Hello, I am Terence, also known as Nullum est iam dictum(quod non sit dictum prius.) I strongly dislike Author's notes, as I believe they interrupt the illusion that this is real Literature. Therefore, I will make this brief. I do not own the Hunger Games, its characters, its locations, or any other ideas/events unique to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This disclaimer holds for the entire story, not just this chapter.
In other news, this piece is already written, but still needs to undergo a large amount of editing before publication. I will be able to post new chapters every couple of days, and I hope I have eliminated all errors by then. This is unlikely to actually happen, so please forgive, and feel free to point out errors (grammatical, factual, astronomical, etc.) Please review, and sorry to any mobile readers if the Image looks terrible, I apologize.
Also, WARNINGS: Lots of violence, but none worse than the books. Lots of swearing, but nothing real teenagers wouldn't say in these kind of situations. Implied sexual relations, drugs, and prostitution but nothing explicit. Underage drinking, but that is, once again, also in Suzanne Collin's original work. Read this at your own risk.
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Chapter 1: Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori
"April Hemlock." The square filled with polite applause, and Gale shakily released the breath he had been unconsciously holding. His hands moved mechanically together, as he looked with the rest of the crowd to the poor chosen girl. It wasn't Katniss. Gale allowed himself to feel another faint surge of pleasure, belayed only slightly by the spectacle before him. The young girl's expensive dress fluttered slowly in the wind, its casual movement intruding on the otherwise still square. The applause had died out quickly, and her black heels could be heard tapping a faint tune on the decorative stairs of the stage. The cheery glint of her jeweled necklace cast flitting lights on her tense face, which had been replicated dozens of times in the vast televisions surrounding the square. The girl bit her lip slightly, a movement which would have been unnoticeable had the offending gesture not been inflated to more than a hundred times its natural size on the screen atop the Town Hall.
"Wonderful!" Effie, the district's escort, was always much too chipper for the occasion. She did her best to bring enthusiasm and excitement to the gathered crowd, but had little to no success year after year. She called out dryly for volunteers, and was met by the anticipated silence. April stood apathetically at her bubbly guide's side, her manner unchanged by the insult paid. No one was willing to die for her, but that had been true for every tribute from twelve stretching back dozens of years.
"And now for our marvelous male tribute!" Gale tried to relax as Effie searched for a small scrap of paper. He knew, logically, that although he had worse odds than most, his chance of being selected was still minimal. 42 out of almost ten thousand was nothing, and the difference between a .42% chance of her fingers clutching his slip, and the standard .07% chance was negligible. His assertions did nothing to help however, and Effie Trinket grasped one of the tickets before skipping to the microphone, wig turned slightly askew by the bouncing movement.
"Gale Hawthorne." Her shrill voice punctuated the anxious crowd, spurring them into movement. The citizens, as a whole, relaxed. One more reaping had been successfully avoided. While the festivities began in earnest for most, several odd people stood out, separate from the rest by an imperceptible barrier. One of these frozen figurines gained sudden life and began striding toward the stage. An easy smile graced his face, and the sea of people parted effortlessly before him as he bounded quickly up the stairs.
"Ah, and here is our magnificent male tribute!" Effie's eyes lit up and her face mimicked Gale's as she realized he wasn't sobbing, or about to throw a fit, or otherwise likely to embarrass her in the next few minutes. "Welcome, and congratulations!"
"Why thank you, Effie." Gale's eyes met hers as he smiled audaciously before offering a polite hand. Her smile became rather flat, and her brows scrunched together slightly in bemusement as they shook. She turned abruptly back to the crowd, and asked for volunteers. Gale glared at his audience, as if making silent threats against they themselves, and all their descendants, should they choose to speak up. The other teens were happy to abide by his request.
"This will be a terrific year!" Effie beamed once again for the cameras before nodding at the mayor to read the Treaty of Treason. She didn't meet Gale's eyes again.
A small buzz of conversation sprung from all corners of the square. The gamblers inconspicuously exchanged money and tickets, and relieved parents whispered back and forth. The children chatted desperately with those near them, releasing their pent up adrenaline while guiltily pondering the newly developed social drama. The general consensus, from the adults to the children, was that the selection of that Hawthorne boy, although sad as he was rather well liked, was not entirely unexpected.
