|The Spoils of The Victor
Author: Melika Elena PM
AU The Capitol's love & adoration is what keeps him alive & breaks his soul: 72nd Hunger Games Victor Gale Hawthorne suffers the same fate as Finnick Odair. Perhaps he just needs someone to re-light the fire within him. "Madge is his client. He cannot pursue her like a regular man, and that anger burns within him...he's never had anything real before."Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Gale H. & Madge U. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 24,735 - Reviews: 146 - Favs: 100 - Follows: 190 - Updated: 11-28-12 - Published: 05-31-12 - id: 8167705
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Spoils of the Victor
When Gale Hawthorne won the 72nd Hunger Games, he was proclaimed the most handsome Victor since Finnick Odair, the most innovative since Haymitch Abernathy, and the most surprising since Johanna Mason. The Capitol adored him, couldn't get enough of him, and that love and obsession was ultimately Gale's downfall.
Years later, Gale now knows how naïve he was to believe that once he won the Games, once he completed his Victory Tour, that he would be left alone, only to be needed during every subsequent game as a mentor alongside Haymitch. He never fathomed that he could be broken any more than he already was.
"You poor bastard," was Finnick Odair's greeting the very first time Gale met him at one of his many Victory parties at The Capitol.
"Excuse me?" Gale turned to him with a frown. He had always thought of Finnick Odair as a prissy, the Capitol's pet, but he had always seemed too charming to be such an outright snob. Should've known better.
He looked at Gale from head to toe and Gale felt his body flush uncomfortably. There were always rumors about Finnick Odair's sexuality running about. Was he-?
Gale looked into Finnick's eyes bravely. No, there was no lust there. Just sympathy. "Having good looks can open a lot of doors for a fellow in this kind of place," Finnick said, "but they can also open doors you wish had never existed."
Gale's eyes narrowed. "What exactly are you saying, Odair?"
Finnick turned back and minutely shook his head. "I'll explain it to you another time," Finnick's eyes found President Snow looking ominously at them and Finnick muttered, "probably sooner rather than later."
But Finnick was already gone, plastering a charming smile on his face as he greeted another Capitol guest—a guest, who, Gale now knows, was his next customer.
It's only been two years since that time. The Reaping for the 74th Hunger Games is almost here, only a few months away. But the past year he's spent living exclusively in the Capitol has felt like a never ending Hell for Gale. He was able to live in District 12, peacefully and without fear, for one year, but after his Victory Tour, he returned to the Capitol and hasn't left since. It is very rare that he does not have a client these days. His nights, his body, and his life are not his own. He is Panem's New Whore and he only shudders to think what District 12 thinks of him now, their once and past hero. He is sure that Katniss thinks he's dirt; could see the look in her eyes when he came back for the Reaping of the 73rd Hunger Games and saw her standing in the crowd, her dark eyes stormy and hateful. But as long as his family is safe, safe like President Snow promised, then he can keep going each night, no matter how brutal or perverted the customer.
He knows it's stupid and naïve to trust the President, and Gale sure as hell doesn't, not really, but he has no choice. It was either do this or his family would suffer some unfortunate "accidents". Finnick told him that it happened to his family when Finnick tried to refuse. And if there is one person that Gale trusts, it's, of all people, Finnick Odair.
They're known to the Capitol and the rest of Panem as the Dashing Duo, full of good looks and charm (although, to be fair, most of the charm is Finnick, but Gale has gotten better in the past year). They are seen at every swanky event, have the best clothes, perfect hair and smiles (all Capitol engineered-), and are rich, successful, and a part of the elite group of Victors. They make men and women alike swoon, but only the wealthiest inhabit their beds. They have both the best and worst reputations. They have every luxury they could ever want and yet they have nothing of value at all.
At first, Gale didn't want to like Finnick—his slick charisma, his social ease, the way he could charm anyone or anything—but Finnick has proved to be a good friend. He is, in some sick way, Gale's mentor when it comes to whoring himself out. Finnick seems to know everyone and everything, and he gladly confides in Gale. Finnick has never said it, but Gale knows that Finnick wants to empower him with enough knowledge to keep himself as safe as he can. Finnick wants to protect him. Gale only wonders how many clients Finnick has taken away from him so Gale doesn't have to endure them. Finnick thinks Gale doesn't know about that, but he does, and even Gale who hates charity cannot deny that he is grateful to Finnick for what he does. He just wonders how he could ever repay him.
