When the lights go away, Madge and Gale come out to play. A bit of hot fluff rated M for make-outery and various states of undress. If enthusiastic cuddling burns your retinas, ye be warned.
Edit: I've changed the title about four times. Oy. I've never been this indecisive.
The Underground District 13,
Year 79, Capitol Reckoning.
Open already! Madge grumbles to herself as she fists the door between Hangar 13 and HQ. She's rather avoid the maintenance crew that will soon arrive to clean corridors and offices. If only Quintus hadn't kept her late to discuss the legroom on the Sparrowhawk they're rebuilding together.
He wondered why the pilot seat of a one-man fighter needed twice the average space. She didn't explain. Some people just have long legs.
Just some people.
With her free hand, Madge pulls the clip from her hair, letting it tumble down her back. She rounds her shoulders to release the tension growing between her shoulder blades while the hydraulic door wheezes open like a geriatric snake dragging his tail in. The animal simile sits well in Madge's mind as she picks her way down the deserted corridor of Level 1 because it also sounds like a brace of raccoons are tumbling by in the sagging air ducts overhead. Not to mention the smell of wet feet. God, she's ready to get out of this pit. She hugs the file folder in her hands labeled "Colonial Defense and Development Committee" closer to her body.
Four years later and we're still working on relocating the Panem refugees aboveground. Four years of popping vitamin c, full spectrum lamps, and cooking with hothouse vegetables…and no nightlife to speak of, unless harassing Bartel down at Level 4's Broken Oar counts.
"Which it doesn't," Madge grumbles out loud.
She just needs something to break the monotony.
If it hadn't been for the break in the red line painted along the drab grey walls of the corridor, which reminded her of a mole's hole, she'd have daydreamed herself right past her destination: the Mockingjay support staff office.
Madge punches the security code into the faintly glowing keypad. This door slides opens with a little more speed and a little less backtalk. Impressive for a mechanical device that's over eighty years old.
A single overhead light fixture cuts a bleak, yellow triangle over a rickety tin desk, casting the rest of the windowless office in shadow. The other aides' desks line the wall. Dustless rectangular patches on the floor suggest that the maintenance crews could use a pep talk, and that the desks were recently moved out of the way, leaving just the one like an island in the center of the room.
"I..oh," Madge gasps when she sees another aide still hunching in the hard, narrow chair (the memory of which causes her backside to ache) behind the desk. It's after work hours and most of the inhabitants of Thirteen are sharing meals together on Level Four.
"Excuse me," she stammers. The black Mockingjay uniform does not lend itself to recognition in the dim lighting.
Gale Hawthorne visibly startles. He looks up from a dog-eared spiral bound book through a mess of non-regulation length, black hair that blends into the collar of his uniform like a cowl. He adjusts his posture so that he's sitting at full height, much too tall for the desk. The citizens of Thirteen are not known for their stature. Living underground has some sort of stunting, dwarven effect on their features. It was something to get used to, especially since she came from a rather tall family herself.
Something else for Madge to get used to: seeing Gale Hawthorne with a book in his hands. A manual, from the looks of it. Everyone's reading one kind or another these days. He always struck her as the type to demand that someone else give him the digest version instead of reading it for himself.
The corners of Gale's lips twitch into a smirk. Although it might be a trick of the overhead light, she can't tell. "Miss Undersee?"
Madge balks at his formal tone. A blush creeps up her neck and she presses the file folder, which she came to deliver, against her chest like a shield.
"Do you need something?" Gale asks, setting down the manual. His slate grey eyes flicker to the folder held by her slender, unadorned fingers, then down over the sensible black gabardine skirt of her flight uniform. Her shapely legs peek out from the fabric just below the knee-length hem.
Gale wonders when he last saw Madge with her hair down, flowing like gold thread over her shoulders instead of twisted into a barrette or constrained by a frayed ribbon? He imagines he can smell her shampoo from where he's sitting. Despite the new sharp focus of her azure eyes, she looks younger, more like the school girl he remembers from Twelve. The reticent townie who purchased strawberries and wore expensive white dresses.
"I…I'm just dropping off the inventory lists I've copied for the meeting tomorrow with Mr. Heavensbee," she stammers like she's reciting lines from a script and he's broken her concentration.
