A/N: My oh my, am I excited for this one-shot. If you read me regularly then you know that I'm and avid Florence + the Machine fan, and this one-shot was 100% inspired by her song Blinding. (It's a bit of a creepy song, so consider this a Halloween special :D) I decided I'd start a series of HG one-shots inspired by Florence, so consider this the first of many you'll see by me.
I got bitten by the inspiration bug while college touring this past weekend, and while this smattering of angst is completely up my alley, it's unlike anything I've ever written pairing-wise.
So, please enjoy my take on some Prim/Gale :D
"No more dreaming of the dead, as if death itself was undone
No more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in the garden
No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love
No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love
No more dreaming like a girl so in love with the wrong world…"
-Florence + the Machine, Blinding
There was blood, and a lot of it.
That was expected from District Two. They weren't showy prisses like District One, or clean and efficient like Four. Two was bloodthirsty. Two took their sweet time and relished with wicked grins as their victims screamed.
And Katniss was at the mercy of District Two.
She didn't beg, she didn't cry, and I watched as she spit in Two's face—a final act of defiance. And all the while, Prim was clenching on to my hand, shaking her head and biting her lip and not bothering to keep back the tears as they welled up in her eyes. I hated watching the Games. I hated watching them with Prim, because the effect they had on her was sickening. When the Careers had Katniss chased up a tree, I'd had the good sense to hold Prim closer to me, shielding her face and letting her bawl in my chest as I kept my eyes glued to the screen and told her, "She's fine. She's fine. Katniss is smart, Prim, she'll find a way out of this."
But this time, it was me the Games were having an effect on. I could only watch dumbstruck.
I watched as District Two's knife closed in on Katniss. And even though Prim was shaking in my hands, I could barely feel it, because the only thing that mattered was keeping my eyes trained on the TV and seeing what happened next.
And then there was blood.
My reaction was too late, because by the time I heard the mangled scream that came from my left, District Two's show was well underway. She'd ripped off Katniss' lips and carved the word SLUT across her bare chest. That's when I looked away, and my eyes landed on Prim's.
I never knew someone could scream so loud.
The town square was dead silent. I hoisted Prim up and threw her over my shoulders, running through the thicket of people as if they were nothing. Most of District Twelve was looking away from the screen at this point, not wanting to watch Two's bloody affair. So all eyes were trained on me as I rushed Prim out of there.
She was kicking, she was screaming, and my sprint didn't slow until we were well out of the bounds of District Twelve. We were in an open field overlooking a gorge, and it was my favorite place to go with Katniss in the woods. I put Prim down, sitting in front of her and taking her face in my hands.
"Ssh, ssh," I went.
We were well out of District Twelve. No Peacekeepers or citizens would follow us, because even though watching the Games was enforced by law, there wasn't one person in Twelve that would want Prim in that square right now.
If we were in the square, I would've kept my face as still as I could. But we weren't. We were in the woods.
So I let myself tear up a little. I let the blood and the horror register, and I gave myself a minute to let it resonate. She's dead. Katniss is dead. Your best friend is dead.
But Prim needed this to resonate more than I did.
"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry."
My voice broke. I pulled her close, and she threw herself into me. I didn't know when the sobbing would stop. I didn't expect it to stop.
I wouldn't have wanted it to stop, because that would be a disgrace to Katniss' memory.
"There w-was… s-so much b-b-lood…"
That was all Prim could stammer. I heard that stammer, hundreds, thousands, millions of time that day
There was so much blood.
And all I could say to her was, "I'm so sorry."
District Two won, of course. He was the favorite from the beginning, as are all Careers. It was him and his district partner as the last two standing. When the rule change allowing for two victors was revoked, he had no problem hacking the girl to bits, no sympathy in his eyes or sense of remorse. You think I'd be happy, watching him kill Katniss' killer, but at this rate it's all the same. Killing is killing. Katniss is dead, what does it matter? Clove meeting a bitter end won't bring her back to life.
The Everdeen house was quiet during that time. There were some nights when as I was dropping off game at the doorstep, I'd catch a glimpse of Mr. Mellark sneaking out through the backdoor, never making eye-contact with me as he left the Everdeen's. What he was doing there, I'll never know. In the pit of my stomach, I hoped he and Mrs. Everdeen knew each other before the Games. The idea of them creating a bond over their children's deaths was sick.
