A/N: Done for AimMyArrowsHigh Halloween prompt.
Autumn Leaves, Bonfires, Dementors.
Madge is bad at making friends.
There is a reason why she sits with Katniss everyday at the loneliest lunch table of them all. In part, it's because the rich girls don't want to talk to her. Whenever they count the score in their game of "make fun of the seam kids" Madge always seems to have zero points.
The kids from the Seam don't want to talk to her either. They live lives focused on muddling through the ugly and the hard of the world; they don't want to hear about her weekend of eating strawberries , solving mazes and reading poetry.
They don't want to hear about how, besides not having very many friends and occasionally worrying that her father will upset the capitol, little bad has happened in her life. She scores zero in sins suffered and negative in sins committed.
Madge is very bad at games.
So she sits with Katniss at lunch and partners with her in gym. Once they make a diorama about coal. Katniss helps her get the look of it right and Madge looks up the details in her text book. (Katniss can bend arrows and song to her will, but words have always been a mystery to her.)
When it accidentally falls apart, crushing the little paper doll inside and Katniss storms off, expression surly as rock-salt; Madge finishes it without a word.
She knows when Katniss looks angriest is when she's hurting most.
It's funny, the things Madge learns from silence that grows slow and soft as moss.
Madge is bad at flirting.
So bad she won't even try.
Still, she can't stop looking at Katniss's boy wherever he goes. Many girls can't.
Katniss doesn't realize that she stalks Gale with her eyes, but it's true.
That's the difference between them.
Madge isn't afraid of seeing things the way the are. She isn't afraid to look in the mirror and see her own reflection.
To be fair, Katniss isn't rich enough to own one.
Madge knows her self-awareness makes her different from rich-kind and seam-kind alike.
Katniss doesn't even herself well enough to know she's different.
Madge knows she wants the boy, and that she can never have him.
Katniss doesn't know that she wants to have the boy. Doesn't know that she already has him.
So when the boy comes with Katniss on the Reaping day and calls Madge's dress pretty, Madge pretends he means it.
Because like Madge the boy is different and he knows it.
She can see it in his eyes the eyes the color of coal. She can hear it in the way he's angry that Madge will never have to go into the arena, but he probably will. Angry that anyone has to go into the arena at all. Very few people allow to the anger to show on their face like the boy does. It makes him beautiful.
Sometimes it makes him not a boy at all, but a very brave, foolish man.
Madge wants to tell him this, but she doesn't think he'd believe her.
Next time I see him, she thinks, I will.
As she ties up her hair for the reaping, she absently reads a poem from one of her forbidden books. It's about gears and funny punctuation and sex.
She's tired of the taste of strawberries.
What would he taste like?
Madge is bad at lying.
She can't lie to herself about her chances.
If she's picked for the Hunger Games, she'll die.
Peeta Mellark and Delly Cartwright are dead and they were both kids who did more than lounge around reading books hidden under floorboards and eating strawberries. They died on the first day of last years Games to handful of arrows from District 1, even though the baker's boy had gotten a 7.
He died because of instead of running he tried to find Delly, protect her.
He cradled her in his arms lying, whispering, "Everything's going to be all right."
And the Capitol cried, but nothing changed.
Madge isn't lying to herself when she convinces herself she won't be picked; as the boy said (she remembers every word he said to her, religiously), she doesn't have any tasserae out.
"The Quarter Quell is upon us. In honor of the 75th Hunger Games, it is time to show that even the strongest among us must bow to the uniting power of the Capitol."
The blonde's voice holds more power this year. Deeper. It must have been hard, Madge reflects, watching two tributes die on the first day. It changed the bubbly woman.
Once upon a time, in a land that wasn't, the woman said something very different. Because of politics and Mockingjays the woman called forth victors. Called forth the girl on fire.
The girl that stands next to Madge is not even smouldering. Eyes dead, afraid. Thinking about debts she can never reapay.
There is no rebellion. No dissent. There is only ash from funeral pyres in far away lands Madge has never been to.
Never been to and will never see.
The woman says instead,
"This year for every five dollars of income made by a family, we are adding a slip."
Madge cries when they call her name.
Open and strong and without shame.
Her face doesn't lie.
She is afraid and doesn't want to die, but if there is any fear in the world not to be ashamed of it's that one.
Even as she cries she can't help but feel grateful.
She's finally earned her points in the games the Seam kids play.
She's finally suffered.
Or at least she will.
Unless she goes quick.
This starts another wave of hot tears.
Madge knows it's pathetic, but she can't stop. She looks at her father and he's crying too. She's never seen him cry and all she can think is she wants to be in his arms.
It's not until the call Gale's name that she stops crying.
Hearing his name makes her angry.
They were supposed to take from the rich. She was supposed to have taken one of the Seam kid's places.
But the Capitol doesn't work like that.
And for the first time Madge Undersee is furious, because she can't think of anything worse than the fact that the boy she wants to kiss strawberry juice off of is possibly going die. Is possibly going to kill her.
But when he gives her a sad smile across the stage. An "I'm sorry smile." (It' the first time he's ever smiled at her.) She smiles back.
Even though she's crying . . . again.
Because her lips can't lie either.
Madge is bad at staying alive.
This is what Haymitch tells her when she can't shoot a bow and can't paint a camouflage and can't stop crying when she can't even lift an axe because it's too heavy.
He's only training her because Gale insisted. Insisted really means Gale yelled and punched Haymitch in the stomach when it seemed like he was ignoring them and broke Haymitch's nose when he said he wouldn't train a pathetic little merchant girl.
Haymitch trains her now-barely. Mostly he helps Gale, who then helps Madge. He spars with her in the safety of her room, even though if they were caught they'd be in trouble.
