Author's Note: Cato's POV. This was stuck in my head and I needed to get it out, so here it is. Reviews are appreciated, I promise I don't throw knives! ;)
PS, this is not canon to the books.
Born To Die, the extended novel version of this story, and Cato and Clove's POV of the entire Games is up now. If you don't want to know how Born To Die ends, don't read this story!
There's a humming in the restless summer air
And we're slipping off the course that we prepared
But in all chaos, there is calculation
Dropping glasses just to hear them break
You've been drinking like the world was gonna end, it didn't
Took a shiner from the fist of your best friend, go figure
It's clear that someone's gotta go
We mean it, but I promise we're not mean
As I walk through the hoards of people toward the center of the Square, I can feel someone watching me. Of course someone's watching you, dumbass. Thousands of people are watching you. I banish the thought from my head as quickly as it came, but the uneasiness I feel remains. Yes, people are watching me. Just as they have for the past six years. It's hard to miss us. Hundreds of children, dressed in black as we walk solemnly from the front gates of our Training Center to the center of town where the Reaping is held every year. I take a quick glance to the side, noting that nearly everybody is staring at us with wide eyes, bowing their heads slightly as we pass. A silent gesture of thanks. As much as they fear us, they owe the lives of their children to us. And for that, they are eternally grateful.
I feel something brush against my elbow as I make my way to the check-in table. Turning around, I see no one. The realization hits me and I smile to myself as I look down. Sure enough, it's Clove. She's fifteen, but hardly looks it. Barely skimming five feet tall, she's not much bigger than she was the day she and her sister arrived at the Training Center. The day I knew I would never look at another girl the same way.
"What are you doing here?" I whisper. My voice comes off a little harsh, but I don't mean it. She knows that.
"I just wanted to tell you good luck, that's all." she shrugs.
I laugh, loosening up. "You did. Last night. Many times as I recall."
Clove rolls her eyes and pushes my arm, "I won't see you for a few weeks. I'll miss you."
My Clove, she's so confident in my return. I am as well, but it is as if she has never doubted my victory in the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Not even for a moment. I'd like to say the same for myself, but I have considered the possibility that there may be someone in the arena who can defeat me. The idea is ludicrous, really. I am the strongest in the Training Center. I was chosen for these Games by the time I was fifteen. No one has defeated me, ever. What threat could the other districts pose? District 2 has the most victors, and an extremely organized system to train its future tributes. That combined with the fact that my one and only weakness will be safe here at home, the others are no match for me.
I pull Clove closer to my side, and as discreetly as possible, lean down to kiss the top of her head.
"I'll miss you so much. Everything I do in there, is for you. For us. You are my reason to fight."
Clove says nothing. But she doesn't have to. I know she knows. I release her from my tight grip as we approach the table. There will be a bruise there, no doubt. All the better. It will give her something to remember me by. Not that she needs any more reminders. Her wrists, thighs, and collarbone are covered in bruises and bite marks. She has left her mark on me as well, if the deep claw marks on my back are any evidence.
I reach the front of the line and hold my index finger out to the Peacekeeper, not so much as blinking as she takes my blood.
"Cato Rovati, Male, 18." The Peacekeeper stupidly announces, as if I had suddenly forgotten my own name. I would have been struggling to figure that out for hours, thank you. I laugh to myself though I wouldn't dare say it. Not here. Not today.
I step away from the line, locking eyes with Clove before I turn away. I make my way to the front with the other eighteen year olds. Not surprisingly, they all clear a path for me as I arrive, and I take my place in the front, closest to the stage. Those who train with me in the Training Center know that this is my year, that I will be the one going to the Capitol. Those who don't wouldn't dare stand in my way after seeing the identification tags around my neck.
The stage is empty and the clock reads 1:45. Fifteen minutes to go. I narrow my eyes at the clock, willing it to move faster. I just want to get this over with. The sooner I am on the train to the Capitol, the sooner I can win the Games and return home.