She shut me out, alright. Prim and Mrs. Everdeen opened the door to me at first, but it was all teary eyes and hugs and words were non-existent. I tried. But it got to a point where I couldn't even get through the doorframe; not because they didn't want me outside, but they couldn't bear the idea of going outside.
Three weeks, I told myself. I give Prim and Mrs. Everdeen three weeks before I shove them back into society myself.
Prim was back in school by week two. I graduated that year, and on the day I received my "diploma," if you could even call it that much, she gave me a stiff, one-armed hug.
She hollowly said, "Thanks for the game, Gale."
I didn't let her back away. That was the first time I'd heard something come out of her mouth in weeks. "How's your mom, Prim?"
"What d'you mean—"
"You know damn well what I mean." Maybe getting hot-headed wasn't the best idea, but the Everdeens couldn't shut me out anymore. Not like they had been.
Prim bit her lip, thinking before she managed to spit out, "It's not like when dad died, if that's what you're asking."
Did I want to press for more? Yeah, I did. But that seemed like the wrong thing to do. "Good. How are you?" I noticed the look on her face. "That's a stupid question."
"No it's not. You're trying to help."
"Then, please. Let me help. I've given you two some time and space, but you're not going through this alone anymore."
Those grey eyes were trained on mine. Her expression was stony and impassive, maybe the slightest bit shaken, the entire time we were talking. I finally saw it falter. Her lip quivered as she went, "okay," and she reached out for a hug. I gave it to her.
It wasn't until later that night when I took off my shirt that I realized she cried into it.
For three months, we fell into this routine. I was in the mines all day; Prim was at school for most of it. God only knows what Mrs. Everdeen did, but her skin wasn't paper white, meaning she was spending time in the sun and not walled up at home all day, which was good enough for me. Every night, I'd go straight from hunting to the Everdeens' after work. I'd stay there until well after dark.
Oh, I didn't get much sleep. I didn't eat much myself, because now I had the mouths of both my own family and the Everdeens' to feed. But food and sleep were trivial. Keeping Katniss' memory alive was more important.
And then came autumn. It was just after dusk, and I was on the doorstep as always. Prim walked onto the porch, and instead of letting me in, she blocked its frame.
"Gale, you can't come in."
"Is your mother having a meltdown?"
"No." She stared me down. "You can't come in."
I laughed darkly. "Stop pulling my leg, Prim."
"I'm not. I'm serious." She crossed her arms. "Go home."
My expression softened. What? "What's this about?" I asked.
"We can't keep taking game from you."
I snorted. "Don't be ridiculous."
"No, I mean it." She pointed at my face. "Look at yourself, you're a walking zombie—"
"I don't mind being a zombie."
"I do! We're not doing that to you."
"Prim, it's really no trouble—"
The look on her face was enough to shut me up. Of course it was. I was devoting easily twenty hours of my week to this family, in between all of the time I spent in the house and the hours it took to hunt. When I needed to hunt the most, it seemed like every animal outside of district Twelve had either crept into hibernation or gone south for the winter, because game was getting scarce.
But I'd been overworked since day one. This wasn't any mystery, or sudden realization. So Prim confronting me was out of the blue.
"What brought this about?" I asked finally.
Her lips went into a very tight line. "Nothing." She backed into the doorframe. "Gale, please leave."
"How d'you expect to eat?"
"We've found other ways."
"We just have."
And that was when she shut the door in my face, leaving me to wonder. Her sister hadn't even died four months ago, it would be an understatement to stay she changed in that time. She'd gotten quieter. She cried a lot more, but the only reason I knew that was because I could hear her sometimes just as I was leaving the house at night. She never cried in front of anyone. But these were little changes; these things were understandable.
The Prim that slammed the door in my face I'd never seen before.
I was persistent, naturally. Time passed. I would leave fresh game on their doorstep, only to find it still there the next night, already spoiling. It went on for a few weeks, until finally, Prim poked her head out through the window just long enough to say, "give it up already, Gale," before slamming it shut.
I saw her around town sometimes. She dropped some serious weight at first. I confronted her one day, telling her, "Let me help you, you'll be skin and bones in a matter of weeks."
She sighed, pursing her lips and going, "I'm fine, Gale."
