A/N: Hello there. Never written an AU before – always too caught up in preserving the canon. So here's something new.

Cato dumps his bag onto the lower bunk.

Finally, he's actually doing something after the months of restlessness in the village. He glances at the healing slit on the underside of his wrist again. He won't get used to the indentichip they put in him, he knows that. Wishes they still used dog tags.

A tall figure blots out the light from the door, then passes Cato and drops his satchel on a bunk three down. Cato doesn't look at the dark-haired man. Gets on with organising his things – granted, there's not much in the bag. Toiletries; a few spare clothes; his father's compass; a knife. Peacekeeper Training usually confiscates unauthorised weapons, but you know. Victor's privileges and that.

He turns the knife over in his hands. It's hers. He hasn't used it. He plans to never use it.

The back of Cato's neck pricks from the glances of foreign eyes; the dark-haired man three bunks down is staring at him. Cato meets his gaze – neither looks away.

"Yeah?" Cato demands.

"Nothing," the man says. "Just thought I recognised you."

Cato looks at the man. He's thin – outer-district thin – and his face has some years on it.

"You're not from 2, are you?"

"Nope. Volunteered."

"From where?"

"12."

"Right."

Cato goes back to his things. He has nothing else to do with them, but he refolds the shirt on top to avoid conversation.

"You know, I think I do recognise you."

Here we go.

"The Games," says the man.

"Yeah. 74th." He puts her knife under the mattress.

"Right," the man nods. "Remember that one vividly."

Cato says nothing, still looking down at the remainder of his possessions on the bed. The man rips open his own bag and starts rifling through it for something. Cato sweeps his things to the foot of the bed and collapses onto it. He can feel the knife through the thin mattress, its outline so familiar to him after four years.

/

That night, they sit across from each other at the dinner mess. Cato has ignored attempts at conversation. He doesn't feel like talking. The dark-haired man seemed to get that when Cato indicated towards the seat opposite him, nodding at him silently.

They eat their dry food in silence.

/

It's after a week of gruelling, but very familiar, training shared in silent companionship until Cato talks to the man again. His voice is hoarse after a week of only speaking when spoken to.

"Why'd you leave 12?"

The man says nothing, and continues polishing his boot.

"I heard the Capital's been letting regulations slide after the 74th," Cato continues, "what with their softspot for your two."

The man's knuckles whiten around the brush. He stops shining the surface, and looks up at Cato.

Then shakes his head and continues shining.

"Gonna give me anything at all?"

The man shrugs.

"I needed to get out," he says.

Cato nods.

"How 'bout you? Victor's village too rough for your liking?"

Cato laughs gruffly.

"Nah, same reason you're here. An escape."

The man spits on the toe of his boot and continues polishing.

"You have a name?" Cato asks.

The man looks up at him again.

"Yeah. Gale."

/

A/N: It's been a while. This little AU burst into my head a month or so ago, and I rediscovered the document while procrastinating this evening. Weird – never tried an AU before! Hope it's something I can get enthusiastic enough to finish swiftly. (Also hope if I do continue with it swiftly that it doesn't get in the way of, hey, I don't know, my freaking HSC oh my god Emma what are you DOING WITH YOUR LIFE YOU HAVE FINAL EXAMS.)

Anyway.