Thank you all for reading and reviewing and following me through this story! You're all fantastic and I love you!
By the time the Justice Hall is in view, Madge's hands are sweating. There's a small crowd forming outside the building already, and even from here she can spot some people she knows. Bernard is there, looking out of place physically but is talking to someone from the Seam as though he's known them his entire life. Maybe he has, Madge doesn't know. And the Hawthorne's too. Posy, Rory, Prim. There's an ache in Madge's chest when she starts to look for Vick, only to realize he won't be here.
"He's at the top," Katniss says, nudging Madge slightly. The blonde looks up to the top of the pyramid of stairs and sees Gale facing the doors. She wipes her hands on her dress. "Don't be nervous," she tells her quietly. "My wedding was a lot more pressure than this and everything turned out okay."
"Very true," Madge breathes. She reaches out and grabs her friend's hand, giving a quick squeeze before accepting it back.
"Go on," Peeta nudges her toward the crowd. "We'll see you on the other side."
Madge nods, her head suddenly going light. She weaves through the crowd of people, smiling at Bernard and blowing a kiss toward Hazelle and winking at Thom. She starts up the steps. Her shoes make a sort of scratchy noise against the stone, and only when Gale hears it does he turn.
His face is neutral at first, but the second he spots her he dissolves into ruins. His lips part slightly making him look aghast and his eyes are wide and glossy. Gale blinks once, twice, three times, before letting out a shaky laugh and letting himself smile. And when he smiles, oh God when he smiles, Madge has never felt more beautiful in her entire life. His eyebrows are barely knit giving him a moderately concerned look, his face is lit up with elation.
"You," he breathes out when she reaches him. Gale fumbles for her hands, pulling hers into his. "You're perfect," he nearly gasps. He reaches up to swat at his eyes but never tears his gaze from her. Gray locks with blue and his smile stretches. Gale pulls her toward him, one hand on her hip the other still laced with hers, and runs his hand over the fabric of her dress. "Absolutely breathtaking," he murmurs.
"You clean up nice yourself," Madge manages to respond.
Gale lets out another laugh and lowers his mouth to hers. The crowd below them audibly awws but neither pays much attention. When he pulls away Madge clutches at his shirt, terrified to let him get too far.
"Any second thoughts?" he asks. His voice is trembling.
Gale shakes his head, "Wouldn't dream of it."
Madge reaches down and grabs his hand tightly. "Then let's do this. I don't want to wait another second."
The inside of the Justice Hall is dark and damp. Even holding onto Madge it's hard to bring a light to this place. This is where tributes come to die. This is where children sign up to put extra slips into the reaping bowl. This is where families come when a loved one has died.
"Gale Hawthorne and Margaret Undersee," a voice booms out. It's so loud that Madge jumps, but it might just because she's nervous.
Gale launches to his feet and drags Madge with him, nodding his head encouragingly and offering the brightest smile he can. Just one look at her has his heart racing again. The way the dress accents all of her features, bringing out the absolute best in her, and the fact that she's even wearing it. There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling that bubbled up inside of him when his eyes found her.
They round the corner and Gale is still lost in his thoughts. The way the sun shone behind her, lighting Madge up as though she were an angel to save him from this wretched place. Her blue eyes bright and thoughtful, nervous and excited all at the same time. Golden. She was, she is, golden.
The man at the desk clears his throat, causing Gale to focus again. He slides forward a clipboard and a pen.
"Fill this out," he intones. "Come back when you're done."
Quietly they take their seats again, scribbling down the necessary information for the form. Birthdays. Incomes. Surviving family members. Signatures. By the time they've got everything written Madge is shaking. Gale grabs her hand carefully and holds it tight.
"I'll give them the paper," he whispers. She nods quickly, her hair toppling up and down. Gale smiles, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "You wait here."
Before she can even respond Gale rushes the paper back to the man at the desk. The stranger, his nametag reads Watson, accepts the documents and stamps them with a wax marking. He turns around and makes his way to a back room, telling Gale to wait to be called again. He can't help but wonder how many times this Watson man has done this procedure.
After that Gale returns to Madge, taking her hand into his again and squeezing tightly. She sighs, letting her eyes drift shut before resting against him. "It's okay if you're nervous," he tells her. "I am." Not a bad nervous, not at all, but nervous nonetheless.