"No, you're not."
"Please, let me take care of myself."
And with that she walked away. I watched her go by helplessly. I was trying. I wanted to help. And she kept rejected me.
But the impossible happened shortly after that.
Slowly, I watched the pounds pack on. I watched the dark circles and bloodshot eyes that'd become her trademark disappear. Where she was getting this food and energy from, I didn't know. The one time I asked her about it, she told me, "just trust me, Gale, we're both fine."
Before I knew it, she was thirteen years old. Then came another Reaping. Here was a girl that was in hysterics during the last one, and not only did she hold it together, but she held her head high. She left the square that day unreaped, unfazed, and looking the most unemotional I'd seen her as in a while.
"Alright," I said to her, "fine."
"Clearly, you're doing just fine without me."
She rolled her eyes. "Have some faith in me, Gale."
"It's not that I don't have faith. I just don't get how you've gotten it together."
She gave my arm a squeeze. "Don't worry about it."
She walked away from me that day. It was the last real conversation we'd have in a while.
Time passed. The memory of Katniss Everdeen was not gone, but I could feel it start to slowly leave me. As Prim got older, I got busier. The time I spent in the mines became more demanding. Prim's studies kept her at bay. But these were trivial reasons why we were falling out of touch; it wasn't that I didn't want to help her and be there for her and her mother, but it was that I knew she wouldn't want me there. For whatever reason, I would never know. Maybe I was too painful a reminder of her sister. Maybe she really was doing just fine without me.
I stayed persistent for the longest time. It was years before Prim and Mrs. Everdeen became less of a priority. It was even longer before Katniss became a more distant memory, because for the first few months, she was all I would think about.
It was only in the wake of her death that I realized I'd been in love with her.
But it'd been too little, too late. She was gone. Prim had mourned, and picked herself up since and moved on. Mrs. Everdeen, from what little I saw of her, wasn't in a complete daze either.
I had the closure I needed. The Everdeen chapter of my life was over; now I could look ahead, and maybe after a while, I could try to love again.
This kind of thinking only ever happened during my hunts. I was in the outskirts of District Twelve, hiking through forests with my knife at the ready. I heard a branch break from behind me, and it snapped me out of my reverie.
I caught a glimpse of her. Grey eyes, and two blonde braids going down her back. She was holding a bow and arrow.
"I see you," I called out, because I'd blinked and she'd disappeared. I waited a minute. Maybe the light had been playing tricks on me.
And then Prim stepped out from behind the tree.
It was the two of us, alone in the woods. I took in her appearance; knee-high boots, hunting jacket, bow and arrow at her side and dirt covered pants. She was older than I'd remembered; after doing some math, I figured her to be about sixteen by now. Her skin was darker than it usually was, her hair a shade or two lighter, and her thighs and arms had bulked up. She'd packed on weight, alright, but she wasn't heavy—she was toned.
There was a fire in her eyes that was eerily familiar.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
She held up the bag in her left hand—a game bag.
"I figured I'd bump into you eventually," she said, with a sigh of defeat. "Only a matter of time."
"What the hell is this?"
She motioned for me to walk back the way she was going. We fell into step with each other, her footsteps being much lighter than I'd remembered.
It was then that she told me. She told me about the day everything changed, the one where she'd slammed the door in my face.
"Yeah, that definitely seemed random," I said to her.
"You're right. It was." We passed a trap, one she must've set earlier. "Anyway, you should've heard the things they said to me. Wilkes and his gang. They wouldn't let me hear the end of it."
"End of what?" I asked.
Wilkes was a merchant boy in Prim's grade and an all-around bully. "They called me a lot of things, but 'spineless' definitely stuck. Honestly, I can't really blame them. Katniss taking my place in the games, and then you helping us out like you were, I get it."
"Prim, you're basically family, what'd you expect me to do? Let you starve?" I felt my blood boil. Wilkes bullying her was four years ago, and I was only hearing about it now. "You shouldn't give a damn about what those bastards think—"
"They were telling the truth." Prim snapped back and looked me in the eye. "I was totally weak! My sister gave up her life for me, and you were throwing away yours. I needed to figure out how to do things on my own."
