Author's Note: This is a one-shot story along my 'usual theme' of forgiveness and redemption. It is loosely related to my earlier story To Banish Darkness, but with one significant change in that Clove's spirit did not get 'stranded' in the Arena whilst those of the other Tributes got to 'move on' into their afterlife. She is instead able to join the ex-Tributes in their new found peaceful unity. I'm not quite sure why I wrote it this way, maybe I'm getting to like Clove, or at least understand her more. Rue I see as an 'old soul', one wise beyond her years who after her death of course became an 'angel'. She is strongly instrumental in helping the Tributes to reconcile with each other and accept their fate.
Disclaimer: As should be self-evident from my site profile I am not Suzanne Collins. Therefore I hold no claim to these characters. They are all the brilliant work of the author herself and I thank her for the opportunity to 'play' in her world for a while.
Chapter 1: Deja Vu
Clove emerged from the launch tube onto her podium, but in front of her instead of a golden Cornucopia stacked high with weapons and supplies she could see only a beautiful unspoilt meadow, with tall grass and waving wild flowers. Looking left and right she saw the other podiums were all empty.
' What is this?' She thought. She looked at her wrist but did not have her watch on so she counted down the sixty seconds as best she could, since she didn't want to step off too early because of the mines. When she thought sufficient time had passed she got off the podium and looked around her. She had thought herself all alone in this grassland, but looking towards the lake she could see in the distance on it's banks there were a small group of people.
Having no idea what was happening and there being no weapons available to collect she decided to walk towards them, as they didn't seem to be fighting, but simply sitting together in a circle. Upon getting closer to the group Clove became even more confused as she could recognise individuals amongst them. They were her fellow Tributes but none of them were attacking each other and all seemed far too cheerful and relaxed, simply chatting together and some occasionally laughing.
Drawing near to the circle of people a boy spotted her approaching and called out to the others saying, "Hey look everyone, it's Clove, she's here at last, it's about bloody time, I wish the others would hurry up, then we can make a move."
She recognised the boy, but she had a strange feeling he shouldn't be here, that somehow she had already killed him. How could that be?
Then looking around the circle she saw nearly all the other Tributes, all except the District 12 couple, Peeta & Katniss, Thresh from District 11, the red-headed girl she thought was called Amber Finch from District 5. Other than those few people and her own beloved Cato of course all the Tributes of the 74th Hunger Games were present. Everyone she'd known, or at least had seen at the Training Centre in The Capitol were in the circle, sat on the grass.
She saw Rue, the little girl Tribute from District 11 and was amazed that she had her arms around a sobbing Marvel, trying to comfort the boy whom Clove felt somehow certain had already been her murderer. But that was of course nonsense, she was obviously alive and well. For some reason though Marvel, who was a fellow Career seemed utterly contrite and heart broken. Seeing Clove arriving Rue gave Marvel another hug, whispered in his ear and he finally smiled at her, if a little sadly. Rue then stood up, walked over to Clove and took her by her hands. Clove was shocked as she would have expected the child to be running in terror from her.
Rue greeted her, saying, "Welcome Clove, we're nearly all here now, just my friend Thresh and a couple of others to come and we can all be off. Thresh should be along soon, then there'll just be Amber Finch and your boyfriend Cato to wait for. Katniss and Peeta won't be joining us for many years I'm glad to say, we'll see them later when we get to where we are going. Meanwhile please come and sit by me and Marvel whilst we wait for Amber and the two boys, they won't keep us waiting long.
In a daze of incomprehension Clove sat down in the circle next to Rue as she was asked, feeling this was all very odd. Rue smiled at her reassuringly, once again took her hand and said, "Don't worry Clove, there's nothing to fear here, your memory will come back soon, it usually only takes a little while so just relax. No-one will harm you here and no-one bears any grudges or hatred towards you, not even those whom you killed."
"But who have I killed and why don't I remember." Clove thought, very confused.
Then, like waking from a dream Clove's memory did indeed slowly begin to return. She remembered this was not the first time she had entered this Arena. Memories began to flood back and she found that she now knew why she'd felt the way she had about the boy who'd spotted her arrival. She had indeed killed him with a knife she'd thrown, as he was trying to kill Katniss. She had not been trying to save her rival but had wanted the pleasure of killing her for herself. The boy she'd hit was dead, but Katniss had survived by shielding herself with a backpack from a second thrown knife, which Clove had used to try and kill her as well,.
