Kay, guys. This is my first Gale fanfiction, so no one laugh. It's dedicated to Michelle, for inspiring me to write a Gale fanfiction, and for me and her having a jolly laugh at the thought of him naked. Don't ask.
It has been one long year of freedom since I defeated President Snow. As much as having that weight lifted off my shoulders felt nice, not everything had been going great. Peeta in particular. We have been growing further and further apart, to the point of embarrassment. The first month was a dream, but after that, a hellish nightmare.
Peeta had to go to the hospital several times; the de-hijacking process started to fade away. He slowly grew worse and worse, bequeathing him more and more time in the hospital. Until one day, we got the news that he wouldn't be returning. He needed to stay in the critical care unit until further notice.
By that time, sadly enough, we had grown so apart, we barely ever kissed any more. Peeta's condition was every time he tried holding me, or even giving me a kiss on the cheek, his hijacking would spike. Driven by the mad thought of hurting me, Peeta distanced himself. Now the only time I saw him was every day at 4:30 in the afternoon, I visited him the hospital. But the past week, all he does was sleep. He hasn't been awake in eight days, and I worry.
I was walking home from my last visit, completely worn out. I had stayed there for five hours, holding Peeta's cold hand, watching the heart monitor system flutter up and down slowly, hoping maybe today would be the day. It wasn't.
It was nearly ten o'clock now, and I was beat. The emotionally exhausting visit drained me completely and all I felt like doing was taking a nap.
I rounded the corner of the Victors' Village walk, and dragged my feet into my house. It was cool and empty, ever since my family had parted ways, Mother off to work in another hospital, Primrose to a better place. Even thinking her name made my throat choke up…
After taking a three-minute shower, I collapsed onto the couch and fell into a deep, painful sleep.

I woke up to the rough words of my old mentor. My eyes peeled open dryly, and I found myself staring into his stubbly, concerned face.
"Wake up, sweetheart, we have some bad news." The tone of Haymitchs' voice was so heartfelt and sympathetic; it made me sit up, all sleep gone.
But before he could continue, I flicked my eyes over to the clock hanging on the wall opposite me. It was almost exactly noon. I had slept for a very long time…
Haymitchs' voice once again brought my attention back to him and I blinked.
"It's about Peeta." He took a seat next to me and stared at his thumbs, rubbing them together nervously. "He…"
I swallowed. This wasn't going to end well. I felt my heart beating in my throat like a giant drum.
Haymitchs' face contorted uncomfortably. He seemed more sober than he had been in a while, but then again, he was doing better lately. He rubbed his stubble. "Peeta didn't make it through the night, sweetheart. I'm sorry."
My heart thudded once, and stayed still. No. No, no, no… Peeta… I wanted to stand up and accuse Haymitch for lying to me, but the look on my old mentors' face told the truth.
Hot tears sprung out of my eyes and sobbed loudly. This could not be true… He was my Peeta, my boy with the bread. He couldn't…
In a sudden rush of terror mixed with fury, I stood up and screamed. Screamed for the pain I had felt because of the Capitol. Screamed for the loss of my sister, for the wreckage of my soul they'd caused. Screamed for my lost sister. Screamed for my Peeta.
As I cried tears of rage, I gripped a black-framed painting on the wall and sent it sailing to the ground. It shattered into a thousand glinting splinters of glass skidding across the floor. Shards raked my hands, sending droplets of blood staining the carpet.
I screamed again, and this time bile threatened to rise up in the back of my throat, so I clamped my lips tight. Any second, I would collapse onto the ground in a pile of tears and blood, wanting to die. I already wanted to die…
Haymitch was just standing off to the side, looking ashamed and ten years older than he actually was. Lines of empathy creased his face, wearing him down. When he reached his arms out to comfort me, I flinched back.
What was there to do? Blood and tears tainted my clothes, and I was overwhelmed with panic. And before I knew it, I had broke the doorknob in effort to get out, and I was running across the leaf-strew ground of the forest, desperate to get away. To get away from everything back there. My dead Peeta, my sympathetic old mentor, my entire life that had been corrupted. But even if I sprinted to the moon and back, around the earth, across mountains and fields, nothing would heal this broken body.
I ran until I could run no more, and when I couldn't run anymore, I climbed a tree and draped myself across one of the braches. Every feeling I had stored in my chest came pouring out in a wave of emotion. I screamed my lungs raw, and cried a river of tears to flood the whole world. How much to I have to lose to be able to float again? Stupid hot-air-balloon similes…
For three hours I cried in my tree of misery. When it was 3:40, I was startled by a rustling sound next to me. My tear-crusted eyes peeled open and I was startled to see a beautiful, black-and-white bird perched on the branch next to me.
