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Should've Been Me Instead

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Nov. 24th, 2011 | 11:47 pm

Pairing: Cato/Clove
Rating: T
Chapters: 2
Status: Incomplete

It's a year before the 74th Hunger Games. Cato and Clove are best friends, and both have feelings for each other, although they are keeping it a secret from each other. When Clove starts dating another boy, she and Cato drift apart. Despite their current separation, they both still have feelings for each other.
Flash forward to Reaping Day. Clove is reaped, and Cato volunteers, partly because he was planning to anyway, and partly to make sure he protects the girl he loves. Will they be able to repair their broken relationship before one of them has to die?

All chapter titles are song lyrics! Enjoy!

Chapter One: You And I Walk A Fragile Line

A/N: Chapter title is from the song Haunted by Taylor Swift. Enjoy!

Clove’s POV
Class is over in two minutes. We’re supposed to be drawing the intricacies of a bomb, but intricacies bore me to death. In the corner of my paper I draw a picture of a girl, nothing too special. I have a knack for drawing people, faces specifically, and would much rather be doing that than drawing a stupid bomb.
I look up at the clock again and only 20 seconds have passed. My eyes begin to wander the room. They first reach the empty seat next to the door that used to belong to Josephine Fank, who volunteered about a month ago to be a tribute in the 73rd Annual Hunger Games at only 16 years old. She died in the final battle with the District 4 victor. She was my friend.
My eyes then reach the desk of Braden Santer, who, of course, is staring at me. I give him a look of annoyance and he breaks his gaze. That boy is so in love with me, and despite the fact that he is completely gorgeous, he’s an asshole.
For the time being, I return to my drawing. I’m just adding a specific detail to the eye when a voice startles me.
“That’s a pretty nice bomb you’re drawing there, Clove. It looks like you.”
I jump about a foot in the air, causing half the class to look my way for a brief moment. I turn around to the origin of the voice, my best friend Cato Clemson. He’s smiling that devious I-know-you’re-not-doing-what-you’re-supposed-to-be-doing smile, and I simply give him my signature bitchface. He kicks my chair lightly and chuckles softly as I turn around, knowing I’m about to blush. I always do when he laughs. It does something to me. We’re finally dismissed and I shove my paper into my bag and rush out of the room.
“So, do bombs normally have eyes and lips?” I hear behind me and stop briefly as Cato catches up to me. He’s nearly a foot and a half taller than me and I have to strain my neck just to have a conversation with him.
“No,” I answer simply, and he laughs that stupid adorable chuckle again.
“It’s okay, ‘love. I drew a battleship instead.”
Ugh. That petname. It’s pronounced like my name, minus the C, but spelled like love. And Cato thinks it’s hilarious. Any arrogant 17 year old would think it’s hilarious. And despite my complaints when he uses it, my heart actually flip-flops a little whenever he does. But I’d never tell him that. So I say, “Cato, you know I hate that nickname.”
“Sure you do,” is all he says before he ruffles my hair and walks away. Douchebag. That adorable, sickeningly good-looking douchebag. He always walks away mid-flirt, which I find as a blessing and, deep down, a curse. He clearly doesn’t feel the same way I think I feel about him. I push those thoughts away with difficulty and continue walking as if he hadn’t upset me.
I’m walking alone for only about ten seconds before Braden is by my side. I sigh deeply. “What do you want, Santer?”
“Now, Clove, I don’t know why you call me by such formal names when you obviously want me.”
“Oh, yes, obviously,” I roll my eyes and walk a bit faster.
“Hey, Clove. You know Cato doesn’t like you back, right?” I freeze at his words. How does he – ?
“What are you talking about, Santer?” I try to sound like I genuinely don’t know what he’s talking about but my voice cracks. Fuck.
“You should give me a chance. Just one date. A picnic? Outside? With cherry custard as dessert? You’ll never have that with Cato.”
Damnit. The stalker knows me too well. I love the outdoors, and I love cherry custard. But my mind produces an image of Cato, what he’ll think, as it always does when Braden asks me out. But Braden’s right. He probably doesn’t have any feelings for me. It’s all a joke to him. And I don’t have anything else going for me right now. Why not?
“Okay, Braden, fine. Just this once. Then will you leave me alone?”
“Only if you don’t fall in love with me. Which you will,” Braden finally leaves and I wonder what the fuck I just got myself into.
Cato’s POV
I always walk away. The second I feel something, the second I know I’m getting in too deep, the second my meaningless flirting becomes… meaningful. Because I can’t fall for Clove. She’s my best friend. She knows just as well as I do that I’m going to volunteer for the Hunger Games next year when I’m eighteen, and in the rare case that I won’t survive, I need to have as few people as possible hurt by my death. I can’t get attached.
I blow off some steam when I get home by practicing with the spear my father got for me a few months ago for my seventeenth birthday. I’m getting pretty good with it; I can hit a dummy square in the chest from 25 feet away nine times out of ten. All I need is that perfect consistency and I won’t doubt for a second that I’ll take out every single person in that arena.
“Cato! Put down that weapon for ten minutes and come get some food!” my sister yells from inside the house and I make one last throw. The spear lands directly over where the heart would be. I smile cockily and make my way inside. My sister, Gina, and my mother have made a beef stew and a few loaves of bread for dinner for the three of us. My father and my two brothers, Petrus and Marko, work late at the masonry center of District 2, the Nut, so they don’t eat with us.
Petrus and Marko are over the age for reaping, and neither of them volunteered when they were younger because someone always beat them to it. Gina is 15, prime age, but not the fighter type, and sometimes I fear she’ll get reaped.
As we eat, my mind wanders back to Clove (as it usually does). I fear her getting reaped, too. But the difference is, she could handle it. Clove trains just like the rest of us and she is a wonder with a knife. Still, despite my efforts to try and contain them, I do have feelings for her, and seeing her go into the games, possibly when I’m too old to volunteer to protect her(she’ll still be 17 for the next reaping, and I’ll be 18), scares me.
The next day at school I see Clove in the hallway talking to Braden Santer. He’s as in love with Clove as I am (I quickly knock that ludicrous thought out of my head) and he’s always trying to get into her pants. Asshole. Clove usually storms away by this time and comes running to me to complain. But she’s acting… different. Her facial expression is calm. I hear Braden say, “I’ll see you at six,” before he walks away. Clove looks completely passive as I approach her.
“Why is Santer seeing you at six?” I ask her as I put my arm around her and start walking. At my touch, she stiffens. Something’s wrong. “What?” I ask her as she looks up at me with a half-sad half-angry expression.
“We have a date.”
Her words cut through me like ice and I remove my arm from her shoulder. “Santer? Why him? Clove, he doesn’t really have feelings for you. He only likes you for your… well…” I struggle for the right thing to say as she puts her hands on her hips and waits. “Well, ‘love, you sort of have… assets…”
“So a boy can’t like me for me?” Clove spits defensively. Woah. I was not expecting that.
“Just because a boy likes me, Cato, doesn’t mean he only likes me for my ‘assets’. It doesn’t mean you can interfere. You don’t own me. And stop calling me ‘love!”
She storms off in the opposite direction. Shit. What did I just do?

