a/n: i originally wrote and posted this for a THG ficathon over on livejournal [kolms(.)livejournal(.)com(/)18020(.)html], but i liked it so much i wanted to post it here. the prompt combined two of my favorite things, katniss/gale and john green, so i had to write something. reviews are appreciated :) title is from bon iver.

this is dedicated to xLittle Black Star, who has been steadily going through and reviewing every single one of my stories. i know i haven't been replying to your reviews, but i mean it. thanks so much, dear :)

disclaimer: not mine.

"You can love someone so much...but you can never love someone as much as you can miss them."
—John Green

Fourteen and twelve and things are new. Her eyes are skeptical and calculating as you walk her through how to set a simple twitch-up snare. When she does it correctly for the first time her eyes soften and light up, and you laugh.

She shoots you a glare that matches death itself. It's worth it.

Fifteen and thirteen and she's warming up. You're getting better at shooting and she's getting better at teaching.

"Here, loosen up your shoulder," she says, fingers landing lightly on your arm. You hit your mark the next time the arrow flies, and she smiles. It's the first time you've seen her smile, and you hope it won't be the last.

You spend the next hour trying to make her smile again. When you finally do, you feel like you can do anything.

Sixteen and fourteen and this is easy. You meet every morning in the woods before school, bring down a few birds and maybe a squirrel or two, if you're lucky. Then you pack up and get breakfast at the Hob before leaving for the schoolhouse.

One morning she's sitting on Greasy Sae's counter with a bowl of soup while you lean next to her on your elbows. Eventually Darius comes up to you both, touches Katniss' hair and smiles suggestively.

She swats his hand away and rolls her eyes. You don't realize you're clenching your fists until Greasy Sae touches your arm and sighs.

Seventeen and fifteen and you're a goner. You find yourself fixating on the way her hair curls at her temples, worrying about her more than yourself each reaping, every year the number of slips with the name Katniss Everdeen neatly printed on them growing.

That winter she gets sick with the flu and you have to go hunting by yourself while she recovers. You find yourself aching for her company, for the sound of her laugh, for her steely gray gaze.

You hug her tight and for a long time when she returns to the woods a week later. When she asks, "Why so enthusiastic?" you reply, "I just missed you," so sincerely it hurts.

Eighteen and sixteen and it's your last year.

"We could do it, you know," you say. "Take off, live in the woods."

"They'd catch us," she sighs more than says. She's right but you pretend she's not.

"Well, maybe not."

She shakes her head. "We wouldn't make it five miles."

You don't tell her why you want to run because you don't need to. She proves it, too, when she asks you, "How many entries do you have?"

You sigh. "Doesn't matter."

"How many, Gale?" And she's using that tone that warns do not do this with me right now, so you shake your head and tell her.

"Forty-two."

She's quiet and lost somewhere you can't follow her to, so you just sit back and think about how maybe you could run, you could run and escape this all, because the odds are not in your favor this year, they're not, and you don't want your family and Katniss to have to go through that, you going into the Hunger Games.

"Wear something pretty," you say when you part ways later, even though you know she'll look pretty no matter what she's wearing.

Eighteen and sixteen and this can't be happening. Prim is small and squirming in your arms, screaming for her sister, and you want to scream too, because Catnip looks so small on that stage and you never thought this would happen, not this year, not ever.

Prim's tears soak your nice Reaping Day shirt and you pretend you can't hear your heart cracking.

Eighteen and sixteen and you're saying goodbye.

"I'm okay," she says as your arms tighten around her shoulders.

"Yeah, I know," you mumble, and you will not cry, you will not, because Catnip doesn't need that right now.

"Really," she says, her hands on your shoulder blades, and you pull back but don't let go.

"Listen," you say, "You're stronger than they are. You are."

"There's twenty-four of us, Gale, and only one comes out."

You smile and your hand finds the back of her neck. "Yeah. And it's gonna be you."

Then the Peacekeepers are there and they're pulling you away, and she's frantically telling you to take care of her family, and there's not enough time, because you have to tell her why she needs to come back, because you need her to, because you don't know what you'd do without her, but the door is closed between you and there isn't any time.

Eighteen and sixteen and you refuse to watch. You can hear the people whispering in the Hob when you trade; you pretend you can't.

"Did you watch the interviews last night?" Greasy Sae asks even when she knows you didn't. You put down a few coins for a bowl of stew and take a seat on a stool.

"No."

She hands you a spoon and ladles the thick soup into a bowl before setting it in front of you and taking the coins. "It seems that Mellark boy is in love with her." You almost spit out your soup.

You watch the Games every night, after that.

Still eighteen and sixteen, and you know it's not real. As soon as her lips touch his, you know it isn't.

The people in the square look at you sympathetically when it happens. You pretend not to notice.

Eighteen and sixteen and she won.

That night, you have a dream of the two of you in the woods, after she comes home. She's smiling, actually happy, and you are too.

"I love you, " you say.

You wake up before she has a chance to say it back.