"Ready for your moment of glory?" I recognize the annoyingly high pitched voice before I even bother to see who it's owner is.
"Cassia, my moment of glory will be when I finally get to send my sword through your heart before they declare me the winner. That is, if someone else doesn't kill you first."
Surprisingly, Cassia has enough intelligence to keep her mouth shut. Compared to spending the next week with my sad excuse for a district partner, the arena is nothing. Cassia has always wanted me. Ever since the day we both arrived to the Training Center as twelve year olds, she followed me around like a lost puppy. But I didn't want her then, and I especially didn't want her after I met Clove. But Cassia never quite got over her crush, and has hated Clove ever since.
Every year, the past victors choose two trainees to compete in that year's Games. Only the strongest, smartest, and most cunning are chosen. Most of the time, these are eighteen year old Trainees, like myself and Cassia. But there have been exceptions.
I glance up to check the clock, and my eyes lock with Audrina's. Clove's older sister, and my mentor and best friend. Her sad brown eyes remind me all too well of those exceptions. She gives me an encouraging smile as she takes her seat among the other twenty three District 2 victors. Five minutes to go.
As my eyes scan the crowd for Clove, it occurs to me that if we were really looking for the strongest, smartest and most cunning trainee, she would be going into the arena with me. Clove could defeat Cassia blindfolded with one hand tied behind her back, even with the massive height and weight difference. But Audrina and Enobaria would never let that happen. Not again.
My thoughts are interrupted as Panem's anthem starts to blare through the speakers, bringing me back to reality. The mayor steps forward and begins to tell the long and incredibly redundant story of how the nation was built, followed by the equally boring Treaty of Treason. I tune them out entirely as I brace myself for what I must do. Knowing very well that this could be the last time I see my home. I may be confident in my abilities, maybe even a little arrogant, but I am not stupid. And I have seen far to many Games to know that while the odds may appear to be in my favor, that is not always the case.
Finally, the mayor finishes his long winded speech, and introduces our District's escort, Seraphina. Obnoxious as ever, Seraphina flips her impossibly long and shiny black hair over her shoulder and reaches into the boys' Reaping bowl, stabbing a small slip of paper with her razor sharp, pointed nails. Nothing new there.
"Cato Rovati," Seraphina calls out, scanning the crowd.
My heart drops to my stomach. Surely I didn't hear that right.
"How convenient," Cassia snarls, her voice dripping with contempt.
I look up and meet Audrina's eyes, filled with a mixture of confusion and utter terror. Enobaria nods, and I make my way to the stage, more than a little shaken. I compose myself by the time I reach the podium, but there are still a million thoughts spinning in my head. Why did she call me? What are the chances of that? I know my name is in there seven times, but out of thousands?
I vaguely hear Seraphina ask for volunteers. Of course no one does. They know who I am. They know where I came from. They knew this would be the outcome regardless.
Seraphina gestures for me to move aside as she struts to the second Reaping bowl. I snap out of my daze and force myself to concentrate. I turn around to find Audrina. She is almost directly behind me, her eyes wide with fear, muttering unintelligible words. Enobaria is behind her, her hands wrapped tightly around Audrina's shoulders.
I turn my attention back to Seraphina, but not before catching Audrina's words.
"Something's wrong. This isn't right. It's happening again." She's mumbling the phrases over and over, each time getting louder despite Enobaria's efforts to calm her. What does she mean, this isn't right?
Seraphina reaches her claw-like nail into the girls' Reaping bowl, stabbing a slip of paper dramatically before bringing it closer to her eyes.
"Clove Prescott," she calls out. And I swear my heart stops.
Delicate in every way but one, the swordplay
God knows we like archaic kinds of fun, the old way
Chance is the only game I play with, baby
We let our battles choose us
And the cry goes out
They lose their minds for us, and how it plays out
Now we're in the ring, and we're coming for blood
You could try and take us, but we're the gladiators
Everyone a rager, but secretly they're saviors
Glory and gore go hand in hand, that's why we're making headlines
You could try and take us, but victory's contagious
"Now hold on. Some of you may already be declining my invitation. But this is no ordinary feast. Each of you needs something desperately."
