A/N: This is definitely a one-shot, no chance in it ever becoming something more. It's also my first Hunger Games fic! I just found the books a few days ago and am making my debut. I was planning on having that be Hunger Games from Gale's POV, but then I heard the song and well… the rest is history. Feel free to tell me what you think considering I'm new to this whole genre!
Disclaimer: The characters are from the book Hunger Games and belong to Suzanne Collins—NOT ME. I'm not making a profit, just doing it because I love it. The song is "I Never Told You" by Colbie Caillat and I strongly suggest you listen to it. You will definitely get the whole tone of this story.
I feel the world swirl around me. For a minute, I thought it was my eyes twisting and contorting around the back of my head. My body feels abnormally light and I can't think. I know I'm losing grip on myself, slipping away. There is nothing to anchor me down—my home is gone. Even though I had spent much of the past two years in the Gamemakers' arenas, I had always clung to District 12—my home, the little shack near the forest. While that stood, I had a place where I belonged, somewhere I could always go back to. Now, the shack was obliterated and by the look on Gale's face, I could never go back.
Gale's grip feels too, too tight. I can feel his breath on my face—sweet, like the hot chocolate I had loved so much back in the Capitol. It overwhelms me. Sputtered gasps escaped me. I begin to choke on the sweetness of it all.
"Catnip," Gale leans down to press his nose to mine. Sweet. Sickly sweet. I close my eyes and tell myself that when I open them, this will be a dream. The damn Hunger Games will never have happened and I will be sitting on the floor of my old home worrying about whether tonight's haul will be big enough to feed Prim's ever growing stomach. That's the kind of thing I want to think about tonight. "Open your eyes."
He's no longer using that soft, deceptive voice. No, now he's eager to see my reaction, eager to bring me back to the body that was beside him. Maybe it's because I'm still weak after my time in the arena, and maybe it's because the sound of Gale's voice still tugs at me somewhere. Whatever the reason, I open my eyes. Gale, resilient and persistent, stares back at me.
But it's not his eyes I see, clear and sure. Instead, I see a pair of soft blue eyes.
I miss those blue eyes
My world stops. Puzzled, I reach down into myself and find the anchor I didn't know I had cast out. Peeta. The name rests on my tongue like it's always been there—I was just waiting to find it. His absence is noticeably devastating. I reach around to the other side of my bed. Here. He should be right here, where he has been since this whole thing began.
How you kissed me at night.
Peeta next to me in pitch darkness, kissing me in ways I didn't think could exist, making my body erupt into flames. Katniss—the girl on fire. Only with Peeta. Peeta, cradling me like a tiny, fragile doll as I heard the screams of my sister and Gale over and over. Peeta, pinning me down and forcing me to accept the fact that I was needed; Peeta holding me during the bad dreams; Peeta sick in the caves yet determined to keep me alive, and Peeta on the roof, staring at me and asking if we could freeze time so we could stay right here.
I had said yes. Why was I still moving, why wasn't he with me?
I miss the way we see
Like there's no sunrise.
I'm overwhelmed by the emptiness of my bed. The hole inside myself starts to gnaw its way out. My lips feel heavy with the weight of the last kiss we shared—how long ago? Hours? Days? It seemed like years.
"Gale," I whisper. I still don't have the strength to lift my hands to push him away. To be honest, I'm not sure I have the strength emotionally to do it either. There were so many feelings swirling around me. Gale held so many of my heart strings, but there was something else.
"Hey, I thought I'd lost you for a minute there." He reaches over to brush my hair from my face. So like Peeta. His hands are still black from the mines with a few cuts and a deep bruise on his wrist. No, not like Peeta.
I can smell the coal dust on his fingers.
The taste of your smile
I miss the way we breathe.
The smell makes something shifts inside me. Something has changed. Peeta has always been with me. Without him, I'm lost. I struggle to find my heart. When I do, I find the bundle of heart strings leading to the man sitting beside me. Sure enough, they're there. They're holding on tight and I'm not ready to cut them loose. But there's another bundle—bigger, stronger and running towards something off in the horizon where I can't see the end. I bite my lip. What does this mean?
