A/N: The best and worst possible outcome for Gale: Katniss survives... wrapped in the embrace of another man! Oh noes!
Total apology for the slow update. I wrote a few other one shots that kind of nagged at me in a louder, whinier voice. ^-^ But come on; it's not like I'm holding you in any real suspense. This is a POV take on a book you've all read, after all.
Disclaimer: Hunger Games is owned by someone else. You can tell because I wouldn't make Rue die; she'd get some random ninja superpowers and somehow escape the arena. Haha.
The Games – Part 4: Pouring Rain.
Why does it hurt so much?
Why do I feel like crying? Or screaming?
Why is it I am tearing up inside?
THUNK. THUNK. THUNK.
The sound of chopping wood was usually soothing to my thoughts, normally forcing me to concentrate on the noise on the build of callouses on my hands—I had always done manual labor, and it was hard to remember a time when I had soft fingers that could blister. The only people who I knew had soft hands were my siblings, but they didn't count. Too young to be of any use hunting or working in the mines; they were safe.
My mother used to have soft hands. She used to never cry herself to sleep, either. And then my father died in the coal mine explosion. That's what it all comes down to, in the end, in our district. Death, and coal.
Shaking my head before the thought could fully form and manifest, I wondered why chopping timber didn't seem to help at all today. The work was hard and mindless, the axe heavy and blunt, my arms were burning and sweat rolled down my brow; normally signs for a peaceful, if not tiring, afternoon.
So why did my thoughts keep going back to Katniss and Peeta, snuggled up so closely—toocloselytightlytogether—in that sleeping bag? Why did I keep picturing that face Katniss made when she was helping him? Why couldn't I stop thinking about their kiss, soft and innocent as it was?
Reminding myself of the incident was certainly not improving my mood. Of course she had to look for him, help him, try to save his life; who wouldn't, with the rule change? The chance to have another victor, one from your own district, is an unheard of possibility. I couldn't begrudge her choice. But that didn't stop acid rising up my throat when I saw how they acted together.
Part of me said, she was smart enough to know why there was a rule change and the image she had to maintain. A louder, less confident part, contradicted and wondered whether the kisses were scripted at all. Especially with the kindness she showed him. I'd only seen that soft look in her eyes, worried and heartbreaking, when she was next to Prim on a sick day.
It was a bitter hit on my ego that a boy she barely knew already got more from her than I had in two years of working together, after heartbreak and toiling to feed our families and the effort it took to break down her barriers and build up some trust.
My only consolation was that I knew Katniss. That boy didn't. He knew that she loved her sister, sure, but anyone could see that. Had he ever heard her heartbeat before she struck for the kill shot, and her exultation at getting it right? Had he ever walked her to her house and watched how she hugged her sister and the distrust she had for her mother? He had felt her body next to his, but had he ever heard her laughter? I had. It was drier and quieter than I first assumed, but it was sweet, all the same. Rare as diamonds were in a coal mine, but all the more precious for it.
I knew Katniss like she knew me. Peeta, the baker's son, never looking like one who'd ever need a reason to enter the woods, would he know of her namesake? The starchy root that grew under water? What would he know of hunting and of killing to survive? Of weapons, of poisonous plants, of dangerous animals; what could he possibly understand of any of it?
Laughing under my breath, I knew that this endless cycle of thoughts was doing nothing for my psyche. Until the end, I'd have to grin and bear it. I said that to myself, but I didn't act upon it. Already, vultures were descending on our families, reporters eager for a story. The only reason I appeared on camera at all was because they'd give food for our families as payment. Proud as I was, I'd kneel on the floor and beg if it meant my brothers and sisters didn't have to go hungry for a night.
Somewhere along the way, I was branded with being Katniss' cousin. Understandable, and it protected her, so I allowed it. No one knew enough to say otherwise, and those that did were loyal to Katniss before the Capitol. Not to mention, I still brought in meat to the Hob and they knew better than to get on the bad side of a consistent hunter who liked to trade.
Hearing my mother call me from the house, I finally put down the axe, leaning it against the considerable large pile of wood I'd already collected. She only called when there was something important happening on the television.
Now, given the choice, I'd probably live in the forest, only coming out to give my family food and to trade. However, guards will occasionally wander the town and school, and randomly question citizens on the games. Those who can't answer are jailed for not watching the games. Not many people left the jail with all their fingers intact.
For the most part, Katniss and Peeta were hogging the screen time. To the point I'd rather risk the jail than watch any longer. Now, my mother knew to leave me be; I stayed close, unless outright hunting, and she'd call when things got "interesting".
As I watched, I thought as I did every time I watched, that if the tributes were children from the Capitol, it wouldn't be called entertainment, but inhuman atrocities.
When Katniss nearly died trying to get the backpack to save Peeta, I felt my heart stop. In the woods, away from prying eyes and ears, we'd discussed how we'd want to die. we both agreed on fast and quick. Straddled, and trapped, she looked as though she wasn't even going to die on her own terms.
The first pretense of a cut made my throat close up, and it was all I could do to force my siblings out of the fucking room. They wanted to watch, I don't know why, perhaps believing their attentions to the screen would save her, but I wanted to spare them the trauma. Katniss was like a adopted sister of the family on good days. They didn't need to see her die.
My mother tried to get me to leave, but I shook my head, stood my ground and spared a thought to Katniss' mother and Prim. It was too much to hope for rescue, but it happened anyway. Katniss was all flavors of lucky in the arena; I could only hope it stayed that way.
Who'd have known the brute that saved her had a soft spot for Rue? The girl who looked so much like Prim, the girl who was so brave and strong and likable. The girl who died with a spear to the gut and was sung to sleep with a voice I had heard sing only once before.
