Hours pass, and she still counts the minutes
That I am not there, I swear I didn't mean
For it to feel like this
Like every inch of me is bruised
- Bruised, Jack's Mannequin
"Let's run away," he says quietly. He has to be quiet, even out in the woods. The Capitol is always listening.
She's crying. He doesn't know why. She never cries. But there are tears leaking down her face, falling onto him. She's above him. He doesn't know why. He seems to be on a bed.
He doesn't understand. There are no beds in the woods.
"Katniss? Let's run away." He doesn't hold out any hope that she will. She's too noble. She has mouths to feed, a sister to protect. But she nods. Tears come harder. It occurs to him that she's holding his hand.
"Okay. Okay, we'll run away."
He smiles and for some reason this hurts. He realizes his whole body hurts.
He doesn't understand.
"What happened?" He isn't in the woods. Where is he? He starts to panic, to thrash around. Katniss puts her hands on his shoulders, pushes him down. Her lips are on his forehead.
"You saved him. You saved him, Gale."
His name drops from her lips and dangles in front of him. It dances before his eyes and then flies away. He follows it- it zooms over to a place behind her. Throws itself against Peeta Mellark.
There's a hole in his stomach.
No, not Peeta's stomach.
It should be in Peeta's stomach.
But it's in his.
"You saved him."
She's crushing his hand.
He must be dying.
"Let's run away." The sane part of him argues that he can't run away- there's a hole in his goddamn stomach, they aren't in the woods, they aren't hunting, it isn't a normal Sunday.
"Let's run away."
She nods. "Of course we will. We'll run away together."
Smiling hurts but so does frowning. So does staying still. In some dark place in the back of his mind he realizes that they can't run away because there's a hole. There's a hole at the bottom of the sea. No, that's not it. A hole in his stomach. Because he saved him.
Why couldn't he hate Peeta Mellark?
There's a hole in his stomach that bread can't fix. Peeta Mellark can't come to the rescue this time.
"Win, okay? I know you can win."
There's a tiny, sane part of his brain that's shouting, you idiot, she isn't in the Games. It's over. You're dying and it's over and now the path is clear for Peeta Mellark.
So why did he save him?
Because she loves him.
This whole thing is far too complicated.
His brain hurts.
What's okay? Specify, she can't read minds.
Shut up. Shuddup, it hurts.
"It's okay, Katniss. I want you to be happy."
Her face scrunches up. She leans down and kisses him gently. She tastes like blood.
No, idiot, that's you.
"I don't mind, Katniss. I want you to be happy."
Do you think you're a martyr? That the only reason she's choosing him is because you're dying? She'd be with him anyway, Hawthorne.
"You make me happy, Gale. You. Always you. You come before anybody."
"Not Prim." This was supposed to be said with a smile. Instead it's more of a grimace.
She understands anyway.
She always does.
"You can't compare yourself to Prim, silly. You'll always lose." She laughs. Smiles. The pain lessens. She leans down and her hair creates a curtain around him. Just him and her. Katniss and Gale. Like it's supposed to be.
She kisses him.
His brain is silent.
So is he.