Disclaimer: I don't own the Hunger Games.
A/N: Hey everyone! This is my first Hunger Games fic and like always, it's a bit of a sick-fic, although this one is mostly fluff with no apparent purpose. Just a fun read (and write, in my case). Set pre-Hunger Games. I hope you enjoy it!
Gale and I walk silently through the woods, the early morning mist providing cover from the rising sun. We do not speak; we only enjoy each other's company as we hunt for game. It's always been this way with Gale and me, with the silence often speaking louder than words. That's not to say that we can't share anything with the other – we often do. But this morning Gale seems to be content with mere silence and I oblige.
Eventually, we come upon a small coyote. Just by looking at him I know his meat and pelt will bring great trades at the Hob. Gale meets my eyes and nods as I raise my bow. One arrow hits the coyote in the eye and he falls to the ground. The moment he's on the ground I shoot another arrow and the coyote goes limp.
"Nice shot." Gale says to me as we approach the carcass.
Together we clean the animal and set about skinning it.
"You're awfully quiet this morning." I say about ten minutes into the job. Gale may not be a big talker but he can usually do better than this. Gale shrugs.
"Nothing to talk about."
His words hit me and I'm not sure how to react. His tone is dismal and tired-sounding and it gives the impression that he'd rather not be out in the woods today.
"Is something bothering you?"
"How are the kids doing?"
"I heard Vick got into a fight at school the other day."
"I don't know." I'm struggling hard for conversation and Gale is reluctant to say anything. I sigh and give up trying and we finish our job in silence. We pack up the meat to sell and then stand up.
"Do you want to go to the strawberry patch before heading back?"
"If you want to."
I'm getting frustrated now but I tell myself to keep cool. The last thing I need is to have my hunting partner mad at me.
"It's getting late. We'll just head back with the coyote."
Gale nods and silently begins to walk. We stow our bows before ducking back under the fence.
Once we're in the Hob, we begin our trading. I was right – the coyote's pelt and meat bring in good trades and Gale and I each end up with enough supplies to last our families two weeks and we even end up with some money left over. We leave the old factory and enter the sunlight. I look at Gale and I notice that he looks tired. There are bags under his eyes and his skin has a pale hue.
"Are you okay?" I dare to ask, although I already know the answer.
"I'm fine. I'll see you at school."
With that Gale turns and walks away, leaving me standing alone in the road.
Prim talks the entire way to school about something Buttercup did this morning that was apparently "so, so cute and adorable".
I manage to smile, nod, and even laugh once but my mind is on Gale. The more I think about this morning, the more concerned I become. He puts a lot of responsibility on himself and rarely puts his own needs first. I can't count the number of times I know he's gone to bed hungry so his family could eat. I completely understand why he does it, of course. I've done the same thing so my mother and Prim could have a few bites more but I think Gale's body might have finally given in to the long days, demanding some rest.
When we get to school my thoughts receive conformation. We enter the school yard and I look around for Gale. I find his brothers Rory and Vick, but I don't see Gale anywhere. Finally, having exhausted my eyes in the search, I approach Vick.
"Hi Katniss." The boy smiles at me and I smile back.
"Do you know where Gale is?" I cut to the chase.
"Mom made him stay home. She said he was running a fever or something like that."
Just then the bell rings and Vick runs off before I can ask anymore questions. Part of me is glad Hazelle kept Gale home, although I'm sure he complained and protested mightily. Gale could use a day or two of rest and heaven knows he's earned them. But part of me is concerned about what's ailing him. The logical part of my mind keeps repeating that he'll be just fine, that people get colds all the time and it's nothing serious, but I can't help but allow a sliver of my mind to worry. To put my mind at ease, I decide I'll go and see him after school before going to check our traps. If he's really ill then I'll get my mother.
In theory this approach to keeping my mind off Gale works but in reality it does little to calm that little portion of my brain that is worried. The minutes tick by slowly and I'm about ready to burst when the bell finally rings at the end of the day. Knowing I can't let Prim walk home by herself, I wait impatiently for her and then make her jog alongside of me as I careen through the streets of the Seam.
"Why are you in such a hurry, Katniss?" she pants. I slow down marginally.
"I have somewhere to get to."
I silently beg Prim not to ask questions and much to my relief, she doesn't. We reach home and I tell my mother that I might be late tonight but there are greens for a nice salad for dinner. As I'm leaving, Prim climbs onto our mother's lap and begins telling her about her day at school.
I walk quickly to Hawthorne's small house and I knock on the door. Hazelle opens it and smiles.
"I knew you'd be coming by soon." she tells me as she lets me in.
"How's Gale?" I ask.
"Go and see for yourself."
Hazelle watches as I head for boy's bedroom. The door is slightly ajar and I'm suddenly very uncomfortable. I feel the way I do when they bring people to my mother. I don't know what to do with my hands and I feel like running out of the house. Immediately I tell myself to calm down; after all, it's only Gale and he's not dying. Taking a deep breath I push open the door.
At first glance, Gale appears to be sleeping but as I quietly close the door behind me, he stirs and his eyes open.
"Hey, Catnip." he says and smiles weakly. I smile back.
"Hi yourself." I sit on the edge of bed. "Rory told me you were sick. How're you feeling?"
I raise my eyebrows at him and he sighs.
"Okay, I feel lousy but I wish my mother would let me go out and check the traps with you this afternoon."
Even before he's finished speaking I'm shaking my head.
"Not a chance, Gale. Your mother did the right thing keeping you home this morning."
"But lying in bed all day doesn't put supper on the table."
"Hunting while you're sick isn't much better. Keep going and soon you'd be really sick, unable to do anything at all."
"But I can't allow myself to be weak, Katniss. Of all people, you must understand that."
Boy, do I ever. To be honest, my own mother usually has to tie me down when I'm sick before I'll rest but I can't say that right now.
"This isn't a weakness, Gale. It's just part of being human. We all get sick sometimes and maybe there's a bit of strength in admitting you need a few days of rest. There's no shame in that."
"It's easy for you to say. You're not the one forced to lie here all day."
I smile at how childlike Gale is acting right now. It's a side of him I've hardly ever seen.
"Just give it a few days and you'll be as good as new."
I pat his hand through the sheet.
"In the meantime, I've got to go check the traps. I'll be by later if there's anything in them."
Gale nods and I stand up. I'm almost at the door when he says my name.
"Yes?" I turn to look at him.
"Thanks for coming."
"You knew I would."
"I know, but still, thanks."
He smiles at me and I smile back.
"You're welcome. Feel better, Gale."
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