AN: LOL! So, everyone seems to think that The Great Escape is short. Well, it was supposed to be a one-shot. And then it was only supposed to four chapters, and then…. You see how it ran away with me. But you're right, the story could be twice as long. Alas. My other story is sitting by, sadly neglected. So, I hope you'll accept the Epilogue as a paltry attempt to appease you.
JK. The truth is that I'm a monster and this section was hacked off the original chapter 7 just to tease you. ;)
We're all looking a little worse for wear when lunchtime rolls around on the second day. We've stayed anchored to the crash site in hopes that rescue would be swift. It has not. At least not as swift as four hungry men and women hoped. We haven't even found a use for the knife yet.
Sure, we've all been in less dire straits. Katniss and I, in the Games. Or me in the Capitol. Gale and Madge had to run for their lives or burn. For some reason, hardship always feels worse when it's not all that dire. The degree of desperation must have some effect on one's attitude, because even my spirits are not as good as they could be. And it's not like we're going to die out here in this coniferous jungle.
I hate cookies (never thought I'd say it, but it's true). Madge hates me, because Gale told her that I told Haymitch. Gale and Katniss hate everyone. But that's to be expected. After a wave of sugar-induced stomach aches, Gale tried to convince Katniss and Madge to relinquish their bras for a snare kit he wanted to put together. That went over well. Not. We'll be eating cookies for a while. Although, the swelling in Gale's lip will have to go down before he eats anything.
The birds shut up all of a sudden, saving us from boiling pine needles in a liquor bottle. Katniss exhales in relief seconds before the telltale warning trill of a mockingjay. She points up as a hovercraft materializes.
I'm about to reflect on the suspicious lack of mockingjays up until this point, when Madge groans.
"Oh…boy," she says with a cringe.
Gale looks down at her with concern. "What is it?"
She grimaces again and points to the Mockingjay symbol and the inscription on the tail. "That's a Besra-77."
We all look up again. The tops of the trees swirl as the sleek hovercraft descends, kicking up a wind. Our hair whips around our heads; I even get pummeled by the end of Katniss's braid, which she forced me to relinquish the hair tie for last night. But amidst all the commotion caused by the air current and bracken flying up in the air, we can see the symbol, the words, and something else.
"So?" Gale shrugs, the significance of the model lost on him.
"Is that thing called Hobgoblin?" I ask, squinting at the bold, sans-serif inscription.
"Yeah," Madge replies weakly. She squirms.
"What's that painted on the side?" Katniss asks.
"Um…it's called a pin up…boy."
This takes a moment for us to process.
"Wait a minute – it's the Capitol tool's hovercraft, isn't it?" Gale demands.
"Maybe." Madge chokes.
"It has green hair…did Quintus put a picture of himself on his own hovercraft?" I ask. Because that's a little weird. Even for a former Capitol citizen. Still, this should be interesting – a showdown between Madge's two suitors.
Madge ums and uhs, hedging the question. Gale starts muttering under his breath and cracking his knuckles. I try not to grin, but Katniss elbows my ribs and my resolve shatters. Laughter hisses through our noses and we receive dark looks from the angsty backwoodsman.
We get out of the way as the Besra-77 lands in the strip of woods cleared by Ethel's hasty descent. The hatch lifts like a falcon gracefully spreading its wings to warm in the sun. The spectacle makes the Peregrin-61 look a little frumpy.
And Quintus makes all of us look very frumpy. He jumps down from his perch in the pilot's seat, in a form-fitting uniform altered to non-regulation tightness. His polished black boots catch the sunlight and gleam like his ultra-white smile, which is perfectly replicated on pin-up-Quintus.
He folds his arms across his chest, looking the definition of ease. The threads of his garment actually creak against his toned upper bod. "Hello, Madge," he purrs. Gale chokes on something - probably his own jealousy - and starts coughing, while Katniss gives me a questioning look. What are we, chopped liver? I nudge her as a reminder to just enjoy the show.
The pilot's face creases in concern as the coughing fit continues. He points at Gale's back, which is turned toward us while he tries to control his hacking. "Oh dear. Is there something wrong with that fellow?"
"Hi, Q-Quintus," Madge replies, trying not to laugh. She reaches out to pat Gale between his shoulder blades. "He'll be fine." Gale turns his head to glare at her. So much for girlfriendly concern.
Quintus rocks back on his heels, dropping any pretense of caring one way or another for Gale's health. He looks downright pleased as he takes in Madge's appearance. "I can't tell you how delighted I am to see you, especially after you missed our date." He drawls in that affected Capitol accent.
I wonder if we should give the two of them some privacy, but come to the conclusion rather quickly that this is way to interesting to miss.
"Um, I think there may have been a change in plans," Madge tells Quintus. She blushes and bites her bottom lip. Her eyes bug with the effort of not laughing while Gale makes a strangled, growling sound in the back of his throat. He turns his slitted grey eyes on the pilot and Quintus notices Gale for what he truly is, for the first time. That is, a tall, tough guy with zero sense of humor unless it involves teasing crippled guys and their persnickety girlfriends. I would know. Quintus takes in Gale's close proximity to Madge and the calculated hunter look in those cold grey eyes, and I guess, like Haymitch, he's also pretty quick on the uptake, because he backs down. After he takes the liberty of winking at Madge. Gale turns purple.
"So I won't be able to convince you to share the pilot seat with me on the way back?"
Madge's hand slips into Gale's while she gives a quick shake of her head. Her shoulders shake while his eyes pop.
When I look, I can see that Madge is squeezing his hand. Hard, judging by her white knuckles and the faint, purpley sausage look of his fingers.
"No?" Quintus's eyebrow – and the ring with it – quirk upward. But the Quinti still beam their dazzling smiles at us. "Such a pity." He smirks and turns a quarter-pivot on his heels to face Katniss and me, as though we just materialized in front of him.
Quintus takes a few strides forward and seizes Katniss's hand, giving it a fluid sort of shake. His fingers linger there and his thumb brushes over her skin. "You must be the Girl on Fire. Enchanted," he purrs, stroking his lower lip ring with his tongue. "I'm Quintus and I've wanted to make your acquaintance for so long."
Okay. That's not really funny.
Katniss scowls at him, but before I can go for the knife or Katniss can give him a tongue lashing, the Besra creaks ominously as Haymitch appears out the other side of the hatch. Nobody moves or says a word as he steps down. His hair's disheveled underneath a pair of aviator goggles and he's wearing an ill-fitting Mockingjay parka. Totally in character. He takes a look at Ethel, with her own hatches wide open, and a toolbox perched on the nose. Slack-jawed and mournful, he chokes up a little at the landing gear embedded in the ground and the torn cargo bin.
He rounds on us. "You four are so screwed."
The end for realz.
Many thanks to Ceylon205 for beta and for asking for this story in the first place.
Shameless plug: I'll be working on And So We Run Redux again, so stay tuned!