"I am, too," she breathes. Madge peels her eyes open and cracks a smile. "Just you and me."
"Me and you," he nods. They sit like that in silence for a while before Gale glances toward the clock. He shifts uneasily. Worry starts to build inside him. A subtle panic. "It shouldn't take this long."
Madge blinks a few times and her body tenses. "What do you mean?"
Five minutes at max. All they have to do is type a few things into one of their old computers and wait for a housing assignment to pop up. He's seen it happen once or twice. He can't tell this to Madge, though. What if something's happened? What if her father—
"Gale Hawthorne and Margaret Undersee," Watson's voice suddenly rings out. Madge exhales deeply and laces her fingers with Gale's, squeezing once before pulling herself up to stand. Gale follows quickly after until they're at the front desk again. "Sorry for the delay," the man murmurs tiredly. "There was a bit of trouble in the processing request."
"Bit of trouble how?" Madge asks, narrowing her eyes.
"Nothing that couldn't be handled, Ms. Undersee. You're well over the age of 18 so parental consent is no longer required or necessary, and in this case, overruled." Madge glances up at Gale, her cheeks extremely pale. "Now if you would, follow me."
As they follow Watson to the back room Gale can feel her shaking. He's thinking the same thing she is. He must be. Did her father really try to stop the marriage? Perhaps put a red flag on Madge's name? He clasps her fingers in reassurance as they ease behind a door.
The room they enter is musty and filled with cobwebs, but the ways Madge's eyes light up makes Gale happy he isn't anywhere but here. Watson eases behind some sort of podium and opens up an old thick book.
"Stand here, please," he motions to the area in front of him. The two quickly scurry to the spot he's pointed to. Watson hums, turning to face Madge. "Ooh, Margret, I remember when you were a child and you followed your father into this building. It's strange to see you all grown up."
"Thank you," Madge says, a light blush dusting over her features. "But we're not here to reminisce, sir. We're here to get married."
"Yes, of course," he nods. He scans down the book. "We are gathered here today in the sight of the law in the eyes of President Snow and the government of Panem to join together this man, Gale Hawthorne, and this woman, Margaret Undersee, in holy Matrimony." Gale turns to face Madge. He can feel his smile in his toes and her warmth in his veins. "Gale," Watson says.
"Yes," Gale returns. His voice is rough. He can't pull his gaze from her.
"Do you take Margaret as your lawfully wedded life, to live together under the law in the estate of Matrimony?" Gale can't help himself from nodding, though he knows Watson isn't finished. "Will you love her, comfort her, honor her, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep her as long as you both shall live?"
"I do," Gale nods again. "Sickness and health, forever and ever." Madge blinks the tears from her eyes and smiles weakly, sniffling once.
"Margaret," Watson says. Madge can only force a strangled noise from her throat. "Do you take Gale as your lawfully wedded husband, to live together under the law in the estate of Matrimony?" He can't take his eyes off of the woman in front of him. Her blue eyes are filled with tears, her skin is pink and pale running together. Gale tugs her closer slightly as her lips part. "Will you love him, comfort him, honor him, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep him as long as you both shall live?"
"Of course I do," she breathes. Gale reaches up and wipes under her eyes, offering another smile.
"Take her hand," Watson says. So Gale does. "Take this ring," he continues, passing over a small silver band. "And slide it onto her finger." Gale carefully slips the band onto Madge's ring finger and listens as she lets out a shaky breath. "Now you, Margaret." Madge does as she's told, mimicking Gale's actions as quickly as she can (which is a long time considering that she's shaking.)
"Oh God," Madge whispers as his ring slides into his face. Her face lights up when she pulls her gaze up to Gale. "What now?"
"Now," Watson smiles, "I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
Without any hesitation Gale drops down, his lips frantic against his wife's. Madge squeaks out and throws her arms around his neck, parting her mouth and allowing his tongue to slide in ever so slightly. Watson continues his speech, something about lawfully wed under the government of Panem but Gale can't hear her because all he can think is Madge.
With a housing assignment and a certificate of marriage, as well as two silver wedding bands, Gale and Madge make to exit the Justice Hall as husband and wife. They burst out of the doors together and Gale shouts something about it being official or something about legality and the crowd cheers and then there are flower petals everywhere in her hair and on her dress.
