This is the sequel to my story Any Means Necessary. If you have yet to read that I highly recommend it before delving into this since it's AU and will make a lot more sense if you do so. This story will be mostly in Gale's POV, but I will write Katniss's sometimes as well so I'll let you know whose talking. Hope you enjoy the new installment :) Enjoy!
Disclaimer (for whole story since I'm lazy): If I owned the Hunger Games I wouldn't have ever come up with this idea for an AU in the first place, so I thank SC for her universe and characters that I don't make up on my own to fit into her universe. In short, I don't own it and neither do you (Unless SC happens to be magically reading this (not likely) but in that case, yes you do own it-please don't sue me, I'm a poor college student)
"You ready to go?" I ask Katniss around late morning. We have been in the woods since dawn, but we need to leave now if we're going to get to the Hob before Cinna and the rest of the crew coming with us on the Victory tour arrive. Cinna's supposed to be here around noon with her prep team to get her ready, and I have to get back to say goodbye to my family before we leave. Because Katniss is the Victor of the Seventy Fourth Hunger Games and I, being her mentor and in a 'relationship' with her will be going on the two week trip around Panem as well.
She nods and we walk in a comfortable silence to the fence. I'm sad as always to leave our woods, but not as much as I was two years ago. Since I became a Victor last year, I have spent a majority of my days in the woods hunting for Katniss and her family as well as anyone else who trades for our game, mostly people at the Hob but some of the officials and peacekeepers too. Last year I would be by myself until the afternoon when Katniss got out of school and she would join me. But in the last few months since Katniss came back a Victor, we have both spent a majority of the day in the woods together, hunting for others now that we don't need it as well as just for the sheer enjoyment of being out here.
I wish I could say that we really are in a relationship now, that she has realized that she has feelings for me as well but sadly I can't. She had to all but be slapped in the face to realize that I actually did love her, that the 'act' that we put on that successfully got me out of appointments and have them never materialize for her wasn't exactly an act for me. I know that she never wanted any of this; marriage, kids, or even a relationship in general so to find out that I, her best friend wanted that from her was a complete shock to her. I really wanted to try to make our fake relationship a real one, not just for the cameras but she still doesn't feel comfortable with that. So I offered to let her take her time, not wanting to lose her completely and after the cameras left I have not pushed it.
It was really awkward at first, both of us knowing that we've shattered some barrier of our easy uncomplicated friendship, but ignoring it for the most part has helped. Our families don't say it outright, but I think that they were a bit disappointed to discover that it wasn't real. We still haven't told them the reason they had to lie about us being in a relationship, simply telling them that it's complicated but everything worked out. I hate that we aren't telling them the truth and they are well aware that we aren't giving them all the details, but Katniss and I are in agreement that it will be safer for them to be in the dark on the secrets of the Capitol. Hell, I don't think we know half of the secrets of the Capitol and we've been in too deep of shit already.
When we make it to the fence, we make a quick pit stop at her old Seam house to change into our better quality shoes and coats which are not nearly as comfortable as our hunting things but are deemed more acceptable for Victors. I wouldn't bother but my mother insists and in the last year I didn't want to argue with her because she didn't push me too hard on why I went to the Capitol so much. And if I refused to do this small request, she might have started asking questions that I didn't want to answer so I did it, and Katniss's mother evidently felt the same. We leave our hunting boots and jackets on the mattress of her old home and we go on our way to the Hob.
We make it in less than ten minutes to the Hob and go straight to Greasy Sae's station, where she gives us a toothless smile and quickly trades us two bowls of soup for a couple of rabbits, to which we gratefully sip for their warmth. In the time it takes us to finish our bowls we only get a few teasing remarks, mostly from Darius but otherwise our 'relationship' is pretty old news by now. While we don't act any different than before the most recent Games, it's kind of hard to ignore the reactions that people had to Katniss's Games and our very showy couple moments on camera so people don't question us too much. Maybe they just believe that we don't want to be as publicly affectionate as we are on camera because we are kind of private people. I don't really know, but I'm glad no one believes otherwise anyway.