Clove rolls her eyes as Claudius Templesmith's voice booms across the arena. I can already tell what she's thinking: We don't.
"Each of you will find something in a backpack marked with your district number, at the Cornucopia at dawn. Think hard about refusing to show up. For some of you, this will be your last chance."
I open my mouth in protest, but Clove stops me.
"No. Absolutely not. We don't need anything, it's a trap."
She stubbornly returns to roasting the rabbit she caught. I regret teasing her for spending an afternoon at the survival stations during training, she's the only reason we haven't starved to death since The Girl on Fire blew up our supplies. Our sponsors have been less than generous. If we even have any.
"Clove," I start, but she violently shakes her head, as if trying to shake my voice from her head. The arena is taking it's toll on her. It hasn't been a treat for me either, but I'm better at hiding it. Seeing Clove fall apart is breaking me.
I kneel down next to the small fire, and try again, "We don't need anything else to survive. You're right. But they do. And we need them dead, so we can finally go home. You said it yourself, they aren't going to come find us themselves. And they're all too smart to let us know where they're hiding. Think about it, they'll all be in the same place at the same time. We could take them all out. We could be out of here by tomorrow morning."
I can't camouflage the desperation in my voice. I'm practically begging Clove to go alone with my plan, as reckless and potentially dangerous as it is, it could very well be our only chance.
"I don't like it, Cato." Clove says, shivering violently. It's getting darker and the artificial temperature is dropping quickly.
I walk over to her and wrap a blanket around her shoulders, which she stubbornly shrugs off.
"I don't like it either, but we have to. Clove, we have to get out of here."
She says nothing, turning the rabbit carcass over the coals.
"It's almost foolproof. Think about it, tomorrow at dawn they'll all be here at the Cornucopia. In our territory. You wait for them here and take them out when they approach. I'll stay in the woods and kill them if they try to run off. It's two to four, and we have the element of surprise. Beside's, Peeta's all but dead. I'm guessing whatever is in District 12's bag is medicine to save his life."
I don't bother to mention that District 5 is incredibly fast and intelligent, District 11 is just as strong, if not stronger than me, and we still don't know what secret skill Katniss is hiding.
"Damnit, Cato!" Clove screeches as she yanks her hand away from the fire. "You made me burn my finger."
She glares at me angrily and storms off to the lake to rinse her injured finger. I sigh, knowing her well enough to know that whenever she gets like this it's because she knows that she's wrong. I already know I've won, even if she doesn't. It's always like this. It's only a matter of time before she comes back.
I finish cooking the rabbit, and peel the meat from the bones. I lean against the golden wall of the Cornucopia, using my night vision goggles to keep an eye on Clove as I eat. I only eat few pieces myself and save the rest for her. She's lost far too much weight since we've been in the arena. Not because we've ever had a lack of food, but because she has been too anxious to eat a thing. But she'll need energy if we're going to end this thing tomorrow.
An hour passes, and Clove is still at the lake, curled up under a tree, picking at the grass. I don't know how she hasn't frozen to death by now. I have the warmth from the fire and my sleeping bag, and I'm still chilled to my bones. She's always been a little tougher than me, though.
Another hour passes, and I'm about to go drag her back myself, when I finally see her stand up. I open my arms as she approaches, and she doesn't hesitate to curl against my chest.
"I'm sorry," she whispers.
I kiss the top of her head, "You don't have to say anything."
She nods and says nothing else. Eventually, she's asleep.
A few hours later, I know it's her turn to keep watch, but honestly I'm to anxious to sleep, and I can't bring myself to wake her. Finally, the sky begins to lighten, and I shake Clove awake.
"It's almost dawn, Clo. It's time."
She rubs the sleep from her eyes and sits up.
