Hey all! Here's a random one-shot that I've been interested in doing for a while now. People have probably done this before, but inspiration hit and I had to go with it. This is my first time really writing in present tense so if I have some mistakes in that error, I apologize. Its hard to convert when you write in past tense 24/7. I hope you enjoy either way!
Also, I read Mockingjay and have to say I am very sad to see the series over. Was everyone else as disappointed about the end, too?
Read and review :)
Katniss wants me to run away with her. Never in a million years did I think she would suggest that. It would be our families as well; I already knew that, but Peeta and Haymitch? All those names and extra bodies has me on edge. Not only is it more dangerous, but also I don't want him tagging along. I have had enough of that baker boy to last me a lifetime. Then there's the people of district 12. No matter how much I love Katniss, I can't abandon them to suffer in this recession. Leave them behind for my own personal gain. We need to stay and help to the best of our abilities. If Katniss and I can't get them willing to rebel, then who can?
My brain is so preoccupied that I barely notice I've arrived to Cray, the Head Peacekeeper's home. He is always eager to pay well for a wild turkey. Everyone has their price in District 12- even the Peacekeepers.
I know at the back door like normal. The man that answers is tall, muscular, with a fine stubble on his scalp, and piercing dark eyes. He's in a Head Peacekeepers uniform, but its not Cray. I don't know who this man is, but instantly I do know that I'm on a whole hell of a lot of trouble. The dead turkey is already halfway out of my game bag, and this new officer zeros in on it immediately. Before he even speaks, I know this will be a kind of Peacekeeper Katniss told me about.
The man's hand snaps out and latches onto my arm in a steel tight grip. I make ready to get away as fast as I can manage, but then I realize if I escape I will definitely be seen as guilty. Struggling to look innocent is difficult as my heart pounds away a mile a minute.
"How'd you get that turkey, boy?" The black-eyed man demands "You going over that fence and poaching the Capitol's game, huh?"
"It- it got under the fence," I stammer in a hopefully convincing voice. "I chased after it and stabbed it with a stick. I didn't realize until afterwards the mistake I made. I was bringing it straight to Cray, I swear," I lie on the spot. It's a weak story that won't hold up to much. Poaching is poaching, that's it.
By the look the new Head is giving me he doesn't believe a word of it. "Its illegal to poach on Capitol lands. You broke at least two laws this afternoon," He says sharply, without compassion or remorse.
"Yeah, but-" I start to protest.
"You are hereby under arrest in the name of the Capitol," He states.
"No, you don't understand!" I argue pointlessly, reattempting my battle for escape. While hunting and working in the mines has built me some muscle, I'm no match for this burly Peacekeeper that has no doubt been training since he was a teenager for this kind of job. He slams me into the side of the house and cuffs my hands behind me as I clear away stars from my vision.
Suddenly, as if the blow brought me a epiphany, my thoughts shift to Katniss. What if she's still in the forest? This new Peacekeeper knows I'm lying, even if he can't technically prove it. He could find Katniss and she'll get into just as much, if not more, trouble. I no longer care for my own well-being, only Katniss's.
He holds me at gunpoint while he radios up all the other Peacekeepers in District 12. Apparently as this is his first time catching an offense here, it's quite an ordeal. Either that or he treats every situation with this urgency. I silently hope for the first as I begin to fully grasp the consequences of running away. The guilt of leaving my friends and entire town to a tyrant like this would eat me away from the inside out.
I'm marched roughly through town and can't help but hear the whispers emanating from every shop and street corner. By the time we reach the time we reach the square almost all the Peacekeepers are in attendance with slowly growing numbers of pedestrians. I hear one of the officers refer to the new Head as Romulus Thread and for the first time really wonder what has happened to Cray.
Thread carries my dead turkey in his belt, his hands too full of me and his gun to hold it properly. He repeats the story for the Peacekeepers about my kill of the wild turkey. All of them know it's not true. They are all common at the Hob and know where I really get my game. Luckily, none step forward with the truth and I relax the tiniest bit. Now Thread has to believe my story. And for once I'm glad that all I bagged today was a single bird. Anything like my usually haul and I would already be dead.
I'm stuck between the whipping post and the stocks and have problems swallowing at the use of either of them being my fate. Looking at the faces in the surrounding crowd of Peacekeepers and Seam members they are probably as wondering just as much as me what my punishment will be. Under Cray's reign we never had any public whippings, which was one thing we could appreciate him for. I know before Cray the Head's weren't as merciful. Thread is without a doubt not the merciful kind.
