A/N: This is just a very alternate take on a scene in Mockingjay that wanted me to rewrite it and fix it... haha. Only kidding. I know Suzanne Collins knew what she was doing, but the fangirl in me rebelled and wanted it my way. You can also blame Ellenka for my need to launch an alternative scene ending of my own after her AMAZING update to Turn Around (no that was not a paid plug at all, I promise). And Gale said I owed him one... Naturally I listened. Seeing Liam Hemsworth on the cover of Details in the grocery store pretty much sealed this one's fate. ;) M for strong adult content. Reviews are greatly appreciated.
"Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have provided a spark that, left unattended, may grow to an inferno that destroys Panem."
"Remember?" he asks. "This is where you kissed me."
"I didn't think you'd remember that," I say.
"Have to be dead to forget. Maybe even not then," he says. "Maybe I'll be like that man in 'The Hanging Tree.' Still waiting for an answer."
He looks up from underneath his heavy eyelashes, his eyes wet. At first, I am stunned by his grief, so apparent, so concentrated, staining the beautiful gray color with a haunting undertone. He doesn't move when I set the box down and slip around the table that separates us. My hand finds his cheek, the closer I get, the nuances taking shape into a single emotion that rips right through my core. When I recognize the unbearable rawness, I press my lips against his, hoping to kiss it away.
I am a fool. Heartache knows no comfort here.
Gale steps back, his hands gently gripping my shoulders, his wry smile not quite reaching those burning eyes. "I knew you'd kiss me."
"How?" I ask. It felt like an impulsive decision to me.
"Because I'm in pain," he says. "That's the only way I get your attention."
Reaching for the box of salvaged items I'd collected, Gale retreats into his hardened mask. Years spent alone with him alert me to his withdrawal into safety. As he turns to leave, my hand covers his wrist, stilling him before he can slip away from me entirely. He levels his sad gaze on me again and I hold him there with my own, our mutual despair churning in the space between us.
Moments of consequence like this usually are only recognized in hindsight. At the time of their unannounced and unanticipated arrival, it is hard to fully appreciate the ramifications when two lives hang precariously in a delicate balance over an altering precipice. Shift one way and an entire future blazes out of existence, nothing but smoky tendrils of what if lingering in the remnants of that dying fire. Shift the other way and the inferno destroys you, wholly reducing your dreams and hopes to smoldering embers.
We could do it, you know. Take off, live in the woods. You and me…
They'd catch us.
Our conversation echoes in my head, as if I need a crucial reminder of a chance I missed long ago. It is too late for me to adjust course and correct that path, but I recognize the crossroads I'm being presented now. My next words will tip us one way or another.
"You've always had my attention," I whisper.
The anger and frustration I felt towards Gale earlier has distilled to aching anguish. A few short days ago, I was thrilled to have my best friend back by my side, only to have this damned war drive us apart yet again. No, not the war. The Capitol is at fault. The Capitol and their sadistic games.
I think of President Snow's white rose for me, solitary and menacing in its beautifully pungent warning. I think of that kiss shared in the woods, and I think that that stolen moment has been dampened by the perversion of a flower and its symbol, by a fearful tyrant who trembled at the thought of the nascent inferno he was witnessing.
Well, watch us burn, I think.
I am not gentle when I lean in to kiss Gale again. Covering his mouth with desperate force, I drive him back, his body meeting the wall behind him with a resolute thud, his breath catching in a surprised grunt. His initial hesitation is laced with surprise rather than actual resistance, and it doesn't take him long to find my rhythm and return my kisses with equal fervor.
Though I've possibly sent us hurtling down a path that may very well end in our destruction, I've reawakened him, reawakened us. Our hands join in the turmoil as our mouths battle, each touch a little more harsh than the last, each pass of our lips a little more crushing. Gale spins, lifting me up, and pins me between his hard body and the wall, the impact jarring, but I just pull him closer, holding our kiss until the last dizzying second. Eventually all fires need oxygen and we are forced to pull away, breathing furiously.
The disheveled creases in our jostled uniforms insinuate the blissful end that lies in wait for us if we continue down this path. I am trapped under Gale's scrutiny, his hands gripping my waist, his eyes quickly roaming mine in attempt to reconcile this turn of events. Where I've locked my arms around his neck, his pulse beats against the soft skin of my inner elbow in tandem with my own wild heart. We are connected by a need to feel something good in a disintegrating world.
Our home no longer exists. Perhaps we can find it in each other.