I stay quiet, looking at Gale. I chose him on the beach-jungle with Peeta and his locket. I had picked Gale and Peeta told me he was ok with that. I only had to stay alive. I'm alive, but does it still count if Peeta isn't around to hold up his side of the bargain? I can't bear to think of Peeta lying broken on some operating table as they punched holes into his skin with hot pokers. They will torture him—because two visits to the arena have not affected him enough.
And he'll take it; he'll take it all for me.
Gale's eyebrows knit together. Through my eyes, I can see him analyzing me as if he knows I'm slipping from his grasp. He'd been smiling in the locket. He had been my future, sealed with Peeta's stamp of approval. But I had kissed Peeta. I had felt the warmth creep up, the closeness of Peeta. And when it was over, Peeta still held the locket. I still held Peeta. I selfishly tied his heartstrings in a knot and wound them around mine.
But I never told you
What I should have said.
No, I never told you.
I just held it in.
Gale finds my hands, intertwining them with his. He brings his lips to them, sucking bits of dried blood that had caked on them from my earlier attack on Haymitch. I look at him as if for the first time. His olive skin melts against mine—not like the light-dark mixture I'm used to. His dark hair is as different as you can get from the blonde locks my fingers have stroked. And his hands—rough, foreign, black—running up and down my own hands with a silence Peeta could never master.
He catches me staring. He stops his hands, but brings them to my face. He cups my chin and pulls it to his face. I cannot look away. He's forcing me to confront him. His eyes—those dark eyes—bore into me with the seriousness only Gale can muster. Funny. I had spent all these years comparing Peeta to Gale and now… well, it wasn't the same.
And now I miss everything
"Want to tell me what you're thinking?" He taps a well-bitten finger to my temple and cocks his head to the side.
The words hang in the air, suspended like mockingjays. The question shocks me. Gale has always been good at reading me. He always knows exactly what I need, sometimes before I ever do. Most importantly, he knows what I'm thinking. He can anticipate my moves. He is my excellent hunting partner. We've communicated silently through the woods, had discussions without speaking and read each other's mind. Yet now, he has no idea what's going on inside me.
It's almost as if I've learned a new language. Somewhere inside the arena, inside Peeta's arms, I've picked up a new accent and new words. Gale simply cannot translate. I feel myself slipping further from him and reach for the heartstrings. I hear a gasp escape me—there is less than there was a moment ago.
In this instant, I cross a line. I feel my insides sharpen a knife and slowly saw through the remaining strings as if they were the branch holding the tracker jackets. If I compared it to something I know, something I've done successfully, it's more manageable.
After all the things we've
"I'm engaged… wait, married." I correct myself because I had been used to Peeta my fiancé for so long, I had forgotten we'd been secretly married.
Gale actually smiles, a big grin that perfectly matched the one in the locket that glittered against Peeta's steady hand. He slaps his hand against his knee. Apparently, he's having a hoot.
"I know!" He sounds elated, "And pregnant too!" Gale forgets about my situation and leans back in his chair, folding his hands behind his head. "That, I do have to admit, was a brilliant jab in the Capitol's ego. I'd love to know how he came up with that one!" His face suddenly contorts into something funny and he quickly asks, "You're not either of those things are you?"
And because it's Gale, because he still has those heart strings even if they're falling apart, I answer honestly. "No." But I fold my arms protectively over my stomach, as if there was something of Peeta's I have to protect. Gale, too absorbed in his memory, doesn't notice.
Snip. Another string is cut.
"Good. But damn, that was brilliant! You could hear half the district practically break into song when they heard that—though granted I think half of them thought you were actually married and pregnant. And then all those Capitol freaks start to jabber and cry about it. Sure it's ok if a twelve year old is murdered in their games, but a baby? Oh no! Then they protest about the injustice of it all!"
