For the most part, everything is the same after that; emphasis on the most.
The boy remains in the middle of us and doesn't communicate aside from when he's addressed; ever since the other day when he and I had our fight, no one seems to know how to respond to him, whether I'm around or not.
It unnerved me afterward how Clove had come up to me, quiet and stealthily, and pinned me with a look, "When did you and Peeta get so friendly?"
I was fairly sure that everyone—the whole audience outside this world included—caught it when I spoke his name for the first time. I hadn't meant to say it and no one ever expected me to, least of all me. It's always easier to be detached of things when there's nothing of personal identity to remember them by.
It's annoying enough that I know the three around me.
The only one who mattered was Katniss.
The other thing is I didn't even know I knew his name, at all.
He was always just her shadow, pale in comparison to her but a shadow all the same.
In a short span of weeks, I made my life tilt in the direction I wanted, but, somehow, others are having a similar effect. And I don't like not being in control of my destiny.
I had replied to her that we weren't friends; more so, we fought because we were enemies—it's something rivals always do, after all.
She conceded but continued to stare at me until I got fed up with her and demanded she tell me what else she wanted.
And she whispered, "You know, a while ago, he got a weapon from someone,"
I was shocked, "What?"
"Not a huge one—it's just a knife, like a standard one almost. But he received it."
I had turned to look at him, notice if there was anything different. Nothing. I rounded on her, nerves on edge, "Are you sure?"
Clove folded her arms and hotly spat, "Would I lie to you? Come on; he definitely has one. He went off into the woods this morning and I followed him like I always do. There was a blade on the ground with a note and it had his name on it. Also, I think I know more than you, since I'm the only one that conceals weapons."
With that, I took her word for it. And from observing him more later, he did seem a little more…tense; like he was uncomfortable with a deadly secret. Weapons are meant for men who will use them. None of this is. It could be why he got a knife. With that whole 'star-crossed lovers' bit, it only led to the Capitol's desire to see him through it.
And the fight we got into possibly made it worse; despite my popularity with the Capitol, and his romance with her, everyone would probably begin to speculate something else—
My feet jerk to a stop.
No one notices me in the back.
Do they…think I'm in love with her?
I barely know her.
It's certainly a possibility that they would believe it—the Capitol is artificial, and their stories are no exception; it would be entertaining as well to have a love triangle in the midst of it, and considering the triangle they're thinking of would be the very first in history…
It would certainly be useful; many people enjoy romances, especially the forbidden or tragic ones. I've never seen the point of them, since they're all the similar for me, however…
"Cato, you alright?"
I look up, everyone finally stopped.
Though they just caught me, I made sure to look as though I was busy for the cameras. "Yeah, just thought I heard—"
She flits in front of me.
Her shadow blanches at the sight of her, his lips thin, stepping toward her—
Breaking into a run, she leaves him behind and I chase after her in the same instant that he does.
The adrenaline rushes into me and it feels so good to go after something; along with the shouts crowing behind me, cheering that we've found her, a grin comes onto my face. But my thoughts are still surprisingly sober. He keeps up with me well enough, and I finally see his knife, dangling from his side, in my peripheral vision.
He looks at me, eyes shining with feelings I don't understand and I don't want to understand. I pick up speed, heart pounding in my chest, watching her leap, evade and there's a laugh coming out of me, sharp and real.
God, it's been too long since I met someone I actually wanted to see.
She makes a harsh left turn and I barely make it, skidding on dead leaves. Then she's climbing and I hurl myself forward, brandishing my sword. I swing down and it doesn't hit her leg. She goes higher, nimble, and from below her coat spreads out like dark wings—
"Cato, kill her!"
Not hesitating, I begin to go up the trunk, trying to find footing. The bark digs into my skin, I dangle from the branch—
The ground meets my back and the wind is knocked out of me.
Clambering to my feet, I shake my head. I watch as she goes upward, further from us. She perches herself on a dainty looking branch. Glimmer angles her bow, notching an arrow and shoots.
Not even close.
She makes a second attempt and fails.
I'm about to demand I try when, from above, there's a sound of laughter, "Maybe you should use the sword!"
Head snapping up, pain shooting down my neck, I stare at her, mocking us from the safety of her nest.
My heart is still beating rapidly, noise in my ears. I move toward the tree, placing my hand on the dense bark. She looks down and our eyes meet briefly before she scans the rest of us, talking loudly and angrily. I keep my gaze locked on her form.
"Why don't we try again in the morning?"
I slowly turn to look at the boy, all eyes on him.
"Eventually, she'll have to come down. And then we can get her."
No one seems to like the idea of her just being there, untouched, least of all myself. She's so close, I don't care if she's all the way up in a fucking tree; she's just there.
Glimmer agrees first by setting down her weapons.
"I'm going to go get firewood,"
Marvel accompanies her and Clove begins to set camp. Just like that and I almost tear my hair out—they aren't supposed to listen to him. Mouth dry, my chest feels everything speed up, even though I'm not running anymore.
I pin my eyes on his, and he meets it carefully.
Despite the neutrality of his expression, there are so many things racing in his mind. Even if he says it, he can't deny to me anymore that she isn't some kind of priority for himself on a personal level; he's never been able to lie about it well enough before but back there, where we ran for her, both on her heels, what I saw in his eyes spoke volumes to me.
He feels guilty that, somehow, even though he tried his damnedest, he found her—a connection he wanted to keep intact without compromising her safety.
I grin at him and come to his side. My hand rests on his shoulder and I even pat it a little, "Thanks for finding her for me."
His eyes, for split second, glaze over, the blue losing its gentleness. But he doesn't say anything. Shadows never do.