Gale stared at the plate of orange mush in front of him. The food in district thirteen may be plentiful but damn was it unappetising. He tried not to salivate at the thought of Greasy Sae's savoury soups. You didn't have to know what was in them to enjoy them. Besides… there's nothing wrong with eating wild dog if you're starving.
Gale braved the first spoonful of his turnip and swallowed heavily. Around him the canteen buzzed with activity. Even at his own table his siblings and Prim bantered and bickered while Mrs Everdeen and his own mother gossiped. Only Katniss remained stoic beside him.
He watched out the side of his eye as she swirled her own dinner around her plate creating a whimsical pattern. It didn't take a genius to see that she was upset. He scoffed. Upset didn't seem to cover the extent of what Katniss was feeling. Hopelessness? Despair? Depression? Was that it? Every day she seemed to sink further into some unknown abyss and there was nothing Gale could do to stop it.
Gale's thoughts were interrupted by a foot running slowly down his shin lingering for a moment before removing itself.
His eyebrows shot up and he cast a (hopeful) look at Katniss. It definitely wasn't her. She was lost in her own thoughts as she took small bird like bites of her meal. Disappointed, though he'd never admit it out loud, Gale continued his examination of his dinner fellows. It wasn't his mother or Mrs Everdeen. Posy's leg was far too short to reach the distance between where she sat and the floor not to mention extending under the table to caress his shin. That left Vick, Rory and Prim. Vick sat to his left and Prim his right. This made them both highly unlikely suspects.
Directly across from him Rory grew red as Gale turned to glare at him from under his heavy eyebrows.
"Rory, what the hell are you doing?" Gale asked and Rory looked like he wanted to slip under the table and never emerge. His brows rose in alarm and he opened his mouth to defend himself but quickly shut it before gesticulating wildly towards Prim with his head. Ah, that would explain it.
"What's going on Gale?" his mother asked but Gale just shook his head.
"Nothing I just thought I saw Rory picking his nose." Rory gasped – clearly horrified. This only caused Gale to smirk further.
"Rory we've talked about this…" his mother said and Gale bit his lip and stared at his plate trying to conceal his smirk as Rory sputtered and looked everywhere but at Prim.
Gale had noticed that the elder of his younger brother's appeared to be falling fast for his own love interest's younger sibling. What was it about those Everdeen girls? Gale had yet to fully figure it out and judging by the furtive glances Rory kept shooting in Prim's direction he didn't either.
Prim for her part did seem completely horrified at Rory's tentative advances and Gale marvelled at the fact they were at the playing footsie under the table stage already. Gale, while no stranger to the lunchtime flirting everyone participated in school, had certainly never tried anything while his own mother sat at the table. Not to mention Prim's mother.
He turned to Katniss so they could both roll their eyes at the young couple but Katniss was already occupied staring vacantly into space her spoon lying limp in her hand.
"Katniss?" Gale whispered nudging her softly in the side with his elbow. "You need to eat." Silence fell at their table as everyone waited with bated breath to see would Katniss emerge from the silent spells that she was lapsing into all too frequently since she had escaped the arena.
Katniss turned her head towards Gale, slowly as if a great weight was attached to it but did not blink. Instead her gray eyes stared back into Gale's owns. He wanted to recoil when he saw what was in them.
Emptiness. Her eyes were devoid of the spark, the edge that made them – made her so… he struggled for the word. Katnissy?
Nevertheless, Gale reached down and tightened her slack fist around the fork in her hand. When he released her hand relief filled him as she continued to grip the utensil of her own accord. Slowly, she raised the fork to her mouth and took another bite.
Mrs Everdeen sighed and Gale turned to look at her. She looked sad too but no longer like the empty woman she had been in the Seam leaving any and all responsibility fall on Katniss' already burdened shoulders. Their roles had been reversed and Gale would have given anything for Mrs Everdeen to return to her old ways and Katniss to hers. Did that make him a bad person?
After the meal Gale bade goodbye to the rest of his companions and headed to visit Beetee down in weaponry. Since his arrival at the underground Gale had gotten to know the older man and his respect for him had grown. Katniss had been right to want an alliance with him in the arena. He smiled sadly at the memory of him scoffing at her decision at the time. 'Why doesn't she just ally herself with the careers?' he'd asked Rory who hadn't known what to say or course. She'd done the right thing though and Gale was left in awe of Beetee's wiles ever since. He'd kept her alive. Finnick had kept her alive. Peeta had kept her alive. She'd survived.
Survived is an odd word. Sure Katniss was alive but in another way she wasn't. She seemed dead inside. Cold and detached. He wanted to shake her and demand that the real Katniss return. He couldn't stand the imposter that had been left in her place. He missed her ferocity, her strength and her courage. But she'd left all that with Him. With Peeta Mellark. Without him Katniss was a dried up husk of her former self and as much as he didn't like to admit it – least of all to himself – it was obvious that she was in love with him. He swallowed and ignored the lump that had seemed to form instantaneously at the thought.
Mellark. There was only one thing for it. They were going to have to get him back. If he wanted Katniss back then he was going to need to get Mellark back too. Great.
This is my first foray in Hunger Games fanfiction so let me know what you think. Slán. :P