Watching An Execution.

A/N: This is a short story (a three-shot, really) of Gale's POV of The Hunger Games. 'Cause haven't you ever wondered what it was like for him to watch Katniss fight in the Games? Or about what he thought about Peeta?

First chapter is all about what he saw before the Hunger Games started, the next about during it, and the last one will be the aftermath of the entire thing.

Disclaimer: Suzanne Collins owns the rights.

=Ξ=

The Reaping.

Of course Katniss immediately volunteered for her sister. There was no alternative in her mind. I could see her desperation covering her like a shroud as she protected her sister. Catnip would do it again and again without batting an eye. Prim was everything to her. Prim's nomination in the barrel might as well have been Katniss'.

Yet, I couldn't help cursing her for taking her sister's place. Though I could understand, I didn't like it. I didn't like the Hunger Games. I didn't like how Prim, with one nomination, was called out. I didn't like it how Katniss was practically forced to take her place.

You could say that Catnip moved of her own free will, but not really. Love does that to people. Katniss would lunge in front of a volley of arrows if it meant that Prim would be saved. She would move mountains to protect her only sister. Katniss would die for Prim, and that's exactly what was happening.

When the words passed her lips, declaring herself as a nominee in place of Prim, deep, deep down, I couldn't help think that it was like she was signing her death certificate. No matter how good of a hunter she was, there were people who trained for this; studied and sparred all their life to win the Hunger Games.

Although, none would've had the hands-on experience of actually killing something like Katniss did. She's slaughtered dozens of animals with a single arrow. My only hope was that she could get a bow and a sheath of arrows. Then she could pick away the competition. But the Hunger Games were never that simple.

I knew I'd have to endure weeks of watching Katniss suffer. Unless she died outright. I don't know which scenario would be worse. Katniss wouldn't die without a fight, my mind shouted at me, seemingly angered at the fact I was already giving up on her, to a degree at least.

The only thing that seemed to lessen the blow was when District 12 all joined forces and participating in a mass three-finger-farewell, the silence echoing how precious that girl suddenly was.

How precious she was to me.

=Ξ=

The Opening Ceremony.

I watched as she was paraded around, surrounded by flickering tongues of flame, eyes sparkling with a strange excitement, blowing kisses into the crowd with the hand that wasn't gripping tightly at the hand of the baker's son.

My jaw was clenched as I watched, anxious but thrilled at the same time. Katniss looked beautiful—no, she looked absolutely radiant. My family gasped when District 12 came out, and they were more spectacular than any of the other districts. They literally glowed, and outshone everyone for the spotlight. Sponsors should see that, and perhaps a few of them will pay for food or weapons while she's in the arena.

A bow and arrow. That's all Katniss needed. And maybe then she could come back. All I could do was hope. Maybe I should have volunteered to replace Peeta, that weakling Baker's son. Unlike him, I could protect her. I would have her back. I could set up a giant snare in the arena and capture everyone. Make sure Katniss was safe.

But I couldn't only think of her. I had my own family, and hers. About a year ago, I swore to keep bringing in food for them if Katniss was taken into the Games. But I never really truly believed that Katniss would been thrown into the mix. If it had to be one of us, I would have thought it would have been me who was called out. After all, I had more nominations in the barrel.

However, to be honest, I would hate to be in the arena with Katniss; we'd be forced to pit against one another, years of hunting together meaning little in the stadium where life and death hung by a thread. Would I be able to kill her if I had to? Would she kill me if she had to? The questions, even hypothetical, burned my chest and my mind refused to think about it.

If only we had run away. I had suggested it the morning of the Reaping. We could've done it. Me and Catnip would've survived for sure. But my family; I wouldn't abandon them. My mother had lost her husband and survived, but I don't think she'd survive losing her son.

The cameras were spending an inordinate amount of time filming Katniss and Peeta, but I was glad. It gave me a chance to scrutinize her, see how she was faring in the short time we've been separated. Did she miss me like I missed her? I didn't know. And if she didn't come back, I'd never know.

Looking at the zoomed-in image of her face, I saw that she looked plumper, glowing almost, but I put that down to makeup and luxuries that the Capital saw fit to be showered on their citizens. Even though my mother's worried eyes were staring at me, burning a hole in my cheek, I could not find it within me to tear my eyes away from the screen, could not seem to unclench my fists, my nails digging into my skin.

I never really got how much Katniss meant to me until she was torn away from me. The pain of it would be humorous in its irony if it weren't happening to me. But it was. So it burned.

=Ξ=

The Scoring.

Eleven. The two vertical lines flashed on the screen as if to taunt me, another reminder that this wasn't a dream and that Katniss was taken away to fight ruthlessly against another 23 tributes. Mentally, I snorted at the term. Tributes. They shouldn't call it that. Sacrifices would be more appropriate.

I didn't voice any of my smoldering thoughts to my family. My siblings were young, and I didn't want them to repeat my concerns; the danger they could face if I let my hatred run loose! My mother was already worried for me; I'd been eating less, sleeping less, and spending more time in the woods.

Yet even in the tranquil air of the forest I had grown to love, there was something wrong, as if an unsettling fog had drifted over everything. The trees were darker, more brooding. Shadows seemed teeming with hidden dangers, all the more threatening without someone watching my back. Or maybe it was my chest, heavy with concerns and doubts, trapped because there was no one I could voice them to.

What I needed was Katniss. I could talk to her about almost anything. With her, I could curse the Capital and the Hunger Games until my voice was hoarse and raw.

