Honestly, this probably could have and should have been up earlier…and then the internet did that thing where it distracts me with all of its brain melting greatness. So don't blame me. Blame the internet (excuses…)
This chapter is a little short (like 1200 words short) but it covers what needs to be covered, so enjoy
Being shot hurts like hell.
I blink up at the ceiling, my breath coming in ragged gasps.
"Commander!" In my periphery, I see a soldier fall to his knees beside me. I focus on trying to breath, relishing in the small breaths I can manage. My head pounds with the mere thought of thinking. He rips my jacket open and pushes away the fabric, looking for the wound.
Instead of flesh and blood he finds the bullet proof vest that saved my life. He falls back, letting out a breath.
"I thought we lost you there, sir." I feel a distorted smile cross my face and take another moment before sitting up with a groan. I rub my hand across my chest, wincing at the sting of pain. A trickle of blood rolls down the back of my neck from where I hit my head against the tiled floor. My soldiers keep flashing worried glances at me, their guns trained vigilantly on our prisoners. I slowly get to my feet as the world tilts wildly around me; a sure sign I have a concussion. The soldier closest to me grabs onto my elbow, steadying me.
"Thank you," I choke out. I still haven't been able to take in a full breath. I see the man who shot me, dead on the floor. His blood pools together with the blonde woman's. I look away. "Let's hurry this up."
For the next ten minutes I half-stumble down the hallways clutching onto my gun like a lifeline. One of my soldiers caught me from falling sideways into a wall and suggested I go to the medics. I should have gone, but I didn't want to leave my men. As soon as we found another Commander, I handed control over.
I turn to my men before I go, looking at those remaining with half-focused eyes. They understand what I'm trying to say without me having to say anything. Thank you. Because, in the end, what else is there?
I sit on a hovercraft with 20 other wounded soldiers. The man to my left cradles his left arm carefully against his chest, his breathing rough, but his eyes strong. The woman across from me has fallen asleep on the shoulder of the man to her right. There's something strangely comforting about knowing I'm surrounded by survivors.
It's almost as difficult to breathe right now as it is to stay awake.
They bring us back to the District 2 base. My base. I don't remember ever being more tired than I am at this moment.
The doctor who sees me is all smiles as he examines me. It pisses me off.
"Yup. You have a concussion." I glare at him from under my half lidded eyes. Because I hadn't figured that out already now… "But don't worry, it's not that bad." I grunt in response. All I want to do is fall asleep. He asks to see where the bullet hit me and I strip down, showing him the dark bruise where the bullet struck the vest. He feels for bruised or broken ribs, apologizing when he notices my tensed muscles and gritted teeth. He orders me to rest for the next week. Before I leave, he tells me what I've been waiting to hear.
"Madge is awake." And in an instant, all of my pain and exhaustion and worry are instantly forgotten.
"Where?" My eyes snap open and I stand quickly, swaying a little. I quickly pull on my clothes.
"Follow me." He moves slowly. I think he's trying to make sure I don't fall behind. I just want to see her. He stops outside of a door and smiles at me.
I step through the doorway, and there she is. Sitting up, staring blankly at a wall. Her eyes flash up and a brilliant grin breaks across her face. I practically run over to her, pushing away everything that instantly feels less important than this moment with her. I gently grab onto her face, forcing my eyes to take in every inch of her. Her blue eyes which have the tiniest speck of dark blue in the light. Her tiny little dimples. The way her top lip is just a little bigger than her bottom lip. She wraps her arm around me and crushes those lips to mine.
"Gale," she sighs. She pulls me away from me, breathless. My thumbs brush over the dark circles under her eyes. Her face is too pale, but her eyes shine.
"I love you," she says. Her hand tightens around my bicep.
"I love you," I tell her.
"I was afraid I'd never hear you say that again." She lets out a breath and her entire body seems to relax. "Are you okay?" she asks me, her eyes alight with concern. She pushes me away so she can look for injuries.
"Fine. Never better." I instantly see the relief on her face.
"Good. Then I won't get yelled at for doing this." She slaps me clear across the face. Black rushes in, but I blink it away. I rub my cheek, surprised at the force behind the hit.
"You hit pretty hard for a girl who was just shot," I say.
"Do you know what they told me when I asked for you?" Her eyes are blue fire. The heart monitor beeps louder to keep up with her elevated heart rate. I shake my heads. To be perfectly honest, she kind of scares me. "That you, stupid hero-complex and all, were fighting. Less than 24 hours after almost dying." Her eyes fill with tears. "Are you insane? Are you trying to get killed? Are you trying to kill me?" I don't know what to say to her. The tears spill over. I reach out to her, but she just slaps my hand away, wiping away her own tears.
"Madge…" Her name is a whisper on my lips.
"You're an idiot." Her voice is deceptively strong.
"I know." She looks over me again then pulls me towards her and crushes her lips to mine. She's out of breath quickly and breaks the kiss. I brush her hair out of her face, slightly alarmed by how warm her skin is.
"Are you alright?"
"Perfect," she mutters. I can feel her lips move, we're so close. She moves over in the bed and pulls me down next to her. I slide into the tiny gap left on the bed and gently place my hand over her injured stomach. She knits our fingers together.
"Madge?" I whisper, loving the feel of her name.
"Hmm?" Her eyes are shut, and her breathing is slower. She's as tired as I am, but before we fall asleep there's something I have to ask her.
"Will you marry me?" I watch her face, steely calm, but the heart monitor picks up her surprise. I keep my eyes fixed on her face, refusing to look away until I get an answer.
"Ask me again when I can know you mean it," she says.
"I do mean it." Her stomach rises and falls under my hand.
"Later." I press my lips to her shoulder, close my eyes and let sleep wash over me.