Author: koalakoala PM
AU. He knots her shoelaces and hopes she wins if he dies. Gale/Madge. Twoshot. For Project PULL, and winner of Starvation's oneshot challenge, celebration.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Gale H. & Madge U. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,104 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 59 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 07-31-11 - Published: 07-22-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7206385
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I meant to have this up two days ago, but I was having an absolutely awful day on Friday and this was definitely a lot harder to write than the first part, especially the ending. Sorry about that, and I hope you enjoy nevertheless.
Or, it's all in your mind
She wakes up with Gale Hawthorne's arm loose around her waist. Her mouth tastes like morning and Madge is glad he seems to be as casually unconcerned as she is in keeping up their charade for the moment.
"Did you sleep okay?" It seems like the safest question to ask.
"Perfectly," he replies, with a hint of a grin.
They each eat a tiny amount of cranberries and still-cold water for breakfast, and their obligatory kiss after is bittersweet.
She wishes Haymitch would send them toothpaste or something. But apparently, when you're in love, you're not supposed to care. For the first time, Madge wonders, a little guiltily, what Katniss would think about this arrangement.
Everyone knows she would've signed her name next to his in the Justice Building and celebrated with a clean (but not new) dress and bread made from tesserae grain.
But she's dead, and there's no use wondering.
The forest is startlingly sunny and there haven't been any cannons since last night, and it's making them both paranoid. But Madge watches, fascinated, as he sets up a few supposedly simple snares.
Because, as he says, they can't survive on fruit.
She definitely isn't going to tell him she's still hungry, but she has a feeling he already knows.
She's restless, made painfully obvious by the fact that she keeps deciding the bows at the ends of her shoelaces aren't perfect enough. His are double knotted and have been since yesterday, simple and useful.
He kind of wants the Careers to find them. At least then there would be something to do besides listen to the sound of her hunger and make snares.
This doesn't really feel like the Hunger Games, and for some reason he isn't glad about it.
Instead, a little girl peeks out from behind a trembling aspen, darkness pooling on the front of her shirt, the sound of cicadas singing feels more sinister than it should, and the cannons start firing, one after another.
They're both on their feet in half a second, and Gale inwardly curses their lack of weapons.
"Rue," the girl whispers, fingers clutching at her stomach. Blood trickles from her lips. "District Eleven." And he's suddenly certain that even if he had a variety of knives to choose from, he couldn't have killed this girl.
They run. Gale scoops her into his arms, and she's so slight it almost feels like carrying Posy, except he's running too fast and she isn't squealing.
So it really isn't very similar at all.
He'd admit that he nearly forgets about the girl who he's supposedly in love with, but he has a feeling she already knows. She struggles to keep up and he counts cannons (six) and tries not to feel guilty that he isn't slowing down for her.
Miles later, sweat makes her blond hair stick to her head, and he lets her drink the whole bottle.
Gale places the girl in his arms gently on the ground, and it takes a minute before they realize she's dead. They must have not heard the cannon while running from the Gamemakers' latest creation, whatever it was.
He isn't looking forward to finding out.
"Madge," he says, swallowing. "We have to move away from the body." The body isn't Posy or Prim and he doesn't know why it still hurts or why he cares.
He doesn't tell her the wound is too big to be the product of mutts. It's finally started to feel like the Hunger Games, and he finds he isn't glad.
She ignores him, digging around in her pack before she produces a handful of stems from last night's strawberries.
(Hers only; he ate his.)
Madge carefully places them all over the dead girl, and they look like miniature ferns or curling green stars or streamers for a celebration and for some reason he stares at her and can't get any words out of his throat.
They wait and wait and wait for the announcement. No trumpets sound. Haymitch was wrong. They're both thinking it, but with all the cameras recording, they can't dare to say anything honest.
A four-note melody echoes off the mountain, hopeful. But no one echoes it back.
She's surprised when Gale asks, "Are you cold?"
Madge lies and tells him she isn't, because she's not about to let him hold her when they might not have a reason to anymore. Haymitch was wrong. And where exactly does that leave them?
"I guess it gets a lot colder in Twelve," Gale says. But it's more than that and she knows that he knows.
"Okay, I'm cold," she relents, too easily, and he smirks and loops an arm around her. Madge leans into him and sighs.
Haymitch was wrong. They might as well split up now. There's no use in being star-crossed lovers if they can't survive together, right?
She's a coward and can't say it to his face.
Which is why she waits until he's sound asleep before she kisses his cheek and leaves.
It's dark and she finds out fast that she's pretty useless without him. Madge walks until the sky lightens and her legs ache, but other than that she has no idea how far she's gone or in which direction she's heading—does the sun rise in the east or the west?
The mountains still look impossibly far away.
Then there's trumpets, louder than she imagined, and she shuts her eyes and can't think about anything but how stupid it was to leave him.
But maybe they would have never announced this if they were still together.