Wordlessly, my mother passed me a cup of weak, but warm, mint tea. The steam filled my lungs as I breathed in deeply, the warmth searing my hands as I held the metal cup tightly. A pang burst out in my chest as I realized that the smell of mint reminded me of Katniss. I don't know if she knew it, but Katniss always smelled like mint, which was why I could always tell if she was trying to sneak up on me.

Even though I was feeling as though I was losing my mind, I couldn't even imagine what Katniss would be facing. Seeing the other tributes, training with them, possibly talking to them; all with the knowledge that all but one of them would die.

Maybe she'd be the one victorious. After all, she scored eleven. The highest score of all the contestants. I knew what she'd done, or at least had a good idea of what happened. Her shooting skills with her bow were unparalleled. Every time she shot a squirrel or a rabbit, her arrow would pierce cleanly through the eye.

Perhaps she also demonstrated how capable she was at setting traps or throwing knives. I was glad that I took the time to show her how to make basic snares. My teaching could mean the difference between life and death for Katniss.

However, it wouldn't be me she should praise or thank if she gets out of there alive. Catnip would owe a lot to her father, who taught her how to wield a bow in the first place. Her father taught her the ways of the wild, and that would give her an edge. Would it be enough to send her home to us?

Poor Prim. If anything, Katniss needed to survive for her. I'd been over their house a few times, and she seemed pale and withdrawn, worse than their mother, who kept appearing strong like Katniss told her to. I could understand why Prim was so fragile at the moment: the sister Prim adored and loved was throwing herself in Death's embrace so that she herself wouldn't.

With this eleven, Katniss may have given Prim enough hope to start eating again. But I couldn't help but think: Why didn't you get a twelve?

=Ξ=

The Interview.

No. Fucking. Way.

This had to be a rouse, a lie, a trick to bring forth sympathy from the audience. The baker's son was in love with Katniss? The Katniss who I know was a social recluse, and the only people she really conversed with outside her family was me and my family, and on occasion, the quiet daughter of the mayor.

If Peeta had ever talked to her—something that I seemed doubtful of in the first place—his presence in her life couldn't have been wholly important because I never heard of him; in the forest where conversation flowed so easily between Catnip and me, where there were no prying ears to hear our inner-most thoughts, that was where we told each other everything.

Katniss had her face buried in her dress; the very same dress that made her glow like a star, lights bouncing off the many jewels sown into the fabric that could keep a dozen families well-fed for the rest of their lives. I thought that her attire took my breath away, but with Peeta's rash declaration of love, I realized I still had enough air left in me to feel horribly winded.

While mutters and gasps were filtering through the Capitol audience, all I felt was a lurch of my stomach and involuntary tightening of my jaw. My mother and my siblings shot me anxious and worried looks, but I ignored them, instead looking at Katniss.

Scanning her body, I could tell by the tense set of her shoulders, the way her hands gripped tightly—knuckles turning white as a show of how strongly she was holding—at her dress as she pushed it to hide her face, that there was something wrong. Instinctively, I knew that if this was a plan, Katniss wasn't informed on the details.

Even though Katniss could keep her face blank, with eyes dull, mouth slack, at any time; a mask of pure indifference, she was terrible at acting otherwise. If she didn't find something funny, she couldn't bring that certain gleam to her eyes, that glint of humor, nor could she make her lips quirk in that certain way that made Katniss' face lose all of its sharp lines, softening it into something more beautiful. Same with anger, envy, sadness, etc. Catnip was many things, but an actress, she was not.

She was barely tolerant to people in general; so I wasn't convinced she could act in love on the spot. I think she knew this too. Which was a possible reason to explain why she was hiding her face.

Peeta on the other hand, if I knew that there was no way he was telling the truth—no way he could love Katniss without even breathing a single word in her direction—I'd believe him. For some reason, he had this weird aura of sincere innocence around him. Definitely, if nothing else, he was a crafty liar, good with words.

With his easy-going smile, bright blue eyes, blonde ringlets of curled hair; he appeared to be immediately likable. His words flowed and the audience were eating all this right up. I had the inkling he would charm a snake out of a hole if he so wished.

I thought back to the opening ceremony, where they were filmed with linked hands. Back then, I didn't give it too much thought, but now I could that perhaps it was planned from the beginning. Maybe.

Actually, to show them as a united front was strange—in a few days they'd have to fight in the arena, a place where the rule was 'kill or be killed'. Eventually, only one would be a victor; so why were they doing from this angle? Showing them as possible lovers?

Really, if this saves Katniss by gaining her more sponsors, I couldn't complain, but still, I felt... betrayed somehow. Katniss and I never had a real title on what we were; we weren't just hunting buddies, and we were closer than any mere friends. Both fighters, feeding families, both felt the pain of losing a father in a situation out of their control—there was a kinship between us.

If I were being really honest, I never gave "us" much thought, but in a way, the back of my mind had always assumed that the two of us would end up together. Married, sharing kisses, eating together at night by ourselves: I sort of assumed that would be our life.

Yet now, as I watched Peeta and Catnip stand for the Panem anthem, with the angle they were filmed, the blush and averted eyes of Katniss for all to see... I guess my assumption might not become reality after all. Could she... Did she like him back? Unless she comes back home, I'll never find out.

And the Hunger Games destroys yet another part of my life.

=Ξ=

A/N: That's the end to chapter 1. What did you think? Thanks for reading; I'd appreciate some reviews please. :-)