has the Crusades to cover for History and more poems to analyze for English, not to mention her Chemistry homework that taunts her from her backpack. Oh, and it's Friday, so she would rather not have Calculus to do over the weekend.

They're done in record timing, even have five minutes to spare before the warning bell goes off. She lets out a sigh and looks at the boy across from her. She didn't notice it before because she was so engrossed in her work but he hasn't really said much that isn't Calculus related. Which she should feel happy about but for some reason, it makes her uneasy. He hasn't flirted with her, hasn't tried his usual tricks that almost seem routine now and for some reason he can't even look her in the eyes.

She leans back in her chair and levels him with a stare. "What is it? You haven't been…acting like yourself."

He fiddles with the pencil in his hands, twirling it around his fingers; her eyes follow it, growing slightly dizzy. "I was talking to a friend last night…he told me some things."

"Are you okay? Is…your family okay?" She won't deny that she's slightly worried for him. He annoys her half the time, infuriates her the other half but makes her heart beat so damn fast most of the time that she can't help feeling worried.

"It's not about me, but thanks for your concern." He manages a small smile and lifts his head to look at her. "I talked to Thresh."

Thresh. The name alone almost makes her burst into tears. Thresh. The tall, intimidating boy that she's competed against everything for. She always used to partner up with him back home in any class they were in with each other. They competed with grades, extra-curricular activities, student council and favoritism from their classmates and teachers (she nearly always won that because she's so much more talkative than he is). Thresh. Her first kiss. Her first…well…everything. He's a scholarship student that always kept her on her toes and since the accident she pulled away from him, refused to answer his calls, texts, e-mails (and okay, so maybe her and Gale share more than blood, they also have a tendency to push people away).

"How do you even know Thresh?" She asks, her voice devoid of any emotion.

He spins some story about camp when they were younger and how they kept in touch since then and she can't help but feel like she's heard this story before, but definitely the short and to-the-point version from Thresh. Cato lets out a breath and looks at her again. This time Clove can see the sadness and pity in his blue eyes. "Clove…I didn't know…I'm-"

"Save it." She hisses, she can feel the anger and frustration coursing through her body. Her mind is a jumbled mess and she's overcome with the sudden vicious feeling that she wants to stab something. "You had no right. You have no right."

"Why didn't you just tell me?" He asks. "We're friends."

"It's none of your business and what the fuck is up with you people? We're not friends. I'm no one's friend."

"Clove?" Effie asks hesitantly as she peers over at them, her eyes are wide with concern, "are you alright dear?"

"Fine." She says through grinding teeth. She puts a hand up when Cato opens his mouth. "Shut-up. I don't want your excuses. I don't want your meaningless apologies. You want to know why I didn't tell you? Any of you? First, it's none of your fucking business, second, I don't know you and third it's none of your fucking business. I'm leaving. Tell Gale I'm leaving and that if he knows what's good for himself and humanity, no one will come after me."

She stomps her way out of the library and pushes past an oblivious Glimmer, a confused and worried Annie and a disinterested Jo.

She wants to cry. Wants to scream. But most of all, she just really wants to die.

She sends a text to Vick telling him that she's fine and she'll be home later but no one try to look for her. She still needs to calm down. Still needs to get a hold of herself and her emotions. Counting to ten doesn't work anymore. Nothing seems to work anymore.

She's humiliated. She didn't want anyone to know. Didn't want to be known as the orphan girl. She doesn't want anyone's pity and she's pretty sure that's what ticked her off at the library. She could see the pity in Cato's eyes and she hated it.

She folds her legs under her and looks at the setting sky from her spot in the gazebo.

"Haymitch, come back. Watch out! Oh, you fool, let me help." She hears Effie and it's almost like clockwork with Effie and Haymitch, a man she's never met and at this point doesn't really want to.

"Leave me alone, woman. This is your fault. Everything is your fault!" He slurs his words but even Clove can hear the venom behind them.


"You're pathetic. You know why she was ever friends with you? Because she felt sorry for you. And you killed her. Murderer. Murderer!"

