Title: Rebel Like You
Summary: Gale and Madge became friends during the 74th Hunger Games, and resolved to work together afterward to prevent District 12 from having to send tributes to the Capitol again. The story of their attempts to start a District 12 rebellion and how they adjust to the return of Katniss and Peeta. Set after The Hunger Games; sequel to my fic "Not Yet a Hurricane."
Characters/Pairings: Gale/Madge mostly, background Katniss/Peeta, Katniss/Gale (aka, same mess as the books). Also featuring the Hawthorne family, the Undersees, the Everdeens, Haymitch, and others in District 12.
Timeline: Starts after the 74th Hunger Games
Spoilers: All 3 books
Disclaimer: Not mine, no matter how much I wish otherwise
A/N: Title inspired by the Dandy Warhols' song "Bohemian Like You" (and yes, intended to be somewhat tongue in cheek)
Rory is rambling happily to Gale about how big Katniss' new house is going to be and how much food she'll have once she moves to the Victor's Village. He and Gale had been walking home from the butcher's and Rory begged for them to take a detour to look at the Victor's Village. It's only been two days since Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games; soon they'll be making their final appearances in the Capitol and returning to District 12.
"Oh, look! They're getting a house ready for her already!" Rory sounds excited to be witnessing these preparations. A man Gale doesn't recognize — probably from the Capitol — is standing on the porch of one of the unoccupied houses, scribbling something on a clipboard.
Gale scans the rest of the Village, his eyes landing on the only occupied dwelling, Haymitch Abernathy's house. Apparently the Capitol's benevolence to victors does not extend to assisting with yardwork or painting. Gale can't imagine Katniss turning into an idle drunk the way Haymitch has… No, she'll probably be uncomfortable with the opulence. And Mellark will undoubtedly be more than willing to help her with the transition, of course. They'll probably coo at each other over elaborate, romantic feasts and be just as nausea-inducing back in District 12 as they were during the Games.
"Let's go," Gale says, nudging Rory.
"Do you think the Everdeens will still invite us over for holidays?" Rory asks, still staring longingly at the looming homes.
"Probably," Gale says. At least at first, until the disparity in resources becomes too awkward. How could his family turn up with an offering of wild dog when the Everdeens will now be able to eat delicacies each night and won't have to settle for dog?
"I can't wait," Rory says and Gale checks to make sure his brother isn't actually drooling. Nope, just starry-eyed. Gale foresees some problems with expectations and comparisons… They watch a man wearing a work jumper join the man with the clipboard, pulling a long wire from the interior of the house. The men confer briefly and then disappear inside.
Gale puts his arm around Rory to steer him away from the Village back along the lane that leads into town. The square is bustling with preparations for the series of official celebrations that will greet Katniss and Peeta when they return. A team is stringing up bright banners from the large screen still on the square, and other teams are assembling long tables and unpacking large crates. The screen is showing highlights from the Games, but Gale averts his eyes, determined to forget the details of the awfulness.
Gale notices Madge standing with her father, who's speaking to a merchant couple near the Justice Building. Gale maneuvers through the crowd, Rory still in tow, and catches her eye. She deftly excuses herself and meets Rory and Gale on the corner.
"Rory, this is Madge," Gale says, pushing Rory forward slightly.
Rory looks at Gale like he's crazy. "I know who she is — she's the mayor's daughter."
Madge smiles awkwardly. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Rory."
Gale prods Rory and says quietly with a smile, "That's what you're supposed to say when you meet somebody new." Rory is still watching Gale like he's confused about what's happening. Gale turns his attention back to Madge. "How's everything going?"
"Busy, busy. Everything has to be perfect."
"Of course it does. So… does the mayor need anything he doesn't have?"
Madge raises her eyebrows. "Maybe some wild berries? Tonight?"
Rory looks alarmed to hear them speaking so openly about black market trading, but Gale just nods. Madge notices Rory's uneasiness and smiles at him, and then she returns her gaze to Gale. "We look forward to it. Anytime after 8 if you can manage."
"Whatever the mayor wants," Gale says with a grin.
When Rory and Gale continue their walk home, Rory asks in amazement how long the mayor has been buying poached fruit.
"Oh, for a long time. But it's berry season now and he can't seem get enough." Gale realizes he's sheltered Rory from the details of just how many laws he and Katniss routinely flout. Rory and the others were too young for him to trust their discretion not to say anything unintentionally in public. But Rory is getting older… Katniss was 12 when she and Gale first started hunting together. Maybe Rory can handle it. Of course, Rory doesn't need to know that tonight's transaction is just a cover.