Girls sighed, boys felt reluctant happiness that at least it wasn't them, and only a few were truly affected. A small cluster in the eighteen-year-old crowd stood dazedly apart. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, as well as Gale's immediate family, were awkwardly ignored, or offered tripped-over condolences. Katniss herself could only stare in shock and dread at her long-time friend. She attempted to make eye contact with Gale, but he was too busy smiling into the cameras. He didn't so much as glance in her direction.
In the middle of the treaty, Haymitch, struck by some uncontrollable impulse, stumbled from his seat and collided with April, hand outstretched. She teetered for a moment before falling, as Haymitch landed squarely on top of her. The cameras swarmed, and laughter broke out among the now-relaxed crowd.
"Sorry sweetheart. Who are you?" April ignored him in favor of regaining her footing as gracefully as possible, dusting her dress off as she stood. Haymitch then lurched half-heartedly toward Gale, who stepped back. Haymitch's continued to aim for the place Gale had recently vacated, and he collapsed into the empty air. His head hit the worn-but-spiffy wooden stage with a dull thump before he clutched it, moaning. "World's spinning, call in the makers." Gale cast him a disgusted look as Haymitch leaned over and vomited next to his shoes. The audience was torn between cries of revulsion and full-throated bellows of laughter. The mayor continued on quickly trying, to finish the treaty and force the camera's gleeful attention away from his district. Haymitch rose for the third time before absentmindedly crawling off the stage, much to everyone immediately involved's relief.
The treaty finally ended, and Effie Trinket abruptly gestured for the tributes to shake hands. Her smile had become rather plastered on her face. Gale smirked as he shook the hand of the trembling fifteen-year-old opposite him. He displayed a cocky arrogance that sent disparaging whispers rippling through the crowd. There was usually an unspoken sense of camaraderie between the tributes, and Gale was obnoxiously disregarding it. The contrast between the two could not be more apparent. April Hemlock stood to Effie's left, average in size but softened by life in the wealthiest part of the district. Her frail hand was engulfed by Gale's, and she shook as though even a slight wind could carry her off her feet. Gale towered over her, all muscle. His eyes searched for hers, while she rested hers firmly on the ground. While small tears could be caught running down April's face, Gale's only obvious emotions were savage amusement and pleasure at his circumstances. It was like watching an injured doe shake hands with a ravenous wolf. The tributes where whisked off stage after their handshake, and the crowd gradually dispersed until the square was abandoned once more.
Gale was curtly escorted into the capitol building by several uniformed Peacekeepers. They ignored both their captives and their fellow workers, preoccupied with attaining the perfect air of aloof distain. The walk was thankfully short, and Gale had no time to absorb his situation before being pushed into a lavish room to say his final goodbyes. The part of him still capable of thought laughed darkly at the absurdity of this touch. His only glimpses of luxury in life came first at his fathers death and now at the beginnings of what would likely be his own.
The walls were covered in flaking gold paint, with the original stonework showing through. A small glass cover shielded the naked light bulb from his view, but the light it dispersed was still harsher than the natural light from sun or fire that was his standard fare. A soft material covered the seat below him, and he vaguely remembered seeing something similar on dresses worn by rich mothers to the reaping. It wasn't long before his first guests began arriving.
His friends from school entered first. Gale was well liked by the Seam children, due both to his personality and the economic advantage of having him as a husband or close friend. Not that his friends were consciously trying to steal his money, but his position as a hunter was envied and respected by many for the wealth and bravery it entailed. Gale largely rejected those he believed only sought him for personal gain, but wasn't always quick to send away the sluttier girls, much to Katniss's disapproval. Several of said girls entered first, sobbing all over both themselves and him, much to his disgust. Large tracts of makeup were smeared over their faces, a testimate to their earlier concern for personal appearance. Three boys followed them, gruffly earnest, although none were crying. Sage, a girl who had been religiously attempting to ask him out for the past five years, was the first to speak.
"Gale," she whined, "you have to come back for me. I don't know what I'd do without you." Gale marveled internally at her ability to make the entire situation about her. He didn't really have time to deal with her, but it would make good practice for pandering to the Capitol citizens. He ground out his irritation and wiped away some of her tears, smiling.