Gale folds his rough, but clean hands on the desk. "I see. Set the files here," he says, tapping the Formica overlay. "I'll sort them before I leave."
Madge bites her lip, taking a few timid steps into the office, out of the shadows, her black heels clicking over the stone floor. The door hisses shut behind her, closing them in together.
She clears her throat. "Actually, I'd better show you how I've organized them first."
"Have a seat, then," he says.
For lack of another chair within easy reach, Gale offers her the use of his own. He opts for a corner of the desk to use as a seat. The perch has its advantages. Especially when Madge leans forward to open her folder. The top button must have fallen off of her neat white blouse. The son of a poor washerwoman, Gale knows how to sew buttons back onto his garments. He doubts a mayor's daughter ever needed to learn, not when they had a maid to wash and mend their laundry. Ignorance has its advantages, Gale decides, licking his bottom lip. Ample advantages.
"How do you work in here? It's freezing?" Madge murmurs, oblivious to Gale's appreciative gaze, as she flips through the stack of spreadsheets separated by small bits of brightly colored paper bearing important officials' names: Plutarch, Haymitch, and others from Thirteen.
"Are you cold?" Gale asks, as if he couldn't tell from her flimsy white blouse and the goose bumps appearing on her bare arms. "There's a heater behind you. I'll plug it in, if you like."
"Mmm hmm," she murmurs while she separates the lists. She kicks off her unforgiving heels and rubs her chilled, aching feet together. What she wouldn't give for a foot massage…too bad that's not why she's here.
Slipping off the table, Gale steps around the chair. He lifts the mouse-bitten cord to the old space heater, which looks like one of those boxy amplifiers they use at political rallies. Only heat's supposed to come out, not sound. It's against a dozen fire codes to use one of these in the Underground. But then, the Underground's very existence is illegal, depending on whose side you're on, so reinforcing contraband laws goes by the wayside as often as not. Folks are more inclined to take prohibited items for their own use rather than confiscate them for legal reasons.
And well, Gale's never bothered much with laws, even if his back does look like a jigsaw puzzle now.
Gale flips the safety cover up over the outlet and jams the prongs into the socket. Somebody left the heater switched to ON, so the unit rattles to life immediately after orange sparks shoot from the outlet, causing Gale to jerk back his hand. Yeow! He turns to see if Madge noticed, but her back is still turned to him and he hears the sound of shuffling paper.
Hot air pours out from the black grill face as the internal fans kick in, filling the room with white noise like the grinding of tiny pebbles in a turbine. It smells noxious, like melting plastic.
Madge sighs as the warm current curls around her ankles and Gale notices her shoulders relax. He considers kneading his fingers into her muscles and working out the remaining tension until she droops under his touch. But the overhead light flickers as he's reaching for her. She bends down to pick up a dropped paperclip and he loses his nerve.
The light shudders, crescendos, and then the lightbulb pops.
Their faces turn upward expectantly, but the light does not return. The whirring fans slow within the heater, the sound of grinding pebbles plinks one last time, and the stream of heat evaporates.
"Don't panic." Gale's voice cuts through the darkness. Not like a knife, rending an irreparable trail. More like a spatula gliding around the edge of a bowl, scooping away the last creamy pool of brownie batter. At least, in Madge's opinion. She wonders when Gale started to remind her of dessert.
"I'm not," she murmurs. She can taste chocolate in her mouth and it's distracting her from the business at hand. Perhaps she should have eaten before she came? They might be here for a while.
"Help me find the door?" he asks.
Gale cracks his knee against the desk. His muffled curses string onward like an army of ants. The chair scuds away from the table as she stands to her feet to join him. Her hip grazes his side as she slides past him to the cabinets. She reaches out tentatively, careful not to break a fingernail as she feels for the handles to guide her along the wall. Her bare foot catches on an open drawer.
Madge curses under her breath and bends down to close the darn thing. Gale recovers himself as the sound of drawers sliding on their ball coasters echoes through the office.
"All right, Madge?"
"No," she mutters. "Stupid file cabinet."
He reaches out in front of him and his hand meets with something warm and squishy. He instinctively pinches.
