And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around

Our love is questioned, such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it's always darkest before the dawn

-Shake it Out, by Florence + the Machine

~Cato~

I gaped for a solid ten seconds before Lyme coughed. But I couldn't help myself. How was I supposed to?

"Look at you," I called out, my voice raspy. "What's the occasion?"

She shifted. "Well, there's this thing called New Year's. You've probably heard of it before."

"Never in my life." I walked forward, feeling like I was moving in a phantom's body. Billowing curls, thick lashes, and a black dress that hugged every muscle in her. I could only imagine how many hundreds of miles went into those.

Something about it made my stomach drop very quickly.

"Shouldn't you be celebrating with Quaid right now?" I asked.

"Absolutely."

"Then why aren't you?"

She kept chewing at her lip, and it took her a minute before sayings, "Because I'm here to see you."

"Why?"

"Because I can't stop thinking about you." I could hear a note of frustration in her voice.

"Since when?"

"When the fuck d'you think?" she said, irritated. "Since your heartfelt confession at Quaid's party last week, genius."

I snorted. "Well, it took you long enough."

It was a harmless comment, but the look she gave me said otherwise. "Fuck you, Cato." I hardly had time to register it before she turned on her heel and started walking away.

Wait a minute.

She was a pissy girl, but comments like that didn't get her worked up. No, something else had to be eating at her. And if there was one thing Clove couldn't stand to talk about—

Oh, shit.

I just blew it.

I ran forward, and grabbed her arm.

"Hey, wait, I'm sorry—"

"Cato."

"Really, that was stupid, I'm an ass."

She whipped around to face me. "Do me a favor and let go of my wrist."

I shook my head. "I'm not letting you walk out on me."

"Then stop." She said. "You want me stick around? Stop interrogating me and let me say what I have to say, because if I think too much about it then it's never going to come out!"

I furrowed a brow. "Too much about what?"

She hit my hand, and I dropped her arm, hanging on to the look in her brown eyes. "The fact that I can't get you off my mind. The fact that you're in love with me, which I still don't understand—"

I laughed, and this time I didn't care if it sounded mean. "Really, Clove? That's what you're here to talk about, why I'm in love with you? Well stop looking for answers, because you're not going to find them."

"Ludwig—"

"I'm in love with you, Clove. There's no fucking way to explain it." My heart raced, but I kept talking. "And this might be a little hard for your overachieving brain to process, but sometimes you're not going to understand everything that's thrown at you, and you're just going to have to go with it."

She blinked, for a second, and held back whatever she'd had ready to come out of her mouth. Time suspended around us.

"What's it like?" she asked.

"Huh?"

"Being in love. What's it like?" She looked at me searchingly, and I didn't even have a chance to open my mouth. "You know, is it when you can't stop thinking about someone?" She threw up her hands, her face dead serious. "When you're around them and you wonder why they can get under your skin so much, but when they leave you wonder why you miss them?" She stepped forward, her voice wavering. "When you're dead terrified that one day, you'll fuck up and it'll all be over?"

I gulped back whatever was in my throat.

Clove's voice. The look in her eyes. The way her nose was inches away from mine.

None of this was hypothetical.

"You're scared?" I asked.

She nodded.

"You don't need to be scared when it comes to me," I said to her.

I wrapped my hands around her waist.

"You're sure?" she asked. She was trying to keep her voice above a whisper, but it wasn't really working.

"I'm sure."

"So if I told you I was in love with you . . . ?"

Her words hanging in the air was more than enough for me.

I'd kissed her before, and under two completely different circumstances. One time out of drunken lust, the other frustration. And then she fell out of my life for a year, and I had blonde hair, big boobs, and grade A popularity to kiss all I wanted.

I knew I'd missed her. I just never knew how much.

Lyme was hollering in the background, but it was all noise as I kissed Clove, feeling her completely become a part of me. There was nothing holding her back, nothing stopping her as she fell into me. I hate you, I love you. We'd been playing that game for two years. Two years of dealing with a girl that wouldn't let herself believe she was capable of feelings. Two years of dealing myself and thinking that popularity was enough, parties were enough, and random hookups were enough.

They'd never be enough again.

I pulled away, because I needed some air. I looked her in the eye.

"What made you change your mind?" I asked, running my thumb across her jaw line.

She shook her head. "I didn't. I just stopped lying to myself."

This time, it was her that crushed her lips against mine. And this time, we didn't stop, not even to watch the ball drop.

XXX

A/N: . . . *squees* CLATOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!1!11!

Writing this was so incredibly satisfying, I can't even.

I love Clato. I love FF. I love life. I love all of you fucking amazing people, for making this fic my most popular one of all time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The show's not over, we've got two more chapters left. One with Glim and Marvel, and one with all four of them. And after that it's adios to prolly my favorite thing I've ever written.

Thank you all so, so much for following me on Cato and Clove's journey.

xx Nina

PS. If you want to check out Kiss Me, my newest plot bunny, I'd appreciate that a shit-ton.