"Of course I'll come back for you. Just think of this as a bit of a vacation. I'll be back before you know it." He smiled and she threw her arms around him. Two of the other twits watched on in jealousy. To be fair, Robin wasn't too bad, but he wasn't really in a forgiving kind of mood. Gale was still able to make a face at his friends without any of the girls noticing. "This will be harder the longer you stay, I still have to look nice for the cameras. Goodbye Sage." She wasn't quite obtuse enough to ignore such a flagrant dismissal, and her sidekick followed her out of the room. But one of his shadows stayed.
"I really am sorry you got reaped. I just—I'm sorry." Robin looked at him with a pained expression, before hurrying out of the room. He was left with just his guy friends, and the silence stretched on. What more was there to say? Thatch, who had always been more of a joker, broke the silence.
"Bang some freak from the capitol for us alright?" Jay shot him a look, but Gale only laughed.
"Can do. In fact, I'll send her back here when I'm done just so you can finally get a girlfriend."
"Gale, you couldn't get with a Capitol bitch if you paid her." The boys relaxed a bit, and fell into a familiar pattern of taking jabs at each other's sexual prowess. Things remained relatively lighthearted until a Peacekeeper knocked on the door telling them time was up. They stood awkwardly until Gale made the first move, pulling them each into rough hugs.
"You guys have been good friends over the years. I—goodbye." Gale's school friends murmured their farewells as they were escorted from the room. Gale wasn't as close with them as with his family and Katniss, but he would still have missed them had their name been written on the unlucky ticket. Gale held no grudges against them for remaining silent when Effie had asked for volunteers. He would have done the same for them.
Gale was barely alone for more than a second before a couple barged into the room. The woman wore an intricate green dress, gilded in white lace, while the man wore a fitted black suite. Their tear-stained faces wrecked their otherwise sophisticated air, and the man paced uncontrollably. Gale had never met them before in his life, but he had a feeling he knew who they were. The man didn't keep him guessing for long.
"You stay away from April. I saw how you were behaving with her on stage and you back off. If you so much as look at her I'll—" the man cut off, realizing he had nothing material to threaten the boy in front of him with. He sobbed slightly and continued with an entirely different tone. "Please, she's our only daughter, have mercy." Gale wished he could feel some sort of contempt for these people, but all he found was pity. Despite his rants against people like them living in splendor while his family starved, it was hard to fault them now, at their weakest. All their wealth hadn't saved them, so he couldn't in good conscious scorn them for it. Well, he acknowledged, maybe he could a little bit. The man could stand to lose more than a few pounds, and he knew several people who really needed to gain them.
"Relax, I'll do what I can for your daughter." Too nice he thought, and added "district unity and all that," carelessly after. The man looked a bit surprised by Gale's attitude.
"But on the stage—"
"That was for the cameras. Part of my strategy. It's not like I have some vendetta against your daughter." He hoped the man would be stupid enough to forget that the entire Game was 'for the cameras.' He seemed to take the bait, but his wife clearly didn't.
"Oh. Ok." He seemed a bit worn out, defeated.
"Why don't you go spend some more time with your daughter."
"Good idea. I'll—yes, I'll do that." He regained some composure. "Honey, are you coming?"
"In a minute dear." The husband and wife glanced at each other, before the man put his tail between his legs and hurried out the door. The woman turned to Gale. "Despite my husband's," she paused choosing her words carefully, "optimism, you and I both know how this is going to end for April." She spoke regretfully, but her sorrow was underscored with a rigid determination Gale respected. Her face was still wet with tears, but she ignored them in favor of getting her message out. "Just—" she broke off briefly, and fixed her eyes on Gale before continuing. He couldn't have escaped her gaze if he tired. "Protect her if you can, or at least." She paused again gathering strength. "Make it quick. Don't have her suffer." Gale looked directly at her before replying.
"I will," was all he said, but he felt as if a binding contract was being initiated. The woman nodded and said no more before gathering her skirts and leaving.