Chapter Two: Life's Like An Hourglass Glued To The Table

A/N: Chapter title is from the song Breathe (2AM) by Anna Nalick. Also, this chapter is in mainly Clove's POV because of the background needed for the rest of the fic. Enjoy!

Clove’s POV
Breakfast is silent the morning of the reaping. My father reads a book at the table and I can think of nothing better to do that stare at the wall. It’s just the two of us. I’m an only child, and my mother died from an unknown severe illness when I was thirteen. Most breakfasts are quiet, but today’s is completely still and stiff, as it is every reaping day. It’s because my father tries to care that I’ll be reaped, but in all honestly, he doesn’t give a fuck. He’d like the alone time with his cigarettes and his much-too-young girlfriend. As soon as I finish my eggs and toast I excuse myself from the table and walk up to my bedroom without a word.
My reaping dress matches my eyes; it’s a deep violet silky thing that belonged to my mother. It’s a bit risqué, but regardless, it works for today. After I take a hot shower, I put the dress on and look at myself in the mirror. It fits perfectly over my curves and comes down to the middle of my thigh. The only bad thing is that it’s sleeveless and you can clearly see the two inch scar on my upper left arm. There’s no reason to hide it though since everyone already knows the story of how I got it – the story that made me the pitied girl, and eventually, the terrifyingly intimidating girl.
It’s also how I became removed from every person I know. I lost trust in the way my father was raising me and started raising myself. I blew off any boy who wanted to have a relationship with me, regardless of who they were. I stopped talking to Cato Clemson, and I can’t even rationalize my reasoning for that one.
About seven months ago, I was at my boyfriend Braden Santer’s house. I had been having a stressful week, so we were drinking. A lot. Braden’s parents were visiting a friend’s house a little while away and his brother had brought home several bottles of spirits, so we just decided to go for it. I’d never drank in my life, but Braden told me it would be fine, that it didn’t matter, and he never failed to convince me of anything.
About three bottles in, we were completely gone. We were making out, roughly, on his couch between sips of alcohol, and before I knew it, he was trying to do things we’d never done before. His hands were moving lower and lower and suddenly he began pulling at my shirt. He’d had about two of those bottles of alcohol, so I was a bit more coherent than he was, and I could at least realize that I didn’t want him doing what he was about to do.
“Braden, no. Stop,” I began saying, but he tried harder to get my shirt off. “Braden!”
“Just go with it,” he kept saying.
“Stop!” I shoved him, hard. He fell off the couch. His drunken expression became confused and angry.
“What the fuck, Clove?”
“Braden,” my speech was slurring a little but my brain could still think. “I’m not ready for that.”
“Who the fuck cares if you’re ready?” Braden slurred and tried to pounce at me again, but I pushed him back to the floor and got off the couch.
“I’m going home, Braden.”
Stumbling a bit, I picked up my bag off the floor and began walking towards the door. Braden was still sitting on the wood floor guffawing at me. I took the door knob in my hand and looked back at him. “I’m sorry, Braden. We’ve only been together a few months and I’m not ready.”
“You’d do it with Cato.”
My heart flips at the name. I hadn’t heard that name in months. Did I just hear him right? “What does Cato – ?”
And suddenly I hear a bottle smash to the floor, and before I know it, half of it is hurdling my way. It hits and cuts my arm before I have the chance to move. Pain searing through me, I run out of his house, hearing him yelling, “You’d fuck Cato! You would, you bitch!” all the way down the road.
The next day at school, when he tried to come apologize, I punched him in the face. In front of a crowd. That was the end of that relationship.