Gale's hands wrap around her waist as he tugs her through the Seam to their home. Their home. She's his. He's her. She's married. Madge's thoughts are no longer cohesive but rather a fragmented compilation of everything and anything. But mostly just Gale and Gale and Gale.
When they reach the tiny wooden house Madge realizes that she's shaking again. As the crowd stops behind them and prepares for the evening Gale scoops Madge into his arms bridal style and stops outside the door. She laughs into his shoulder as he fiddles with the key in the lock. And finally the door swings open and the air is musty and stale and the room is dusty and filled with cobwebs but they cross the threshold together.
The second Madge's shoes touch the wooden floor she steps forward toward the kitchen. Her hands wipe at the counters out of instinct as her eyes dance over the remnants of those who last lived here. There are plates and spoons and forks and bowls and pots and knives and kitchenware. There is a kitchen table with four crooked chairs. There is a fire poker near the fireplace. An old ratty rug on the ground that looks as though the ends have been chewed by rats. In the living room are a few boxes, supplies that must've been moved there for the next incoming couple, which would be Gale and Madge. Maybe some candles. Some clothes. Perhaps a can or two.
The couch in the living room is old as well, a dingy green in some spots. Some foam is spilling out of some holes but they're easily mendable. There are a few cracks in the windows which will need replacing, but that's okay too. There's one attached bedroom and Madge finds herself drawn to it immediately. The bed is old but the mattress is nice. It just needs some sheets. It's a spring mattress, unlike her foam mattress back at her old home. And the pillows are a bit rougher but a pillow is a pillow and will get the job done.
There's one dresser that has a few missing knobs and one tiny closet. The mirror against the wall is faded, stained with coal, and in need of a nice scrub. Before Gale can even say anything she's out of the room again, darting into the small bathroom that they have.
Also dirty. Very dirty. Very in need of cleaning. The mirror here is also coated in coal. The bathtub has a thin buildup of coal in the bottom of it, and the pipes squeak and scream when Madge turns one of the handles.
"Madge," Gale's voice is rough. She spins around and finds him standing in the doorway, his eyebrows knitted. He leans against the doorframe and frowns. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Gale's eyes lift from her and gaze at the bathroom she stands in. They trace over the cobwebs in the corners and the holes in the ceiling and the coal in the air. "Oh." Madge shakes her head and steps toward him. "Gale—"
"I wish I could give you more," he croaks. Her hands find his chest, bunching his shirt as she tugs him toward her. "This is crap."
She laughs without meaning too. "No, this is home." Still, his eyebrows are knitted painfully. She launches herself on her tiptoes and kisses him quickly. "I love it."
And really, honestly, she does love it. It's theirs. It's going to take a while to clean, sure, and will most definitely take some sort of daily effort to keep it clean, but it's theirs. He sighs as their lips touch and stoops down to her level, deepening the kiss. He doesn't need to be sorry, he hasn't the slightest reason to be. They'll make it their home. They'll make it the most wonderful place in the District.
"God, I love you," he whispers. Gale's breathing is heavy and quick. His hands slide around her hips. "Let's just stay in here." He scoops her up and lowers her rear onto the counter with the sink. "They'll leave eventually."
Gale continues his kisses down her chin and across her throat. She starts to giggle as the scruff on his jaw slides over her skin. "We have vows to exchange," she tells him. "We have to have the toasting!"
"Tomorrow," he hums. Madge laughs against, pushing his chest away slightly. "They won't care, Madge." Gale lifts his mouth back to hers, kissing her chastely. "I just want to be with you."
"We've got all night," she tells him. There's a hint of mischievous in her voice that causes Gale to grin. "And then the rest of our lives after that."
He chuckles. "Still not enough time."
At the fire Gale stares at the flames while Madge thanks whoever passes her. He's happy that Bernard showed up for her, though he still wishes that her father would've had a change of heart. Gale's also pleased that Jace showed up, Madge's friend from the jewelry shop. The two men merely tipped their heads at each other, sharing a smile which meant truce.
Friends from work. Family. Mostly everyone who should be here is here.
"What's wrong?" Madge whispers. She tilts Gale's chin until he faces her and suddenly he feels guilty. "Gale."