Gale's family was ushered in next. Vick and Rory were both crying, although, being adolescent boys, they tried to hide it. Posy was crying because everyone else was, and silent tears streamed down Hazelle's face. It was these that startled Gale the most. His mother had always been strong. When her husband had died, she had gotten up and gone to work the next day; when they were starving and he began risking his life daily to get food, she only nodded. But now she was crying, and this more than anything cemented his plight. Half-thought through strategies aside, there were twenty-three people between him and his way home.
Gale sat Posy on his lap, and tried to cheer her up. The capitol had taken so much from her, first her father, and now in all likelihood her brother. He would never get to see her grown up, and she would barely remember him. He babbled nonsense to her to fill the silence. How could he talk to his family, when he probably would never see them again? What was there to say that had not already been said? They knew what to do. The very night after his father's death, as they sat around the table, eyes flitting to the empty space like Rory's tongue kept going to his newly lost tooth, his mother had decided to bring up disturbing topics.
"It may sound harsh, but today has made me realize a great many things, and we will not be caught off guard again. Your father is gone, and it is time you realized the same thing can happen to any of us." Anger rose within Gale, and he glanced at his siblings, who had broken out in fresh tears.
"This isn't the time."
"Then when else? When it's your turn, or mine? We were stupid, so stupid to ignore the fact that any day you could be caught, or reaped, or taken from us any hundred of other ways, and I won't have us die because we decided to shelter ourselves." Hazelle placed a hand on her swollen stomach. "There is no way we'll afford a doctor when the baby comes, and anything could happen."
"Mom don't think like-"
"I'll think however I want to, Gale Hawthorne," she snapped. Looking back, perhaps she hadn't been as stoic as Gale had thought at the time. Chastised, Gale had listened as she outlined plans involving everything from tesserae, to stealing, to finding under-aged, illegal, dangerous, work in the mines for his younger siblings. None of it was pleasant, but all of it was practical. Gale always remembered that night as both the death of his father, and the beginning of his adulthood. Tesserae and hunting had been a part of his life for a few years already, but that conversation had forced him to grow up very fast. He had thought himself mature when he began venturing into the woods for his family, but he had been dead wrong. That night he had begun thinking and planning, not for his family's benefit, but for their survival. There was just one more failsafe Gale had instituted without their knowledge.
"One of you needs to go down to the Hob. I placed a ten coin bet on being chosen." It was something Gale had started doing after his father's death, and the practice had finally paid off. While most bets were placed on the age of the one selected, or how much tesserae they had taken out, it was also rare but possible to bet on an individual. It was mostly considered bad form, and the odds of guessing correctly were extremely slim, but the payoff was enormous. Every year there was a group of a hundred or more teens who took out much more tesserae than anyone else, but guessing which of that group would be selected was nearly impossible. But Gale wasn't betting to win, he was betting as an insurance policy. At least if he was chosen his family would get some money. He had always felt too guilty to do the same for Katniss, and never suggested the idea to her.
"How much will we get?"
"The odds were a hundred to one. You'll get 1,000 coins." Some gambler in the Seam would be cursing his name, but Katniss would make sure they weren't cheated. 1,000 coins was more then any of them had had in their lifetime, and Gale knew his family wouldn't spend it frivolously. It would keep them alive, at least until one of his younger siblings could take his place hunting. A twinge of irrational jealousy stole through him at the thought of one of his other siblings stealing his bond with Katniss, but he quickly quelled the impulse. "Make sure they pay you in full, and be cautious storing it. If you're careful, it should last you a while." Katniss would also help on that front. She and Gale had made a deal years earlier to help support each other's families if they were reaped, and Gale knew she would consider backing out of such a pact unthinkable.
"Gale, what wrong?" Posy had finally calmed down enough to talk, but Gale had no answer for her.
"I'm just going away for a while, ok Posy?" Posy nodded, but started crying again. Even the youngest in the district knew what the Games were. Gale and his family sat together, saying hurried goodbyes and 'I love you's. The peacekeepers came much too soon, and as Gale's family quietly left, he wondered if he would ever see them again.
Katniss entered the room next, and Gale unhesitatingly threw his arms around her. He had been strong for each of his other guests, but this was someone he could finally relax with. They had never been extremely verbal with each other, but he poured his quiet fear into their embrace. After a long moment, they pulled back.