"Here," I push the leftover rabbit meat to her. "Eat. You'll need your energy."
While she eats, I sharpen my sword. I can feel the adrenaline warming up my veins. It's the same rush of endorphins I always get right before a big fight.
Clove eats all of the leftover meat, though I'm sure it's more to make me happy than because she actually wants to. She stands up and loads her jacket and belt with knives before pulling her long, dark hair up into a high ponytail.
"Ready?" She asks, nodding to the east, where the sun is rising faster than what is natural. The Gamemakers must be eager to get this over with.
I make my way toward her and push her against the wall of the Cornucopia.
I silence her with my lips, and she finally gives into the kiss. Wrapping her legs around my waist and entangling her fingers in my hair. I don't have to say it. We both know this could be the last time I ever see her.
I feel her warm body press against mine and I know I have to stop now, or I'll never regain control. It's been too long, and my need for her is overwhelming.
I pull away and let her down.
"Remember the plan. If you need me, yell for me."
Clove nods, "Cato, I'm not going to call for you unless I know you can save me. I won't bring you to your death. District Two will have at least one winner this year."
I nod, deciding it's not worth an argument. I won't let her die for me, and she won't let me die for her. It's a battle neither of us will ever win.
"Just promise me you'll yell if you're in trouble." I plead, desperation in my voice.
"I promise. You too. I'm not the only one who might need saving."
I smile and kiss the top of her head, "I promise."
"Go on, then." Clove says, pushing me toward the woods. "It should be starting any second."
I kiss her one last time before heading toward the woods, excited and anxious at the prospect of this all being over. Finally.
"Cato!" Clove shouts after me.
I turn around, taken by surprise.
"I love you."
The words are so quiet I can't even hear her, but I know what she said.
"I love you too, my Clove. "
I position myself among the trees, close enough to the clearing to still see the Cornucopia. In a matter of minutes, a table rises in front of the golden horn. On top sit four backpacks, each with a different number on it. Before the table has even clicked into place, I see the orange haired girl from District Five dart out of the trees opposite me. She grabs her backpack so quickly I can hardly see it, but the sound of knives whizzing through the air tells me that Clove did. Amazingly, the girl dodges every one of Clove's knives by mere millimeters. She is running toward my part of the woods now, and it's my turn. I may not be as good at tracking as Clove, but I will kill the fox-girl. This ends today.
Just before I turn to follow District Five, I see the unmistakable braid of the Girl on Fire and smile.
"Give them a good show, baby. Make her pay." I whisper, and I like to think that somehow, she can hear me.
I start off after the fox-girl. I'm not far behind her, but she's fast. Thankfully, her bright hair keeps her in my sight. After a few minutes of almost silent tracking, a branch snaps under my foot. District Five stops dead in her tracks, looking around with her wide animal-like eyes. This is my chance.
Using every ounce of strength I have left, I charge toward her, knocking her to the ground.
"You can hide, but you can't run from me, little fox." I say, pressing the tip of my sword against her throat.
Her large amber eyes bore into mine, pleading, begging me for mercy.
"I'll admit, Clove was right about you. She saw your potential from day one. I doubted her, but she's always right. You made it far, Five, but you were never a contender in these Games. Not with Clove and I as your competitors. It's a shame really. Had it been any other year, you might have won."
I admire her bravery, even now. She doesn't scream or beg, but she is fighting back against me with every ounce of strength she has, though to me, it's nothing.
"Any last words, fox?" I ask, pressing my blade harder against her throat, drawing blood.
"Cato! Cato!" The sound of Clove's voice brings me out of my murderous trance.
"Clove!" I scream back, scrambling to my feet.
District Five has already fled, taking advantage of my weakness. But I don't care. I tear through the woods back toward the Cornucopia, thinking only of Clove.
By the time I reach her she is almost gone. Her head rests in a pool of her own blood next to a large bloodied rock which I'm sure must have been used to bludgeon her. A silver arrow pierces her left arm.
