The Conspiracy

Chapter IV: No More Cato and Clove

After dinner Cato and I sit up a while, watching the re-reruns of the Opening Ceremony. Thankfully, Cato and I continue to look happy even while we're being ignored.

"What are you thinking?" he asks me again.

As 21's face comes up on the screen, I'm reminded of what I wanted to talk to Cato about yesterday. "I don't want 21 to be hurt," I tell him. "When we form the Alliance we need to tell the others that they aren't to hurt her."

He looks confused. "It's the Games. What do you expect them to do? Sacrifice themselves for her just because you say so?"

"No. I just mean that if she dies – when she dies – I want it to be in the quickest, least painful way possible."

"And if it's not?"

"Then they answer to us?"

He seems to consider this, but moves on. "What did you think of 12?"

"I think that if used correctly, the team thing they have going for them could be used to our advantage."

He raises his eyebrows questioningly.

Our? That's unwise, going into the Games with that attitude. Thinking about it is one thing, letting someone else in on my thoughts is foolish. I've been trying to tell myself that this whole time, but it's not sticking. They're strange, those little bursts of hope, those crazy ideas that pop into my head, images of Cato and me returning to the Capitol together, victorious. All dashed sometimes, other times almost so vivid they appear tangible.

"I mean...never mind. Maybe if we play it right we could..." We again. No. I need to sort this out before I keep talking. I'm done. I need to go to sleep. "Never mind. I'm tired. It's been a long day. I'll see you in the morning." I stand up and exit the room.

"Wait a second." Cato follows me but I close the door to my quarters before he catches me. "Hang on. What did you mean?" He rattles the handle but it's locked and even he's not strong enough to break through a bolt. "Clove," he says, bashing his shoulder into the door.

We can't do this. We can't go into this together because there's no way that idea of 12's will work. Just because they have only one mentor does not mean showing up as a team will get them both out and there's no way Cato and I could use them and therefore no way there's a Cato and Clove team. No we. They've always encouraged Cato and me to be a team, to work together, to coach each other, to practice with each other, and now we're here in the Capitol and there's no more Cato and Clove. I must keep repeating that to myself whenever Caleb's stupid idea pops into my head.

I change into pajamas, wash my face, and crawl into the big fluffy bed. Sad and scared for both of us, both of District 2's tributes (as that is the only way I can now refer to us without feeling guilty), I curl up and bury my face in the blankets and pillows. It's too warm after a few minutes so I push the blanket off and tuck it under one arm. Every so often for the next half an hour the handle rattles or the door shakes in its hinges as Cato tries to - tries to what, break it down? - yep, break it down. I ignore him.


They told us sometime last night that we're to meet early this morning for breakfast for strategizing and then go down to the gym a little before 10. Maybe if we're there earlier we'll hear something useful. I push the warm covers off myself and realize even the lighter ones I slept under are a little too warm for comfort because I'm covered in a light sheen of sweat. Well, I can't have that so I kick them the rest of the way off, swing my feet off the bed and take a shower. It's barely 8 o'clock, so I stand in the warm water a little while longer, enjoying the peace and the steady pounding of the droplets on tiles. After ten minutes of doing nothing in the water, I realize my skin is becoming redder because of the heat.

I sigh and step out, wrapping a soft towel around my body. There's a dryer on the wall in the bathroom, clearly meant for hair. It's strange not to have to do it myself and I can't say I really like it. A camera creates a picture of my wet hair, lying flat against the top of my head and then, at the touch of a button, a virtual image of my forehead and hair appears on a small rectangular screen, depicting different types of hair parting styles. I pick the simple straight down the middle one. The only reason I've every given my hair this much thought has been because I needed to tie it back for training. Capitol residents clearly give too much thought to this and spend too much money on how they look when they pro- Get dressed, Clove.

I dress in the training clothes provided by my stylist, unlock the door, pull it open and jump backward, having just woken Cato, who also starts, looks around, and gets quickly to his feet. "What was that?" he asks, more aggressively than even he should be this early in the morning.

"I opened my door?"

"Not that. Last night. You taking off. Come here." He steps into my room, gently moving me backward, and closes the door. "We gotta talk this out," he whispers, "We gotta figure out what we're doing before we get into the arena."

"What?"

"21's on our list of 'don't kill unless absolutely necessary and if so, make it painless'. We need to think of allies, people we can't trust, what to do with the people we can't decide on-"

"And when we're the only two left?" I prompt. "I don't want to kill you, Cato." I don't even really want to fight him.

"I won't kill you. We've gotta figure out how we're both gonna get out of the arena."

I just stare at him.


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