"Come back." Gale hadn't realized two words could be filled with so much desperation.
"I will. I have a plan." The words sounded hollow, even to him, but he had to tell her. "Listen, Catnip, whatever you see me do in there it means nothing. Whatever I say, however I act, none of it is real. You have to remember that."
"What's your plan Gale? What can you do against them? You've said it yourself the Games are practically rigged. Careers are the only ones who stand a chance." Gale could see Katniss bite back the words guiltily as soon as she said them, but she was right.
"I know. That's all part of the plan." Gale gave a sad smile, but it didn't comfort her at all.
"Gale, don't you dare do anything stupid." Gale laughed at the venom in her voice.
"How could I? You'd bring me back from the dead just to kill me again." Katniss gave a watery chuckle, before Gale became serious again. "But Katniss, that's not going to be me on the screen. What I'm planning… you're not going to like it."
"Just promise me you'll come back."
"If you promise me you'll still like me when I do." Katniss rolled her eyes.
"I'll always like you." Gale became incredibly aware of how close together they were. Well, here's your last chance, he thought to himself.
"I love you, Catnip." Her eyebrows wrinkled in confusion, but she didn't hesitate as she replied.
"I love you too." Now or never. He looked down at her tear stained face, brushed a piece of hair that had fallen out of her braid out of her face, and kissed her softly. She froze, and he started to pull back, embarrassed when she regained movement. To his everlasting joy, she stood on her tiptoes and threw her arms around his neck, pulling them closer together. He held her tight as they kissed, and he was able to faintly taste some of the strawberries they had eaten earlier. All he could think about was her, and he didn't even notice the Peacekeepers until they tapped him on the shoulder.
"Time to go." They broke apart, and he could see Katniss's face redden. As they started pulling her toward the door, he shouted, "I love you!" one last time, and barely caught her reply as the door closed. Euphoria washed over him and he couldn't keep an honest smile off his face. She had kissed him back. Death seemed a little bit farther off after that, and even being escorted down the hall to the peacekeepers didn't dampen his spirits. Gale injected some cruelty into his smile as he exited the building into the flash of cameras, but his joy was still evident. He stood apart from April, who still glanced at him warily. Her eyes weren't very puffy, but a good deal of her makeup had been removed, and Gale knew she had been crying more. Other than an initial wayward glance he completely ignored her in favor of the cameras. He still had a first impression to make.
This silver train glided into the station like a storm front, steady, immovable, beautiful, and foreboding. They boarded the train without ceremony, but he stood in the doorway until the doors closed.
April waited in the corridor, fidgeting slightly. Gale turned to her for the first time, and gave her a nicer smile rather than the arrogant smirks he had been giving before. He offered his hand politely.
"Gale Hawthorne, sorry about how I was acting earlier, but it's part of my strategy." She offered an elegant hand in return automatically, although her face remained blank.
"April Hemlock." They both stood awkwardly, not knowing how to continue, until Effie Trinket found them. They both turned to her in relief.
"Ah, there you are! You can stay in your rooms until dinner. They're right this way." Effie turned and Gale and April took it as their sign to follow. "I cannot believe Haymitch decided to pass out during the ceremonies. Does he care how this reflects upon me? No. No thought for anyone but himself, and we'll take the fall for it." Effie continued her tirade as she led us to our room, and no matter how poorly Gale thought of her, he had to agree on some fronts. It would be impossible to win if Haymitch kept scaring off sponsors. He felt a pang of self-loathing at how easily he was falling into the Capitol's mindset, and playing along with their games, but he had no other option. It was either play along, or die, and no matter his personal convictions, he wouldn't hurt his family by doing something stupid and pointless, and get himself killed for no reason.
Effie left them, cheered by their sympathetic silence at her woes. April quickly entered her room and shut the door, preventing any communication between the two of them. Gale was grateful. It wouldn't help to become attached to her. It was only as he shut the door to his room that he realized he had never picked out a district token. Gale consoled himself that it would only fit in more with his plan. As of now, he was a cocky teen thrilled to be in the games. He had no morals, and definitely didn't bring any sentimental objects from home. Gale sighed looking out the window at the landscape rushing by. This would be harder then he had anticipated.