Gale has been nice to her. Not smiling, at least not since the Reaping, but looking at her. Not as much as she looks at him, but still.
And now, when he's helping her learn how to spar, his body is held horizontal over her's just for a moment. Even though she's clearly pinned.
Their stylist had made them on fire, and people had been impressed-more by Gale than her-but Cinna was wrong. Gale's not on fire. He smoulders.
Waiting to burst into flames.
At least that's how his eyes look as they trace the curve of her breasts as she pants from the exertion of trying and failing to defend herself.
"You run Madge," he says finally. "Once the bell goes off, you run."
His eyes crinkle at the edges. Thinking. Worried. Then he does something she doesn't expect at all. He presses a kiss to her lips, right on the corner.
"You run right out of the cornucopia."
She's even more surprised when he does it again. The kissing. "Run and I'll find you."
She's about to ask what he'll do when he does find her. (She has no doubt he will.) Is their alliance official? What does this mean? What do they mean?
But he turns away, eyes completely cold. No more smoulder.
Madge just knows he's thinking about Katniss.
Madge is bad at dying.
She's avoided it for thirteen hours now.
When the gong went off she ran.
When the canons went off soon after she ran further.
Ran so hard she had to beg her feet to move.
"Come on feet."
Even though she couldn't ran fast, it was okay because she ran smart.
Who would have thought that the arena would be a maze?
Madge is good with puzzles.
Bad at games.
Good with puzzles.
Also, unlike the careers, she terrified, and she doesn't stop the question the fear the hooded figures wake in her. The ones that stand guard around the center of the maze-the cornucopia.
She runs so fast and hard she doesn't hear the Careers cry out as the hooded figures steal the their (very small) souls. Doesn't see the blank hunger fill their eyes. Doesn't see them cripple to the floor.
He's climbed up the walls of the maze and can see everything. Even far away things.
Gale sees a Maze and he breaks it. He's a boy with angry eyes and he knows he's probably going to die, but he will not be rat for their experiments.
Madge sees a maze and she solves it. Finds the twists and turns, so that she doesn't double back and is eventually lead to a orchard with a clear brook and peaches.
She eats one, even though she knows they're probably poisoned. She's not wrong. She's out for five hours in a drugged haze. She sees Gale everywhere. Dances with him in ballrooms made of crystal balls.
She's hallucinates him so accurately that when he really comes walking on top of the maze like he owns it, she doesn't beleive it's him.
It's not until he kisses her and offers her a strawberry that she does.
She asks him skeptically if he's had any funny dreams from them.
"No," he says, but he raises an eyebrow and looks suspiciously up at the apples. "You were lucky you didn't eat an apple though."
He doesn't explain why.
She doesn't need to know about the girl with the red-hair whose bones turned to snakes after she ate the wrong fruit, or about the silent burly boy who everyone was sure was going to win who took one look at her dead body and took the half-eaten apple and finished it.
Madge is bad at holding on.
Neither are surprised when the leaves of the orchard start to turn bonfire red and yellow, and crackle. They don't even think to question that the wide, clear brook has dried up. Or that even though all the trees are dead, the branches are still filled with apples.
Although Madge does recite some words.
"And it grew both day and night/
Till it bore an apple bright."
She doesn't finish the poem, because she doesn't want it to come true. She doesn't want anyone to steal into their garden.
She doesn't want anyone to die.
But a little girl with midnight skin, starry eyes and tiny wrists with bone's so small and light they're practically aviary does.
They are surprised when she comes running into the orchard. Screaming. Madge and Gale are sure this means Careers. Then they remember that the Careers are dead.
Dead because of the black thing that floats behind the little girl.
Then they run too.
Madge tries to grab the little girl's hand, but she's not fast enough.
Her tiny wrist slips right through Madge's fingers.
Madge is bad at being homesick.
Gale holds her close that night as she watches the little girl's eyes above them, projected on the screen. Blank and soulless. She was from District 11; her name is listed below her face: Rue. Madge remembers that even in the terror there was something glad in the little girl's eyes when she saw the trees. Like she was coming home. A little bird coming to nest.
But Madge can't lie to herself.
She knows the girl didn't go easy.
She knows it's her fault she's dead.
Katniss would have never let the girl die. She would have been brave and strong and silent.
Instead Madge speaks,
With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.
By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.'
The Capitol listens, and whispers and for the first time thinks.
With the autumn Orchard and little girl, and perfect fruit and even more perfect words this may be the most beautiful games they've ever seen.
The games have never been beautiful before.
But the girls stolen words make it so.
For the first time the Capitol is sad that the leaves have changed.
But Madge doesn't see the Capitol, so she cries into Gale's shirt and wants to go home.
Madge knows what home is like. It's setting the table for dinnertime and talking with her parents. It's her father's smell of papers. It's sleeping curled next to her mother in bed when she has a migraine.
Madge knows there's only one more left. Madge knows that after that it's her and Gale and she doesn't know what she's going to do.
She knows this is hell.
And she wants to go home.
But when Gale holds her close to stop the tears.
Well, that kind of feels like home too.
Madge is bad at looking away.
When the hood-horrors catch up to them and get too close, she is drawn in like a magnet to the space on their face where their eyes should be.
Death tastes like nothing.
She wishes she could taste a strawberry or Gale.
Or remember something.
But dying hurts too much.
Then she is gone.
Later, Gale watches the recap, and even though he's alive-
-he thinks the hooded thing had sucked his soul out too.
Even later, when he watches children dying in the Capitol from his bombs, the tree of revolution finally bearing fruit, he knows it did.
And he can't look away either.
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine -
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.