Things aren't perfect, however. They're complete opposites and have tiffs all of the time- Finnick is too arrogant, Gale too cynical; but it's not without merit. The two have an odd friendship, but it's a good one. It works. It's enough to get them through the full nights and empty days without going crazy from loneliness.
Tonight was just like any other night: both Finnick and Gale have clients. Finnick's was a returner- she is ungodly rich and pays so that his Wednesday's are exclusively hers. Gale's client, on the other hand, was completely new to him, and completely unknown. This client is by far the most mysterious Gale has encountered yet, since Gale knew nothing about them: gender, name, age... It makes his skin crawl, because Gale hates not knowing. Being ignorant about situations has only been followed by horrific consequences.
Usually, Gale will go to wherever the client wishes: events, parties, clubs, and then usually back to their apartment, but today he had no idea where he's going. Instead, a shiny black car came for him in his high rise penthouse suite and drove him to another building, shiny and cold, that, while much smaller than Gale's high rise apartment complex, was much nicer, which surprised Gale. He was, disgustingly, used to the best, and this far surpassed his apartment in every way. He wouldn't be surprised if he's in the apartment of President Snow himself.
Gale swallows uneasily, looking around to the room he was escorted to. Luckily, he has seen the President's mansion, and this room looks far too feminine to belong to a man. The furniture is of a fine, darker wood (Not mahogany, Gale thinks with a smirk) but the sheets and drapery are light and airy, a very fine pale purple. The room is not cluttered with stuff, unlike other clients who are obsessed with baubles and shiny objects, but instead has several bookshelves, all filled to the brim with books that Gale wonders if he has the intelligence or knowledge to read. There are lilies placed in clear, crystal vases tastefully arranged throughout the room, and, Gale likes this in particular. The room is so large, not only does it house a bed with end tables, dresser, armoire, desk and chair, but there is a whole corner section for a living area, with large, cushy furniture with throw rugs all arranged around a marble fireplace, where a simple flat screen television is hung above the mantle. In the other corner is a large, gleaming black grand piano, with sheets of music scattered around the bench and on the stand.
Gale is not given any information about this client, which is disconcerting to him. Finnick's first rule of advice is to always "know thy enemy" and to find out who they are before you meet them—Gale and Finnick would both rather know than not know about what kind of client they must please that night, no matter how gruesome or perverted that knowledge might be. Even if it makes themselves sick beforehand. Gale is given no name, not even a gender. He can guess that this client is a woman, but really, he has been surprised before…
Although he knows in his mind if his client caught him touching his or her things they could punish him however they wanted, Gale cannot help himself as he reaches out and touches a book with a smoke grey hardcover with gold lettering on its spine. Panem: A History. Gale opens up the book to a random page, even though he is sure he knows the history of Panem by heart.
However, he frowns as instead; the book talks not about Panem, but a different country. Is this book a mistake?
Tensions between the American colonies and the British government continued to escalate, boiling over when, in 1767, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which placed a tax such essential goods like paper, glass, and tea. In response, the colonies boycotted British goods.
Gale turns another page.
In 1765, the Sons of Liberty were formed in order to make British tax laws unenforceable. They did so by using public demonstrations, violence, and threats of violence. Although members of the Sons of Liberty believed Parliament to be acting illegally, they still sent numerous petitions and pleas for intervention from a monarch to whom they still claimed loyalty. When this failed, more action was taken.
Now Gale is intrigued.
In 1772, Samuel Adams in Boston formed the Committees of Correspondence, which linked Patriots in all 13 colonies and eventually provided the framework for a rebel government. A mere year later, in 1773, another Committee of Correspondence was created: in Virginia, the largest of all of the colonies, where prestigious members such as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson served. This led to—
"If you like that book so much," comes a soft voice behind him. Gale slams the book shut and whirls around, his hunter's heart pounding, "then you are more than welcome to borrow it."
Standing on the opposite side of the room, her quiet voice carrying in the silence, is a girl.
Gale has seen all types of people at the Capitol—ones who are so obsessed with fashion that they look grotesque, with leopard printed skin, dyed hair, pierced nose and eyelids and lips, tattoos crawling up their necks and around their faces, but he has never had a client who is as pure and fresh as this girl.
She reminds him of a warm summer breeze, unexpected and welcome. Her face is clear of the usual enhancements, or so it seems. Her make-up is light but Gale thinks that any more would just detract from her simple beauty.
