A/N: Hi there! I got impatient and posted this chapter anyway. All the mistakes are mine. Enjoy!
Chapter 4: Wide Awake
I wish I could save you
I wish I could say to you
I'm not going nowhere
I wish I could say to you
It's gonna be alright
It's gonna be alright
Kelly Clarkson- Save You
He looks the same, she realizes: her best friend, her old hunting partner, her confidant as if the sight of him brought her back to three years ago before her world changed, before Prim was chosen, before she volunteered in her sister's place, before the seventy-fourth games, before Peeta, before Snow, before the Quell, before everything else happened. She could close her eyes and clearly imagine being back in the forests of her District 12 where the trees would be numerous. He would be sitting by their rock that separated the forest from the Meadow, waiting for her so they could hunt game together and feed their families for the week. After probably spending days having nightmares over Prim's explosive death and haunted by Peeta's memory, she feels something foreign like hope unfurl, ever so slightly and it settles inside her chest. Gale was familiar, someone she had at point in her life told her deepest secrets too. When she was with him, Katniss was always herself. He understood and she understood him. They shared the terrible pain of losing their fathers at a young age, the responsibility of being the breadwinners of their families.
For a second, she forgets that she isn't truly back at home. Katniss just throws her arms around his body as soon as he comes near, burying herself in how strong Gale's presence is. Her left cheek rests on side of his neck, inhaling his musk: a vague pine scent probably from the forest they used to frequently hunt from with an addition of coal dust gathered in. That's right, she thinks. He probably works in the mines now. She never got reaped here. Katniss didn't pull the stunt with the berries. There's no rebellion. "I'm so glad you're here."
It's not long before she notices how stiff he is. Katniss is about to pull away, thinking she was foolish to not fight her impulse when Gale carefully hugs her back, and that warmth she craved returns. For several minutes, Katniss holds on tight. She doesn't realize she's crying until she loosens her hold and there are wet spots running his neck.
Beyond embarrassed, she mutters, "Sorry. I didn't mean to."
He dismisses her with a shaken of his head. After moments of silence ensue, he opens his mouth to speak, unsure of where to start. His confusion is written on his handsome, angular face. Katniss doesn't know where to start either, but is relieved when he breaks the quiet tension they had running.
Finally, Gale manages an inquiry, "Look, I don't actually know who you are, but you seem to know me." His Seam grey eyes are curious, but otherwise guarded.
There's a pang coming from somewhere in her system. Katniss knows her Gale wouldn't treat her as distant as this one does. They had too much history together and known similar grief that bonded them to one another's side, but it hurt to know this Gale didn't know her at all. Gale and she were never best friends here. She has to remember that part.
Katniss stares at him blankly. How is she supposed to explain herself? She thinks she may have gone crazy? She's not sure what happened to her? Oh, what about: maybe she's starting to believe the absurd theory that she's come up with; could Katniss be stuck in another world? Otherwise, how else can she explain the sudden of a breathing John? Or a happy, coherent Florence? In her mind's eye, there's a clear image of Gale. His long dark locks fall below his ears just like he used to wear it before Katniss volunteered for Prim in the Seventh-Fourth Hunger Games. Here, this Gale has the exact hair style. Yeah, she thinks. Are there insane asylums wherever she is? That's the first place they'll send her once she tries for the truth. Thinking about this is beginning to give her an immense headache along her temple. Katniss rubs the spot warily.
Okay, she has to say something though. But what?
Think Katniss, she tells herself. There must be some reasonable explanation for this behavior. If only, there were. She would have to make something up.
"You told me your name right before I passed out," she says, hoping he'll believe her. It's the best thing she can come up with, and it might have actually happened. Her recent memories conjure a vague picture of him shouting her name in alarm, begging her to wake up.
He pauses, trying to recall the memory. "Oh, I did tell you that day," his expression somewhat clears at her words. "I guess I forgot. I kept shouting at you to wake up, but your eyes were drifting far away. "
This may be the first time Katniss has tried to lie to him. She's uncomfortable doing it, and her hands fidget in her lap, while Gale steadily watches her movements.
Something about her is unsettling him and he doesn't trust strangers, but he finds himself being gentle with her. He didn't have reasonable explanation for this rarity. Gale goes with it. "Hey," he says, softly. "I never got your name."
"Oh, it's Kat."
He gives her a slow smile with the corners of his lips. "Welcome to District 12, Kat."
At that, Katniss sits up straighter from her bed. But how could that be? This new information isn't helping her make sense of what's going on with her. If anything, it confuses her more.
"District 12?" There's definitely a hint of hysteria in her voice, but likely not for the same reason he thinks she is. This place is familiar yet everything she knows is fundamentally different. Her father's alive. Her mother never fell into a deep depression over losing her husband. What about, she starts, choking up. What about Prim?
"Yes," he confirms, eyes quickly clouding with concern. Holding his hands out to her in a placating gesture like Katniss is a frightened bird about to take flight at the smallest sound. He continues, "We're…Florence, John and I, are not going to hurt you. The others in 12 won't either."
No, she can't think about Prim. Katniss has to focus on something else. Instead, she observes that peculiarity again: Gale's showing Katniss his softer side. She's only seen glimpses of that when she was over at the Hawthorne's when he took care of his youngest sister, Posy. Why would he show her this? He didn't know her here. They weren't friends.
The girl in front of him appeared so hurt and shattered, from the bandages covering her from head to toe, to the machines she was hooked on to keep her stable, to the visible, fresh grief dominating her unique grey eyes; they all screamed of great loss and immeasurable darkness. Don't ask him why (he probably couldn't explain it himself; this strange connection he has towards Kat), but whatever the reason, Gale is compelled to ease her pain. It doesn't matter if he didn't know who she was. No one should face their battles alone. And by the looks of things, she had no one to help her. Whoever she loss, was irreplaceable, which is why he could learn to be her friend now.
"I want to believe you…" Katniss trails, uncertainty painting her tired features. The lack of sleep is apparent in the dark circles under her eyes and the sluggish way she moves; her blinks are slow and it takes her longer to comprehend what he's saying.
"I know. We'll start small."
This chapters questions:
Was Gale in character? Was the relationship between Katniss and Gale believable?
For next time:
What do you, the reader, hope to find out? What will happen next? Your predictions to how Katniss will continue to react to her new world (Alt. District 12, Alt. Capitol, the Games, etc)? Seeing Alt. Prim? Alt. Peeta?