The first time we went back to the Hob after all the reporters left and the required banquets and balls and such was ridiculously embarrassing. We walked in with our game to trade like we normally did, but as soon as we stepped into the Hob everyone stared at us, effectively stopping us short where we were standing. And then the entire place erupted in cheering and hoots and teasing, much to both of our embarrassment. I could tell that Katniss wanted to run away from the place but she steeled herself with still flamed cheeks and stalked over to Greasy Sae's station, trying desperately to ignore everyone. It got a lot better after that first day-mostly because we ignored it but I have a feeling a lot of it was more selfish on their part. Since can hunt full time now, people here have enjoyed the excess food that us both being Victors brought them because we didn't need it for ourselves anymore so the teasing died down.
Actually people in District 12 are doing a lot better food wise which is good for everyone. Not only did my Victory help by bringing a year of Parcel days, helping immensely with the starving families of the Seam, but now that there is a second year in a row with them the collective mood of the district is up. Our district is beginning to acquire some pride, what with not having a Victor for over twenty years and then getting two back to back. I like it-it makes living just a little more worth it to know that people don't hate us for killing to win the Games, even if it is just for the benefits they get from it. Well, all except for the bakery, which Katniss and I have made a point of avoiding. Mr. Mellark did say that he didn't blame me or her for his youngest son's death, but we still can't bring ourselves to trade with him anymore. I did once, and he looked grateful to have squirrel again, but I felt so awkward and guilty that I never went back even though we miss fresh bread. Is this how it's going to be every year? How many families will I be avoiding by the time I'm done mentoring? I don't even want to think about it; the baker is enough for me though I know that I'm nowhere near done with this feeling unfortunately.
After the Hob and spreading our money around so that most everyone gets a trade from us, we walk to Victor's Village together. I know Katniss hates it as much as I do if not more, but she would never say so because Prim and her mother are very happily installed in the large house there right next to mine. She still feels guilty about having so much money when others have so little, finally understanding how I felt in the last year when she refused to let me help her out. She also feels so guilty about the Games like all Victors, especially about Peeta though she's never outright said it-she avoids the bakery like the plague, always keeping a good fifty feet from it and walking quickly through the square if she happens to have to walk through there. But I know that seeing Prim in new clothes with a full belly every night and never cold makes a lot of it worth it to her.
She also hates it because for us at least, Victor's Village is just another reminder of the Capitol-the worst part being we have to sleep there. The nightmares would be bad anywhere I assume, but to live in that house and sleep there because the Capitol gave it to you for murdering children really gets to you. She still hasn't said anything about getting nightmares or having trouble sleeping, but I can see the signs without her confirming it-dark circles, exhaustion, in a bad mood more often, and she takes a lot longer to get ready because of her tiredness. I would say something to her, give her advice on how to make them better but I can't-I don't even know myself. And I still haven't told her another joy of winning-as a mentor, your dead tributes as well as others who are now dead are lovely additions to the nightmares you already have about your Games. Peeta, Cato, and even little Rue have become regulars in the scenes of my horrid reliving and warping of reality at night. I don't want to tell Catnip it only gets worse, so I just don't bring up the subject at all.
She walks slower than normal back to our houses, and I know she's stalling because she really doesn't want to be with her prep team again. It gets to the point that she's walking so slow that I'm practically at a standstill walking next to her that I chuckle under my breath.
"What?" she demands, looking at me in annoyance.
"You know you can't stall forever-if you're late it's not like they won't find you." I tease her, knowing very well what she's doing. Things may not be quite the same between us as they were before her Games, but I still know her better than anyone. And it's true what I said; it's not like she can really hide from her prep team, because in all truth District 12 is not that big and there aren't a ridiculous amount of good hiding spots to become invisible to them in. And the woods are out of the question even though it would be the best place to escape because we technically shouldn't be there anyway. Besides, I really doubt that she wants Capitolites of any kind to potentially disturb our only sanctuary from the real world.
"They're going to torture me again!" she complains, rolls her eyes at me.
"Oh come on, it's not exactly torture. That's a bit dramatic." I joke. I can tell it's annoying her a little, but it's just too much fun.
"Says you. You have it easy-you don't even have a prep team!" she argues back. Well I guess she has a point, but I don't have a stylist either. And she genuinely likes Cinna so if the band of idiots is a package deal with him, she's just going to have to suck it up.
"You're not going to die from a little wax." I state with a chuckle. I know I shouldn't tease her like this because I'm aware that she has it worse than I ever did in prep, but this is a somewhat normal conversation that doesn't have a hint of awkwardness to it like most have in the last few months.