Claudius Templesmith is talking (hello and congratulations, final ten!) about a certain change in the rules (two tributes) and the minute he finishes is the minute the Gamemakers set the forest on fire.
In a big house just off the City Circle, the president smiles.
He's awakened by the trumpets, of course, and his first thought is finally. Gale rubs his eyes and grins before realizing she isn't there.
Of course. He curses.
And then everything's burning and he's got a slightly better reason to curse as he runs, in the general direction of away.
Trees flare up like matches, heat sears his skin, and it's easy to believe the whole world is like this, turning into dust. He'd love to see the Capitol burn, buildings crumbling from the colors of icing to a uniform black.
It'd be beautiful, he thinks.
There would be huge celebrations in every district, ash drifting in the sky like a kind of confetti, free food for everyone who wanted it. No more Hunger Games.
That's what he thinks of while he runs, even though it's unlikely. Maybe he imagines it only because it feels impossible.
Gale reaches an edge of the forest at last, breath ragged from the uphill climb, wincing at the burns all over his arms. He can smell singed hair, and his mouth and skin and eyes feel drier than ever.
The bitter smell of ashes is suffocating.
A mountain looms up in front of him, but all he sees is white, and all he can think of is how incredibly cool the snow would feel against his face.
And then someone near him gives a hoarse cough, jarring him back to the present. For a half-second he thinks it's Madge, but instead it's only the male tribute from Seven, who's clearly dying from too much smoke in his lungs. Gale narrowly avoids his boots being covered in vomit. He takes the boy's two knives without difficulty, continues walking, and hopes he'll find a certain girl to give the second knife.
Not that she'll know how to use it.
The next tribute he sees is already dead. What's left of her hair is red and not blond and that's all that matters. She doesn't have any weapons.
Gale knows he's found her the minute he sees her shoelaces are untied. She's standing in the snow, hands shiny vulnerable pink, laces dragging like worms, but she isn't dead.
She isn't dead.
His skin is figuratively burning and there are snowflakes in her hair, but she presses her mouth to his and he kisses her back and for the first time, it doesn't seem forced at all. His relief at finding her is real, at least.
They count nine faces in the sky that night. Eight left. At this rate, the 74th Hunger Games could end tomorrow. Trains must be making their way to half the Districts, to interview their families.
He wonders what his mother will say when they ask her about Madge.
The anthem plays, and two silver parachutes send them cream for their burns and a loaf of bread. District Eleven's, definitely, identifiable by the dark grain and the sunflower seeds covering the crust. He doesn't think he deserves it, but it's got to be the best thing he's ever tasted.
There might not be fires blazing in the Capitol, but this is enough of a celebration for now. Her right hand finds his left, and she says, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was leaving."
"Just that you didn't tell me?"
She looks away. "But you already know I'm sorry I left, don't you?"
"It was pretty stupid," Gale says, which isn't really an answer. Her fingers are slippery with ointment and his are too, but neither of them say anything when he squeezes them too hard. He can't quite tell if they're still pretending.
When she falls asleep, later, her legs hang delicately off her makeshift hammock, boots dangling just above his face.
He knots her blackened shoelaces and hopes she wins if he dies.
Madge opens her eyes and doesn't recognize the arena.
All the snow has melted entirely, flooding what seems to be the whole forest. Gale is already awake, balanced on a branch below her, and eating a thick slice of Eleven's bread.
He hands her the rest, and she takes it gratefully, forcing herself to let her fingers loiter. He looks amused. "Do you know how to swim?"
"No," she says, self-consciously. "Do you?"
"No," Gale admits, to her relief, "but I would've thought you had a private lake in your backyard or something."
She rolls her eyes. "Well, I don't. You've been in my backyard before."
"I happened to be preoccupied with more important things than lakes while I was there, though," he says, not quite smiling, but at least he isn't scowling. He's gotten much better at lying recently.
She doesn't think her cheeks are pink enough from the cold to pass for a blush, but she's tired of caring.
"So what are we going to do?"
"Let the Careers do all the swimming." He grins, and she thinks he should definitely do it more often—it makes him just about fifty times more likable.
So they wait.
Gale teaches her how to use a knife, and a few hours and one cannon in, she can hit the tree next to theirs without much of a problem. But he doesn't mention how pitiful that is compared to the three Careers left who've trained their entire lives. They're the ones with lakes in their backyards.
A parachute brings them a single match, and they strike it and set fire to the same burnt tree she'd aimed at a hundred times.
Smoke drifts. The sky is free of yesterday's ash and it's a clear signal.
He hopes the water is cold.
They're back to waiting. He kisses her to distract her, and it's actually pretty effective at distracting himself, too.
Until the sun sinks slightly and they hear soft splashing. She tenses as he automatically lets go of her, and the fear plain in her eyes makes him want to look away. They still remind him of blueberries.
"I love you," she lies. If it's her last, she might as well make it a good one. For the Capitol.
"Love you too," he lies back, easily.