"Vick," he murmurs softly. It's awful, honestly, for him to be thinking like this right now. He's just been married. This is all he's wanted for as long as he can remember. But there's still a piece inside of him that's missing, and it physically pains him that his youngest brother isn't here to celebrate. "I just miss him."
"I miss him too," Madge responds. Her hands find his. "He'd be happy for us, don't you think?" Gale searches for her eyes and finds them shining with optimism. Eventually, his head tips forward. "We wouldn't be here without him. Would we?"
Gale smiles feebly and shrugs. "No, I guess we wouldn't be." With a deep breath he tries to send a message elsewhere. A thank you to his brother wherever he might be. "I'll be alright," Gale tells her. "It just kind of hit me all of a sudden."
"That's okay," Madge says. "I understand." He takes a moment to breathe, closing his eyes and sending off another thanks, before tipping his head forward and opening his eyes. Madge smiles softly. "Ready, then?"
"Of course," he nods. Gale pulls her closer, casting a glance over his shoulder at his family who smiles knowingly. He can't help but laugh. Gale drops his voice and starts with, "I vow to kiss you before work every morning."
"Every morning?" Madge giggles. "What if I'm sick?"
"Every morning," he repeats. No exceptions.
"Okay," she says, her cheeks bright pink. "I vow to get over my fear of bugs and not cry out for you whenever I see them."
"It's okay if you do," Gale tells her with a laugh, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "I've got to be your knight in shining amour somehow, yeah?" Madge's shoulders lift slightly. "I vow never to track coal or dirt or mud or any of that into the house."
"I vow to clean it up if you do."
"I vow to always put you before work."
"Oh," Madge frowns. "That was on my list too! Fine, fine, I vow to patch up all the holes in your shirts."
"I vow…" Gale trails off. He had a whole list written down, he should've brought it. "I vow to help with the dishes every night."
"I vow to clean at least twice a week."
"I vow to teach you how to defend yourself."
"I vow to give you back rubs at least once a week."
"Once a week?" Gale asks, his ears perking. He grins and says, "I vow to remind you as often as I can how much I love you. Like now. Hell, I love you."
"I vow to never let you go," Madge whispers. "I would say to never get jealous of another girl but I can't help myself sometimes," she tells him.
"I vow to never let you doubt my love for you," he murmurs. "There will be no other women ever, Madge. Never. It's only you. It's only going to be you. Okay?" Before she can answer his mouth is on hers again. "I love you," Gale says again. "You and only you." As a second though, Gale adds, "And our children, if or when we have them."
"When," Madge says. "No ifs."
"Okay," Gale continues to grin. "When we have kids. How many?"
"Five," she blurts. Gale's grin only widens as he delivers another kiss, sliding his hand back into her hair to keep her steady. Five kids. When they part Madge's eyes are closed. She looks almost pained. "I vow," she starts quietly, "to never let you lose your faith in me." Gale's eyebrow cocks but she keeps on talking. "I know living in the Seam is going to be hard but I'm going to try my dammed hardest to never complain and to never compare and—"
Again he cuts her off with his mouth, capturing her lips at once. Madge curls her fingers on his shirt and whimpers into his mouth, causing him to nearly explode. He pulls away, but kisses her again, and again, and again.
"We need," another kiss, "to toast now," more kisses, "so we can get the hell out of here."
Madge laughs as Gale waves Peeta over, the man carrying the bread, and snatches the loaf out of his hands.
"I've never done this before," Madge announces nervously, staring down at the bread that Gale's holding.
He smirks. "Well I'd hope not."
"I know what you meant," he says with a chuckle. "Here, you take the other side and we break it together." Cautiously Madge reaches for the bread. "Ready?" She nods. The two rip the bread into two hunks. Madge nearly drops her half but Gale steadies her hand. "Hey, it's okay," he whispers. Gale glances toward the fire. "Now we throw them in."
"Won't it burn them?" Madge asks. He ignores the quiver in her voice and smiles.
"Not if we get them out fast enough." Gale dips down in front of her and catches her eyes. "We can do this on our own if you want," he tells her. That's how it used to be. Couples would cross the threshold of their homes and do this on their own. It's up to them. It's their choice. "In our home."
"No," she whispers. "I want to do it now. Here." Madge looks upward and smiles faintly. After following her gaze he sees Bernard, and then smiles on his own. "I'm ready."