"Gale Hawthorne!" Madge yelps. He feels the cooling air whirl around them as she snaps into an upright position.
Gale snatches his hand away from her gabardine-clad bum like it's on fire. His fingers sting where she swatted him. "Sorry."
He steps backward, away from Madge, and bumps into the desk so forcibly it budges backward an inch or two. The legs grind against the floor in protest, followed by the whoosh of papers falling and scattering.
"What a mess," Madge sighs, imagining rather than seeing her ruined stacks of paper. She moves in the direction she thinks she heard them fall, but trips into Gale instead. His arms snake up and steady her. He's leaning on the desk and his warm breath tickles her forehead.
Gale really can smell her shampoo now. His nose barely grazes her hairline, scented like vanilla. His mouth waters. He swallows hard, reminding himself that there are other priorities right now than trying to get his mouth on Madge.
"We need to check the door," he croaks.
Madge scoots away so he can get off the desk. Papers tear under their feet as they blindly search the wall for the indentation signifying the entryway.
Madge's fingers find the blank keypad and she fruitlessly punches the code that should automatically release the hydraulics. She shoulders the sliding panel to see if it will yield.
"It won't budge," she tells him. Of course not – with the power down and all. But she had to make sure.
Their fingers meet briefly on the smooth surface of the door. She jumps a little when his hands travel over her arms, then down to her waist, feeling out her position in the darkness. She swallows thickly. Then his hands displace the air on either side of her shoulders as they press against the door together. Her chest and stomach absorb the cold from the metal panel. But it's the warm, hard line of Gale's body behind her that's making her shiver.
The muscles in his arms cord as he tries to force the door. He grunts softly in her ear, then stills his efforts. "Nobody's getting through that," he agrees, though he doesn't drop his arms.
"I guess we're stuck in here together," she says.
His voice by her ear sounds like smoldering embers that makes her stomach coil. "In the dark."
"In the cold," she manages to reply.
Her words hang over them in the inky black room. Gale isn't quite sure what to do. She instinctively envelopes herself in the warmth radiating from his body, rather than pushing him away, so he figures she made a suggestion rather than an observation.
"You're shivering," he murmurs.
"I don't suppose that there's anything to be done about it," she sighs, hugging her arms around herself.
Gale's fingers gather her hair, burning a trail from one of her shoulders to the other with his knuckles as he brushes the soft strands aside. "Maybe."
His lips aren't cold when they press into the space between the back of her throat and her collar like a searing brand.
"Oh!" she gasps as the hair on his face tickles her skin.
He laughs low in his throat. The sound rattles down her spine and sends a rush of warmth blooming in her stomach. She knows he's taking advantage of her surprise, but she can't seem to formulate a coherent response while his warm, chapped lips explore her skin. Her head falls back on his shoulder.
Gale teases her throat, burning a trail to the tender skin below her ear. Madge turns her head so his lips brush over the ripe apple of her cheek, and lingers over her soft temple. He inhales deeply of her scent, and when he releases his breath, it warms its way down her shirt. She gasps at the swiftness of the kisses and pleasurable way they make her heart hiccup in her ribcage. His chest continues to pin her gently against the door. His hands stay where they are, but his body seems to scoop her up into his own without their help. Madge's back arches against his stomach and she wobbles as her knees threaten to give out.
"Let me turn around." Her voice hitches and she feels him smirk against her ear. Gale's hands slide up her waist, settling just below her breasts as he turns her to face him. Her arms wrap around his shoulders and now she isn't afraid of falling. She tangles her hands in his hair and stands on her toes, slowly seeking his lips.
She gets his chin. His lips aren't hard to find after that. Gale helps. Her back meets the door and then he teases and tastes her mouth like he has the right.
They breathe in gasps, speaking only the other's name. Madge nibbles Gale's jaw while his fingers scrabble over the buttons of her blouse. The blush creeping over her skin melts through the cold recirculated air prickling over her flesh. It can't touch her, not even when the fabric falls away. He's kissing the smooth plain of skin below her collar bone. She closes her eyes in the dark, though he won't see her eyes rolling to the back of her head. Her fingers find his belt loops. She tugs him closer. Not close enough.
