A/N: So here is a short one-shot I thought of while considering the ending of Mockingjay. As I've said before, what I found most devastating about the ending was how Gale and Katniss severed all ties. Don't get me wrong, I ship Peeta and Katniss all the way, but I couldn't help but think, "But why couldn't she make things better with Gale over time?" So I did something about it in this piece. I hope you enjoy it. It's got a little bit of fluff, completely different from the other Gale one-shot I wrote.
Thank you in advance should you decide to submit a review/add this to an alert.
Disclaimer: I am not Suzanne Collins, therefore, I do not own the Hunger Games or these characters.
Gale's mother had always wanted to be buried next to his father. During her last days, as the awful disease slowly claimed her, she made sure to remind them every single day that she was to be put to rest next to her husband's empty grave and not in some catacomb in District 2.
Hence, it was his mother's last wish that brought Gale back to the place he sought to avoid for six years.
He had made arrangements for his and his siblings' lodging while they stayed there. The memories of the people of District 12 did not fade and neither did their gratitude. A lot of them were more than glad to offer their homes after what Gale did for them seven years ago when the Capitol bombed their district into oblivion.
As they made their way down Victor's Village, the place where most of the people who came back lived now, Gale averted his eyes from the house with the biggest garden. Although all houses looked relatively the same, he knew that was her house because he recognized the flowers growing in abundance.
He didn't realize he had dropped his gaze to floor until one of his sisters placed a comforting hand on his back. Whether because she thought he needed consolation for their recent loss or for his loss six years ago, he did not know.
The district's cemetery, along with Victor's Village, survived the bombing of District 12. After all, there are not many ways in which a place for the dead could be destroyed. If anything it could only be expanded as the Capitol proved years ago. As such, his father's empty grave, along with many others was still there.
The service for his mother was a quiet one, with most of District 12 in attendance. It wasn't until halfway through the ceremony that he saw her. She stood apart from the crowd, almost as if hoping she would not be seen. Her face, which was completely healed, was adorned by her thick dark hair as she looked down at the new grave. Even though she stood alone, Gale caught the unmistakable glint of gold in her left hand: a ring. As if she could feel the weight of his gaze on her, she looked up and looked at him directly. Their eyes met for only the few seconds Gale allowed before he dropped his eyes to his parents' graves.
That was the last he saw of her in the two days that followed, and perhaps, he noted, the last he would see of her ever.
On his last day there, unsure of what possessed him, Gale found himself going beyond the fence that separated District 12 from the woods. The path all too familiar and alien at the same time. Before he realized he had no recollection of getting there, he found himself sitting on a log by the almost musical stream of water where they used to fish.
There was a faint rustling behind him followed by the sound of footsteps. He didn't have to turn to know who it was, but he did so anyway.
And sure enough, there she stood. Gale rose to his feet and they both remained unmoving, taking the other in. He had been right, her skin had healed completely but up close he could see the distinction from her own skin and the surgically implanted one. The trace of six years was visible in her thin face, improving it rather than damaging it. Her black hair, which she no longer wore in a braid, was shorter than he had ever seen it, resting past her shoulders rather than at her waist.
With a sense of irony, Gale thought of the first time they met when she was only twelve years old. She had found him in almost the same spot and she had studied him with same uneasiness. Back then, she was looking at a stranger, weighing the probability of him hurting her. This time was no different, he thought, for they were as good as strangers to one another.
The silence was deafening so he decided to break it. "I didn't know you still came here."
"I usually don't," she replied softly. "I saw you going through the fence earlier and I knew you'd be here."
"You're out of practice," he noted. "I heard your footsteps from a good 30 feet back."
Katniss gave him a sad smirk. "I haven't hunted in years," she allowed. Gale wondered whether she had hunted at all since her return home. And somehow, he was unable to picture her doing so. Not alone at least. "I'm sorry about your mother," she said, breaking his train of thought.
He gave her a small nod of gratitude.
And they became victims of another silent minute.
Then, without a trace of anger, pain, judgment, or anything, she said, "You didn't come when I called you."
Of course, she was referring to when she desperately called his name after shooting Coin. He shook his head fiercely, allowing himself to explain, "I was as far away from the Capitol as I could get myself by then." It had been true, after that last conversation with her which was as good as a goodbye forever he had gotten himself to the train heading for District 2. "I saw it televised days after."
There was a third, long silence where only the occasional ruffling of birds among the branches was audible.
"Besides," Gale started quietly. "I could have never shot you."
Katniss opened her mouth to protest but he raised a hand to stop her. "Despite what we said," he began, speaking fervently now, "put yourself in my position. If the roles were reversed, if you were there to do it, if you knew that I wasn't just being captured by Peacekeepers and that there would be a whole team of capable adults to insure my safety, would you have shot me?"
