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The Multiverse of Alternate Realities

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I can hear Peeta's sobbing breaths as Katniss and I pull him to safety, out of the slavering jaws of the mutts.

"The wolves!" Katniss sobs, gasping for air as she clutches Peeta, "It's them! It's all of them!"

And I see that she's right. The eyes of the wolves are uncannily human, and I know that something of our former allies and opponents are within these creatures.

But I have no time to feel anything other than a jolt of sickening recognition and repulsion for what has been done to them before Cato is there, and hauls Katniss up with an arm around her throat.

"The Game ends here, Girl on Fire," he snarls as Peeta struggles to right himself, get up, despite his savaged leg, and I too stand, hand outstretched.

"Cato…"

I don't know what it was that I want to say. I know it has to be this way, them or us, but still my heart quails as Katniss struggles in his grip, as he drags her towards the edge.

"Katniss!"

I move towards them, unable to stop my feet, stepping around Peeta as he lunges for me, suddenly remembering that I am Cato's partner as much as Katniss is his. Our first instinct isn't to hurt each other...and it costs him, as saving him might have cost me.

"Any last words?" Cato snarls into the girl from 12's ear, as she fights him tooth and nail. Her eyes are wild, but still her eyes find the camera, located on the tip of the Cornucopia horn. Her gaze locks onto it, and she speaks just four words.

"Don't let them starve."

Cato barks a savage laugh, he's almost wild with it, the fear and adrenaline, turning him away from the boy who'd painted me this morning, and back towards the frightening monster from 2. He turns, moving to throw her from the edge, and I find my voice and my footing once more.

"Cato no!"

His muscles lock, and he glares at me as Katniss teeters on the brink of the Cornucopia, just above the wolves seething below.

"Sky…"

"Not like this…" I move forward and something returns to his eyes, something familiar and painful and wonderful, "Make it fast. Make it a death...worth remembering."

It echoes his promise to me, long ago, when he'd promised me a good death, and I can see that he remembers the words too.

He yanks Katniss back, and with one swift movement, he snaps her neck.

Shock frissions through me in conjunction with the cannon booming above our heads.

Peeta screams and scrambles to a crouch, but he's got nothing on Cato, who strides forward yanking the hunting knife out of the vest I wear.

One swift strike is all it takes and the cannon booms again as my legs give out underneath me, relief and grief striking me in equal measure, as I throw up over the side of the Cornucopia.

I sob for what feels like an eternity, but which I knew in reality is only a few minutes.

Large hands curl under me and lift, bringing me up against his chest and I cling to Cato, the warmth of him, the strength, the life of him calling to me.

I can't help but glance around and find that in my desolation Cato had moved the bodies. They lay side by side, fingertips touching, Katniss' head is at a strange angle from the broken neck, but Peeta's face is turned towards her, eyes closed.

Slowly the night fades, once more, the sun returning to the Arena, bathing us in a perfect golden glow.

We watch it emerge and I frown slightly.

"Why haven't they declared us Victors yet?"

"I don't know…" Cato sounds unsure.

"Tributes," the announcer speaks out across the Arena, and I feel Cato's muscles tense, "The previous rule change allowing two tributes to become Victors has been...reversed. There can only be one Victor. Good Luck...and May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor."

Shock.

Ice.

My breaths shorten, as I cling to Cato, who has turned to stone under my hands.

"Cato…"

He doesn't answer me, doesn't even move a muscle.

"Cato...it's okay…" I don't know why I'm reassuring him, as fear pounds through my veins, as terror courses through my blood, "Cato…"

A tiny shiver ripples through him.

"Cato we knew this was the Hunger Games…we knew there was only one Victor…"

Another shiver.

"You promised me…"

He pushes me away and I stumble, turning back helplessly to see him standing there, fury in every line of his body before he screams at the heavens.

It's a savage bestial howl of pure anguish, and it makes the hairs on my arms stand upright.

Slowly it fades, the echoes dissolving slowly across the treetops.

And the world remains the same.

Slowly I move to stand before him.

"Cato."

"No." he shakes his head, "I will not."

"You promised…" and now my voice does break, "Please...don't make this any harder…"

"Why are you giving up?!" he roars at me, gesticulating fiercely at the sky, "They said, if we worked together we'd both get to go home. They said you could be mine."

"I was always yours…" I reach out and touch his cheek, "First I was your kill, then I was your ally. Then I became your partner. But they changed the rule back Cato...we both can't go home."

"I've been trained my whole life for this," Cato breaks away from me, pacing around the cornucopia like a caged animal. I just...feel numb, like my legs have disappeared, "All my life. I wanted to bring glory to my District by becoming a Victor...by being the best. I can kill without question...I have killed without question." He wheels back around to stare at me, "And then you."

I stare at him, "What…?"

"Clove knew I couldn't kill you." His face works, "She knew. And I knew it too. I would have gone to the ends of this Game with her, but she would have killed you."

"Cato…"

His face hardens, jaw becoming clenched like granite.

"No."

"Cato."

"No." He is implacable, "I will not kill you. Enough is enough."

I stare at him, as my mind races, and slowly I start to understand.

There is no doubt of Cato's abilities, he could end me in a heartbeat, his skill is not in question. And if it were just a matter of the two of us being left in the Game, he would have reluctantly killed me then also.

But the Gamemakers changed more than the Rules when they said two of us could survive. Cato opened himself up, he allowed himself to care, to hope, to want. He'd trusted them, trusted in the Game he was born to play, and now he's realised that he's just a pawn, a tiny piece on a huge board, and something has snapped.

He doesn't want to play by their rules any longer.

He refuses to play by their rules any longer.

And I know in this moment, that had it been me, or Clove, standing here with him on this Cornucopia...his response would have been the same.

The only difference is that Clove may have taken her chance at being a Victor and killed him.

But I cannot.

My mind races over everything I know is true.

The Hunger Games end when one Tribute remains, becoming a Victor.

The Gamemakers are known for making things happen when they are unhappy or defied.

Cato won't kill me.

I won't kill him.

Slowly I walk over to him and tug his head down to mine, kissing him deeply. He holds me tight against his body, clutching me close.

"One of us will survive," I say quietly, "The Games will try and kill us, but one of us will survive."

Cato nods against my hair, "I will fight like hell to protect us both."

"I'll fight right beside you."

His lips curve up, I can feel them.

Then he stills.

"Why should they get what they want?"

What?

I pull back to look up at him, "Cato?"

His blue eyes meet mine, "Why should they get what they want. They are the ones who lied, and cheated." I feel his vehemence like a burst of fire against my skin, "They broke the Game."

Slowly he steps back, and draws out two of the daggers from Clove's vest on my body.

Gently he presses one into my hands.

"Together?"

"Cato…" ice skitters along my fingers, "This is madness."

"This is freedom."

And it is, I believe him. Even as terror claws at my throat, I know he's right.

So I lift the blade and place it lightly at his throat.

"Through here, up through this soft bit into the brain." Cato directs my hand to the back of his neck, as his travels to mine.

I look up at him and he smiles weakly, before catching my lips in a kiss.

"I'll count down...on now...we both stab."

I nod.

"Three….two...one…"