Then looking around the circle she began to remember everything. All these people were dead, she knew. Not by any means all of them her own victims, but nevertheless all had been killed, which could mean only one thing. "I must be dead too." She thought, stunned at the realisation.
Then the horrific memories of her own final moments came back to her. She remembered the way her feelings had instantly switched from her exhilaration at finally being able to kill Katniss, to stark terror as Thresh had pulled her off of her intended victim and smashed her head with a rock, mistaking her for Rue's killer. She remembered Cato's desolation at not being in time to save her and his tears of grief, something which even in her dying state had astonished Clove, since Cato was always so strong, undemonstrative and stoical. To see him cry at loosing her had touched her deeply. She had never even been able to tell him how much she loved him, she remembered sadly.
Rue could see that Clove had remembered what had happened to her by the shocked expression on her face and squeezed her hand more tightly. Clove began to cry copiously and for the first time in the many years of her Career Training, after spending most of her young life learning to hate and kill she began to feel remorse, the horror of her own death experience and of what she'd lost forcing her to realise what she herself had done to others. She looked round the circle at her fellow deceased Tributes and sobbed out apologies to her victims, who all seemed to be oddly forgiving of her actions, something which she was very grateful for, but puzzled by.
Her first victim, the boy from the 'bloodbath' however summed it up, by saying; "Clove, you killed me, for sure, but then I too was in the act of trying to kill Katniss when you did so, I was no innocent. At least what you did to me was quick and merciful, for that at least I am grateful. We shouldn't hold grudges and grieve because our very presence here means that for certain we will all one day be reunited with those who love us, so really we have lost very little, what is a human lifetime in eternity?"
The boy went on, saying, "It's my loved ones I feel sorry for and not myself, they don't know I'm here and safe. But at least they saw that I didn't suffer and I was alive in the Arena for such a short time they never had the chance to build up false hope. You see Clove I knew I never had a chance in this sick 'Game', I'm sure most of us non Careers believed deep down that we didn't have any real chance of surviving. I was terrified of an agonising slow death but by your trained skill you spared me that, my death by your knife was almost a blessing by taking me out of the fear of far worse pain.
The boy finished by saying, "I think from the very start we all knew, even yourself Clove, that it was always going to be either the District 12 couple Katniss and Peeta, or yourself and Cato who would survive.
Now you're dead I'd bet that Cato no longer even cares about winning a so-called 'Victory' for himself alone. I'm sure he loves you and misses you too much to really want to carry on, he's just going through the motions now because he knows nothing else, but he won't win. Now it is certain Katniss and Peeta will get to go home and they deserve to. They didn't ask to be sent into the Arena, Peeta was reaped and Katniss had no choice but to volunteer to save her sister. Lot's of us were forced into this Arena but for some reason I feel that pair have a purpose beyond a mere 'victory. That they will do great things together."
Clove, still crying, sobbed out her thanks to the boy for his kind words, which she knew she didn't deserve. She said, still crying, "I killed you and I never even knew your name, I'm so sorry, I treated you like a practice target not a person. It was despicable of me."
The boy smiled a little sadly and replied. "Yes, I know, but you had long been brainwashed to act like that by vile and destructive degenerates, at least now we two can meet and speak together like people, not murderer and victim. I'm called Kavan Brightsea, I have a mother, father and younger sister who loved and will miss me, but I pray they don't hate you, since you did what you did simply as the unthinking tool of other's evil. Clove, I forgive you totally." And with that Kavan walked over to the crying girl, hugged her and kissed her cheek.
Clove felt a warmth for the boy flood through her heart, a heart which once had been stone for all but one other person, her beloved Cato. Thinking of what Kavan had said about him she realised that she would soon be seeing him again and her spirits leapt . She had never properly told Cato that she loved him before she'd died, nor had he said so to her. She had been too busy acting the heartless killer bitch and Cato the perfect cold blooded killing machine. But his actions when she was killed spoke volumes about his feelings for her. She knew that soon she would also be able to confess her love for him and that they would be able to face whatever the future held together.
Glimmer, now beautiful again, the horrible effects of the tracker jacker stings having vanished from her face next got up from the other side of the circle and came to hug Clove. Such a display of open affection between them was something neither of them would have willingly done or tolerated in life, but Clove now found she needed reassurance and hugged her back.
Glimmer said; "Welcome to our 'new world' dear Clove. Career Academy taught us both how to hate and kill, but here we have another 'curriculum' to learn, that of love and forgiveness. Our dear Angelic friend Rue here, and yes she really is an Angel and one who is wise far beyond her earthly years, has already begun to teach us and I'm looking forward to having a friend to learn with. Rue has told us before you arrived in our circle that she was sent to Earth for this purpose, to be our 'escort' and teacher in the afterlife and that she will stay with us when we get to where we are headed.
