Author: Ellenka PM
An increasingly alternative version of the relationship between Gale and Katniss, based in the canon and straying to some different conclusions. From Gale's POV, spanning all three books.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Gale H. & Katniss E. - Chapters: 11 - Words: 21,166 - Reviews: 165 - Favs: 118 - Follows: 118 - Updated: 04-13-12 - Published: 09-20-11 - id: 7397474
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Many thanks to all readers, reviewers, followers & awesome Tumlbr-promoters for the wonderful feedback, support & patience. I know it's been a time. Again. I apologize on behalf of my muses that got first distracted and then massacred by a real-work project that sorely needed finishing.
In better news, while my muses slowly recovered to (hopefully!) writing condition, I started proofreading this fic called Knightingale by DBlaZe. If you feel like reading a truly badass & awesome Gale-centric AU, do yourselves a favor and check it out ;)
Okay, without further ado, onto my long-overdue chapter. It's just a rather angsty filler, but it had to be done.
Catching Fire part 6:
My Catnip is gone.
It doesn't take long for the shock of her absence to give way to the anger she alone could ever quell.
But she's no longer here to disperse the stormclouds, because the Capitol has taken her away again, in order to quell every bit of hope she represented.
They have her in their clutches,and the fact drives me madder than ever before. I have to dismiss one far-fetched rebellious scheme after another.
Because even if there was something to be done here, wouldn't it just reduce her chances of survival in the Capitol to zero?
I count the hours until I'll be able to see her again, and feel damn sick for doing so because I'll be seeing her during the presentation of tributes.
On a chariot, being paraded through the Capitol.
I shouldn't want to see her there, but I can't help it.
I need to see her, just to know she's still alive and as well as she can possibly be under the circumstances.
When she finally does appear, she's holding Mellark's hand again, because that's what she does in the Capitol, doesn't she?
The sight sends an unpleasant icy stab through my gut and I give myself a mental slap immediately after.
How can I even be jealous of a guy that will most probably try to sacrifice himself for Katniss before she gets a chance to sacrifice herself for him?
I shudder at the very thought and grit my teeth furiously. Even though I'm confident that she doesn't love him the way she loves me, I know she'd never really live it down if he died for her. I don't want him to die for her either. We both hate debts.
And besides, they shouldn't even have to think about trying to save each other from certain death. They should never have been put into such a situation in the first place. That rankles much more than the fact that they choose to cling together in their predicament.
Futilely as always, I wish she could cling to me instead – for support, for safety, for love, for anything she needs. Forever.
But that's impossible now. Our forever might as well have ended yesterday. They are gone beyond my reach, and hopefully, not beyond the point of no return.
I simply refuse to entertain the idea that I'll never hold my Catnip in my arms again. It's too fucking unthinkable.
Katniss can't be lost to their Games, and since I know she thinks the same about Peeta, there has to be some way out. I can't do anything to find it right now, but hopefully, Haymitch will somehow help them to repeat the miracle from the last year..
After gritting my teeth again, I breathe deeply and focus on Katniss. Why not savor every single second of being able to see her?
I must say, her stylist did a damn good job again. Her form-fitting overall makes her look like a single ember of the loveliest shape, with ever-changing reds and oranges seeping from within and glimmering over the dark surface. Above her elaborately braided hair, she wears a crown, shaped like the one she'd received as a Victor. It's not made of gold, though, but some black metal that glows red-hot like a poker that's been left in a fireplace for too long. The glow casts flickering shadows on her face, dramatically painted, but still recognizable as hers and so fiercely beautiful it burns my eyes.
She is no longer the Girl on Fire.
She is Fire.
Hot and deadly and wonderful and uncontrollable and so irresistible I'd clasp her in my embrace without a second's hesitation, even if she were to burn me to death.
She's herself and nobody can change her.
But they still can try to quench her, and once again, I'm left with hoping that they won't succeed.
I clench my fists so hard my knuckles creak, wishing to hold a weapon that could prevent her from going to the arena. To prevent everyone from going to the arena.
The camera switches to President Snow, who graciously repeats why they are supposed to go there.
Too bad I have nothing against him, just a shitload of hatred and empty fury.
The only weapon I have left is a pickaxe.
Imagining the president's face in the coal seam even greatly increases my productivity during the next few days. I'm not a stylist, but in my unprofessional opinion, a pickaxe through the forehead would suit him just fine.
And with the fence on and no other resources available, I might as well work as hard as I can.
As it is, there's nothing else I can do. I have only the mines left. No hunting, no woods, no Hob, no freedom… My family swims before my eyes in a haze of exhaustion from the extra shifts I need to take, but the knowledge I do it for them makes it bearable. I have to provide for them to the best of my ability, and ensure their future at all costs.
