I grip my bow tightly and stroke the worn wooden texture with my fingers. It's been so long since I've gone hunting in the woods. Can I still shoot clean in the eye after fifteen years?
One week ago, I witnessed my husband get mauled by a tree rat, and since then District 12 has been in a constant state of panic. They asked me to go out and hunt down the tree rat, something I haven't done for years. Thinking of hunting again gives me a sense of nostalgia, and makes me feel as though I am once again twelve, hunting out here with…
No. Don't think about him.
I stop myself from reminiscing by thinking about how I must suck at hunting now. It makes me laugh at the fact that I am thinking myself to be in my eighties. I'm not Mags. I'm only 35. I'm still quite fit; I've been practicing my physical prowess (You never know if Paylor will lose her morals). The one problem with my ambition to be prepared for another potential uprising is that it has cost me time with my children. We still love each other, but there is a certain tension of distance between us now.
The environment of the forest is exactly as I remember it. Though the town's conditions have shaped up much better than they were 15 years ago (guess it wasn't so bad that I killed Coin, huh Panem?), no one made any changes to the woods. I was grateful for that.
A good life seems to be a rarity in this odd country of Panem. It took ages before somebody (me) would hold Snow and Coin liable for their horrible genocides upon the people, and countless dead, many of them children, who were often at the very young age of twelve. Snow would kill you for not showing up at the reaping, for stealing, and some homosexuals had even been murdered, at least in the poorer districts.
While I'm thinking of things I fail to notice movement farther off in the woods. I move to investigate it, drawing my bow just in case. It's likely just a deer, but it could be another person.
He has the black hair, fashionable metallic armor, handsome features, and…
No. It's him.
It can't be him.
Turn around, and maybe he won't see you.
You're married, Katniss. Don't give into what is wrong. You have two children.
Just a peek…
NO. Turn around. Your children are waiting for you.
Just ask him for closure…
KATNISS, YOU TURN THE FUCK AROUND RIGHT NOW OR I SWEAR TO GO-
As my thoughts are racing, I thrash around and unwillingly alert him to my presence. When I see him staring at me, I slam my forehead into the tree. Screaming out at the pain, I'm leaning against the trunk as he stands and approaches slowly.
My fingertips go up to the gash on my forehead, and the amount of blood on them is more than enough to tell me I've hit myself too hard.
"Fuck…" I whisper in the softest voice possible. I realize he's only centimetres away from me.
With clenched fists, I turn to look at him. My face does not feel burning anger, intense sadness, nor does it feel absolute joy to see my old friend again. It feels nothing.
"What are you doing here?" I speak, barely above my breath.
I roll my eyes and walk off.
I stop upon hearing my old nickname and turn around.
"You are supposed to be in District 2. Why are you here in Seattle Grace?"
He doesn't flinch at my anger. "I don't want to be there."
I think my eye twitches. "Why not?"
"My mother remarried to some horrid bloke, and he started abusing us. He made me get the job, Katniss. I never wanted to be there. Our family left him and moved to 7, but I applied for a permit to hunt out here. I didn't think you were still doing it, so no, I didn't come here to see you, but I ended up doing so anyway."
I paused before responding, but when I did, I didn't answer his question.
"Gale, I have been DYING for years to know if you were involved in the attack. Now be perfectly honest with me: were those your bombs?"
"Answer my question and I'll answer yours."
"I'm not willing to make a deal with the boy who potentially helped kill my sibling."
"I'll tell you the whole story if you tell me a little bit about yourself."
My hand reaches up to slap him, but he catches it. I think he might be about to growl at me or hit me back. He doesn't. He's very gentle with his next words.
"Please, Katniss. I've been in so much anguish, wanting to see you again but knowing you probably didn't want to see me."
He lets go of my hand, which I let fall limp to my side.
"I still love you, if you care."
I'm speechless for the next few minutes. Finally,
"Peeta and I came back here after I was exonerated for killing Coin. We got married and we had two children, a boy and a girl. I'm out here to kill a tree rat that mauled Peeta. I don't know if he will survive, he was mauled badly."
He motions for me to sit down at the grass fields where we always used to.
"I actually have a bunch of different things to tell you, and you'll probably hate me a lot when I do."
"Well, I already think there's a chance you killed my sister, so let's take a risk."
"My explanation for that is legitimate."
He clears his throat and looks me in the eye.
"Coin knew I was good with snares, so she ordered that I be trained to make bombs. She passed it off to me and to others as infiltration devices. When I submitted my design, she told me she liked them, but I later overheard a conversation between her and who I assumed to be one of the bombers, where she ordered him to modify the designs and make them so much more destructive. I wanted to tell you, but I never got the chance.
"They tried to make it look like I did it, Katniss, but I'll be perfectly honest with you. In fact, I recorded the conversation."
He hands me a tape player and a tape, and I play it.
"This is an impressive design, President Coin. I don't believe it needs modifications."
"Oh, but it does. See, Soldier Hawthorne doesn't know that I asked him to make the bombs to work out my master plan."
"May I inquire about said master plan, Madame President?"
"Make these bombs all the more destructive so that I can set in motion a chain of events that destroys Soldier Everdeen. She's an obstacle to my plans to take the throne of Panem president. I need you to modify this design and then order your squadron to attack Snow's mansion. My medics will be there, with Everdeen's sister among them, and the bombs will be dropped on them. I'll make it look like Soldier Hawthorne ordered the bombing, and when Katniss runs into the arms of Soldier Mellark, I'll give him more powerful tracker jacker venom, which will make him kill her."
"How very a devious plan, Madame President! Can you be sure it will work?"
"Oh, I'm very sure. Katniss would put her family first."
He takes the tape player back, and it takes me a few seconds to realize I am shaking uncontrollably. My pose looks like I'm shivering even though I'm not cold.
I feel the calluses of his hand on my own. He's gotten more, probably because while he's been throwing his back out in Panem's military, I've been acting as a prima donna stay-at-home-mother, which I never would have been as a 16 year old girl.
When I look up at his face after such a long time, his eyes are glassy-looking. I feel tears burning in my own eyes.
I collapse myself into him, and feel his strong arms hold me close, while he buries his head in my hair.
"I thought horrible things about you… I'm so sorry…"
When I stop crying, I pull my head up and crush our mouths together. I don't care if anyone sees us this time, especially since we're supposedly cousins, because I need to make it up to Gale.
"They didn't teach you latitude and longitude at that magnet school, huh?" I asked in a soft voice.
"Not at all." He said.
We both lie down and cuddle next to each other. The fingers of our hands intertwine as we stare up at the sunset.
"You know, that gash on your forehead will get infected pretty soon."
I'd completely forgotten about the wound I'd inflicted upon myself. He chuckles, fishing some leaves out of his bag, chewing them up and putting them on my forehead.
"I should probably tell you something else." Gale says.
"What?" I ask.
"The night before the bombing, Peeta and I were chatting."
"I know, I heard you."
"Well, I loved and still love you but knew Peeta had a better chance with you. Anyway, he asked me to kill him if he lost control, but before we went to war he wanted to feel something, so... we kind of fooled around a bit. You know... sex."
I let out a snort.
Then I see the tree rat that mauled my Peeta, and my bow and arrow are instantly aimed at the rodent. In a second, the bastard's bleeding out on the ground. Gale quickly skins it and cooks up the meat for us to have for lunch.
He puts his arm around me, and I feel like I'm home again.
A/N: Kudos to you if you got the Grey's Anatomy/Christina Perri references.