"Clove!" An involuntary sob wracks my body as I pull her close to me. "Clove, just hold on. They'll send something. We'll fix you right up."
"It's too late, Cato."
"No! Never say that. Stay with me, baby. It's gonna be okay."
I glance up at the sky, desperately searching for a silver parachute.
"Fuck, Audrina! Come on! Enobaria! Help her!"
Why aren't they sending anything? Why aren't they helping her? Why the fuck haven't we gotten a single damn parachute this entire game?
"Cato, it's over. Please, you have to end it."
"Clove, you know I could never-"
"I know," She coughs, blood spluttering from her mouth. "But you have to. This is mercy."
"Cato, it hurts. Please. Don't let me die like this. Don't give them the pleasure of seeing me suffer."
She reaches into her jacket and pulls out a knife, pressing it into my hand.
"Who did this to you Clove? Was it Katniss?" Rage is forming in my voice at the thought of the Girl on Fire, even though I somehow doubt she would be able to lift the rock that was used to hurt Clove.
"No," she shakes her head. "It was District 11, Thresh. He was avenging the little girl. I almost had Katniss when he grabbed me. I was going to give them a show, just like you wanted."
I smile, thinking of what I whispered in the woods.
"I'll kill him, Clove. I'll kill her. All of them. I promise."
Clove smiles, closing her eyes, "You have to win."
"I will, Clo. I will."
"I love you so much," she whispers. "Tell Drina-"
She coughs again, more blood spilling out of her lips. I make no effort to stop the tears that are running down my cheeks.
"Tell Drina I love her. Tell her it's not her fault."
"Cato, please. Now."
I lower my lips to hers, kissing her deeply for the last time, "I love you, Clove Prescott. Always."
Before I can change my mind, I plunge the knife into her heart.
I don't know how long I stay there holding her. They won't come for the body until I'm gone, and I'm not ready to let her go. The sun begins to set, and the temperature drops. After some time, the anthem begins to play. I look up just as Clove's face flashes across the sky. It jolts me out of my trance.
She's gone. She's dead. I made her one last promise and that, I will not break. As Clove's picture fades from the sky, I know it's time to say goodbye. I pull her identification tags from her neck, refusing to let the Capitol take my last piece of her. I gently kiss the top of her head, just as I have done so many time's before.
"Goodbye, Clove. I'll be with you again soon, my love."
I reluctantly push her body away from me and make my way back to the Cornucopia. It is all I can do to stop myself from running back to her when the hovercraft comes to pick her up.
"No, Cato." I tell myself, realizing that for the first time in these Games, I am alone. "Pull it together. Kill them. End this. For Clove."
Her name sounds wrong coming from my mouth now that she's not here, but I will myself not to cry. No more tears. No more weakness.
It begins to rain, so I decide to wait until dawn before I go searching for Thresh. I pull our sleeping bags and remaining supplies into the shelter of the Cornucopia. I know I won't be able to sleep. Not now, not with the nightmares that are sure to come, reliving Clove's death a thousand different ways. I wrap myself in a sleeping bag. It still smells like her, something which both comforts me and kills me inside. My stomach growls, but as hungry as I am, I have no desire to eat.
The rain continues well into the night, and by dawn, the sky is so dark with clouds it may as well be night. I keep waiting, wondering what the Gamemakers are playing at. It can't possibly be entertaining to watch five starving children freeze to death in the rain.
I fall asleep sometime around midday, and wakeup to the sound of the anthem, but there are no faces in the sky tonight. By now, the rain has turned into a full on torrential downpour. We rarely ever have rain back home, and I've never seen anything like this. I fall back asleep, before being shaken awake by the sound of thunder so loud and so powerful that it shakes the ground. Seconds later, lightning flashes through the sky.
The sky is slightly lighter, which leads me to believe that it's day time, but I honestly don't know. The days and nights seem to be getting shorter and shorter, blurring together with the storm.