When Madge opens the back door that evening, she looks uncomfortable. In response to Gale's questioning expression, she throws the door open widely and says loudly, "Please, come in. Thank you so much for dropping this off." She pulls the pail out of his hands and holds the door open for him.
He walks into the kitchen in confusion, and sees two unfamiliar men in suits standing next to the bar with Mayor Undersee. The Undersees' maid Lulu is mixing drinks for the three men, who are deep in conversation. The mayor glances at Gale, but the suited men ignore his presence.
Madge sets the berries on the counter and gestures for Gale to follow her into the next room, where the Undersees apparently do their formal dining and entertaining. The table hasn't been cleared yet; it looks like Lulu has a long night ahead of her. Madge keeps walking until they're in the next room, which to Gale looks like something in between a living room and a dining room, and is dominated by a large piano.
"We can sit in the parlor," Madge says. "I'm sorry; my father has more visitors tonight than I expected. Actually, I don't know that he expected them either. Several people from the Capitol arrived early to ensure preparations are going smoothly."
Gale feels extremely out of place and doesn't sit down. This parlor looks like it's reserved for the stuffiest occasions, and he's wearing his hunting clothes. A man and woman wearing dark suits walk past the parlor, ignoring Gale and Madge.
"Full house today," he observes.
"Apparently our house also needed to be upgraded in order to be suitable for the Victors' Banquet." Madge sounds insulted. "There have been work teams hammering and drilling all day." She looks at him apologetically. "I thought they'd be finished by now. I was really looking forward to talking to you tonight. I've learned some really interesting things lately."
Gale suspects from her pointed look that she's uncovered something they could use to undermine next year's reaping, but can't talk about it because the probability of being overheard by all these visitors is too high. As if on cue, two men in overalls shuffle down the hallway past the parlor. Her house is starting to feel like the central market on a Saturday, there are so many people. "Why don't we go for a walk?"
Madge glances at the darkness outside hesitantly but agrees. "Let me tell Lulu," she says and then vanishes.
Gale stands and nervously looks around the ornate room. There are large portraits of all three Undersees (clearly done when Madge was much younger, as indicated by the missing tooth in her smile and perky blond pigtails), and one wall is dominated by a landscape painting of a mountain bigger than any Gale has ever seen. He's interrupted from his inspections by a man knocking on walls and dragging a spool of wire down the hallway. Gale recognizes him as the same man who was working on one of the houses at the Victor's Village, but the man ignores Gale. Just another district rat.
Madge returns and leads him to the front door. He feels ten times more relaxed the second he's back in the cool night air and exhales loudly. "How can you stand all those extra people in your house all the time?"
"My father serves at the pleasure of President Snow," she explains. "If the president wants more telecommunications links in more rooms, who are we to say no? There will be a lot of Capitol representatives staying at our house during the Victor celebrations. I guess they can't live without their programs."
Yes, heaven forbid they not be able to watch the Hunger Games highlights or whatever other tripe the Capitol broadcasts once people's attentions start to wander from the most recent spectacle. At the same time, it starts to make sense to Gale why the Undersees' house is so large for only three people; it's also functioning as a hotel.
"So. What did you want to talk to me about?"
Madge glances at the groups of people standing in the town square. "I'm in the mood to visit my aunt's grave. How about a walk to the cemetery?"
Gale nods. Must be good, if she's that concerned about privacy. They walk down the lane that leads just outside of town to the cemetery.
When they're far enough from the town square for comfort, Madge starts to talk. "President Snow is furious that there are two victors and has been blaming my father for being so lax on security in District 12. He thinks Katniss is just the beginning and that people can get away with anything out here."
Gale shudders to think what would happen to the residents of District 12 if the Peacekeepers were more strict. His own family and Katniss' would have starved several times over if the Peacekeepers didn't tolerate some degree of poaching and black market activity.
"Apparently security is much more rigid in other districts," Madge adds. She swallows nervously. "They actually follow through on executions."
Gale feels sick, followed quickly by a flutter of anticipation. Maybe District 12 can be one of the first districts to rebel against the Capitol, if its residents are more accepting of breaking unjust laws. Maybe he and Madge could do more than just stop the reaping next year. District 12 in its entirety could rebel — officials included. He wonders how open Mayor Undersee would be to leading a rebellion…
"What does your father say to these accusations?"
"He says the president is paranoid and seeing things that aren't there. He uses nicer language, of course, but essentially he's been trying to tell the president not to read too much into there being two victors this year. It isn't every year that tributes fall in love while competing in the Hunger Games — not exactly a romantic setting, right? — and that people do crazy things when they're in love."
