Chapter 16: From Here On Out
It's a bit hard to focus on flying a hovercraft with Madge pressing tantalizing kisses to Gale's neck. Not that he minds much, his heart racing in his chest and his skin melting as she tightens her grip around him. Amicus, however. Amicus minds. Not in the annoyed type of way, but in the way that they're quite a few miles in the sky and he would like Gale's full attention on the situation at hand. There'll be plenty of time for Madge later.
"Listen I know you two are so happy to be in each other's presence," he says lamely after several coughs trying to get their attention, all of which failed by the way. "But we're kind of trying to fly a hovercraft."
"Oh, shove off," Gale mutters, causing Madge to laugh. Amicus smirks as Madge waves her goodbyes, exiting the cockpit to talk to Nena. The two girls sit on the couch and gossip about God knows what considering there's literally nothing to gossip about, and the door between the two groups pulls shut. Gale keeps a smile plastered on his face and Amicus watches him from the corner of his eye. "Would you stop looking at me?" he laughs, no tinge of annoyance in his voice.
Am laughs too, "It's just nice to see you smile." There's a pause as he flips a few switch, but then he adds, "We haven't talked much since you found her."
"We found her," he corrects. Gale needs to make it known that there is no way in hell he'd be here if he hadn't brought Am along. Or Nena, for that instance. "I owe you so much."
"Sure," Am snorts. "Gale, you don't owe me anything. I'm just happy you're happy, alright? I kind of wish we talked more, too, but that can be dealt with." Gale nods and Amicus purses his lips. "So… is it all you dreamed it to be?"
"Am," oh yes, it's time for the talk.
"Rainbows in the meadow?"
"Amicus," Gale tightens his grip on the controls as his ears go pink. Gale's never one for talking about relationship, Amicus can never get enough.
"Unicorns flying through the sky?"
"I swear," Gale holds back a laugh. "Why am I friends with you?"
"Because you love me," the other replies quickly. "But is it? All you wanted it to be?"
Gale pauses a moment, pursing his lips and scrunching his nose. "If possible, it's better." And that is all Amicus needed to hear. "What about you and Nena, eh?" Gale watches as Am's face runs red. "Can't hide anything from me, dear friend."
"Wasn't trying to," he says through a forced voice. Amicus has had all of three girlfriends. In high school. With life in District 2 nothing is certain, he never wanted to attach himself to anyone. "Nena's…" a lopsided grin stretches across his face. "She's just everything." Gale nods, saying nothing about how Nena is coming with them back to Panem. "I told her about the children's hospital down on Main Street," Am adds as if he's reading Gale's thoughts. "She loves kids, you know. Really does. They're short on staff and she got all excited about it."
"And you're okay with that?"
"Hell yeah I'm okay with that," Am laughs. "Not only are children going to be happy, but I'm going to be happy. I get to wake up every morning next to…" he trails off, his face tickled pink again. "You know, I thought you were stupid at first." Gale raises an eyebrow as his friend continues, "Oh yeah. Off your rocker. Chasing around some girl that might not even remember you. But I feel like… I feel like if roles had been switched and I was looking for Nena…"
"I got it," Gale laughs.
Am pulls his hands through his hair, "I guess… I guess I should be the one thanking you. It's like everything makes sense now."
The rush to the Hawthorne residence is one Gale makes on his own. He doesn't wait for the others, leaving Madge with Nena and Amicus, and pounds through the cold streets of the new District 12. The roads are easy to navigate, and although Gale's only been back to 12 once or twice he knows exactly where his family is located. The new house that they've built has rooms for everyone, it's clean and strong and no longer in a place that would ever be deemed as Seam.
He bursts through the door without even knocking, finding his mother pacing in the living room. "Gale," she croaks upon seeing him, rushing forward and pulling her son into her arms. Her hug squeezes the life out of him. "Oh, it's been so long since I've seen you," she weeps into his chest, the grip getting stronger.
"Gale's home!" Posy and Rory rush down the stairs, the older reaching Gale first because his legs are longer. "Hey!"
"Hey, Rory," Gale sighs, holding his not-so-little brother in his arms. Much like Gale he stands tall; they're nearly the same height now. "It's great to see you," Rory just nods, absorbing his brother. Posy nearly claws Rory off of him, wrapping herself around the midsection of Gale. "Hey, Pose. Have you grown since last time I've seen you?" Posy giggles, looking up wide eyed at him. He runs his hands through her dark messy hair and she shoves him away, crossing her arms.