"Do you admit to purposefully killing this wild turkey Capitol's land?" Thread asks commandingly. My eyes dart between the dead turkey, now nailed to the whipping post and the assembly of officers. Do I plead guilty? Everyone already knows I am, so there's no point in lying. A few of my acquaintances from the Hob nod their heads tiny increments. They know it will be easier on me in the long run to admit it.
I raise my head and say firmly, "Yes, I did." Mutters run through the crowd. The Head doesn't even try to hide the disgusting smile that screws up his mouth.
"If I recall, regular protocol for poaching is four dozen lashes."
My knees almost threaten to give way under me for a second. I quickly catch and compose myself. Four dozen? That's almost 50 lashes. Can one person really receive 50 lashes for killing one damn turkey? I guess the answer is yes. The insanity of my situation is reflected on the faces of the Peacekeepers that step forward to ready me for my immediate and very public flogging. News spreads rapidly and most of the district has gathered now… but I still don't see Katniss.
Darius and Purnia, two regulars at Greasy Sae's, take the cuffs off my wrists and remove my jacket, tossing it carelessly to the side. I feel Darius's hand gently squeeze my shoulder in apology as they tie my wrists to the post at shoulder height with a length of rope.
"Katniss?" I breathe out almost inaudibly; praying one of them hears me. Darius moves his head back and forth imperceptibly. A sigh of relief rushes out of me. At least Katniss is safe. Just keep thinking of her and it will all be over soon. Her face, her smile, the sound of her laugh… the feel of her mouth on mine.
"Shirt off!" Barks Thread and a knife cuts away my best hunting shirt. I shiver as the cold air brushes over my bare torso.
The sound hits me a second before the actual bite of the whip. The unexpectedness of it makes me cry out before tightly gritting my teeth. It's like a line of fire is etched into my flesh. Fire that burns even in the winter. A second strike lands next to the first, but I refuse to show my pain. I'm being humiliated enough by this display; he would not get the extra pleasure of hearing my agony.
Back arching, a deep but muffled groan slips my forcefully closed lips, loud enough to be heard by the audience. What is this, the twelfth? Fifteenth? It's impossible for me to tell at this point. Maybe ten lashes later there is an irregular pause from the usually steady rhythm of the whip. It's enough time to try and catch my breath coming out in short, sharp gasps. Each hit of the whip saps more strength out of me and my legs shake to keep me upright. The ropes cut into my wrists from the strain I place in them in an effort to stop myself from screaming.
After the short pause, the next lash hits harder than any of the others. Thread is not only giving out a punishment now, he's striking out in anger. I hope no one stepped in on my behalf. Then, a handful of blows later my legs finally give out, but I'm so close to unconsciousness I do nothing. I think of Katniss, that's all I can do. Before the next lash comes, darkness pulls me under and I feel nothing. Nothing has never felt so good.
Fire. Burning, blistering fiery pain. Scorching fire is the first sensation I feel when I'm unwilling pulled into consciousness. It stretches from shoulders to my hips. A pitiful moan slides between clenched teeth again my will. Scrunching my fingers into fists, I find another hand in mine. Dry, small hands squeeze back and brush through the stick hair plastered against my forehead. My mom. I want to cry out at the relief of her presence here, but of course I don't.
"Oh, baby, never scare me like that again. I can't loose you too," She whispers fiercely, gripping my hand as if her life depended on not letting go. I'm too weak to give a verbal answer.
Another set of hands tends my agonizing injuries, which I quickly place as Katniss's mother. Of course. Where else would I be after being whipped within an inch of my life? Her and Prim discuss what to give me to relieve my pain as I fight to break away from the haze that's keeping me from full consciousness. If I'm at the Everdeen's, Katniss has to be here somewhere.
I hear her voice. "That won't be enough," She says icily. "That won't be enough, I know how it feels. That will barely knock out a headache."
Oh, no. She can't know how it feels unless… No. Darius told me Katniss was okay. He wouldn't lie about that; everyone cares too much about her. There is no way she understands this pain unless she willfully stepped in. I want to reach to her, but my muscles haven't seem to have reconnected with my brain.
"We'll combine it with a sleep syrup, Katniss, and he'll manage it. The herbs are more for the inflammation-" Mrs. Everdeen begins soothingly.
