AN: The time and setting of this story are mid-CF. Before knowing about the Quell, Gale and Katniss have decided to help the rebellion along in District 12. Now working in the mines, Gale has met a lot of other unhappy men, ready to do something when necessary, and they have the privacy and freedom down the to hatch their plans. Katniss, Gale, and a few other would be rebels are at a secret meeting talking about their plans as my story starts.
In the confusion, Katniss's survival skills kicked in. She ran for cover, thinking of no one but herself. The explosions had rocked her. Somehow, someone had informed the peacekeepers of the rebels' plans. Told them about their meeting place. And then destroyed it. Completely. Katniss didn't think anyone was in the building, an abandoned old warehouse, but she knew if someone had betrayed their location, they probably betrayed their names too – at least, hers and Gale's. Gale. Katniss froze. Where was Gale? Her body shifted into battle mode, and she ran for one of her secret stashes of weapons. They were hunting weapons only, but they were all she had. She retraced her steps back towards the perimeter of town. She could see the smoke still rising, the peace keeps ships hovering over the area, hear the men barking at locals to stay back. She didn't know what to do. Her breath became panicked, and her eyes darting, hoping something would trigger a response in her. Her brain raced. It probably wasn't even ten minutes ago that a boy raced into the warehouse. She, Gale, and the other rebel leaders sat at a table, documents scattered about. Information, plans, lists, maps. Almost everything they had against the Capitol to prepare the rebellion in District 12. The boy screamed, "Run. Now. They're coming!" Everyone leapt to their feet, but it was Gale who kept his cool. As people darted about, he grabbed Katniss and told her to run to the woods. He had to lock up all the papers so they wouldn't be found. She protested, said she'd wait for him.
"You're too important. We can't take any risk of you being caught." He pushed her towards the door. Her eyes searched him, and the commander's face softened into the Gale she grew up with. "You're wasting my time, Catnip." His lips flicked into the faintest of smiles as he began to organize the documents, "I'll meet you," and he nodded. A nod that meant you know where. As the others scattered about, Katniss ran towards the woods. Was it a minute later? A second? Her back was towards the building; she didn't see the peacekeepers coming. She barely registered the sound of their ships before she turned only to be pushed by the blast. She was blown over twenty feet into the forest. The forest, where I am now, she thought. She was jolted into the present. Her ears still were ringing, so she relied on her eyes, scanning the area. Gale, she thought, Gale, she may have screamed. But there was no sign on him. Did he have time to escape the blast? Surely, he must have. She didn't let herself think anything else. Katniss spent over an hour pacing the perimeter of the woods, trying to stay hidden. Watching the commotion, looking for signs of medics or bodies. She climbed trees, but was afforded little information. A chilly wind told her it was getting late, and dark. She needed cover. She remembered the cabin by the lake her father showed her when she was a child. Katniss climbed down the tree, took her weapons, and headed to the lake. It was a good hour's hike from the edge of town, but it was safe, she knew that, and it was a favorite spot of hers and Gale's. Perhaps… ? She let herself cling to that hope as she made her journey.
It was almost completely dark as Katniss approached the tiny shelter on the shore. Tired and exhausted with worry, she entered the cabin. But as soon as she entered, her senses told her danger. She quickly grabbed and strung her bow, and turned to face the shadow she sensed in the corner. She was ready to fire when she recognized Gale's featured step out of the darkness. "Gale!" She screamed. Forgetting herself, she threw herself at him. Tears escaped her eyes as she sobbed into his shoulder. "I thought you were…you were…" She choked on the words.
I'm fine, he told her, shrugging off the danger before he fully comprehended her worry. She took his face in her hands, and kissed him. Purely and deeply. Gale was surprised by her reaction. He let her have a moment, and stroked her head after she returned to hugging them. "It's ok, Katniss, I'm ok" When he realized she was sobbing, he held her tighter. After a few moments, she finally pulled away. Gale's eye's softened to see her, but almost instantaneously, she slapped him. "Do you have any idea how worried I was?" She screamed at him.
He was stunned. And confused. "Hey!" he returned strongly, "I told you I'd meet you! I've been waiting for hours!"
"You told me to meet you. How was I supposed to know where?"
"Yes, in our place!"
"The woods is our place Gale, the whole fricken' woods! They're big. I've been searching for hours!"
As she got heated up, Gale couldn't help but smile. How easily Katniss's emotions could turn. He, on the other hand, was far cooler. "Ok," he relented, "I'm sorry." And he reached for her again.
He relished being so close to her. They hadn't been this close sense she returned. Their relationship was tense at best over the past few months.
"I was so worried."
"I know," he apologized.
"I thought…" her voice trembled.
"I'd be so lost without you"
"Really?" he questioned, "I never knew you missed me." This was an obvious insult and it caused Katniss's temper to flare again.
"That's not fair!" she threw at him. She pushed him away, "I did what I had to to stay alive. If you'd have rather I died..." She began to walk towards the door.
"No, Katniss, no." Gale was sorry. She could see it in his eyes. She didn't understand why he had to torture her so. She had thought Gale was her best friend. And she knew he was hurt by her behavior during the Games. But Gale never made any advances on her before. "It's not like you ever wanted me. How was I supposed to know you cared…" Her hands were on her face now, wiping away some of the tears.
A mix of emotions tore at Gale's insides. He loved Katniss. He would have died for her and he'd do anything to protect her. Even…keep her from loving him. She was special. Everyone knew it now, but he always did. And he thought that…if maybe he kept his distance, she'd one day find an opportunity to leave District 12 and have a better life for herself. He wasn't going to let anything hold her back…especially him. So he tried to never let her know how he truly felt. But things changed once he thought he'd really lost her. He couldn't stand the jealousy he felt during the games. There were nights when he boiled with anger. He was so filled with hate, he could hardly face her when she returned.
She was yelling at him. Hard, hurtful things. But she'd just kissed him, clearly she still cared. Gale never knew how much. She didn't know what was going on inside his head, but she could see the anguish on his face. She knew Gale better than perhaps anyone in the world, and he was still a mystery to her. She was tired of it.
"I came back for you, you know…And if you don't want me, it's your turn to leave!" She motioned towards the door, about to throw it open for him
She could see all his self control melting away. "God damn it, Katniss," he said. He grabbed her, a little more forcefully that he realized, and pushed her back into the hut. Katniss was a little stunned at Gale's behavior, usually such a carefully, controlled man. But when their eyes locked, she saw his desperation. His devotion. His love for her, and she realized how badly she must have tortured him. Leaving him in the hell of district 12 to slave away to feed not only his family but hers. She realized in that moment how deeply Gale must have loved her, to do everything he did, everything he still does, take the whipping, put her safety before his own, and Katniss realized, in that moment too, that she loved him.
"Gale, I'm…" But she never got the chance to finish. Gale grabbed her and kissed her, and it was more passionate than anything she ever experienced with Peeta. She was caught off guard at first, but after a moment, she let herself go. It was unlike anything else she'd ever experienced. Katniss was flooded with more sensations that she was even aware. After a moment of kissing, they paused, and Katniss looked up at Gale. He was a full head taller than her. He had the body of a man. Her hands ran up and down the strong muscles of his arms, and for the first time, she wished they would hold her. Her eyes traced the soft lines of his lips, and he wished they would own her. Gale was about to recompose himself, and Katniss new she had to do something. She hugged him and hid her face against his chest, listening to his strong heart beat.