She considered this and finally sighed audibly. "No," she replied. "I wouldn't have."
He sat back down on the log. Without a word, Katniss sat next to him, keeping somewhat of a distance. "So what's the story?" Gale gestured to the ring in her left hand which rested at her lap.
Color rushed to Katniss' cheeks as she stammered to reply. She examined the ring as if it had suddenly appeared there.
Gale chuckled, which only made her turn a deeper scarlet. "It's alright," he assured her. "All of that is…er…gone," he hedged, feeling his face grow hot. They both knew that was his vague, less abashing way of referring to his feelings for her. He was not lying, for the most part. Although all romantic feelings for her had been dispelled a few years back, he would always care for her. He did not feel the need to vocalize this for he was convinced she knew this, "As a matter of fact, I'm getting hitched next year myself."
She was a bit taken aback but she smiled despite herself at his choice of words. "Congratulations," she said and after he thanked her and returned the sentiment, she added, "I married Peeta two years ago."
Gale nodded, unsurprised. "I didn't see him at the service."
"We thought…it'd be best if he didn't go," she admitted, averting her eyes to the floor. She looked like a small child, caught in a lie by her parents. It was rare to see her like this and far from the Katniss he knew years ago.
Gale did not comment, instead he asked, "Does he make you happy?"
"Then I'm happy," he said honestly. She looked up at him in time to see the sincere smile he gave her.
"What's her name?" Katniss wanted to know.
"Anise," he replied and she saw him smile fondly at the thought of her.
"And when are you going back?"
He saw her stare at the water in earnest for a long time. "By the way," she said a few moments later, her voice quiet. "You're wrong."
Gale furrowed his eyebrows, confused for the first time during their conversation. "About?"
"I know the reason you didn't visit me while you were here is because you thought I didn't want to see you," she elaborated and when he opened his mouth to contest, she went on, "That's where you're wrong," she smiled sadly, "I've made peace, Gale. I've accepted what I should have six years ago."
He allowed the weight of the words to really sink in. "Katniss," he began but she waved him off.
"I really have to tell you this, Gale."
Before continuing, she closed her eyes briefly, and took a deep breath, "There was a time when anger about Prim's death overtook the grief. And I became desperate to blame someone, anyone, other than myself. Because deep down I knew it was my fault, too," she swallowed. "Out of all the people I could have blamed, I accused you, the one person in this world who cared more for her aside from me and my mother," she took a small pause to regain her composure. "When I came back and the weight of everything had sunk in, I found a panacea in reminding myself of every good thing I've seen people do. And most came from you. I'll never forget everything you did for her."
She placed her hand on his, the distinction of her skin was much more visible in her hands. He did not retreat his hand as his mind processed everything she had just told him.
"Do you know why I shot that arrow through Coin's head?"
"For her," he responded, without thinking.
Katniss nodded. "Yes," she allowed, "And for you, also. Not only had she taken my sister but my best friend, too." Her voice broke at the last word. Gale knew her well enough to know she was on the verge of tears. And he also knew she would never cry in front of someone else.
There were no apologies- not because there had never been any between them but because neither owed the other one. There was only acceptance.
Gale remained silent for she required him to say nothing. He turned his hand in hers and squeezed it, letting her know of his acceptance. She smiled, relieved.
After a few minutes of sitting there, they both stood and began making their way back side by side.
"Do you think we could ever go back to being friends? Like before?"
"Not like before, no," he answered thoughtfully. "It'll never be the same, you know."
Katniss nodded her concurrence. "Maybe you're right," she said, but he could hear a tinge of disappointment in her voice.
"It's just…you're too different, Catnip," continued Gale, his tone playful. He added emphasis on his old nickname for her with a bit of liveliness. "You're out of practice," he teased with mock disappointment. "With all the noise you're making, you must have scared half of the woods' game away."
Looking relieved, she said, "Oh, yeah?" And with a swift movement she pulled a few berries from a nearby bush and tossed them in the air, one after the other. Gale caught them in his mouth, not missing a single one.
It was that moment, he thought as they walked back into the boundaries of District 12, that he would remember in its exactitude years later. He would never forget Katniss' grin, or the feeling of familiarity being slowly restored, or the relief he felt at realizing that they were proof that fire never truly destroyed but instead left behind a trail of ashes that could burn forever.
A/N: I just sincerely want to say that I strongly believe that Katniss and Gale could have rekindled their friendship. Of course, it would take years and things would never be the same. But they could go from being nothing back to being friends. And the only reason why I am so convinced is because it's happened to me personally. But that is a long, tedious story not very worthy of telling!
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