"Yeah," Gale says with a frown, grateful for the darkness of the lane so Madge won't see how much it hurts to even hear the theory. "Do you think he really believes that?" Gale wants to ask how much he himself believes that theory, but can never bring himself to answer.
"I don't know if he does or not. He doesn't tell me any of this. I've been listening at the vents…"
"Well, it sounds like your father and the president don't exactly see eye to eye on everything…"
"No, I suppose not."
"What do you think it would take for your father to turn against the president?" Gale asks the question cautiously, aware that if he were Madge and someone asked him that question, he'd have knocked the person's teeth out before they finished the sentence. Of course, Gale's father had fairly openly loathed President Snow so no one with half a brain would have asked. But, even if his father had adored the president, the question and the implications behind it are dangerous.
Luckily, Madge seems to be more even-tempered and not exactly the punching type. After a long pause, she finally answers. "My family is entirely dependent on the Capitol. Just like the rest of District 12. And the other districts."
"But is your father… angry?"
"Sad, mostly. I think he tries to do what he can to minimize the Capitol's interest in us."
Gale sighs. Dead end. He didn't really expect anything different than what he's observed on his own. The mayor got to be where he is by going along with things and is unlikely to develop a rebellious streak at this point. Gale wonders if Madge had been sent to the Capitol as a tribute if the mayor's outlook would change… Rigging the lottery for her name to be selected seems impossible, but she could volunteer… She's undoubtedly stronger than most girls from the Seam purely because she never goes hungry, but Gale doubts she has the kind of ferocity or skills to triumph in the Hunger Games; if she volunteered it would be a suicide mission. Unless she trained… He feels guilty for thinking she should volunteer and sets aside the idea for now.
"Maybe… I don't know if this means anything or not, but my father has been on edge more than usual. He's always miserable during the Games — we all are, in the districts, I guess — but afterward he usually goes back to normal, and he hasn't yet." She looks over at Gale as though she's embarrassed about something and then adds, "It was almost as though he was scared, not happy, when they won. He wouldn't let me go outside to the town square until he'd checked in with his contacts in the Capitol."
"What? Why not?" Did the mayor actually think that district residents, happy both their tributes had miraculously survived ritual slaughter, posed some sort of threat to his precious daughter?
"I don't know," Madge says, shaking her head. "Whenever I ask, he brushes me off. I guess he was trying to protect me, but it doesn't make sense."
Gale is offended on behalf of District 12. "Everyone was happy — no, overjoyed — that night! What possible threat was there?"
"Maybe he didn't think the people here were the threat," Madge says. "Now that I know the president is mad about there being two victors, maybe my father thought there could be some sort of retaliation by the Capitol… But obviously nobody here had any influence over what was happening in the arena, so blaming us would have been absurd. And I don't know what my father could have been scared of… I mean, the worst thing they could do would be to send more Peacekeepers, but then that gets into budget overruns..." Gale is irate to hear that in the face of a threat to everyone in District 12 — even if it was only the idea of a threat — the mayor was only interested in protecting his little princess instead of all of his people. But he bites his tongue from being too critical because he doesn't want to risk Madge getting mad at him and not telling him whatever she's finding out.
They walk in silence the remainder of the way to the cemetery, and then separate to pay homage to different stones. In the moonlight, Gale can barely make out the markers for his father and Katniss' father and their crewmates who were killed in the same explosion. The Seam's part of the cemetery isn't organized by family, but chronologically according to month and year of death; it's more efficient that way and ensures that the insults continue after death. He doesn't spend long at his father's stone because this piddly little cemetery isn't what helps him remember his father. Being in the woods is what helps keep his father's memory alive for Gale.
It looks like Madge does get some kind of meaning from the cemetery, though. He sees her sitting in front of a large granite stone, running her fingers over the engraved name. He walks over and sits next to her on the ground. The name is Maysilee Donner.
"I never met her," Madge says quietly, "but most of the time I feel like she's the most important person in our house."
Gale wonders just how haunted Mrs. Undersee is by the ghost of her murdered twin. And how did she even get to the point of getting married and having Madge? He thinks of his own mother and how fiercely she loves him and his brothers and sister, and can't imagine having a parent who prioritizes the dead over the living. He waits quietly until Madge finishes her mourning and stands up. She appears to have made up her mind to think of other topics, and on the walk back she describes to him all the various events planned for the next few days in honor of Katniss and Peeta's victory. He knows most of it from the Everdeens, but lets her chatter anyway because it seems to make her feel better.