I have no idea how many days I've been waiting, but I've decided it's long enough. I have no idea what the Gamemakers are playing at, but it doesn't seem like the storm is letting up any time soon. I've let Thresh live longer than he deserves. He dies tonight.
I gather up my supplies and head for the woods. It's nightfall again by the time I allow myself to rest, and admit that I have no idea what I'm doing. I'd have a hard time tracking the others even if it wasn't raining, but the storm has completely washed away all of the tracks. I'm freezing cold, soaking wet, and the rain prevents me from seeing a single thing more than a few feet away. It's hopeless.
The anthem begins to play, and I look up into the sky. Unsurprisingly, there are no faces. There have been none since Clove, and that must have been a number of days ago. I've stopped keeping track. The anthem fades, and the sky is black once more. I decide my best bet is to head back to the Cornucopia, knowing I won't be able to find anything in these woods. I reach the Cornucopia by dawn, but the rain has not subsided. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. I eat some of the berries Clove picked for us the night before she died, but only a few. I have no idea which ones are poisonous and which ones aren't. I'm beginning to wonder what I would have done in these Games without her.
Something very interesting must be going on somewhere else in the arena for the Gamemakers to allow the storm to go on for so long. District 12, I imagine. Playing up their ridiculous love story that nailed our coffins shut, stealing from us what was our last and only hope. I slowly start to drift off, unable to fight the fatigue any longer. I find myself staring at the grass in front of me. Or what used to be the grass, anyway. Now it's all turned to mud. All Clove's blood has been washed away. There's nothing left of her in this arena.
The thought jolts me awake, and I want to hit myself for being so stupid. Of course, the grass.
"I bet that's where 11 hides."
Clove said it to me on the day we found out about the rule change. She had a theory that District Five must have found a den somewhere, and Thresh must be hiding in the field of grass that none of us had dared approach since the gong rang out.
Suddenly filled with energy, I grab my sword and a Cloves knife and head for the fields.
Something is very, very wrong with this place. I cautiously take a few steps in, and the feeling intensifies. Angered by this unexplained fear I yell out in rage.
"Come on District 11! You know I'm out here, and I know you're in there. Come out of your hiding place and let's end this."
A few minutes pass and I'm about to press further into the field when I hear footsteps coming toward me. He must want this to be over just as badly as I do. I draw my sword and drop into a fighting stance, ready to face the only tribute who ever posed any real threat to me.
"You killed her," I shout into the air.
Thresh shows himself. He has no weapons, which makes my job all the easier. I finally give in to the rage that has threatened to consume me ever since Clove's cannon went off, running toward him and bringing my sword down on his shoulder. But, instead of hearing the all to familiar sound of my blade cutting through flesh and bone, I hear the deafening ring of metal on metal.
That must have been what was in the pack. Armor to protect us from Katniss's arrows.
"Looks like you'll be fighting me without your sword, Two. Don't worry, I'll make it quick and easy. Unlike your girl."
This sends me into a fit of blinding rage. Dropping my sword, I use every ounce of my strength to push Thresh to the ground. I underestimate his strength, though, and he pushes me right back, until he has me at his mercy, pinned beneath him. With one hand wrapped around my throat, he reaches for a nearby rock. Real original, I think.
His lapse in concentration gives me enough time to reach for Clove's knife in my belt, and I stab it into Thresh's cheek before throwing him off of me. He cries out in pain, but not before I make several more alterations to his face, until it is dripping in blood. Good, he deserves to suffer. He attempts to make a grab at me as I reach for my sword, but he is too slow and blinded by the pain to come even close. On second thought, I grab the rock he had intended to use for my death as well.
I bring the rock down on his skull several times, until pink brain matter is oozing out of the back of his head.
"That was for Clove," I shout. "But this, this is for everyone else."
I bring my sword down on Thresh's neck, even though I know there's no way he can still be alive. His head rolls down the slope and disappears in the grass.