Life has to go on.
Catnip would kick my ass if I dared to think anything else, even for a second.
She has to be strong now, stronger than ever, and same goes for the rest of us, the watchers left behind.
Luckily, Prim and Mrs. E are still living off Katniss's winnings and have more than enough to meet their meager needs. But I fear their resources won't last very long, not with all the starving, sick and flogged seeking their help every day. They open their doors and their hearts to help, striving to heal this dying wreck of a district that the Capitol keeps bleeding to death day by day.
I see Prim only once, flitting between two injured like an angel, her innocent little hands flowing with blood as she heals and her eyes dry and shining with concentration.
Rory visits the Everdeens under some pretense or other every day and often arrives even after I drag my sore carcass back from the mines. I have to kick my mind in the teeth for every half-formed variation of I envy him for being able to comfort the girl he so-damn-obviously loves.
I can't do that, and after getting a much clearer idea of what exactly I'm missing in the past few months, Catnip's absence is even more unbearable than before. She's in the Capitol, and only now I realize how much better life felt when I knew her to be safe, only few miles of rock and coal above me, breathing clean air. Getting through any shift in the mines was easy when I had the hope of seeing her again after to sustain me.
Now I have nothing left but the fury at being robbed of her again, and the omnipresent dust seeping into my brain and heart, turning them blacker with every endless half-paid hour.
What would happen when I see her again? Would she cast gentle light into the darkness, or act as a spark of fire that starts the combustion?
As soon as the interview starts, I know the second answer is correct. Looks like Snow might have overplayed his hand by reaping the victors after all. The audience loves their stars and the victors pretend to love the audience and exploit their feelings to the fullest. And they have nothing to lose anymore, so they aren't reserved about their protests and accusations. The whole world watches, and eats them up.
By the time Katniss enters the stage, the Capitolites are already weeping and collapsing and even calling for change.
Do they even realize they are calling for change against themselves?
Probably not, but I prefer it that way.
At the sight of Katniss in her white silk dress, they all but riot.
And so do I.
She's wearing a wedding dress.
However beautiful she is, I find the image almost unbearably sickening. Because if she ever she chooses to get married, Catnip's wedding should have nothing to do with the Capitol, nothing to do with their sick games and dirty stage-lights.
Even Caesar Flickerman looks a bit put out by the display, and hardly manages to calm the audience. "So, Katniss, obviously this is a very emotional night for everyone. Is there anything you'd like to say?" he finally gets out.
Her voice trembles as she speaks and I wish I could rush there to embrace her. "Only that I'm so sorry you won't get to be at my wedding ... but I'm glad you at least get to see me in my dress. Isn't it just ... the most beautiful thing?"
It is a beautiful thing. But she isn't a thing and they shouldn't treat and ogle her like one…
My train of thought is derailed when she rises and spreads her arms like white wings and twirls around. Rings of smoke rise from her skirt and soon she disappears in a cocoon of fire… but before I can as much as gasp for breath, the flames subside to reveal her dress again, this time glistening and blackened like the feathers of a mockingjay.
A mixture of awe and pride overwhelms me for a few seconds, but then gives way to dread.
She made her statement.
Or did she?
Judging by the fleeting glimpse of her consternated face I caught before the flames from the dress engulfed her, she was unaware of the plan. But now she stands proud, embracing the idea. Coming to terms with her own legend.
What will happen to her now?
Caesar tentatively reaches for her smoldering dress.
"Feathers," he comments. "You're like a bird."
"A mockingjay, I think," she says and flaps her wings. "It's the bird on the pin I wear as a token."
Of course. And now it's much more than just her token. And she is much more than just a girl with a mockingjay pin, so much more. Not just for me, but for the whole country. The idea is amazing and terrible at the same time.
"Well, hats off to your stylist," says Caesar. "I don't think anyone can argue that that's not the most spectacular thing we've ever seen in an interview. Cinna, I think you better take a bow!"
The camera shifts to the audience. Katniss's stylist, a strikingly normal guy by Capitol standards, rises and bows, with a perfectly calm expression and quiet triumph in his eyes.
I almost wish I could resent him for endangering Katniss more than she already is. But… he made her into the Mockingjay… Now she is the symbol of change and she will prevail.
She has to.
Because if she couldn't, who else could?
Gotta give it to you, man. You are a genius.
For a fleeting moment, the camera switches focus to Snow's snakelike gaze, grim and disgusting and dangerous.