I know it's not fair, but I can't help but compare Gale with Peeta. Honest, passionate Gale is not afraid to speak what he thinks, but his words are unforgiving. I think back upon Peeta's words and how as soft as they were, they still cut deep. Peeta.
I miss everything about you
I didn't think I could cry. I'd spent two years showing no emotion. Cameras followed my every move, recorded my relationships and my body, and invaded my space. I had trained myself to always be camera-ready and never, ever let them see how weak I could be. Inside District 13's hovercraft, I know there is no chance of cameras. There is no one around to show weakness too—no one except Gale. And I just don't care anymore.
Peeta's absence hurt too much. I lay it on top of Gale's heartless words. I need Peeta's delicate touch. Gale's hands are too rough, the hands of a fighter, not a painter. I need the other half—the light to my dark, the sense to my rashness. Peeta has taken everything with him and left me here in pieces. I think of him, sprawled out the torture table with Snow peering over him and whispering lies about how he had put me up to it—how he had forced me to make me love him; how our team our friendship, our friendship was a lie. About how I knew the plan all along and I left him.
I don't think Gale has seen me cry, save the one time I shot myself in the leg instead of the rabbit I'd been aiming for (which didn't count as I'd only been hunting for three months). He's frantic, searching for the source of my hurt. Those hands that hurt rub up and down my legs, my arms, and my face only to come up empty handed. Frustrated, he brings his face down to once again look into my eyes, searching the inside. Gale's eyes transform again into blue and I sob harder.
He is so far away.
"What's wrong Catnip?"
I see your blue eyes
Every time I close mine.
I try to breathe, sucking in long breaths of the clean air. I am safe. I have been through the Hunger Games and survived—twice. I have murdered, I have nursed people back to health, I have faced the President of the Capitol and laughed in his face. Gale should not scare me. But he does. I try hard to translate that I love him, that I love how strong he is and how grateful I am to have him in my life. I try to convey it with my body and eyes, but Peeta's clear gaze keeps popping into my head and messing with my communication.
"Open Catnip. Open your eyes, talk to me. Please, let me in."
So I do. I pour my entire world into my stare, hoping that it will do the job I can't seem to do. I hope that somewhere the message will get put into simpler terms, one that Gale can understand. Because I certainly can't. All I can think about is Peeta and Peeta's lips and Peeta's breath and Peeta's strong body as his arms enfold against me.
You make it hard to see
Where I belong to when I'm not
But that seems to be enough. Gale drops his touch.
"No." Disbelief. Instantly, I know that my eyes have worked, because Gale has pushed away from me and his body cringes.
Snip. Snip. Snip.
"No Katniss, come back. No, don't do this."
It's funny. I thought Gale was the strong one, always willing to face things head on. But it's Peeta who was willing to let me go and have a future with Gale. Gale can't do that.
It's like I'm gone with me.
He grips my face. "You've decided then. You want Pe…him?" He can't bear to say Peeta's name. The "him" is so riddled with disgust that it hurt me to hear it. "That Capitol plaything?"
But I never told you what I should have said
No I never told you, I just held it in.
I'm taken aback. Deep down, I know it's just Gale's pain that makes him talk this way, but it still doesn't make the sting any less. It makes me angry and lights the fire.
"Capitol plaything?" I repeat, "In case you forgot I'm the mockingjay—I'm the one they all want. Without me, this whole mission is shit. I'm the one they dressed up and paraded around. I'm the married, pregnant star-crossed lover. If anyone's the Capitol plaything, it's me!"
Snip. Snip. Snip. Snip.
Gale stands up and the chair helplessly clacks against the floor. He takes a few strides across the room. I can see his lips moving as he works things out. He takes those hands and runs them through his hair. He gestures a few times, throwing his hands in the air. His debate is punctuated with a few agonized screams. He's quiet and I feel a stab of longing for someone who would take those steps a bit heavier.