Gale's mouth parts slightly before shutting in a thin grim line. Conflict rages in the determined set of his jaw, the frantic back, forth, back, forth of his eyes between mine. What is he waiting for? I voice my concern.
"Katniss, I…" He trails off, words escaping him.
Then it clicks. The hesitation, the uncertainty… the want. Gale doesn't know how to press forward, or even if he should, when both of us are standing on such tremulous emotional ground. I recognize his trepidation, the little stabbing thrills in my stomach equally warn and entice me, and I see the question warring across his face.
Do we dare find out?
I think it should feel like I'm taking a leap of faith, but when my lips gently meet his, my kiss softly telling him I'd like to know what this would be like, what we could be like, there's no doubting anxiety or nervous tension. Only the tingling rush of excitement courses through me as Gale's lips work their way lower, the wet kisses he places along my throat extinguishing that excitement for something more raw. It's heady and I feel as if summer heat is radiating from within me, the shudder that he elicits from the wayward hand working beneath my tunic drawing out the moan before I can stop it.
Gale smiles against my skin, raising his mouth close to my ear.
"Well, if you're going to do that…" he whispers, his voice thick with that something I can't name.
He presses his body closer, freeing the hand still gripping my waist, so he can remove the earpiece of my communication wire. His own device quickly follows suit, joining mine where he haphazardly tossed it on the kitchen table. Then, Gale's kissing me with an intensity that makes my core explode into open flame. His fingers twist in my hair, along my stomach, their tracks switching invisible buttons that invite mine to do the same. The hard planes of his chest and back are separated from my palms by the synthetic fabric of our military uniforms and though I know Cinna designed them with care, thinking of seemingly everything, I think it's not enough because I just want it out of my way. Gale agrees because there's a distinct rip as he tugs the material over my head while I help him shrug out of his, a hem giving way to our frantic desire.
We both freeze at the sound, lithe and tense, maybe a little on edge too, as our uniforms drift silently to the floor. Gale and I bump noses gently, light nervous laughter escaping us, our eyes soaking in the expanses of skin exposed, quickly darting coyly away when the other catches the hungry stare. Hunters are not used to being so vulnerable and out in the open.
Gale's the first to test the waters, though his fingers move slowly, carefully. Even after years spent watching his strong fingers twist intricate snares, I am amazed at his tender touch. At first, my stomach flutters involuntarily underneath the tantalizing patterns he traces over the soft curve of my hip. My body pulls away only to press into his waiting hand, wanting more. Gale moves closer, acknowledging my silent request, and though I have felt his hard body against mine before, this time I am acutely more aware of his presence. I am acutely more aware of his purpose.
The last remnants of our combined apprehension dissolve into something more serious, the uneasy smiles disappearing into looks of intoxicating tension. Our heads drift closer, a slight pause the only indication of uncertainty, a moment that is destroyed with the potent force of our kiss, the sudden powerful press of our bodies together. Gale's weight holds me to the wall as his hands roam ravenously over the contours of my skin, his lips whispering something intimate to the pulse in my neck. He places a wet heavy kiss there, lighting my nerves with stunning ferocity, and I shudder with pleasure.
The embers he's stoking deep in my core throb with abrupt intensity when I open my eyes, meeting his smoldering silver eyes gaze. My fingers move to trace the lines of his features, his lips gently kissing and accepting my inquisitive touch. His strong arms circle me and I gladly hold tight as he lays me on the table, his body hovering protectively over mine.
I can feel the intimate press of our hips together, can anticipate the next few moments with naïve clarity, and though my anxiety flares momentarily, an elemental recognition starts a slow simmer to those burning flames. Still wrapped around his waist, my legs move to work the boots from my feet, the movement drawing an incomprehensible sound from Gale. A voice I have never heard, but sounds strangely like me takes over my head, and instructs my hands to wander lower, to be bolder. Gale watches me shimmy out of my pants, the beautiful gray of his eyes darkening like I've never seen before. Reverently, he runs a hand down my entire length, my body arching into his touch like a drawn bow, his name escaping my lips in a breathy sigh.
He catches my appreciation with a long deep kiss, and somewhere in the headiness, I am vaguely aware of Gale working his way out of the last of his uniform, before his fingers dance across the sensitive skin of my thigh and brush against me. My body snaps as if stung, not unpleasantly so, and I gasp harshly at the fireworks that his touch lit into full force. The bare skin of our lower bodies connects for a fleeting instant and Gale's forehead furrows from the inadvertent torment of my slick skin against his.