Madge fiddles with his belt buckle and has the satisfaction of feeling him jump for once. But she wants that belt and doesn't want to wait for him to get over feeling shy. For some reason that's her solution to their problem of closeness. Somewhere in her mind she knows she could start with the narrow standard-issue tie around his neck or she could loosen the buttons on his shirt the way he did for her. But she can't seem to concentrate, and really, her hands were closer to his belt anyway.
Gale snaps out of his momentary surprise and tackles the tie himself. Not enough to pull it off and throw it to the floor. That would take too long and he'd rather touch her. So he does. But the gabardine skirt presents a problem. Gale anchors one arm around Madge's waist while he hikes the material halfway up her thigh with the other. He's grateful to find smooth skin under his eager fingers rather than troublesome nylon. Between the two of them, they're breaking a half a dozen dress codes and he couldn't be happier.
She hooks her leg around his hip and he scoops his body into hers while they moan their appreciation.
"Hey, it won't open."
Madge takes her mouth away from his collar bone long enough to mutter, "Well, you aren't trying very hard."
"I didn't say anything," Gale replies.
"What?" Madge cries shrilly. She pushes him away.
Bang. The door shudders, but it's not them. "What's wrong with the keypad?" someone shouts on the other side.
They jump farther apart, but quickly melt back into one another until the sound of footsteps fades away along with the intruder. Gale exhales slowly against Madge's neck. "Dammit," Gale growls. "Maintenance."
Madge presses a finger against his nose, then corrects herself, finding his swollen lips. "Ssh!"
Another voice responds to the man outside their door, but too faint for them to hear.
"Yeah, you better call Ernie!" the maintenance man replies. "Level 1 offices all have their own power supply in case of attack or acts of God or whatever crap. He'll know how to get in."
"I let Quintus keep me over too long," Madge groans against Gale's chest.
Gale agrees in his own, uncensored way. Then he says, "I'd better get the electric working again."
The cold creeps back when Madge feels his body leave. She tries to catch her breath. His shoes scrape across the stone floor in the dark and she hears the hollow pop of a metal door opening in the wall. Gale flips the fuse with a hard snick. They blink in the shuddering yellow light. The space heater whirs back to life and Gale quickly switches it off before the fuse blows again. Madge buttons her shirt, then fishes her wedding ring out of the pocket of her wrinkled skirt. She slips it on her finger.
Gale picks up her shoes from under the table, but won't give them over until she steps back into his arms and kisses him one last time. He leans down till his forehead meets hers. "This is awful for my concentration when I'm on duty, you know. This morning Haymitch and Plutarch debated about the time-honored tradition of dispensing grog to the troops and all I could do was picture getting you on the desk again."
"It makes the day go by faster," she quips, offering him a sly smile. "And it really turns me on when you call me by my maiden name. And your evil chuckle's coming along nicely – I almost believed you."
"You should. And, uh, sorry about the pinching," he says. "I wanted to keep it fresh and didn't think you'd jump out of your skin."
Madge laughs and fixes his tie. "Oh, I didn't mind. You just surprise me when you don't keep to the script."
"We have a script?" Gale cinches his belt. "Eh, I don't need one."
Madge arches her brow. "That's not what you said when we had to recite our wedding vows," she reminds him, flouncing out her skirt.
"That was different. Now, do I look presentable?"
"You look very handsome, but your hair's a mess," she says. Then she turns around on her heels. "What about me?"
Gale fingers the loop hole on her blouse where the missing button should be. "I'll fix this for you later?"
Madge shrugs. "Why bother. You pulled it off last week. You'll only do it again. And then I won't have anything fit to wear."
Gale smirks at her. "It's only because I love you that I tear your clothes to shreds."
"Aw, I love you too," she laughs.
"So, same time next week, then?" Gale asks, his voice hopeful, while he unsuccessfully combs down his ruffled hair with his fingers.
"You bet." She smoothes his hair for him, then runs her finger down his chest. "Don't forget to hide the space heater. I'd hate to lose it."
Gale's face splits into a grin. "We'd find another way to kill the fuse."
"Are you coming home for dinner now?"
"After I clean up this mess all over the floor," he says, gesturing toward the scattered files. Together they kneel down by the desk and sweeps up the scattered paperwork with their hands. A few of the pages are torn or have boot marks on them.