"Well they might kill me when they see that I haven't done anything they told me to." She claims, but I can tell that she's not so mad anymore, mostly just playing along. Good, if I can put her in a better mood before her prep team gets here then it may be a little better for her.
"You mean you haven't taken care of your nails?" I mock, taking her hand and with a fake stern look shaking my head at the dirt I observe under her nails from the woods.
She rolls her eyes and takes her hand back. "Hilarious." She replies dryly, and I think that the light mood from before is gone. Oh well, I tried. I sigh in defeat, and we continue our walk home in silence once again, a little faster this time.
We walk right to the spot where we usually part to go to our respective houses when Katniss's mother calls to us frantically from the porch of their house and runs back into the warmth of the heated house. What the fuck was that about? We give each other a confused glance, and with a shrug I pass my house and follow Katniss to hers quickly to get out of the cold and warm up in her house.
Once we're in the house, we take off our wool coats and hang them up on the coat hanger, and I'm still trying to figure out what's going on here. Mrs. Everdeen may not be the most sane person (after all, she did check out when Katniss and my fathers died in that mining accident years ago) but she's not crazy. And her behavior is very strange, so there has to be something wrong. Maybe it's a patient that she needs help with? Nah, we would be the last people she would ask for help on that matter. Is Cinna here already? I don't know what that would have to do with me, but maybe he brought Portia here with him as a surprise and she's going to be my stylist for the tour? Not the best solution and not one I would necessarily look forward to, but I can't think of another plausible one at the moment.
"Katniss." Her mother calls, her voice almost in a warning tone. Or is it a somewhat fearful voice? I don't know.
"Don't worry, we're taking off our shoes here." Katniss replies with a roll of her eyes that her mother doesn't see before she comes into the front room we're in a second later. She gives her daughter a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes.
"Don't worry about that. Did you have a nice walk you two?" she asks in a voice that she's trying desperately to sound light, but I can tell by her eyes that she's worried about something. What the hell is wrong?
"Walk?" Katniss questions confusedly for the both of us; her mother knows very well that we've been in the woods for hours. But it's at that point when I see two men in suits and dark sunglasses come in the room, staring us down when I realize something is up. These men are obviously from the Capitol, and that means nothing good.
"More like slipping-it's really icy out there." I answer for the both of us, playing along for the Capitolites. Her mother gives me a weak smile for going with it, but I can tell that she's still on edge. Well, I guess anyone would be if you had strange Capitolites invade your home for reasons unknown to you.
Katniss sees the men and recognizes them from the Capitol, "Is Cinna here already? I thought he wasn't due til noon." she guesses much like I am. Evidently she believes that these men are here for something about the tour or something, but I don't think so-if they were, I highly doubt that they would be dressed so plainly for Capitolites.
"No it's not Cinna. It's-" her mother begins, but gets cut off.
"Miss Everdeen, Mr. Hawthone, please come with me." One of the men orders authoritatively. Katniss and I give each other a quick sideways glance that for people who know each other so well is enough for us to communicate. I put my hand on the small of her back for appearances sake (after all, these are Capitolites and they believe that we're dating) and we silently follow the man to the study in her house. It's a little odd to be escorting someone in their own home, but I have a feeling now (or ever really) is not a good time to bring this up to this guy.
He opens the door for us and gestures for us to go inside. We obey, me going first. I'm immediately overpowered by a fucking awful smell, one I have come to cringe in disgust at since my winning the Games over a year ago. I instantly recognize who is here though I can't physically see anyone from the odd combination of the overwhelming rose scent mixed with blood. Shit. What the fuck is he doing here? Nothing good can come from this I imagine. I stop Katniss where she is by forcefully grabbing her arm to stop her. She looks up at me in confusion but I can't even look, too fearful to even show her how scared I am by the man with that scent who shouldn't be here.
He turns around in the chair he was in behind the desk which was facing the wall, and Katniss's eyes go wide as she finally realizes why I'm so tense. His puffy pink lips are curled up in a smile but his snake-like eyes clearly show he is angry. Anger which I'm positive was born from a fire of my own creation-and if I'm going to burn from it, he's going to make damn sure that many others burn with me.