And now I miss everything
"I don't understand this. It was a game. You two were a game." He takes another few breaths and runs to me. He places his arms on either side of me and bears down on me. He leans me down against the pillow and presses his chest against me. He peers down at me, his face heated from his internal argument. He wears a determined expression and I know what he's going to do. But I don't stop it. Because deep down, I have to know too.
He wraps one arm around me and pulls me tighter against me. I know he does this because he's seen Peeta do it to me a million times, and he's seen the peace the action gives me. I feel the blood rushing from his skin into mine. The sweet breath comes closer and closer to me and my heart pounds so hard I think it might break from over-exertion. This is the moment. Gale wets his lips a little and I only have a short time to think about how different the kisses already are from Peeta's soft ones. This one is more intense, more important. He leans closer and presses them against mine. I feel his tongue part my lips and brush against their insides. Urgent. So urgent.
And I feel something. I raise my hands to Gale's head and pull him closer to me. I don't want to let him go. Gale understands and falls deeper into the kiss. His lips and his tongue envelop mine and conquer with an experienced hand. I briefly wonder what he's been doing while I've been away—he's doing tricks I didn't know existed. My head spins and I try to concentrate on the kiss, on the way Gale's lips feel against mine and on the way our bodies feel together. I do this, because I don't want to concentrate on the feeling I have inside. The slow snip, snip of my heart strings where the final pieces that keep me linked to Gale fall away from me forever.
I stop the kiss, pulling my lips away from his. I need air, but Gale knows. Gale knows that something is wrong. He breaks the kiss and turns to my neck. He leaves a trail from my cheek, to my neck, to my collarbone. His hands pull at me and I feel myself slip away. His fingers brush my chest, my breasts and he kisses the curve that I'd forgotten I have. He grips my waist—still firm from my training. It reminds me I have the power to resist, that I should resist. But it hurts so bad, the longing. I find myself pretending it's Peeta and Peeta's soft lips are the ones that are clutching places no one else has even seen.
"Peeta," I whisper, eyes shut tight. I can pretend. Gale does not stop, though I'm sure he's heard. His fingers grow more pressing, more burning, more invasive. I can't. I feel Gale's blisters against my skin and suddenly I know this is wrong. Peeta's broken body, strapped to the Capitol's torture table, fades into my mind.
I can't believe I still want you
After all the things we've been through
"Gale," I mutter. So soft, I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to do this. He does not look up. "Gale," I say again. Louder. He's heard. His kisses are harder. I shift under him, but he grips me and presses skin to lips. "Stop."
And he does. He sits at the end of my bed and draws his knees into his chest. I know he's crying, but only because I can see the tears that leave streaks against his skin. He shakes a little, but we're both quiet. We're both trying to comprehend what this means and how to heal. I look deep into my heart, searching for a heart string that my insides have left for him. I find one, tightly woven and as strong as ever. The rest have been attached to the blue eyes that are so far away.
I throw off my blankets and crawl towards him, carefully so he could stop me if he wants to. I wrap my legs around his frame and lean my forehead against his shoulder.
We stay in silence, both contemplating.
"You really changed the second time, didn't you?" His voice is scratchy and he has to clear his throat halfway through.
I kiss his shoulder, cradling the arm in his sling. I wish I could take away some of his pain. Have I changed? I try to remember back before the second Hunger Games, but all I can think of is Peeta trapped in the Capitol.
"I think so."
"And there's no turning back?" Even from the sound of his voice, I know he's sure it's hopeless. I check again and the single thread is still there.
"I don't think so."
He sighs and stands up. I look up at him, seeing the Gale I'd love—still love. We're so grown up. He's two years older, but I'm two years stronger. The games had ravaged whatever was left of my innocence. I stood before him as a woman.
"I love you Catnip." He took a deep breath and brought his finger up to trace my face. "I'll tell everyone to go ahead with the plan to raid the Capitol."
He gave me one last look and slipped out the door. I closed my eyes and saw Peeta's bright blue eyes.
Hang on, Peeta. I'm coming.
I miss everything about you