He cannot help but equate her to a Town kid from District 12—her hair reminds him of Primrose Everdeen, tumbling down her back in waves of flaxen and gold. Her eyes are a clear, cornflower blue and her lips are perfectly shell pink. She looks well fed and healthy, her fair skin glowing, but at the same time she seems delicate, lithe. She seems alien to him amongst a sea of women with artificial curves and enhanced assets.
Gale is silent, stunned, amazed. This is his client? How does a child have so much money? Or did her parents want her to lose her virginity to a celebrity? And he knows she is a virgin, there is no way she can't be, standing there in a modest satin robe with fluttery sleeves that stop just above her knees. She looks too delicate and pure to be corrupted. Although, to be fair, Gale has learned in the past year that it's the ones who seem the most normal that are in truth the most perverted.
"Are you—are you all right?" She asks again, brow furrowed, and she seems worried, concerned for him. If Gale wasn't caught off guard before, he certainly is now. Usually clients don't bother with such questions, or rather, talking at all, not until his clothes are off and the deed has been done. And even then, the talking is always centered around themselves. Everyone thinks they know him, anyway, so why bother asking?
"I—" Gale falls silent for a moment, struggling to find solid ground. He feels like he's drunk, stumbling into unknown territory. He has no idea to handle this situation, so he grasps at straws and decides to handle her like she was any other client. "I'm fine. Thank you. Shall we get started?"
He doesn't give time to answer before he stalks towards her, and she says nothing, looks at him with wide eyes as he makes his way across the room. Gale wonders if she can hear how his heart is thundering in his chest with uncertainty.
At her side, he reaches out, bold, and circles his arm around her waist, gripping her hip intimately. He leans into the side of her face, his breath caressing her cheek as he purrs into her ear, "What will you have me do, my lady?"
And Hell's teeth, he feels sick every time he has to utter those words to customers, but that was what Finnick taught him and he knows that they like feeling in control, they like holding the reins to his body. And yet… He can't help but feel as though he is the perverted one. She does not seem as though she is corrupted; Gale can't believe that this girl actually has to pay for sex. And yet she lives in the heart of Hell—The Capitol. How untarnished is she, truly? I guess I'll find out, Gale thinks to himself as her hands reach out—
- And push him away. Not terribly hard, but it is enough where Gale steps back, instinctively. His District 12 upbringing is rearing his head. A lady says no, and you step away. "I—" She is clearly flustered, a wonderful sheen of pink dusting the apples of her cheeks. Gale hasn't seen someone blush naturally in so long and its mesmerizing. "I'm sorry. I suppose I should have made it clear sooner. I don't—I don't intend for anything to happen tonight. Nothing sexual, anyway."
Gale frowns. "Then… what do you want me to do? What are you going to do with me?"
She licks her lips, a little nervously, and Gale is entranced for a moment. But then his eyes dart back up to hers quickly, guiltily. She looks amused, briefly. "I'm not sure," she admits. "Whatever you like, really… as long as we stay in this room. Even if nothing happens, you have a reputation to maintain. But—there are things we can do in here." She gestures to the bookshelves. "I see you've already found my book collection. And, there's a living area where we can watch TV. I can have food brought here. Are you hungry?"
Gale wonders if he's in an alternate universe, if the girl in front of him is real, if this is only a hallucination brought on by morphling or if perhaps his own sanity has finally slipped from his grasp. When was the last time a naturally beautiful girl asked him what he wanted to do instead of ordering it?
"I'm—" Gale shakes his head, his head feeling fuzzy. Nothing makes sense. "No, no, thank you. I'm fine. I—can we sit down?"
The girl nods understandingly. "Of course." She hesitates for a minute, and then, seeing his dazed look, gently grabs his arm and leads him to the couch. He looks up at her helplessly as she places her hands on his shoulders and sits him down on the couch gently.
She sits down next to him, but far enough away where they don't touch. She tucks her feet underneath her and watches him anxiously, as if afraid that he'll bolt any minute now.
For a moment, they just sit, and Gale stares out the glass windows that line the rounded corner of her room. It begins to rain and he watches droplets slide down the panes of glass. He clears his throat uncertainly. "So, let me get this straight," he says, and is surprised by how steady his voice sounds, "I'm not here for sex?"
The girl nods resolutely. "That's correct."
Gale blinks, completely confused, and looks straight into her eyes. "Then—why did you want me?"
Perhaps he's just imagining it, but her eyes look sad, almost heartbroken. "Surely you know that you have more value than just… a person to—"
"To what?" Gale interrupts harshly. "To fuck?"
