It doesn't matter that he's spent the past year learning to suppress his conflicting feelings for her. It doesn't matter that Brutus will spit in his face at the disgraceful lack of composure he shows as he screams her name. All that matters is that his worst fear has come true. Clove is lying on the ground in a heap, and it's his fault. He was supposed to be covering her. He was supposed to protect her, especially now that there was a chance that they could both go home alive. He'd never let himself acknowledge his tenderness toward her, knowing what they were training for. Twenty-four in. One out. That was how it went. Even with the rule change, there was still a very good chance that one of them wouldn't make it. Although they were power players, things could always go wrong. And as the weight of losing her crashes down on him, he remembers every tightening of his chest during their years of training. He remembers every stupid, foolish butterfly that filled his stomach when she'd walked out in her interview dress. He remembers everything. He feels everything, and he doesn't try to stop it. He doesn't even try to stop the other tributes, who flee with their lives and the items that Clove had come here for. He just collapses on the ground next to her, his weapon abandoned several feet away.

She manages to open her eyes to look at him, and he feels a stinging in his own that he hasn't felt since childhood. The part of him that has been conditioned to block out emotion screams at him from behind the wall of fire in his heart. The dominant part, that feels nothing but agonizing guilt and loss, soaks in the pattern of her freckles, the sheen of her hair, the vibrant green of her eyes. They aren't as striking as they were this morning, and for the first time since they entered the arena, he's sad to have to see the light leaving someone's eyes. He begs her to stay with him, futile as it is. He cradles her damaged head in his arms and pleads with her as one of those traitorous tears escapes him. He takes her hand and lets her see his pain, his regret, hoping she knows that she means something to him. Any other moment, he knew she would condemn his weakness, possibly kill him for it. He's surprised when she squeezes his hand and a rare, genuine smile ghosts across her pale lips. He feels her pulling back, although she's not moving and her eyes remain locked on his. He can feel her leaving him, and he feels the desperate urge to cling to her more tightly, as if it would keep her with him. He knows it won't. He knows she's as good as dead. Everything he's been taught tells him he should leave. But he remains frozen to the spot where the last shreds of his innocence are destroyed. Her eyes grow blank. Her chest stops moving. And Cato stops crying.

His pain turns to rage as he gently closes her eyes and steps away from her lifeless body. Thresh is first. He has the backpack, and Clove needs to be avenged. Katniss is next…no. Loverboy is next. He'll make her watch, make her wish she'd been the one dying here today. Then, with one pathetically weak opponent left, he'll start planning his victory speech. He won't think of how childlike his ruthless ally looks in death. He won't think of her ever again once he leaves the Capitol. As the cannon fires, Cato turns his back to his weakness. He turns his back to the dead girl on the grass, and he walks away.

~o~o~o~o~

This is my first HG fanfic. YAY! I've been so haunted by this moment that I had to do something with it, even if it's almost a drabble. Please review. I love to know what people think.