i.

Gale Hawthorne would never be completely sure why he moved back to District 12; he would say that the death of his wife compelled him to return, that he wanted the comfort of his old home and friends and his family. And maybe that was really the answer, but he had learned that things were rarely that simple.

He sat on a familiar bench outside a familiar school with his young daughter, Beryl. Her thick hair was pulled back in a tight pigtail (Gale would have liked it to be less plain, but he had little skill when it came to hair and Beryl had little patience) and she proudly wore a dress the color of an evergreen tree. She was the spitting image of her father, from her dark hair and shiny, grey eyes to her olive skin and impressive height, she was a good inch or two taller than most of the other five-year-olds Gale saw. But what made Beryl seem most like her father was her short fuse, it didn't matter what it was, but if she was even the littlest bit annoyed, she made sure you knew it.

Gale watched his daughter fondly as she hopped carefully around the bench, plucking leaves up from the ground and handing them to him, for her collection. Beryl was fascinated with the plants District 12 had to offer; they differed so greatly from District 2's nearly barren mountains and she would bring home as many leaves, flowers, grasses, or twigs she could carry and then carefully place them in between the pages of Gale's old history textbook. Beryl treated the wildlife so tenderly, that it was often hard to believe that she was the same wild, impatient girl when she was around that book, now labeled 'BeryL's PLanTs: Do NOt TouCh' in her child's scrawl.

Gale became distracted as a new family walked through the gate of the short, white fence that surrounded the school grounds (so different from the tall, iron one that had been here in Gale's childhood). A painfully familiar woman held the hand of a little boy about Beryl's age, with hair so blonde it looked like corn silk, his other was enveloped by the hand of a familiar man; ahead of them skipped a little girl whose dark hair was carefully braided in two plaits. The girl ran off to play with her friends before school started, but the boy stayed with his parents and ducked behind his mother's legs.

"You see that boy over there?" Gale asked Beryl.

His daughter looked up and followed her father's gaze. "Yes."

"I wanted to marry his mother, but she fell for a baker instead."

Beryl looked shocked, "A baker? Why would she want a baker when she could have had you? Baker's are soft, but you're strong like rocks!"

"Because she couldn't survive without him," Gale says more to himself than to his daughter. He didn't love Katniss anymore, not like that, but seeing her again felt like salt had been rubbed into an old wound.

Beryl doesn't respond. When Gale looked down at her, he sees her fixated on that little boy, her eyes were filled with something much older than her five years and the tender look, reserved only for her plant collection, was on her face. A slight blush tinted her cheeks as she reached to tug on her father's pants.

"Papa," she whispered in a voice much too soft and sweet to be her own, "I… I'm going to marry that boy."


author's note: Unlikely? Yes. Out of character? Perhaps. But tons of fun to write.