She flinches, and Gale immediately feels guilty. It certainly isn't her fault that his life is the way it is. "Shit, I'm sorry," he begins, but she cuts him off.
"No, you are not just a person to fuck." She straightens up, and Gale looks at her in amazement. Clearly he was wrong about her being some delicate little Capitol girl. "For a long time, I hadn't any idea what you really did with all of those people you're seen gallivanting with all of the time. Once I learned the truth I figured that maybe you would want a night off. Not have to deal with—" here she blushes "performing every night and being at the sexual whims of a stranger."
Who is this girl? Gale thinks to himself dazedly. Fleeting, he thinks she might be an angel, but the more he thinks about it, the more accurate it seems: she is an angel who is here to grant him temporarily leave from the Hell he cannot escape from. And yet, her explanation does nothing but rile his curiosity even more. "Where did you get all that money? I'm not—I'm not exactly cheap." A cheap whore? Certainly not. But an expensive one? President Snow made sure of that.
She blushes with embarrassment again. "As you can see from our surroundings," her hand makes a small sweeping motion, indicating the room, "I am fairly well off. Getting the money… wasn't a problem."
Gale's eyebrows raise. "Rich husband?" He blurts, and then he can't believe he used that old trick on her. Besides, it doesn't matter. Bored wives offered for him all of the time—sometimes, the husband would join in, too, if they're into that kind of thing.
The girl gives a little smirk, and Gale realizes she's seen right through him. She's innocent, but sharp. Gale thinks that it's a dangerous combination, in more ways than one. "No," she says, and it's with a self-deprecating smile with which she says, "Rich daddy."
Gale nods. "And he knows you're doing this?"
The girl bites her lip. "It's one of those, don't ask, don't tell policies," she says, "So I'm sure he knows, but he won't ask me about it. He's not around a lot… so he just gives me money and doesn't really care how I spend it." She looks at him. "But I know that your… employer knows you're with me. And I know you have a reputation to maintain. So I won't say anything. To anyone. And I highly doubt you would either."
Gale shakes his head vehemently. "Of course not."
And then she smiles at him, and maybe it's raining, but looking at her makes Gale feel like the sun has come out. She shines. "Excellent!" She claps her hands together. "What do you want to do?"
Gale grins. Her enthusiasm is almost contagious. "I want to know your name."
Unexpectedly, she blinks and fidgets, looking a little surprised he's even asked. But he wants to know who his savior is—and perhaps, do some research on her a little later on. She gives him a little half-smile and says, "You can call me Madge."
Gale's eyes narrow, because he knows there's a difference between what a person's name is versus what they are called (and he thinks of Catnip—Katniss and his heart tugs a little bit with nostalgia, but he pushes that down quickly. Memories of District 12 are precious things, and only to be used in the most dire of circumstances.) "Do you have a last name, Madge?"
Again, she smirks. "I do," she says, "but I don't think I'll share that just yet. I want to have some preservation of mystery."
Gale shakes his head, but he's smiling. The whole night thus far has been a mystery. "Believe me, you've got that covered."
Madge smiles at him, and Hell's teeth, he hasn't seen a sweeter smile in months. She glances at the clock. "How long have we been here?" She asks without looking at him. "An hour? Is that sufficient enough time to order room service?"
Gale blinks. "What?"
Madge looks back at him and raises an eyebrow. "Is an hour enough time to have sex? Because I'm hungry and it would look pretty strange if I ordered food when I'm supposed to be in the middle of a sexual encounter."
Gale shrugs. It depends on the client. Some come in five minutes, others want him to keep going for hours. And he may be young, but he's in his prime and has the stamina to keep going for as long as his client wants.
He looks at Madge and lets his mind wander into dangerous territories. How long would sex take between him and Madge? His gaze trails down her body leisurely. It would be her first time. He would want to make sure that she would enjoy it—he'd make love to her slowly, let her get acclimated to him and to them, and when she was ready and they were both sure—
Gale flushes when he realizes that Madge has caught him ogling her. Her body is still, and he can tell that she may seem relaxed but he can see the lines of tension in the graceful slope of her shoulders. Gale takes his punishment like a man and raises his eyes to hers—her face is calm but her eyes hold a bit of fire, and he realizes with a start that his attentions aren't exactly unwanted.
His body starts to warm and Gale fights it off. Sex or not, Madge is his client and she calls the shots. He cannot pursue her like a regular man, and that anger burns within him for a moment before it cools away. Gale and Anger are old friends but very quickly Gale learned that being angry all of the time just drained him and made him only feel that much more empty once those feelings died away.