And then I saw Cato once the crowd had cleared a bit. I hadn’t spoken to my best friend in months. We made eye contact for a moment, and then he turned and walked away. Hell, I deserved it. I ruined whatever friendship or relationship we had when I started dating Braden. But would I have even wanted to rekindle that? Something in me was too humiliated to face him, because he’d been right, so right. And part of me was angry at him – irrationally, I now realize – because my whole life, he’d always been there to protect me. And he hadn’t come. So I turned and walked away just like he had. And from that point, I lost my trust in everyone. I started focusing on my training and plan to volunteer next year for the games. I haven’t told anyone that much yet. But it’s not like anyone would care.
Despite my separation from him, one haunting thought about Cato has stayed with me. Braden was right – I would’ve fucked Cato.
At 10AM, everyone in District Two began heading down for the reaping at 10:30. My father drove us down to the town square and simply patted me on the back before I took my place in the crowd with the other seventeen year olds. They all looked at me as they usually do, with that knowing stare, and I ignore them. I’ve had enough of that in the past seven months.
A few feet away I see Braden talking to a girl. How these girls can still want him after seeing the scar on my arm is a mystery to me, but they can do whatever the fuck they want.
I scan the crowd of District 2 children, and my heart flips when I see Cato making his way to the very front, and suddenly I remember he’s volunteering today. Regret consumes my entire self as I realize there’s a chance I could never get to talk to him again. Maybe I’ll go visit him during the goodbye hour. But then again, he’ll win, there’s no doubting it. He’s a monster and fantastic with a spear. He’ll take them all out.
At 10:30, the mayor comes to the podium and reads the rules of the Hunger Games. I’m barely listening, because Cato’s still occupying my thoughts. I only pay attention when Julian Maris, District 2’s announcer, steps up to the podium and announces that it’s time for the female tribute to be announced. No girl in the crowd rushes forward to volunteer, so I’m assuming it’ll be a chosen tribute for the girls this year. Please don’t let it be a twelve year old. Julian reaches into the ball and pulls out a slip.
“Clove Alivan!”
Well, that’s definitely not a twelve year old. Suddenly I realize I can’t really breathe. Lovely.
Cato’s POV
I barely have a moment to breathe a sigh of relief for my sister’s safety when I realize who was just called.
Clove. The second person I was most afraid to hear come out of Julian’s mouth.
I turn around, just like the rest of the crowd, and watch her ascent to the stage. She’s wearing a slinky purple dress that probably matches her eyes perfectly, and I can see the scar that asshole Braden Santer gave her all the way from here. Her facial expression is disinterested, as it has been lately. When she reaches the stage, she shakes Julian’s hand, acknowledges the former winners from District 2 with a wave of the hand, faces the crowd, and sighs deeply. Julian’s asking for volunteers, but everyone knows here in District 2, if we have any, they jump to it before the slip is even chosen. There’s a brief silence, and then Julian announces that it’s time to pick the boy. It takes a push from one of my buddies on the right to knock me out of my trance, and I hop right up on the stage.
“I volunteer.”
“Wonderful! And your name?”
“Cato Clemson.”
I look over at Clove. She’s staring blankly into the crowd. And I realize that her look isn’t of boredom, it’s a mixture of shock and worry.
“Ladies and gentlemen, District 2’s tributes, Clove Alivan and Cato Clemson! Shake hands!”
Clove turns toward me and locks my gaze. I hold out my hand for her, and she grabs it firmly. We simply stand like this for a few moments, knowing the crowd is buzzing over the excitement of two former friends fighting to the death. I let go of her hand and drop my gaze.
And the ceremony ends.
And I realize that I’ll be fighting to the death against my best friend – or, ex-best friend – who I also happen to have deeper feelings for.
I guess I volunteered for two reasons, then. One: because I was going to any way. Two: because I need to protect Clove for as long as I possibly can.
Until one of us has to allow the other to be killed.
That, or we have to kill each other.

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