A few moments later Posy walks over with a plate, a jar of strawberry jam (Gale's request), and the tongs that he'll use to pull the bread from the fire.
"Okay," Gale tells her. "Three. Two…"
They throw their bread in together at one. After a moment of watching the flames engulf their treat he dives down and pulls them out. First Madge's loaf, then his.
Madge starts laughing hysterically and mumbling something about told you it would burn but Gale only grins and slathers the jam down on his piece and then some down on her piece and he avoids the black marks and offers her a bite and she takes it and gets a bit of the pink goo on her cheek and then he laughs too and when they kiss it's sweet and sugary and utterly perfect.
It's early evening by the time Gale and Madge are finally to escape the clutches of their friends and family and make it into the confines of their home. At night everything casts an eerie shadow, and Madge knew she should've gone in and started the fireplace an hour ago when she could still see.
She stumbles across the floor and relies on memory to maneuver through the darkness of their home. Gale trips over something and Madge has to stifle her giggle.
"Ha-ha," Gale grunts, kicking off his shoes. "Hilarious. Just wait until you fall."
"I won't," she tells him confidently. Madge makes her way over to the living room and stops by the boxes. The first one she opens is filled with a random assortment of things. Picture frames and wall decorations and glue and string and bandages. No candles. "Do you still have those matches Rory gave you?" Madge asks.
"In my pocket," Gale calls back. "Shit. I can't see anything."
"I'm looking for candles," she returns. Madge lowers the first box and then makes her way onto the second, rifling through it and again finding nothing. With a groan she turns to find Gale and nearly squeaks when she runs into him. "My God," she breathes, resting her hand over her heart. "You scared me!"
Gale chuckles and slides his hands down her sides, and then along her hips. "Just let your eyes adjust," he whispers. "We can find candles in the morning." Madge nods and leans into him. "You looked so beautiful today," he tells her.
"I look beautiful every day," she corrects playfully.
Gale chuckles again. "Very true."
Her hands ease up his chest, along the buttons of his shirt. "You looked great too," she murmurs. Gale looks down at her, the outlines of his features starting to come into view. "I vow to love you," Madge whispers. "Comfort you. Honor you."
"In sickness and in health," Gale says back.
"Forsaking all others."
"As long as we both shall live," he nods. Gale eases down to her, their noses brushing. She can see the whites of his eyes and the creases in his forehead.
"I love you," she breathes. He's said it much more than her today and it isn't fair in the least. She loves him just as much, if not more than he loves her. "I love your determination and the way you speak and I love when you tease me and I love falling asleep to the sound of your heartbeat and I love your smile and your laugh and when you forget to shave." Fragments of her thoughts are coming out in long run-on sentences. "I love that you smell like smoke and I love your hair right after you get it trimmed and I love how your hand fits perfectly in mine." His eyes are sharp in the darkness. "I love you, Gale."
His only response is to hoist Madge into his arms immediately.
She locks her arms around his neck and circles her legs around his hips, holding onto him as Gale kisses her. They stumble through the dark of their home until they reach their tiny bedroom. He eases her to the ground, her feet carefully finding the floor. It doesn't take her long to kick off her sandals and start working on the buttons of his shirt.
"Madge," he protests immediately. She looks up concerned. "We don't have to do this tonight," Gale says faintly. Still, her fingers work at his shirt. "Madge," he repeats sternly. Gale grips her hands and eases them away from his chest, but she only frowns.
"I want to," she says. Madge is well aware of the fact that her voice is shaking but she doesn't care. "I want you."
Gale watches her for a moment and then nods. He holds up his hand and rushes from the room, leaving Madge confused, but then returns with a blanket. He lays it across the mattress and smiles nervously at her before starting back toward his wife.
The rest of his buttons are undone in minutes, and by then her dress is gone as well.
They slip into the night together, ready to start their lives and face whatever comes at them as husband and wife. But tonight… tonight, they celebrate.
A/N: Closure chapter, yes, but I hope you still liked it. There's definitely going to be a sequel so be on the lookout for that, though it might be a few months considering I won't be home all summer! Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed this story. I'm entirely too honored. I hope you enjoyed the story, and I hope this was a suitable end! It was very open ended so I'll let you decide how wonderful their night was. Thank you again. Love, Jenn.