The four shivering Careers surrounding their tree might be comical. But they're still bigger than he is and still carrying at least three weapons each.
"Look who it is," sneers the first, the boy from Two.
What happens next isn't entirely unpredictable, and he curses himself silently for not thinking of it. Four Careers plus the two of them only equals six. There was eight last night, and one cannon this morning, which means that there's still one alive that isn't any of them.
And their smoke signal could have been seen from anywhere in the arena.
The District Eleven boy—Thresh, he remembers—emerges from the icy water with a scowl and a knife, and the exhausted Careers aren't much of a match for him. The District Two girl is dead in seconds and her partner shows his teeth in a twisted smile as the cannon confirms it.
"Looking to get revenge for killing your little girl? She was a tricky one to catch, I'll give her that."
The Careers forget them almost completely, clearly seeing Eleven as a larger threat, and Gale takes the opportunity to bury his knife in the District Four boy's back.
Cannon. Water sprays everywhere. Cannon. Cannon.
Thresh looks up at them, blood running from a gash slanting across his forehead. And then they see the spear digging into his stomach. The water is dark scarlet and not blue-green, and she can't seem to swallow properly.
Gale drops the last piece of District Eleven's bread. Thresh wipes his mouth and eats it with relish, like he isn't dying.
His eyes close halfway. Their second knife is wrenched out of her limp fingers and Gale says to her roughly, "Don't look."
All she hears is an intake of breath, a soft splash, and then the last cannon. No hovercraft comes to take away the five bodies.
There should be trumpets. Madge remembers twelve Hunger Games, and there were always trumpets at the end, before the victor was announced. But all they get is Claudius Templesmith, who informs them that closer examination of the rules states there can only be one victor.
They look at each other with tired eyes.
She looks down, and Gale understands. He reaches for her hand, and they fall.
The water hurts.
It's so dark and there's bodies and she can't feel the ground and she can't swim and neither can he—
Then there's a faint voice, far away, and trumpets, louder than they sound on her television at home. She chokes up water and he wraps his arms around her and digs his fingers into her back and doesn't let go.
"Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the victors of the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games…"
It's been a week since their Hunger Games, which is longer than they lasted. Madge thinks the train is moving too fast; she's honestly dreading going home.
Haymitch takes her aside roughly after lunch. "I'm going to give you some good advice, all right?"
"Do I have a choice?" she asks dryly.
He ignores her. "I'm sure you noticed the president's reaction to your victory. You beat the system, and the Capitol doesn't appreciate it. The Districts could rebel, and it would be the Dark Days all over again."
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"For the rebels, yes," Haymitch admits. "But you don't understand. You can't win, not against the Capitol. You'll lose everything, while the rebels are celebrating their defeat of corruption only to fall into the same holes a hundred years from now."
She sighs. "Why are you telling me all of this?"
"Because as much as I don't like the both of you, I know what it's like to lose everything. You and the boy are already more than convincing. Wait for another pair of fools to start this war. If you're anything like your aunt, you'll know I'm right."
That's when Madge wrenches her arm from his grip and walks away to find Gale. For the first time since they boarded the train.
She finds him in the lounge, watching reruns of their post-Games interviews with glazed over eyes.
"I need to talk to you."
He listens attentively to everything, and when she's finished, there's a gleam in his eyes that makes her nervous. "Don't you see, Madge? This is a good thing. We can get rid of the Hunger Games. We've got to rebel."
The passion in his voice startles her. Madge looks away.
"My mother's told me stories about Haymitch. Her sister was in his Games. And he did something to make the Capitol angry, and his family was killed for it. The same thing could happen to my parents, and your whole family! It's hopeless."
"But what if next year, Rory's reaped? Vick in a few more years? Posy in ten?"
She swallows. "We can make a deal with the president. We don't further the rebellion and none of them get chosen."
Gale interrupts, "It's not just about my family. They might not get reaped, but another girl and another boy will, every year, in every district. You volunteered for Prim. Why?"
It's rhetorical and she hates the fact.
"I never killed anyone," she says. "In the arena. I don't want anyone to die because of me."
He says, "That's impossible."
As gratefully as he can manage, because she's on his side and basically always was.
They step off the train and into a celebration of their homecoming. He can't quite picture what the celebration of the end of the Hunger Games will look like, but he imagines it'll be difficult for it to be more cheerful than this.
Madge hugs her father and sees Posy clinging to Gale and receives a kiss on the cheek from Prim and knows she's made the right choice.
Her mother surprises her by being in the kitchen, and the air smells sweet. She reveals a beautiful egg-yolk-yellow cake and says, I've missed you. Madge helps her smear on the cream-frosting and organize the strawberries, and it feels nice.
Three slices are gone when she knocks on his door.
Haymitch opens it with a weak scowl but lets her in and compliments the cake too generously and too often. Gale stops by for a piece and to throw a disgusted look at the state of the house.
They all insist they hate each other, but they're all liars anyway, and this might be the celebration she likes the most.