"Anger is good, Gale," Finnick told him once after Gale raged and ranted at him for the umpteenth time about the injustices of the Capitol and their situation. "It keeps you focused and your spirit intact, but you can't let it consume you. It'll just make you go crazy sooner."
Once Gale has calmed himself down, he reminds himself that if Madge wants him, then he will gladly treat her like she deserves. But if not, he needs to let it go. If there's one thing that Gale has learned throughout the past two years, it's when to pick your battles.
So instead of pouncing on her like he really wants, Gale clears his throat and asks calmly, "I think an hour is fine. You can call if you want."
And he sees Madge swallow and eye him carefully, but she answers, her voice chipper enough, "Great! Any preferences?"
Gale doesn't care, really but Madge has a menu of what the chef has prepared that day, and insists that they choose together. They end up picking a little bit of everything before she picks up the sleek, white phone and orders.
When they hear the bell ring a few minutes later, Gale realizes that they need to pretend they've been having sex this whole time. He crosses over to Madge quickly and, without thinking, rakes his hands through her perfectly curled hair, mussing it into bedhead waves. He unties her robe and shoves it off of her shoulders. He gulps when he sees her silk night gown underneath, but continues on. Catching on quickly, but breathing labored, Madge yanks his shirt from his pants and begins to unbutton it. Her fingers play with his hair until it looks artfully messy. They look at each other. It would be ideal if her lips were swollen, but kissing her right now is out of the question. They both flush as they take in the other person, though, half naked and wanting, until Madge goes to answer the door.
It's a regular man servant, wheeling in gold china with delicacies piled high. Gale realizes the charade must go on and pulls Madge to him as the servant sets up their meal for them on the table by the couches, just as Madge instructed. He wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her back to his chest. He smooths her hair out of the way and can't help it—he presses a kiss on the side of her neck, right at her pulse point. He smirks as he realizes it's racing.
Madge shoots him a glare but giggles anyway for the benefit of the man servant.
It's dangerous holding her like this, Gale thinks to himself. She feels too good to be real and she's so normal and sweet and beautiful and Gale isn't used to this sort of normalcy, this peace.
The two stand together, watching the man servant. Gale holds her close and will periodically drop another kiss on her neck, or tickle her sides gently, and she obliges and Gale knows, he knows she likes it, too. She has to. He can't be the only one feeling this way.
Eventually the servant leaves and gives them a lingering look that Gale files away to analyze later, and only when he shuts the door do the two lingeringly pull apart.
They eat in a silence that isn't necessarily tense, but vaguely uncomfortable. It's a habit, but Gale always thinks of his family when he eats. He hopes they're doing well, that Katniss is taking care of them, that the money he sends home every week is helping. He misses hunting and foraging for his own food- it makes him feel independent. Here in the Capitol he is beholden to everyone and everything in order to survive and he abhors it. Feeling helpless hasn't gotten easier for Gale.
Eventually, Madge gets out some champagne, and Gale doesn't know if that's the greatest idea in the world, but he takes the glass she hands him and drinks it. It works in loosening them both up, though, and soon enough they're talking again. Madge asks about him, staying on neutral topics, on hobbies and Finnick and about his Victory Tour, and Gale gladly answers her, although he's never liked talking so much before. Finnick did always say that he talked more when he was inebriated. But right now, he feels a different kind of buzz, one not alcohol induced, but rather something else. He asks Madge about a book she's reading and she's off with an enthusiastic lecture, hands waving gaily and Gale thinks to himself that if Madge was a type of alcohol she would be a dandelion wine—sweet and natural.
They talk more for a few hours, and Madge implores Gale to read this book and that. He laughingly assures her he will, and she is content. She orders hot chocolate for them both but grabs the mugs at the door, not letting the servant come in, so Gale doesn't need to hold her again. Which, he thinks, is probably a good idea, but his arms and his body don't agree with his mind. Gale orders his body to control himself. It's amazing how out of control, how out of his element, he feels. And yet… it's so tempting just, for once, to simply let go…
Once they run out of conversation, they find an old movie on TV to watch. Madge gets a large, fleece blanket for them to share. At the beginning of the movie they start out comfortably apart, their knees barely touching, but eventually, by the end, Gale's arm is on the back of the couch and Madge is nestled cozily into his side. It reminds Gale of what a normal date should be like and it scares the hell out of him. He's never had anything that's been real before.