"You're still a giant," she teases.
"You're still a runt," he says back with a laugh. Gale turns to his mom. "Upstairs?" she nods once, and then Gale pounds his way up the steps. Timidly he pushes open the only closed door, the one that must belong to Vick. "Vick?" his voice is gentle incase the younger is asleep. "You awake?"
"Hey, bud," Gale keeps his voice soft and steps into the room. He notes the many boxes of tissues, the extra amount of blankets and sick-mugs. "How're you feeling?"
"Is that really you?"
"Yeah," he kneels next to Vick and grabs his hand. "I flew all the way from Insula to see you." Vick shivers but a smile creeps onto his face. "You feeling okay?"
"Much better now," he tells him but through an obvious amount of force. "I can't believe you're really here. It's been so long." Guilt knots in Gale's stomach; he honestly hasn't seen much of his family since the war. It isn't like he wanted to, but there was so much that made him not want to return. Despite his conversations with Katniss he still felt responsible for Prim's death, he was sure Rory deemed Gale responsible too. He didn't want to see the place he grew up riddled with rubble; he didn't want to see anything at all.
"I know," Gale replies. "I'm sorry, I should've come more."
"Now don't act like I'm dying," Vick laughs and then coughs. "I'm just sick. Mom's overreacting. Always does."
"I know that," Gale frowns, but he isn't entirely sure. "You just got to get better now, alright? Then we can play soccer or something, just like we used to." Vick grins, the idea of playing a sport with his older brother again seems almost impossible. "How about you get some sleep, yeah?"
"Sure. Hey, Gale? Did you ever find that girl?"
"Course I did, you nutter," Gale messes up his brothers hair with a laugh. "I'm a Hawthorne, we always get what we want."
"Yeah," Vick laughs, and then pauses. "Can I meet her?" Now it's Gale's turn to pause, drawing his eyebrows together confusedly. "Mom says you're in love, are you?" Gale jerks his head into a nod and Vick laughs. "That's weird. But I want to meet her so I can see what love looks like to you."
"You idiot," Gale laughs. "Love looks like you and Posy and Rory and Mom all being here for me when I come home. Treating me like family even though I'm never here anymore."
Vick smiles, a weak but happy smile, "I guess. I still want to meet her."
Amicus and Nena decide to stay aboard the hovercraft considering they don't think they'll be staying long. They always come over for dinner as Vick works his way to recovery, slowly, but eventually. Madge was the one that figured it out, the thing that made it so much worse than it should have been. "He's allergic to the medicine," she told Hazelle. "Switch his medicine and he should heal up quickly."
"How'd you know that?" Gale asked her that night. Despite Hazelle's original protests Madge and Gale now share a guest room. They lay tangled in each other, his arms pulled around her waist as she rests against his chest. "About the medicine?"
"You pick up a few things when traveling the world," she told him, her hands trailing down the side of his cheek.
Currently, however Vick's well enough to get out of bed, so they all sit downstairs around the fire. Madge rests in Gale's arms while the whole family pretends like they're not staring. Vick tries to decipher what love means while Rory just gazes at the angel in front of him. Hazelle can't wipe the smile from her face, it's always a strange thing watching a child grow up and fall in love. "You're really pretty," Posy says. Madge smiles, her cheeks turning pink. "I wish I had blonde hair like you."
"Aw, don't say that," Madge says back. "Your hair is beautiful."
Posy tugs on her locks, "You really think so?"
Madge nods, "Oh, definitely. I'd always wished I had darker hair," she admits, her eyes trailing up to Gale. What she doesn't admit, however, is because she thought Gale only liked girls with darker hair. It's funny too, considering Gale's always loved Madge's hair, the way it catches every bounce of sunlight. Her hands stay locked with his as he presses noticeable kisses to her shoulders. "This is a lovely house you have, Hazelle," she says, trying to get Gale to stop kissing her while they're around his family. She's sort of nervous in that aspect.
"Oh, thank you," the mother gushes. "Because Gale was a war hero or something of that sort they basically gave us whatever we needed. Rooms for all the kids, a nice big kitchen so I could cook." Hazelle loves to cook, spending day after day baking sheets of cookies or pies or anything of the sort. "A washing machine so I don't have to do it myself. It's all been very nice." Madge is happy at the changes Panem is making, the way everyone is treated as equal. Some get benefits if they don't have the money to back them, but everyone is treated fairly now. "I hear you travel?"
"Not anymore," Gale murmurs against Madge's skin so only she can hear. "Hopefully. Not without me."