Gorgeous black-tipped wings ruffled politely and it blinked its beady black eyes curiously at me. A crystal clear voice began mimicking my heartbroken sobs. It was quite creepy, actually, having this beautiful creature sitting at my side, crying with me.
As soon as my breath sucked into my lungs, marveling the bird before me, the Mockingjay stopped crying, and blinked again at me, waiting for more noises to imitate. But none came. I was just gawking at it. No fear, whatsoever. This animal was sitting not three feet from me, unafraid. The mockingjay clicked its long beak expectantly.
I stayed quiet, though, afraid it would leave.
He ruffled his head feathers and opened his mouth, as if preparing to mock another sound, but I had said nothing. And when he tilted his elegant head back, the words he uttered made me nearly fall off the branch.
"Gale…" The birds' tongue worked effortlessly, and when he clicked his beak shut again, the great black-and-white wings spread out and he took off into the sky.
I stared open-mouthed after it. I hadn't said that. In fact, I hadn't spoken a single word in three hours. How he had gotten that from simple crying, I had no idea. But it baffled the tears right out of me. Now, I no longer had the inescapable urge to curl up and die. Though I didn't exactly feel better, I wanted to get out of the tree.
Slowly, I crawled down the scratchy bark and stood at the base, wondering what to do. Dried tears stuck to my face, my hair, and my clothes, and my eyes were no doubt read and puffy. From there I started walking, unknowing of where I would end up.
My feet crunched against the freshly drying leaves of September, breaking the silence. It wasn't exactly cold, but my breath could be seen in rolling clouds of white appearing when I breathed out. My feet carried me into District 12, past the Victors' Village, and into the town part. Pretty soon, I was past the bakery, the clothing shopee, and all the way to the train station. When I walked up to the ticket lady, she asked me what I wanted.
I didn't even know myself.
Fumbled and looking like an idiot with my mussed up hair and tear-stained face, I handed her a pile of coins and asked for a ticket to District 2. She put the coins in a drawer, stamped my tag, and handed it to me.
As I boarded the train, I clutched the ticket to my chest like it was my life, yet it didn't fill the hollow feeling. Nothing would, I'd come to realize. No matter how much I cried, I broke down a thousand houses, it wouldn't change anything. My Peeta was gone. I never wanted to see his gorgeous cream-like face, soft and quiet in a never-ending sleep.
Hot tears welled in my eyes at the thought and I wiped them away hastily as I took my seat.
The train rattled on for hour after hour, and I managed not to cry. The sky outside grew steadily darker, and at 9:45, the train began squealing to a stop, metal grinding against metal. After one final jolt and hiss, it stopped.
Like a robot, I got up and exited the train onto District 2's platform. Everything here was beautiful. A layer of heavy clouds blocked the moon, so the only light available was silver-gray moonlight, peeking through thinner clouds.
I took a step closer to the town, but stopped, realizing I had no idea where I was going. A few houses down, I could see a golden glow from the curtains, and I chanced knocking on their door. A small boy answered the door. He has rosy red cheeks and fair hair, but his eyes were large and brown. Taking one look at me, he ran back inside, yelling, "Mommy, a girl is here."
Soon after, a plump woman in a white apron came to the door. "Is there something I can do for you?" Her voice sounded slightly…German if I was correct.
After glancing down at my hands, and back up at her. "Do you… Do you know where a Gale Hawthorne might live?"
"Ja." She pointed down the road further. "Four houses down, take the right road, and it is the house at the very end."
I mumbled a 'thank you', and began to walk away.
"Danke, Mockingjay." The lady said quietly, and then the door closed, plunging the street once again in semi-darkness.
I walked uneasily down the sleepy road, admiring the potted flowers hanging in front of many. This was a slightly wealthier district, I noted dully. At the forth house, I took a right, and walked to the end.
Nestled in the high grass and weeds was a house, not much bigger than my old one from years ago. It was red brick, with a low ceiling, and windows that hard dark curtains drawn over them, though golden light peered through the cracks. On one side of the house, there was a clothesline with several articles of half-dried clothing. On the other side I could see a smokehouse, and a rack of drying meats. This was Gale's place, alright.
I hesitated as I walked up the steps, unsure what to say or do. My hand was poised near the dark wood of the door, when I stopped. I couldn't do it. Instead, I quietly sat down on the top steps and breathed in the scent of night, clearing my head.
The aching feeling of despair had no left me, don't get me wrong. It was just that I had exhausted myself. All my tears were already shed, and dried on my shirt. I sat there for a while, until it was at least 10:00, when it started raining.