We will all be staying together for a while, both friends and ex-foes as we learn to grow and heal. As to me I have no regrets about my death, although it's manner was, I must admit, far from pleasant. But I was a useless Career anyway, I was a hopeless shot with a bow and thankfully couldn't even hit Katniss when she was a 'sitting duck' in a tree. Also I messed up my only 'cold blooded' kill and Peeta had to help poor Alia to die. I was just telling her again how terribly bad I feel about what I did to her when you arrived, I hope she can bring herself to forgive me. Some 'Career' I was, all in all I'm glad to be out of those horrible so-called Games, as are we all."
The girl tribute Alia Westerman, whom Glimmer had just mentioned stood up and walked over towards her, then took Glimmer by the hand saying. "I do forgive you my dear, like Kavan said about Clove you were only doing what those who had brainwashed you compelled you to do. What's more even though I wasn't a Career I'd also swallowed their lies and I would have happily killed you in order to survive, had I but got the chance, so I can scarcely claim innocence. Of course, like you said, you bungled the job, but I'm certain it was only because of your nerves and lack of experience that the 'kill' wasn't clean. Thankfully dear Peeta was so kind to me. He came to me where I lay bleeding by my fire and we talked as he held me. I spoke to him about my home and family, about how much I missed them and then, only when I asked him to, he took me out of the pain. No my dear Glimmer, I can't hold a grudge against you, eternity is too long for such foolishness.
Then the two young girls hugged and kissed each other on the cheek and cried on each other's shoulders.
Then suddenly Rue shouted "Thresh!" And standing up began running towards a large male figure who was approaching the group from across the meadow. Repeatedly crying out his name in joy the 'little girl turned Angel' launched herself in a huge flying leap into the giant young man's strong arms. He caught her and held her tightly, kissing her and saying he was so pleased to see her again and was so sorry he hadn't been better able to protect her. Then the pair joined the circle and sat down.
It was Clove who began their inevitable conversation and with Rue's support she told Thresh that she forgave him, both for killing her and also for his mistake in thinking her Rue's murderer. Marvel then owned up to that crime and eventually after a number of mutual apologies the trio became reconciled.
Clove finally said, "I'm so glad you let Katniss live Thresh, it was very honourable of you and by doing so as a result Rue's told me I can now be certain my darling Cato will soon be able to be here with me. Thank you dear Thresh, you did not know it at the time but you made it certain that my happiness will soon be complete. I'm so sorry Cato killed you, but once he'd seen me dead at your hands a whole army couldn't have stopped him in his fury. Please be kind to him when he gets here, he actually had just cause I think."
"You're right in that Clove." Thresh replied. "I let my anger get the better of me and lashed out at you mistakenly." Then grinning unexpectedly Thresh said, "You should have seen the fight we had though Clove! It was amazing, a real 'Battle Royal' and your Cato was magnificent! I think the better warrior won, I'm stronger but he has loads of stamina and more fighting skills, having been Career trained, but it was damn close let me tell you! If I hadn't lost my footing at a critical moment it might well have gone the other way and then he'd already be here with you by now. We'll be winding each other up about that fight for the rest of eternity I bet. I'm glad it went the way it did though, Katniss and Peeta deserve to go home and I'd have been heartbroken to have to try kill them, even if I could. Anway, if I'd 'won' I'd not be here with dear Rue again, which is better than any so-called 'victory' as far as I'm concerned. Thresh beamed and hugged his young friend."
Clove smiled back at him and said, "In a way it would have been an honour to have seen the strongest two warriors of our 'Games' duel with each other, my 'old self' would have revelled in it I'm sure and some small part of me would still enjoy it, as I'm so proud of my Cato and his martial skills. But now all I really want is my Cato here with me and for us both to know the peace and friendship our upbringing denied us. I'm so happy to be here sat in peace with all my new found friends."
Rue chipped in to say, "Don't worry Thresh, you may have lost against Cato this time round but see if he'll settle for 'best of three', I'll explain in more detail later but I think you and him will have many a chance to pit your skills against each other again in the future, but in a non lethal fashion next time I'm glad to say." She kissed him on his forehead then with her eyes shining with happiness to have her 'champion' back with her looked around and spoke to everyone, saying, "Just Amber Finch and Cato to come now, then we can all move on soon.