I want to ask him to do it again, but he's already moving his hand back down, and though I'm more prepared for the exquisite torture, he still makes my head snap back, my mouth fall open, my breath hitch in sharp pointed pants. My body is ablaze beneath his practiced hands and his soft mouth as he walks me to the edge of some invisible precipice and then waits, dangling me over without letting me fall.
"Gale," I groan in frustration, earning myself a teasing grin. My hips roll under him searching for any kind of release, but he moves a hand across my stomach and presses me down, stopping my agitation. His free hand brushes the loose strands of hair that have matted to my forehead and neck. I'm about to growl in frustration when suddenly he moves, covering my mouth with his, stealing away the surprised cry that creeps out of me and we meet for the first time.
The tears in my eyes are of mixed origin, but despite the pain, there's also something intrinsically right. More than right. I've never believed in grandiose words like destiny or fate, but the feeling flooding throughout me, the reflection I'm seeing in Gale's eyes makes me accept the inevitability of this moment. I thought I had made a decision that would shatter our friendship and perhaps cast it aside to be lost forever. I hardly dared to think that I'd be melting it down only to reshape it into something stronger. Something better.
"I love you."
Gale stares at me, wonder and disbelief in his eyes. His mouth gapes and then he smiles, a full one that makes dimples in his cheeks and makes me want to laugh for the sheer brilliance of it.
"I love you," he echoes. When he leans in to kiss me, he slides even further inside and my hips buck to relieve the burning ache that threatens to consume.
"Then show me," I say.
And show me he does.
The absolute delirium on Gale's face when he begins to move almost erases the discomfort between my legs, so I bite my lip until the unfamiliarity of our bodies connecting and reconnecting becomes familiar, and then welcomed, and then desired. The pace spirals dizzily to a furious crescendo and the heat rocketing throughout me is blissful and simultaneously unbearable. I want Gale more, and stronger, and I can't believe the sensations he's creating within me. My hands clutch desperately to his broad shoulders, struggling to anchor myself here with him, because I feel like I'm going to dissolve into nothing, to incinerate inside his love.
He recognizes the impending oblivion before I do, slowing the battle to a long firm press there. And there. My breath is coming in short harsh pants and the burning ache has roared into a full blaze and I am furious over his slowing and completely helpless to change it. And then Gale shifts.
The new angle causes scorching heat to radiate from my center outward in overwhelming floods and though I feel like I'm burning alive, it's all right because it's Gale's doing. The pressure overwhelms my senses and I see red behind my closed lids. I can feel myself trying to hold fast to Gale, can feel him trying to stay close to me and then we're falling apart at the seams, for a moment completely connected and unglued within each other.
When our trembling has stopped, my fingers lightly trace the layers of scars on Gale's back, my lips whispering to his damp hair. I think that I could stay like this, between the smooth wooden table and firm press of Gale's body to mine, forever, and wonder that I even was able to exist before without him as a part of me. The last few flames of our passion flicker to dull embers but still we lie in rapture, the sound of our breathing synchronized in the ensuing stillness.
In the quiet aftermath, I can hear the static of a headset coming on line. It snaps and pops until a frantic voice breaks through.
"… Soldier Hawthorne, come in… do you copy?"
"Soldier Hawthorne, here." Gale responds without releasing me from his hold or his gaze. I work to slow my breathing, to condense myself back into presentable form. The microphone of his headset is dangerously close to me and I hope they cannot pick up my ragged breaths on the other end.
"Is everything all right, Soldier? Where's Soldier Everdeen?"
"We're fine. She's right here," Gale says, a true smile breaking across his face. When he smiles like this, it's infectious and I find myself returning it easily.
"We need to hurry. We're being called back."
"We'll be right out."
Gale tosses the headset aside, the plastic and metal clattering on the wooden table before falling to the floor. I open my mouth to warn him to be careful, but I'm smothered in a long kiss that sucks the breath I've managed to catch away, leaving me dizzy and complacent. He pulls away, and I smile up at him mischievously.
"Well, now if you're going to do that…" I say.
Gale's eyes crinkle when he laughs and steps away to retrieve our haphazardly strewn uniforms from the floor. He tosses me mine and we quickly dress. I'm relieved to find that the seam on my left shoulder is only loose and not torn and I'm smoothing my hair when Gale wraps me in his arms and kisses the top of my head. I don't even attempt to hide our entwined hands as we walk back out to join the team. It's not likely they wouldn't notice the inferno anyway.