And probably very high on Snow's shit-list right now. May the odds…
Impulsively, before I can stop myself, I touch three fingers to my lips and hold them out. From the corner of my eye, I notice Madge already doing the same and one by one, all the people in the square join us in a silent salute. A sign of admiration and thanks.
Hopefully, not a sign of farewell.
Katniss doesn't get to say anymore, the audience refuses to quiet down and drowns even the sound of the buzzer. Only when Peeta replaces her on the chair opposite Ceasar and exchanges few jokes with him, they gradually return their attention to the interview.
After all, they want to know…
"So, Peeta, what was it like when, after all you've been through, you found out about the Quell?" asks Caesar.
"I was in shock. I mean, one minute I'm seeing Katniss looking so beautiful in all these wedding gowns, and the next ..." Peeta trails off.
You know, Mellark, I can relate. That was one of the lowest blows the Capitol's dealt us all. Damn, even seeing her happily married to him would be more bearable than seeing her suffer and fight for her life in the Games. Especially now that the Capitol must be hell-bent on destroying her...
"You realized there was never going to be a wedding?" asks Caesar. Peeta takes a while to answer, his eyes darting around. What the hell is he planning?
"Caesar, do you think all our friends here can keep a secret?" he says finally.
Yeah, right, because national television is the best place to exchange secrets.
"I feel quite certain of it," says Caesar.
"We're already married," says Peeta quietly.
My jaw falls open. Hell, I expected a lot of things… but this…
"But ... how can that be?" asks Caesar.
Yeah, I'd fucking love to hear that. And judging by her expression, Katniss would too. Come to think of it, he pretty much contradicted what she got to say. Why the hell?
Does he ever consult his plans with her? Okay, he and Haymitch might have wanted her look surprised last year when he declared his love for her. But now? She shouldn't look surprised at learning she's married, now, should she?
Peeta goes on to explain that they got married in secret, performing only the traditional District Twelve ritual called toasting. Because her mother wouldn't have approved. And we both know that neither would her 'cousin'. And neither would Katniss. And from the times I've seen them together… he no longer looked all that keen himself.
The idea that he does this just in order to play the audience and turn them in their favor is insane. But on the other hand, I wish it worked… if the audience wanted to save them both again… Katniss wouldn't try anything stupid to save only him…
But he isn't done yet.
I tune back in just in time to hear the second blast from his verbal bomb go off.
When Caesar remarks that the brief time they (supposedly!) had is better than no time, Peeta says bitterly, "Maybe I'd think that, too, Caesar, if it weren't for the baby."
The audience draws a huge breath, preparing to scream.
So this is what he was going for. And he didn't tell her because he knows she wouldn't have gone along with such a plan. Not with a plan designed to save only her. Because that's what it is.
… if it weren't for the baby…
The words make me sicker than they should, considering they are just a ploy, just a lie, not real…
As if Catnip would ever… and with him…
I clench my fists so tightly my nails dig into my palms.
She never wanted to… and if she changed her mind, I'd sure as hell know before Mellark did...
Katniss crouches in her seat, hands over her stomach. A gesture of denial that can well be mistaken for protectiveness. When the camera flits to her face, the tears in her eyes more angry than sad, but I doubt anyone in the audience could tell.
"She's always been afraid of having children," Peeta adds, surely voicing both Katniss's thoughts and mine. "For fear of them going to the Games." At this point, there is no more reason to hide any rebellious thought. "But now that she has to go the arena pregnant… she won't let anyone lay a finger on her. Not even me. "
No more pretending, then. No more star-crossed lovers for the audience. They created and destroyed them themselves.
Would the realization finally sink in?
The audience breaks down in a cacophony of despair. Moaning, shrieking, crying. Some of them even seem to be shouting protests, but words vanish in the general uproar and in the crackling of speakers.
Then the Capitol anthem blasts, drowning out everything else. All victors rise from their seats but I keep my eyes fixed on Catnip. Where else would I look? This is the last time I can see her before the Games… and after what just happened… I refuse to think about what horrors the arena holds for her.
She reaches for Mellark's hand, and he takes it at once. But before I can spare the gesture a thought, she turns to the other side and offers her hand to the victor from Eleven. Her fingers close around the stump of his arm and don't let go. And once again, everyone else follows her example. Some willingly, some reluctantly, but by the time the anthem finishes, all twenty-four of them stand joined in a single chain.
United against the common enemy.
Against the Capitol.
The fuse is already burning brightly, and it's time to spread the fire everywhere.
There will be mandatory viewings, effectively lifting the ban on 'loitering' and gathering… the Games might provide enough distraction to exploit the incentive provided by the victors...
And after what just happened, nothing can make the Capitol angrier with them. We have to make sure their message wouldn't be lost.
It's time to fight.
For all of us.