"Yes," Madge forces out despite Gale's whispers, her cheeks flooding red. "Or well, I used to."
"Better," Gale keeps his voice gentle, his lips quick against her neck. Hazelle watches the interaction and although she can't make out what they're saying she smiles all the same. Her little boy, her son, all grown up and in love.
"I quite liked Erat and Luto but Insula was my favorite," her hand tightens around Gale's. "Never quite know what you'll find there." Gale snorts, and Rory raises his eyebrows. "Gale saved my life, you know."
"Did he?" Posy's eyes light up. Posy's in that 'romance is in the air' stage, having crushes on all her classmates and reading love stories in her fairytale books. "How?"
"I fell off a cliff," she admits weakly. Rory can't stop himself from laughing, and then neither can Vick. "Oh, come on!" Madge suddenly laughs alongside them. "I was rock climbing! The rope snapped!"
Rory pauses at her words, "You rock climb?"
"Of course I do," Madge crosses her arms. "I love rock climbing." She's about to carry on her story about how Gale saved her but instead decides to list the things she's done on her adventures. "Not only that but I went bungee jumping once."
"No way!" Vick nearly shouts.
"Way. Parasailing, hot air ballooning," she counts off on her fingers. "I've climbed a few mountains…" Rory's mouth hangs open as he studies the blonde.
"Gale," Rory says. "Marry her. Marry her or I will."
Madge lies in Gale's arms that night, her hands cupping his face as she presses kisses to his lips. "I like your family," she whispers. Gale grins, pulling her closer and resting his hands on her lower back. "Especially Rory, he's a keeper."
"Mmm? And not me?"
"I don't know," she teases, "he seemed pretty fascinated by my stories." He raises an eyebrow as she steals another kiss before giggling. Gale loves her stories, she knows that. He even told her she should write a book, make millions. "Maybe I'm dating the wrong Hawthorne."
"Maybe not," Gale laughs, tightening his grip around her. "He's much too young for you, I'd say."
"Still pretty handsome," her hands tangle in Gale's hair as he kisses her nose, "just as bright."
"Don't push it," Gale murmurs, bringing her face closer to his. "He'll never love you like I do," he whispers.
"Yeah, I suppose that's true. I couldn't love him either, not like with you." Again Gale raises an eyebrow. "Oh yes, Gale Hawthorne, I'm in love with you." Unable to say anything back Gale kisses her, his hands knotting in her hair as he sucks against her lips. "I don't deserve you," she breathes.
"Oh, to hell with that," Gale laughs. "Who gives a damn what anyone deserves? If the rebellion had never happened I wouldn't deserve you either," her hands frame his face and tease at his hairline. "And yes, you do deserve me. You probably deserve better than me, but…"
"No," she cuts him off with another kiss. "Don't even start." The two drift off tangled in each other, not wanting to be anywhere else.
When Katniss opens the door and sees Madge on the other side her eyes widen like she's seeing a ghost. Madge offers a small wave and then she's pulled into Katniss's arms tightly. Gale stands back and watches as Katniss tries to keep tears out of her eyes but fails miserably. Peeta lumbers down the stairs moments later and then he, too, joins the tearful reunion.
"I thought you were dead!" Katniss accuses, but it's all in good nature.
"You couldn't have sent a post card or something?" Peeta teases, his arms tight around his childhood friend.
"And you!" Katniss jabs a finger in Gale's chest. "I haven't seen you in years!"
"Sorry Catnip," Gale says back with a smile, his best friend shaking with emotions in his arms. "But I missed you too."
All four sit down for coffee, Madge once again finding her way to Gale's arms. That's the only place she feels safe anymore, the only place she feels whole. Katniss watches with wide eyes as she nuzzles up to his chest and Gale leans down to kiss her.
"I think I speak for both of us," Peeta says, "when I say that you two together is by far the strangest thing I've ever seen."
"I think the strangest thing I've ever seen is a two headed snake," Madge offers lightly. "What's so strange about two people together, hm?"
"It's not that you're together," Katniss says weakly, she's still deemed a bit innocent by her peers.
"Yeah, it's that it's you two," Peeta grins.
"Yeah, very strange," Gale murmurs. Madge laughs, craning her neck to kiss him. His nerves melt and he grins, kissing her again. Katniss coughs awkwardly before returning to her coffee and Gale rolls his eyes. "How old are we, Catnip?"
"I don't know, Gale," she says back with a scrunched nose, "considering you still feel the need to call me Catnip."