It was just a light mist at first, cooling everything down, but then an immeasurable downpour started cascading form the heavens, immediately drenching me. Over to the side, I could see all of Gale's clothing getting wet. Rain ricocheted off of the roof, soaked the grass, and nothing was spared. It was cold, and soon, I began to shiver. I didn't know why I wasn't knocking on the door, asking to come in and dry off. Or even buy a ticket back to District 12 to be in the safety of my own house in the Victors' Village.
Suddenly, a wedge of golden light appeared from behind, casting my shadow unevenly down the porch steps. It was on impulse I looked back and saw him standing there.
Gale's straight black hair had gotten longer, and now hung down to his chin, shaggy but not messy. There was less of a boy look in his face, and more of a man.
For a second he stood there, looking at me as though I were a ghost from his dreams that had come back for him. I stood up.
Things were silent at first, only the pounding of bullet rain hitting the house heard.
"It's late. Why are you here?" The pain in Gale's voice was obvious, and I immediately felt guilty.
After all, it was my fault he had left in the first place. I had broken his heart. I had chosen Peeta over him, shattering whatever soul he had left from previous heartbreak. And now I stood at his door, drenched in freezing rain, wanting to come back to him.
I was so selfish, only needing him when I saw fit. This wasn't right, this one-way thing. He deserved better than that. He deserved a woman who wouldn't break his heart every chance. Maybe I wasn't that girl, but right now, I had no choice.
The sound of Gale's rich voice made me even sadder. What was I supposed to say to that? If I told him the honest-to-goodness truth, I would break down, and cry like there was no tomorrow.
"Gale, he's gone." The words came from my mouth even before I knew I was saying them.
A hot lump formed in my throat, and I did my best not to blubber like an infant.
For a moment more, Gale stood there letting me get wet. Then his grey eyes flicked up to mine. "Gone as in…?"
God, he was clueless. Did he really think I would come rushing up to his doorstep if Peeta had taken a little vacation to District Four? Okay, I might have, but this was a completely different point.
"Gone, Gale. Like, gone-gone." Now my breath was coming out in short, ragged pants; would-be sobs in my chest.
Gale looked shocked. Now it was obvious he understood, but would he let me back in? Would he still want to be there for me, even though I had broken his heart?'
"You had better come inside." He swallowed hard, and stepped aside so I could shuffle into the warmly-lit house.
It was extremely cozy and well-kempt, with small sofas accompanied by bookshelves on one side, extra doors leading to who-knows-which rooms. Soft yellow light from candles cast shadows upon everything.
Not knowing where to go, I just stood there awkwardly in the middle of his living room, sopping wet, about to bawl my eyes out any time. Apparently it was as awkward for Gale as it was for me.
"You can…use my bathroom to shower, if you'd like. I could lend you a fresh pair of clothing since you sat out in the rain for so long." He disappeared into his room and came back out with a bundle of crisp garments for me. When I accepted them, he motioned to the last door on the left and I went to take a shower.
Seeing as how it was not really my house, I only took a few minutes to scrub the tears off my face and wash my unkempt hair. I dried off with a fluffy beige towel and after pulling on the worn, too-big T-shirt and shorts of Gales, I did my hair in an untidy braid down the back. I walked back into the living room.
He was there, lounging on one of the sofas, with a small book propped open on his knees. When he heard the bathroom door open, he flicked his silver eyes upwards and just stared at me, with a mixture of emotions. Distrust for one, unease and awkwardness were big ones, and what hurt me the most, was that I could still see that gleam in the back of his eyes I saw two years ago. The very one that told me he loved me. Something stabbed me in the chest and I looked away.
Resisting the urge to wipe wetness from my eyes, I sat down on the couch opposite him. For a while, we were silent, Gale watching me constantly, as if I was going to snap back and attack him without warning.
But when the midnight hour hit, Gale slid the book back into the bookcase. "It's awfully late. You can stay here for the night, if you like. Sleep on the couch." His dark eyebrows raised a millimeter in suggestion, and it was all I could do to nod my head slightly. "Wake me up if you need anything."
Ten minutes later, I lay huddled under blankets Gale had given me, trying to go to sleep. It was warm and dim in the house, and everything was absolutely silent except for the light ticking of the clock on the wall. Gale's slow breathing said that he was asleep, but little did I know that while I lay awake thinking of our broken past, he was doing the same.
I win. I think that for the first chapter of my first Gale fic, it went rather nicely. I know, I know, it was so incredibly hard to kill my Peeta. Just in case anyone wants to ask, yes he IS dead. Not coming back. I hope this chapter didn't make you cry too much. Happy February, and enjoy your weekend.*sob*