Clove whips her head around and sees Effie rooted to the spot. She's grown sickly pale and her hand is covering her mouth.

"I've got this Trinket." An older man with one hand appears next to Effie. He looks to be tipsy but nowhere near as intoxicated as Haymitch. "Just…relax or something. He doesn't mean half the shit he says. He's drunk as a skunk."

"Skunks can't get drunk." Effie says, her voice cracking but her eyes never leave Haymitch who has quieted down and is looking everywhere but at Effie. She turns her head and looks at the older man and nods. "Thank you very much."

The two leave and Clove watches as Effie stumbles her way to the gazebo. She looks startled to see Clove there and then she bows her head, as if shamed. "Are you…everything okay, Effie?" Clove asks hesitantly.

Effie nods and tries to smile. "Of course it is dear. You know what they say…sticks and stones."

Effie Trinket breaks Clove's heart. From the first day of school, Clove has liked the librarian. She's eccentric and hardly ever stops talking sure, but she doesn't bother Clove, always manages to make her chuckle as she reprimands students on their manners of all things and has Vice Principle Heavensbee wrapped around her pinky finger. The fact that there's always a chocolate treat on her desk in the library desk at lunch is always a plus too.

Clove moves to make more room for Effie at the other end of the bench and she sighs. She looks at Effie whose body is still trembling and for one moment, Clove is transported back in time. (She's sitting in the ambulance, a blanket around her shoulders, trembling like a leaf as she watches both her parents wheeled away on a stretcher, white sheets covering their bodies).

"My parents are dead." Clove tells her quietly. "It was a car accident coming back from my soccer game. I was in the back."

"My best friend-Maysilee Donner-was driving. She was Haymitch's girlfriend and we were in Manhattan. I had just gotten promoted at the New York Public Library. She came up to celebrate and she died. Haymitch has never forgiven me. It all happened so fast. One minute we were laughing, the next minute she's dead and I'm barely breathing." She blinks away the tears but some slip out. "Sometimes, I still feel like that. Like I'm barely breathing."

"You and I both, Effie. You and I both."

When she gets to the house that night, it's dark. She doesn't bother going to her room. No, instead, she goes straight for the sofa, grabs the remote, turns on the television and furiously flicks through the channels until she lands on the one she's looking for. There's an old black and white movie playing, she doesn't know the title, doesn't particularly care.

She does however, grab the pillow and put it over her face, smothering her tears and swallowing her cries.

Pity is an ugly emotion but grief is even worse.

So…I've rewritten this chapter probably three times and settled on this one. Also, I would have had this up sooner, but I kind of got hooked oh Haymitch/Effie, which is obvious. I just…love them. Like I love Clato.

Also, so I'm Canadian. So, my dear American friends on fanfiction, if someone would be so kind to PM with information about homecoming (what is it exactly?) and Prom (is it before or after the graduation ceremony?) that would be greatly appreciated. Because, I don't want to get anything wrong in this and I've been reading up but it's different with everything I read. Also, does the first football game fall on Homecoming or not? It's a little bit different where I live…so, yeah. Any help is greatly appreciated.

HUGE THANKS TO MY REVIEWERS!:rochay97, clovelycato555, Lex, Clato 27, GottaLoveClove, Dovewoman951, CatoxClove, DCdreamer55 and Katrina Luvs You. If I missed anyone I apologize! Also, HUGE THANKS to everyone to favorited/alerted, all that jazz, because without you, this wouldn't be possible!

Last note: I know I shouldn't do, I really know I shouldn't but if anyone is an Hayffie fan, I'm going to have a story about them out either later tonight or later tomorrow night. It's going to be called The Illuminated Ones It's going to be AU but still in Hunger Games verse. I won't say anymore than that, but Effie will be living in District 12 (you'll have to read to find out why!) Also, head's up, ages will be changed. Circumstances will be changed. Hearts will be broken. People unfortunately will die and may the odds be ever in your favor. (I'm done with the shameless pimping, hopefully).

That's it, that's all! I promise…for now. LOL.

Much love,


P.S. I apologize for any mistakes!