Chapter 43. Goodbyes

The second Pearl took off toward Madge and Joule, Savage's eyes flashed and he ran straight toward Gale, determined to not let the hunter get the best of him this time. As soon as he was close enough, he swung his mace at the District 12 Tribute's head.

Gale jumped back to keep the distance between the two. Just as determined as Savage, he knew he couldn't just let the District 1 Career go this time. Holding the spear up, he leaped forward and aimed the tip for the boy. Savage quickly went to dodge the spear, but was a little too late. Unfortunately, it only sunk into his bad arm, which had no feeling after Willow had destroyed his shoulder. Savage easily ignored the ineffective blow and dove toward Gale again, aiming his mace for the hunter's side this time. Gale tried to jump away from the swing, but the mace managed to slice the side of his shirt to ribbons and scratch his flesh.

Pearl went first for Joule, since the one eyed woman was closest. She brought the sword up first, going to swing for the girl's neck which she immediately moved aside from, a part of her braided pigtail slicing clean off.

Madge, immediately wanting to prove to the alliance that she wasn't useless like she knew they all thought, ducked around Joule while Pearl was occupied with her and swung her sickle at the Career's ribs hard. Pearl let out a scream, but turned in a circle to dislodge the tip. Once she faced the blond, she rose the dagger up and went to stab it into Madge's hand that grasped her weapon.

Madge quickly darted away from Pearl, gripping the sickle so hard that her knuckles were white. She jumped behind her and went to sling her sickle against the older Tribute's neck. But Pearl's movements were almost reminiscent of a snake's as she wove herself out from the line of attack. Her smirk only widened as she spun in a complete circle to slash at Madge's chest.

The blond let out a soft gasp as her shirt was sliced open and blood began to pour from her chest, dripping down her torso. She nearly dropped her sickle at the sight of the scarlet liquid but she just narrowed her eyes slightly, making another weak attack toward Pearl's stomach.

As the Career dodged the sickle with ease, it took Joule grabbing Madge by the waist and pulling the blond back to prevent her from getting a fatal stab. As the sword in the Career's hand shot up, however, Joule didn't have the speed to protect herself. The blade dug into her cheek before dragging her eye patch over her eyebrow.

The white haired tribute fell to the ground with a yelp as her patch fell. Slowly, she turned her head up from the ground, but her face was covered with something other then mud. A dark brownish red power flowed from the now broken glass eye in her eye socket, covering the 19 year old's face and chest.

Madge fell to the ground as Joule pulled her away and she looked at the older girl. She furrowed her eyebrows at the powder all over her body, unsure of what it was, but realized she didn't have enough time to ask as Pearl was still over them. Madge tightened her grip on the sickle and swung it toward the Career's abdomen, hoping that Pearl was too distracted with Joule to notice and that the sickle was sharp enough to slice right through.

With Gale and Savage, the hunter had accumulated many scratches and bruises, but nothing fatal as of yet. Gripping the hammer, he turned the spiked end out and went for a close range swing towards Savage's outer thigh. Savage, distracted by trying to get a clear hit on Gale, took the hammer directly in the thigh. He let out a howl and stumbled backwards onto his knees.

Letting the hammer go, Gale immediately pointed the spear down toward Savage's throat. The Career fell backwards into the mud, lifting his chin slightly away from the spear. Not letting him get away, Gale jumped forward and stomped his foot onto the Savage's chest. Pressing the majority of his weight down, he brought the spear back and pointed it down towards him.

Savage fell back into the mud, sinking down into the damp earth by the force of Gale's foot, gasping for breath. His mace had fallen a few feet away, but suddenly, he had taken his knife from his pocket with his now free arm and forced it quickly into Gale's previously injured thigh. The hunter screamed out in pain as the blade dug deeply into his flesh. He bit his bottom lip hard, but forced his foot to remain steady. He swiftly brought up the spear, his eyes locking with Savage's for a brief moment before aiming his weapon between the Career's eyes.