It was amazing Katniss decorated her in flowers. Perhaps more amazing, was the three finger salute. I was in town when that happened, and the entire center hushed in reverence.
Only Katniss would take the time to honor her fallen comrade in such a way. I was indescribably proud of her.
There's this fable children are told in our district. It's a power called, "Karma". Basically, you do something good, something good happens to you, and if you do something bad, something bad happens to you. Bullshit, right?
Until Katniss' final actions towards Rue proved her savior, I'd never believed in Karma before. Catnip always lived for someone else; perhaps Karma could recognize that and free her from the nightmare and let her live the rest of her life in piece.
I could only pray. Funny thing is, I know there's no God out there.
If there was, He wouldn't have let the Hunger Game exist in the first place.
The Games – Part 5: Suicide.
It was irritating, how the screen flickered and screeched in-and-out of life. Little waves interrupted the picture, and since it was a rather brutal fight between man and man-made animal going down, I was rather keen to see the outcome. Not because I thirsted for blood, but because I needed to see if Katniss was alright.
The end of the Games, no matter what arena, no matter how many contestants, always dwindled to bloody combat. I knew things would be getting uglier when the burly boy from District 11, Thresh, fought with the vicious District 2, Cato. Their fight lasted long and hard and was impressive enough with their gathered weapons and the torrents of rain and lightning. Cato fought for Clove, his tribute partner. Thresh fought for Rue, his own.
He'd been one I'd have bet on, if I had no conscience and the money to do so. Thresh was a smart player, sticking to the dodgy looking fields of grain, a place where the others found so suspicious. However, in leaving the safety of the field to get some weapons from the Feast, he'd lost his invisibility. Cato was a surprisingly good tracker, even when seething in anger.
The commentators were laughing, cheering, and placing bets, a lot of them leaning towards Thresh until it was clear Cato, with his full body armor, gained an upper hand. The death was slow, Thresh received a countless array of wounds to his midsection and arms. It was hard to see whether there was a lot of blood when the rain kept washing it away. Yet, you just knew these things after watching years and years of countless deaths in the game. I'd knew the cannon would sound before it did.
Capitol citizens hooted at the blood, and when the commentators gladly hinted at more to come, I could only curse. I caught three rabbits that day with snares, and admittedly, I was a little more harsh in snapping their necks than I was usually prone to.
Still, all my worries condensed together couldn't picture something as utterly horrific as this. The circling wolves made of meat and metal and circuits and wires, and how few arrows Katniss had left. Cruel as Cato was, he didn't deserve falling into the pit of wolves. With their metal teeth and relentless attacking. Whilst I hated him for trying to kill Katniss, I was human enough to realize no person deserved such a fate.
Capitol celebrities were wondering over how long he could withstand the pain. Doctors were calculating just how long Peeta could survive with the leg wound, roughly bandaged as it was. I just kept looking at Katniss, at the almost-relief in her eyes and it hit me: they were coming home.
But not until Cato died. Perhaps she had come to the same realization, or maybe Katniss was doing this out of kindness, but she shot him dead, clean and quick. I'm pretty sure his final words were asking for freedom from the purgatory.
I was at Katniss' home, and Prim (as school was canceled for the final moments) was sitting in her mother's lap as we watched the footage airing. As the arrow landed, they both started crying, sobbing and laughing hysterically with relief. I stayed stoic, but a small smile crept onto my features. It was over. In a few days, they'd be home.
Then the announcement aired, the rule was revoked, and Katniss raised her bow. Peeta submitted, Katniss refused and they both raised a hand of poisonous berries. The Capitol crowd went insane, and it was hard to hear the commentary over the screams of excitement over a possible double-suicide.
I was having difficulty hearing from the sudden ringing in my ears; I recognized it as sharp panic. We all froze, and in such a small room, the feeling felt impossibly synchronized.
It happened so quick, I didn't know what to think. Her mother and sister cried out as she raised her hand, but all I could think was, Wasn't your family and I enough a reason to stay alive? Is he really worth throwing everything away for?
Moving to swallow the berries and die, it was if Katniss was saying, Yes; yes, it is.
Standing at the train station, surrounded by reporters, cameramen, and my family, my mouth was frozen in a shadow of a smile. Katniss was coming home. Hand-in-hand with Peeta. Her new-found love. To celebrate or to mourn, the feelings were fighting for domination.
Her return secured food and safety, and a roof over her head for the rest of her days, never being in want of anything. But, where would that leave me? For years we'd hunted together, and I was sure it was more than just that.
Perhaps not. Flashbacks still flickered on the few screens visible from the station, of Katniss leaping into Peeta's grasp and kissing the life out of him. They were free from the arena. If it was all a pretense, they wouldn't need to portray it so enthusiastically once free.
Although, I suppose all notions I had of the entire love affair being a farce died with their unsuccessful double-suicide attempt.
At least she came back. Even though, she's different. I can see that even before she comes off the train. She'll be changed. For the worse, for the better, I can't say. It's weird; this was everything I wished for. I wanted her safe return, happy and healthy.
Perhaps I should have been more specific.
I was feeling irrationally bitter, but probably more scared than anything else, if I was being totally honest. While the feeling may be one sided, I had grown to care for Katniss more than a mere friend. How could I lose my confidant and hunting partner so cleanly when she hadn't even died?
Now I only hoped she didn't forget me in the face of Peeta, the boy whom she was willing to die for.
A/N: That ends my take on Gale's view of the Hunger Games. I might continue the Gale POV into Catching Fire, but I want to post some other one shots before that... so Author Alert me, if you want.
Actually, if you haven't seen, I've posted another two one shots on the Hunger Games. If you liked this, maybe you should check it out! (Shameless plug, of course).
Thanks for reading, eat something sweet, and leave me some comments or a message in a review! :-)