"Just give him the medicine! Give it to him!" Katniss screams, her voice laced with desperation that held back sobs. "Who are you, anyway, to decide how much pain he can stand!"
Her broken voice forces me to stir, to try and reach her, comfort her, tell Katniss I'll be okay. Unfortunately, the slightest move wells up a sickening wetness under the freshly placed bandages as pain ripples up and down my spine. Pathetic noises filter through gritted teeth.
"Take her out," He mother instructs calmly. By the sound of it (It being kicking and screaming) she had to be forcibly carried from the room. All the way upstairs I cans till hear Katniss's sobs and shouts.
Attempting to block out the sound, I focus on a different pain. Soon, I'm being ladled an herby concoction straight into my parched, burning mouth. Somehow I choke it down, dribbling down my chin in the process. Like I'm 18 months and not 18 years, my mom gently wipes away the mess with a rag. Motor skills apparently aren't my forte right now.
Katniss's mom fussed over some last minute adjustments while my own mom keeps stroking my hair and whispering soothing words. A lot of the time she is just muttering "Gale," trying to keep me in the now. While Mrs. Everdeen works, I bite my tongue and bare it.
Then Katniss's mom leaves to go check on her own daughter, leaving the two of us alone. I've been pretty still with my eyes closed; my mom assumes I'm asleep. With no one to see her tears, she begins to weep silently. There is nothing can do to comfort my mother, so I just let her be. Obviously she doesn't want anyone to witness this. I can respect that.
A little later the doorbell rings, sending the entire house into high alert. Drifting in and out of consciousness for a bit earlier, I'm wide awake now. They're here for me. It's the Peacekeepers. No one else would be showing up in Victor Village at this time of night. Now that I'm fully aware, every laceration in my back throbs and aches. Trying to readjust my position only a bit, but searing pain grips me again. Every freaking little thing just set off a round of pain. A sheen of sweat quickly coats my face and grind my teeth, ignoring the jaw pain from all this teeth clenching.
The rest of the occupants in the house file into the kitchen and then Mrs. Everdeen slides a needle in my arm. A small relief from the pain was almost instantaneous.
"What's that stuff?" Peeta asks. Good lord, does that boy ever leave?
"It's from the Capitol. It's called morphling." I hear faintly. Whatever this morphling junk is, its already taking affect.
"I didn't even know Madge knew Gale," Says Peeta.
"We used to sell her strawberries," Katniss answers irritably.
"She must have had quite a taste for them." Haymitch muses dryly. He hints she may have had a taste for more than just the strawberries. Just the thought of Madge and I… together repulsed me. She isn't unattractive or a real pain in the butt, but everyone seemed less than average in comparison to Katniss.
"She's my friend," Is all Katniss says. Which they are so everyone should drop it. Not able to form another coherent thought, the morphling pulls me under to a place of terrible, inescapable nightmares.
During one particularly horrifying dream, it's interrupted by a kiss. Eyes fluttering open. Katniss's face shimmers into view, distorted by drugs. At least I'm not in unbearably pain any long.
"Hey Catnip," I murmur sleepily.
"Hey Gale," She whispers back, squeezing my hand. I find it a little surprising to still see her here in District 12. Thought she would've taken off with Peeta by now.
"Thought you'd be long gone by now," I admit fuzzily. The drugs are still powerful and are drawing me back to that terrible place of nightmares again.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay right here and cause all kinds of trouble," Katniss promises firmly.
"Me too," I sigh, not caring that I fall unconscious again. She is staying in District 12. The corners of my mouth pull up slightly, then I pass out.
"Everyone told me how brave you were today. Thom and Bristel said you looked Thread straight in the and admitted to killing the turkey. That took courage," Katniss mutters, her hand on my cheek. I'm in a paralyzed state, drug induced, that can take in what's going on around me, but leaves me unable to react. "They said you took it silently and never begged for him to stop. Not even after Darius. All 48 lashes. I know you can't even hear me, but I am so proud of you. You alone have the courage for District 12, even if most people have none. If I had never started this rebellion, this never would've happened. It's all my fault and I'm so sorry." She just keeps talking, believing I am unaware of her words. I listen to the lull of her voice until she fell asleep, her hand in mine. After that, the nightmares didn't come back. She can chase away even my unseen terrors. Then, for once today, I willing succumbed to the darkness pulling me into oblivion.