Savage just rotated the knife, digging it as deep as possible into Gale's leg, while keeping eye contact with him. The hunter screamed out, unable to keep his focus on his attack before falling sideways and pulling his leg back to get his bloody flesh as far away from the Career as possible. While on the ground, he brought the spear forward towards Savage's good shoulder.

Savage pulled his knife out of Gale's leg and stood up quickly, dodging the hunter's spear. He threw the knife quickly at Gale's back as he lay on his side in the mud before reaching down to pick up his mace but, instead of the knife making purchase with Gale, a soft gasp from behind the hunter told him the unknown attack hit someone else. Gale heard the noise, but knew the instant he looked back, it could be fatal. The hunter, instead, pushed himself up onto his knees before throwing the spear at Savage's back while the Career went for the mace.

The Career spun quickly at the noise, but as soon as he did, the spear went straight through his chest. He gasped, clutching the spear's handle as he stumbled backwards and to the ground, dropping his mace. Gale's mind flashed back to Daisy as the boy fell to the ground. Quickly, the hunter crawled towards Savage. He grasped onto the hammer that was still stuck in the Career's leg, ripping it out. He turned the spiked end out before turning to Savage and driving the weapon through the boy's forehead, making his death as quick as possible.

Savage's body fell instantly to the ground as soon as Gale's hammer hit him, his cannon sounding as soon as his head fell into the mud. His large lifeless body laid on the ground, looking less like the vicious, blood thirsty Career he had been during the Games and more like a defenseless, sleeping boy.

Panting a little, Gale dislodged the hammer from the boy's forehead carefully. Glancing around, he turned just in time to see Amur trap Flax in a headlock. There was a wet, distinguishable noise as Willow ducked between the two large men and cut Flax from his throat down to his naval. Gale turned his head away as Willow's attack hit and his eyes traveled to the source of the gasp from earlier.

Curled up in the mud was Madge's pale body, Savage's knife still sticking out of her stomach. Gale's face turned a pale white at the sight. His eyes widened as he attempted to get up, but the pain in his leg prevented it. Falling back to his hands and knees, the hunter began to drag his body towards the blond, Flax's cannon firing off above them. "M-Madge..."

Madge's eyes flickered open at his voice and she looked at Gale, blood pouring from her chest and now her stomach, pooling around her and soaking into the damp earth. She reached her hand out toward him, sliding it along the mud weakly. Regardless of the pain shooting up his thigh and ignoring all risks of infections, the hunter forced himself on through the wet dirt until he was within reach of her hand. Quickly he grasped onto her hand tightly, using the elbow of his opposite arm to to pull himself closer. His eyes immediately went to her chest and stomach. "Madge... o-oh Madge, no... not you too, please..."

Madge reached up shakily with her free hand, even though it was covered in blood, and touched his cheek gently as soon as he was close enough. "It's... not so bad, G-Gale... doesn't even... hurt anymore..."

"Stop..." Gale muttered to her as he reached his hand up over hers, gripping it. "You're going to be okay! I p-promised you'd get home..."

Madge just closed her eyes for a moment at his words before sliding her hand from his cheek to the back of his neck. She pulled his head down weakly, but when she pressed her lips against his, they were sure and strong. At first, the hunter's eyes widened as tears welled up behind them. But as the realization of the situation sunk in and a sadness that even rivaled the amount he held during Sage's death, he relaxed. Slowly, he let his eyelids fall and he kissed her back as the tears slowly streamed down his cheeks for her.

He could almost taste the life draining from her.

Madge kissed him for a few long moments before her head fell back against the mud, her lips falling away from his. She coughed, blood suddenly dripping from her mouth, and she slowly opened her eyes to look up at him. "I-I'm... sorry... I know you... love her. I just... I had to do that... if only just once."