Taking the armor that was meant for me, I head back to the Cornucopia to wait for the death recap, smiling as my enemy's face flashes across the sky. I patiently wait for dawn, sharpening both my sword and Clove's knife. To my relief, the rain has stopped, and within a few hours, the sun begins to rise. I gather my weapons and eat the last of our food stash, knowing I will not be returning here tonight. Killing Thresh has ignited a fire within me, and I know I will not stop until the other three cannons sound.
Several hours have passed and I haven't seen as much as a rabbit in the woods. I decide I need to rethink my strategy. I sit down against a tree, and not for the first time find myself wishing Clove was here.
"I need you, Clo," I whisper, low enough that the cameras won't pick it up. "I can't do this without you. You were always too smart for me. You would have found the others and killed them by now."
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a cannon. I wonder whose it was, but find that I don't care much. All I want is for it all to be over.
I decide to rest for a few more hours, and wait for the death recap before heading off into the woods again. If I know who my last two opponents are, I'll be able to form a better strategy. I'm hoping it's District Five. Clove had been more than right about her, and I respect the girl. She's quick, and sly, and she fooled us all. It might have been next to impossible for me to catch her. Katniss, however, shouldn't be too hard. After all, we've already come close to killing her twice. Third time's the charm. Once Katniss is gone, all it will take is a quick snap of Lover Boy's neck and I'm free. The thought of finally escaping this torture relaxes me. Before too long, the sun begins to set and I gather up my things. Sure enough, it is District Five's face that flashes across the sky. Perfect.
After a few hours I come across the stream, or what's left of it anyway. It's completely bone dry now, much to my disappointment, as I emptied my last bottle of water hours ago. But if this is the only water source besides the lake, then how are Katniss and Peeta alive?
It occurs to me then that the Gamemakers must be driving us together for the final bloodbath. If the only water source left is the lake, the pair from Twelve would have to leave their hiding spot or risk dying of thirst. I let out a sigh of relief as I head back toward the clearing. It's almost over.
After an hour or two, I stop to rest. I feel like I can't possibly take another step. Do it, Cato. It's almost over, you're almost there.
I can't see straight. My head is throbbing from lack of food and water. My knees give and I fall to the forest floor. I'm slowly losing consciousness when a loud growl startles me awake. I scramble to my feet and draw my sword. I hear another growl, and another. Far too many to be coming from one animal. My instincts tell me to run, and so I do.
As soon as I'm moving, they all appear at once. Wolves. Massive wolves. I've seen enough of the Games to know that these aren't ordinary animals. They're mutts.
Finally, the clearing comes into view. District Twelve is already there. I wave my arms at them, trying to tell them to run. Katniss sends an arrow at me, but it just bounces off my chest.
"Run!" I scream at them, "Mutts! There's mutts!"
"He's got some sort of body armor." Peeta says, stupidly.
Fine, I think, running right between them, straight for the Cornucopia. If they want to be torn apart by wolves, less work for me, and more entertainment for the Capitol, no doubt. I have long since realized that I have no more energy to put on a show. I am strong, but I'm not stupid. There are two of them and one of me, and while I may be at an advantage with my training, I'm not going to get distracted in theatrics and let them get the better of me.
I risk a glance behind me and realize that Katniss is following close behind, with no regard for Peeta, who is still stumbling behind us. I guess the love story really was one-sided. She's as heartless as the rest of us. I reach the Cornucopia and climb it with all the strength I have left, collapsing when I reach the top. Katniss climbs up after me, and she is trying to help Peeta up, yelling at him to climb.
"Can they climb it?" I manage to get out in a fit of coughs.
I vaguely hear Peeta repeat my question to Katniss, and I receive no answer except for a shriek form the Girl on Fire.
"Katniss?" Peeta asks.
"It's her!" Katniss screams, and even I'm curious as to what she's going on about.
"Who?", asks Peeta. "What is it, Katniss?"
I've managed to stop the coughing, though I'm still struggling to get to my feet. But now I see it too. The wolf below me is staring into my eyes. It's fur is jet black, and it's eyes...