"I hope that isn't really the inventory for Plutarch," Gale says.
Madge shakes her head. "No, I learned after the first time when we really did accidentally break the lights." She whistles. "Boy, he hates crumpled reports. I dropped off the originals this afternoon and picked up a pile of old sheets from the recycle bin. We can take this back for Posy to color on."
Gale rolls his eyes when Madge isn't looking and mutters, "If Peeta doesn't find it all first."
"Hmm?" she asks. "I didn't hear what you said."
Gale is saved from answering by the staccato blip announcing that someone's entering the office. A man wearing greasy coveralls and a floppy cap over his salt and pepper hair pokes his head in first, then the rest of his lumbersome body follows. His sewn-on tag reads, Bert.
"Everything all right in here?" he asks.
"Sure it is," says Gale.
"Door jammed earlier," Bert tells them.
"Did it?" Madge asks as the last paper makes its way into the folder. She looks at Gale.
"Ernie's on his way," the maintenance guy tells them.
Gale gets to his feet, then helps Madge up. "We should probably get out of his way then, and let him work."
Bert shrugs. "Oy," he calls into the corridor. "Ernie! These two were in the room. Door's not jammed though."
A short man with thinning hair and sagging coveralls shuffles into the room hefting a crumpled toolbox. "Well, you don't need me then, do you," he grunts.
Bert scratches his head. "Well, how'd they get in here if I couldn't?"
"How would I know?" Ernie gripes. "I was in the middle of eating my pie when Grover called me up here." The electrician pulls out a pair of pop bottle glasses and shoves them on his round face. He blinks a few times then turns to his companion with a sour expression. "Oh, it's only that young Hawthorne fellow, Bert. Nothing to worry about."
Most everyone recognizes the tall, dark lad who played an instrumental role in rescuing the smooth-faced, good-natured Peeta Mellark. And everyone knows Peeta Mellark because of the Mockingjay. The scowling, reticent Mockingjay that everyone seems to like but can't quite decide why.
And just about everyone knows Ernie. At least by sight. He fixes all the lightbulbs.
"Hi, Ernie." Gale gives him a tight-lipped smile and shakes hands. "Uh, this is my girlfriend Madge. We had to grab a file and were just on our way out."
The young woman with pretty blond hair holds out her small hand for Ernie's large, wrinkly one. "Nice to meet you," she says, smiling warmly at him.
"That room has a faulty fuse or something, Ernie," says Hawthorne. "You might want to check it out. See you tomorrow."
The couple leaves together. Hawthorne wraps his arms around the girl's – Madge's – shoulders and whispers something against her temple. Whatever the words are, the body language universally translates as I love you. Ernie remembers a time or two when he might have whispered that way with his own wife, Maude. Of course, her hearing worked better back then. And walking wasn't such a bother. Now he'd have to shout. Shouting tends to take the sweetness out of sweet nothings. Now he figures offering to rub that analgesic cream on her knees sends the same message. Or close to it.
Wait, what was he thinking about? Oh yes. Thinking of Maude reminds Ernie of something.
"Girlfriend? I thought Hawthorne was a married man," he mutters to himself.
The young lady with the gold cornsilk hair looks back over her shoulder and winks.
Ernie scratches his head, then shrugs. "Young people these days."
AN: Married couples need to keep it fresh, yeah? Anyway you can use a telephone to figure out the secret phrase used for the security code. Hint: Google the "tattoo in Master and Commander." Best fragging movie ever. And if you'd like some eye candy, I watched an episode from Supernatural last night and the dude who plays young John Winchester, Matt Cohen, is my version of 20-something Gale Hawthorne. Wow.
Anyway, before you pull out the this is OOC…I know. Gale made out with Madge, his wife, in the Underground. Nuff said. ;)
Thanks to Ceylon205 for beta and Geeky and KenoshaChick for comments! The bit about the recycled paper is a wink at KC's fabulous P/K fanfic, Scars.
For anyone who's interested in the progression of the "non-Redux" version of Madge and Gale. A timeline:
Love was a Fire Escape – Year 75
The Great Escape – Year 78
Dustland Fairytale – Year 79 (Dream sequence, Year 76)
Operation Blackout – Year 79