Gale opened his eyes as he leaned back down, planting another kiss on her forehead. "D-don't worry about it, Madge... I'm sorry t-that I couldn't protect you..."

Madge's eyes fluttered close as his lips touched her forehead and she shook her head gently, her breathing becoming more shallow. "I... I needed to protect you... this time... I l-love you, Gale... and... and you need..." Her words slurred into a mumble and then stopped all together.

"M-Madge?" the hunter faltered before immediately grabbing her by the shoulders. "Madge! No, wake up! Madge!"

Madge's eyes didn't open. Her hand slid from his neck to the ground with a wet thump as she breathed out slowly. A few seconds later, her cannon fired.

"N-no..." Gale's voice began shakily as the tears continued. He was so caught up in the moment that he didn't even hear the second cannon fire off as the final Career fell.

Joule dropped the wire as Pearl fell from her grasp, panting. The powder had fallen into her mouth partially during the attack, causing her to cough violently. She slowly brought her hand up to her shattered eye. Blood was starting to fall from where the shards were stabbing into her, but that was the least of her worries.

Willow, watching Gale and Madge from afar, quickly wiped her eyes on the back of her bloody hand before anyone could see. She slowly looked at Joule when she coughed and her eyebrows furrowed. "What's all over your face, Joule?"

The white haired female slowly pulled her hand away from her face and turned to Willow, the first genuine smile she'd shown spreading across her face. However, it seemed oddly melancholy.

"It's time, Willow, Amur."

Willow eyed her for a moment, confusion written all over her features. Then, suddenly the confusion turned to realization. "Joule, no."

"I can't necessarily throw it into the force field now, can I?" she laughed hollowly with a few coughs inbetween.

Amur looked toward the teenage girl with a frown, but quickly turned into his backpack. Pulling out the ax Gale had packed inside it, he stabbed the blade's end into his own arm with a wince, before digging his fingers into the wound. It began to dirty and bleed profusely, resembling the look Joule's had that they needed to get the medication for. "We need to hurry, Willow."

Willow kept her eyes on Joule and they quickly filled up with tears while she quickly cut her own arm open, digging her fingers deeply in. Despite the fact that she acted so strong, underneath it all, she was still just a small, fifteen year old girl who thought she had found her soul mate, the one woman who was as tough as she was, and now she felt as if her heart was breaking.

Amur pulled out his own tracker before instantly turning towards Gale. He knew the government would begin to act soon and had to waste no time. When he grabbed Gale by the arm, the hunter immediately thought the older man was trying to get him from Madge. His defenses rose abruptly toward him as he clung to Madge, screaming and cursing at the man. His words soon became screams of agony as the fisherman pinned the 18 year old to the ground, slicing open his arm.

Joule turned back to Amur and Gale only briefly before turning back at Willow. "Take care of them and survive. Don't let there be any martyrs after me."

Willow pulled out her tracker and crushed it in her small hand before dropping the remnants onto the ground. She paused a brief moment before stepping forward, leaning up on her toes, and kissing Joule gently on the forehead, the only place she could find without the powder on it, ignoring the tears that had begun to fall down her face. "I... I won't. I promise."

Joule gave Willow one final smile before turning her attention at her reflection in the force field wall. She placed a hand on the younger girl's shoulder for a brief moment before running full force ahead.

Gale managed to push Amur off him just as the fisherman ripped out the device from his arm. Dumbfounded, low on blood, and weak, he only managed to sit up for a moment before the white haired woman's body made contact with the field. He watched in horror as the powder on her body sizzled before creating a massive explosion that sent him, Amur, and Willow back to the ground.

Between flashes of white and a mist of red, the force field ripped open violently like reality had shattered. Through Gale's final seconds of vision, he could make out the black clad figures rushing in and a familiar brown braid trailing behind one of them before the world turned black.

To be continued...

A/N: Thank you to everybody who's been following this story. Please keep an eye out for the sequel, Songbird, which will be available very soon.