"Clove!" I scream. I would know her anywhere.
"It's them. It's all of them. Rue and Foxface and all of the other tributes," Katniss chokes out between sobs.
She's right. Sure enough hanging from the black wolf's neck, is a silver chain collar with a tag reading District Two.
I close my eyes tightly, desperately trying to shake the image from my head, but it won't leave.
"Kill it, Peeta! Kill it!" Katniss shouts, bringing me back to myself.
I manage to get to my feet and compose myself. The wolves are surrounding the Cornucopia now, jumping up on their hind legs to reach us. They're programmed to kill. Just like me.
Remembering who I am, I grab Lover Boy and pull him into a chokehold. Katniss whips around and aims her arrow at my head.
I laugh bitterly, "Shoot me and he goes down with me. It'll all be over, Girl on Fire. Take us both out now and you can go home."
For a moment, I half expect her to do it. I see the conflict in her eyes as she tries to decide.
I tighten my arm around Peeta's neck. It won't be long now. Katniss stares between me and Peeta. Suddenly, I feel Peeta's hand move toward mine. I can feel him trace an X on the back of my hand, and I understand. I brace myself for the pain of the arrow and will myself not to fall back. Sure enough, Katniss releases her final arrow and it hits the back of my hand with such force that it punctures all the way through. But I do not fall over like they had hoped, instead, I use my good arm to snap Peeta's neck and throw him over the edge.
One down, one to go.
"Peeta!" Katniss screams, running to the edge of the Cornucopia in a desperate attempt to save him.
"Just you and me, Girl on Fire." I say, running toward Katniss, and flinging her body over the edge as easily as if she weighed little more than a feather.
Yes, I should have been more creative. Yes, I should have tortured her and made her pay for what she did. And I'm sure everyone back home is disappointed, but I don't care. Let the mutts have her. They'll do a better job anyway. I sit on top of the Cornucopia and wait for Katniss's cannon. It takes hours, and I have half the mind to jump down there and slit her throat myself. I should have known the wolves wouldn't just kill her. Where's the fun in that?
Seeing her like this now almost makes me forget why I hated her so much in the first place. After all, it wasn't her fault she ended up here. None of us had a choice, really. All my life, I've just accepted the Games as a way of life. Even when my two best friends went in the Arena knowing only one would come out, I'd never questioned them. Neither had Audrina until she came out alive. The Arena changes you. It's easy to forget who the real enemy is in here.
I look down at Katniss, realizing she has finally closed her eyes. A sigh of relief escapes me, it's almost over. For both of us. Finally, her screams die down to whimpers, and then nothing at all.
Suddenly, the mutts are gone. The bodies are gone. What was a few seconds ago a pitch black night turns into a bright and sunny sky. I jump down from the Cornucopia and reach into my belt for Clove's knife.
The anthem begins to play, and I laugh to myself. They think they have their victor. But they should know I would never allow myself to live in a world without Clove.
I smile to myself as Claudius Templesmith announces the words I have wanted to hear for as long as I can remember, "Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victor of the Seventy-fourth Annual Hunger Games, Cato Rovati of District Two!"
Bringing the three fingers of my broken left hand to my lips, I then raise them to the sky, just like I saw Katniss do at the Reaping. It means goodbye, and I hope Audrina understands.
I tighten my good hand around the hilt of Clove's knife and plunge it into my own chest.
Not this time, Snow. Not me.
No one round here's good at keeping their eyes closed
The sun's starting to light up when we're walking home
Tired little laughs, gold-lie promises, we'll always win at this
I don't ever think about death
It's alright if you do, it's fine
We gladiate but I guess we're really fighting ourselves
Roughing up our minds so we're ready when the kill time comes
Wide awake in bed, words in my brain,
"Secretly you love this do you even wanna go free?"
Let me in the ring, I'll show you what that big word means
Lyrics: Glory and Gore - Lorde