"Brutal, bloody Cato" and the girl "who never misses".
Blood dripping down their cheeks and tears dripping from their victims.
Welcome to the Careers.
Cato says he doesn't need me.
I am standing there, knife in hand, crossing out the line of a scar that District 1 gave him with the tip of my blade. The muscles in his forearm tense and blood drips between his fingers, black and shining in the dark. I keep digging, curving the line into a C, our symbol.
It's what we used to do when we were kids. He'd sneak into my house and screw up my room good, pillows and feathers everywhere, chunks missing from the dresser, clothes torn, even my bra, and leave a C carved into the corner, and I'd know it was him. So I'd trash his swords and spears and uniforms, C's ripped into all of them, and he'd know he didn't have to kick anyone's ass because it was me.
No one else could do it or would dare touch us the way we did. We could destroy each other but no one could destroy us. And so it is, sitting under these godforsaken capitol cameras, the stars above probably just light bulbs waiting to flicker out. Here I am, digging into Cato's boy skin and making him hurt more than Marvel ever could. The kid is snoring in his tent at the moment, and I can't fucking wait to kill him in his sleep, a knife to the heart, a crack of the neck. Cato tells me we should wait.
I never did have any patience.
I wipe my blade clean on my thigh, where the blood will dry in red spots and I won't know which dirt on my skin is Cato's and which is my own. His jaw brushes mine, neither of our lips touching but the roughness of him against me and his breath in my ear.
"I want you," I whisper to him, and when he hasn't flinched once when he killed the girl in the tree, or when I carved little C's into his skin each day, or even the day I was twelve years old and my throw was off and I stabbed him straight through the shoulder, nicking the wall behind him, now is different. Now is the only time he shudders and his breath catches and he says, "Me too."
I'd be lying if I said I didn't need that.
His arm catches my waist and I lean my chin on his shoulder, my hand on his chest. The beat, beat, beat of his heart fills my whole body. I stare past him, out at the lake, and I want so badly to close my eyes but would never consider it. When he buries his nose in my hair I know he wants to, just as I know he won't. We can't let our guard down and I can't wait to be rid of this place.
"Clove, why did we do this?" he asks.
"For our families," I say, twisting the blade between my fingers. It sounds like a script. "Because we live for this."
That is the lie. "We're made of fire," Cato says, and I think of how I resent 12 for stealing our line.
Because we are made of blood, is what he doesn't say. Because under the strength and the hardness we are people and we are weak. Because our families pushed us into this and our teachers made us love it. Because maybe we are sadistic, maybe we are from hell, but in the end we let them choose this for us and we will never forgive ourselves for it.
"Cato," I say, my chin jutting into him, "when we get back I am going to love you."
He breathes out and says, "Clove, when we get back I am going to fuck you."
I grin against his shoulder and he sucks in my hair. I want to bite him so damn bad. I want to feel him pull my hair until I think it's going to tear out of my skull.
But there are other things, too. I want to wake up to find him at my window, deliberating whether to leap out or stay with me. I want to throw my knife and watch him catch it by the hilt and make me feel something other than top of my class and bored as hell. I want to feel shocked and enraged and so, so happy, and I want to make him feel the same.
Every day, for a long time.
"Let's kill the fire bitch tomorrow," I say.
"Then Lover Boy," he agrees.
I think of Katniss that first day, slipping from my grasp like the fox-girl. I think of Eight shoving me to the ground and the spear that ended up across my stomach because of it, and I remember that I haven't dealt with it yet.
"Cato," I say suddenly, pulling back and lifting my shirt. The scab is there, just above my belly button. "Fix me."
He meets my eyes and his look indigo in the dark as he places a hand on my lower back and leans me back slowly. I sigh a little and he lifts my shirt carefully with hands that kill, running his palms along my sides. He draws his dagger and places it at the beginning of the wound, his hand moving to the start of my ribcage. I grit my teeth and turn my chokes into sighs as he mars me and mends me. I just watch his eyes, his lashes as he looks down at his work, neither of us willing to quit this ever.
"Cato," I say as he wipes the blood that flooded towards my pants, as his fingers inch lower before pulling away again. "Tell me about what we're going to do back home."
He smiles a little, and we both freeze at some muttering from the tent. Our ears prick like cats, our muscles wound and fingers memorizing the path to our daggers. It's a strange feeling, having your mind completely halt, having instinct take over. It's what we live for, Cato would say in the interviews, but we both know that not a word of it says that's what we want.
But a moment later whoever it is drifts back to sleep and Glimmer's gentle snores fill the air. I relax and arch my back a little to get back into the mood, catching his eye.
The smile returns. "Well, Clove," he begins, leaning over me and kissing my lower lip slow. "We would start with this."
I wriggle my hips as he kisses my ribs, then the spot above my pants, then buries his face right between my legs and kisses me through my pants. I shiver and he is above me again.
"Get off," I say, shoving his chest and sitting up next to him before we get too distracted.
"Something bothering you?" he asks with that sideways smile.
I touch his neck as though to strangle him, and then move my hand down his chest and, quickly, at the junction of his legs and apply a little pressure. He makes a noise of protest but my hand is gone before he can reach for it. "Oh, what is that?" I say. "Something bothering you?"
I can't keep the grin off my face until he kisses me deeply, all the breath leaving my lungs and my head swimming, his lips shockingly warm against mine.
"We seriously can't do this together anymore," I say once I've got my breath back. "One of us is going to get killed."
"But Clove, I don't trust you," he tells me honestly. His fingers play with the little C at his wrist, an older scar from years ago, and just like always, I reach for its match on my own skin.
"And I don't trust you."
"I know," he replies.
What we don't say is that I trust him with my life, but I don't trust him with his. That he trusts I'll always save his ass, but not that I'll save my own. We seem to be at a stalemate since we've been dropped into this place.
"Cato, when we get back, I am going to go down on you," I tell him, watching his lips part slightly. "And you can teach me how to use spears."
He laughs at our old joke, that time at school, and I watch his eyes. He leans forwards to rest his jaw against mine again, in our original position, and we watch each other's backs like we need to.
"Really?" he asks eventually, voice low.
"Yes," I whisper back. Because I've never done it before and I don't like to think that he'd never be able to feel that from me.
We sit there, watching each other's backs, ears attuned to the night. I hold my dagger in one hand and use my other to trace the symbol on my wrist over and over again.
Tomorrow, hours before the sun rises, we will hunt again, stalking the woods like wolves in the night. Tomorrow, we will continue to kill.
I press the flat of the blade into my wrist.
A step up from my previous story. Hope you liked it. Next chapter is in the works. Reviews make me more motivated.
Also, sorry for the name change. Don't be surprised if it switches again!