As the end credits roll, Madge and Gale are long asleep, the sound of the rain hitting the metal roof lulls them to sleep. Gale awakens to his phone alarm sometime later, his signal to himself that his obligatory stay is finally over. And yet tonight doesn't feel like a "finally" kind of night. He wishes it would never end.
It's still dark when he leaves her, and it is one of the most difficult things Gale has ever had to do—and that's saying something, coming from him. Her once cold and spacious room is now something of a sanctuary to him, and she his temporary savior. Not wanting to leave her on the couch, he scoops her up into his arms, blanket and all, and pads over to the bed. He lays her down gently, and, on impulse, kisses her forehead. It's so tempting to climb in beside her, but she only booked him for the night, not 24 hours, and President Snow is very clear on those boundaries. He begins to pull away, but she clutches him tighter, and even if he's sure she's completely asleep, the gesture makes his heart hurt nonetheless. Because if there's one thing he's learned about Madge that evening, it's that she is just as lonely and lost as he is. And lord if he doesn't want to make her feel the opposite of loneliness. But he has another life to get back to, so he gently pries her hand away from him and tucks her into bed. He gathers his things and leaves, where he knows a black, sleek car with black windows will take him back to his lonely penthouse suite.
After her, going back to his regular clients is even more torturous. It's hard to endure when he knows, when he has experienced such goodness again. He can't get his hopes up; every time he did that it was as though things got worse for him. It's always better to expect the worst.
In the next couple of weeks, Gale becomes more and more convinced that that night was just a fluke, a lovely dream, but not something real, not something that someone like him deserved. The fact that he can't find any information on anyone named Madge only makes him more depressed.
At this point, he doesn't think he'll ever see her again; after all, she made no plans or promises. She is just another beautiful, perfect memory to add to his dwindling collection. Regardless, he would treasure their night and if he saw her again…
Even Finnick remarks upon Gale's even more "cranky and surly demeanor" but Gale just tells him to fuck off. "What did that client do to you, Hawthorne?" Finnick asks one morning, leisurely munching on an apple, even as he applies salve to his latest burns. Finnick's clients tend to enjoy hurting him more than pleasuring him.
Gale just shakes his head. "I can't decide if what she did makes things better for me or worse," he answers honestly, and that worries Finnick even more.
"We still having boys' night tonight?" Finnick asks quickly, hoping to get Gale's mind off of his mystery client. "We both have nights off tonight, right?"
Gale nods. It's rare that he and Finnick are both in the same district and have the same night off. "That sounds good. Movie, beer, and pizza?"
Finnick grins. "What else?"
It's at that moment, however, that a knock comes at the door. A Capitol servant, one of President Snow's hand-picked messengers, is at the door. "Request from President Snow, sir," the man says, bowing politely.
"Thanks," Gale says. "You can confirm to him that I've received the message."
"Very good, sir," replies the messenger and is off.
Gale opens up the envelope. It's a request that Gale "works" tonight. He will be picked up at 8 PM by a black vehicle. Don't be late.
Finnick is incredibly disappointed that Gale has orders that night, but Gale merely raises an eyebrow at him, trying to conceal his own grin. "Youl'l be fine without me tonight. Go phone chat with mystery girl," he quips as Finnick's jaw drops.
"What—what girl?" He sputters.
"I'm not an idiot, Odair. There's," and here Gale lowers his voice, knowing the Capitol could be listening at any time, "a girl that you're besotted with and I know that's to whom you send those secret messages. Go enjoy her company. You'll be fine."
Finnick blinks, stunned for a moment, but only a moment. His grin is back and he winks at Gale. "What a friend," he coos to Gale's back as he goes to change. With his back to Finnick, he can finally smile.
Madge is waiting for him.
When the black car pulls up at the curb at 8 PM, Gale opens the door eagerly. He slides in without looking, expecting cool leather exterior and a divided back set and front seat. What he doesn't expect is a passenger to join him: adorned in a long, flowing white evening gown and hair curled delicately, is Madge.
"Hello," she says shyly, as though he might protest her presence.
"Why, hello there," he says lowly, his deep voice rumbling through his chest with nervousness. His mouth is dry, but he looks at her and a genuine smile breaks out over his face, which she returns radiantly. "Pretty dress."
"Thank you," she murmurs as he buckles himself in and the car speeds away. "Do you really like it?"
"I love it," he tells her honestly. "So, what do you have planned on the agenda tonight?"
There's a twinkle in her eyes as she answers him, "Whatever you like."