The Hawthorne's stand outside their house waving goodbye to Madge and Gale as they start back towards their hovercraft. The two wanted to stay a bit longer but District 2 called and Gale had to return to work. His absence had been very noticeable, and people were getting antsy that their leader hadn't been home in so long.
"Wait," Madge stops Gale and then digs in her bag. "I almost forgot, I'll be right back." Gale raises an eyebrow as Madge rushes down the street toward his family. "Hey Posy," Madge leans down and hands her a book. "I wanted to give you this before I go, alright?"
"What is it?" Posy asks wide eyed, cradling the huge leather bound book in her hands.
"Gale showed me your room," she tells her. "All the maps and stuff. You want to travel one day too, right?" Posy nods her head as Madge smiles. "Well I took a lot of pictures as I traveled. Pictures from all over. I wanted to let you borrow the book, maybe keep a few pictures if you like them, okay?"
"Yeah," Madge cups her face. "You can travel one day too, but for now this is just a taste of all the adventure out there for you." Posy nearly drops the book before throwing her arms around the blonde.
"Thank you!" she cheers. "Thank you so much!"
"No problem," Madge laughs. "Just remember that. Okay? There's always going to be adventure out there."
"Madge we gotta go," Gale calls over.
"Coming!" she calls back. "Bye Posy. Bye guys!" The Hawthorne clan waves their goodbyes again and waits until Madge is out of listening distance.
Rory turns to his mother, "I'm serious. If Gale doesn't marry her then I will."
"Don't worry," Hazelle smiles, "I don't think we'll have any problems there."
Back in District 2 Madge and Gale settle into a comfortable lifestyle. Madge picks up a job at the same hospital Nena does and so the two girls always see each other. On the weekends Madge plays the piano at a jazz bar just like Gale had suggested, bringing in some extra cash. Every night Gale comes home to Madge and they lose themselves in each other, no one around them can doubt their love. Nena and Amicus come over every Friday night and they either go out or stay in, playing board games and drinking or just doing whatever they like.
Nena and Amicus get engaged a few months later, Madge is still yet to wear a ring.
Two years later Gale convinces Madge to go on vacation with him. Her nerves are shot the entire trip, muttering about how she should be at work and Gale should be training new recruits, but she goes all the same. Gale never lets go of her hand. How she doesn't figure out what city they land in is beyond him, but it's all the better for him. She must be too preoccupied to with something to notice.
"Where are we going?" Madge grumbles as they stroll hand in hand down a path.
"I just want to show you something," he says back with a laugh. "Will you relax? We're on vacation, hun."
"I know," she frowns, nibbling on her lip. "I just feel like I'm needed somewhere."
"Yeah," he leans down to kiss her quickly. "Right here. With me." She rolls her eyes but a playful smile stays bright on her face. "Alright," they reach the end of the trail. "We're here."
"And where exactly is here?" she crosses her arms, her eyes darting up to the sky as if she's trying to figure it out.
"The place that changed everything," Gale says while dropping down to his knee. "Madge Undersee,"
"Oh my God,"
"Two years ago to this day you were rock climbing and your rope snapped."
"Gale," her cheeks flush and her heart picks up in her chest. "What are you…"
He holds her hand tightly in his. "And I climbed to the bottom ledge where you fell and I saw you and my heart stopped." He pauses for a moment, knowing he practiced the speech a million times but was still fumbling with words. It never seemed right to him. "From that day on I knew there was no going back, I wouldn't be able to go on without you." Her eyes prick with tears but a smile stays weakly on her face. "I love you. God knows I'm not good at this stuff but I love you more than I'll ever love anyone else, more than I've loved anyone else." She starts nodding her head before she can stop, before he's even asked her anything. "Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she croaks, dropping to her knees. "Yes, yes," her chin quivers as he fumbles in his pocket and pulls out the ring, sliding it onto her finger gently. "Oh, Gale…" she doesn't even study the ring before pulling his face into her hands, pressing desperate kisses to his mouth. "I love you," she forces out. "I love you." Again, Gale is at a loss for words. All he knows is the feel of her skin, the taste of her lips. And from this point on, he'll never need to know anything else.
A/N: We've reached the end, I'd say. I suppose this chapter was basically a bunch of oneshots that wrapped it up. Did I do it justice? I hope so. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed, who have stuck with me through this story I never actually intended to write! I hope you enjoyed the story, and the end, although it's sad to see it over. Thanks again.