"I wasn't throwing my life away—"
"Prim, I'm serious—"
"And I'm serious!" I'd never heard her raise her voice this much in my life. It echoed through the forest, and she clamped her mouth shut, taking a deep breath in. "Let's not argue about this," she said evenly. "It's not worth it, it's four years too late anyway."
Oh, I want to argue with her. I open my mouth to. But she gave me a look that shot me down, because I'd never seen this girl with so conviction before in her life.
"Alright," I said reluctantly. The younger me wouldn't have dropped it for the world. But I was twenty-two by then, less of a hothead, and still in complete disbelief that I was talking to a girl that I thought was a ghost of my past. We walked along in silence for a bit, treading down by the creek. "So, what happened next?"
"This," she said, motioning out to the woods. "I learned how to hunt."
That got a smile out of me. She noticed it. "What?" she asked.
"If only your sister could see you right now. She wouldn't believe it."
That got her to crack a smile. "Yeah, well. I wouldn't either."
We talked from there. She told me about how it wasn't easy at first, going from healer to hunter, and how she didn't know what she was doing, and how no, really, she wouldn't have accepted my help to teach her how to hunt, because "A) if I told you, you wouldn't have let me in the first place, and b) I was determined to do it on my own." It was about more than the bullying from Wilkes, she told me, and about so much more than protecting herself socially. "I needed to put food on the table. But, more importantly, I needed to grow up."
That was when I felt the need to interject. "You were twelve. No should have to grow up that fast."
She narrowed her eyes on me. "Katniss did."
I didn't have anything to say to that.
And as we kept walking and as she told me about her first few excursions and mishaps and successes, all I could think was, who am I talking to? Because the girl I was looking at was nothing like the one I'd carried off the day she was Reaped. This girl had more than just strength; she had something Katniss never did. Katniss was a hothead, like me. She was fiery but explosive, strong but dangerous.
Prim was grounded.
"You've grown up so much," I finally said.
"Well, I had to eventually."
"I guess. I just never knew it would be this way."
There was a pause. "I had one hell of a reality to deal with thrown at me, Gale."
"So that's what this is? Reality?"
"Not for everyone," she said thoughtfully, "but it's become mine."
"And why's that?"
She looked away from me and into the woods. She raised her bow and arrow, shooting a bird I hadn't even seen that'd been perched on a branch a good twenty yards away. It fell to the ground dead.
"Not everyone's sister dies for them in the Hunger Games," she said. "Just mine."
And then came the part where we grew back together.
It started unintentionally at first. We'd bump into each other in the woods and say hi at the market. And then it became more of a conscious effort—I'd meet her behind the tallest tree in the woods, and we'd set off. We didn't talk all that much, because stories of our day weren't really stories at all. But as we fell into this bizarre, almost dream-like routine of hunting together, we started to say more. We joked around sometimes. We would laugh, bicker, and occasionally go off on tangents about the Capitol.
And all the while, all I could think was, who am I talking to?
Because even though she told me why she'd taken up hunting and turned her life around, it didn't add up in my head. I couldn't match the face of the girl I knew to the one I was hunting with. The only trace of the old Prim that was left was her intelligence and perceptiveness, but everything I'd once associated with her—gentle, innocent, and even compassion—was gone.
She wasn't bitter, and she wasn't heartless. But she definitely wasn't a healer.
We hunted together for two months, and it was a few days before the Reaping. She was the one that brought it up, saying it casually as she cleaned the salmon she'd just caught. This new Prim could kill (small animals, yeah, but it's still killing) and stay emotionless, unfeeling.
And now she was talking about the Reaping, so matter-of-factly that she sounded nothing like herself.
"I miss her, you know," I said. She looked up to me.
"I do too." She shifted her weight, and I sat down by her at the creek. "Do you think about her a lot?"
I thought for a second. "I used to. But not as much anymore." Then the thought crossed my mind, and before I could stop it, it was coming out of my mouth. "I have you now, anyway."
She jerked her head to look me in the eye. I expected her to laugh, to get mad, to at least do some kind of outburst.
She opened her mouth to talk, but before she could say anything I said quickly, "Hey, listen, that came out wrong—"
I stopped talking. I brushed a piece of hair out of her face, and without really meaning to, held her chin in my hand.
She lowered her voice and asked me quietly, "Do you see my sister when you look at me?"
I gulped back the lump in my throat. I couldn't lie to those eyes, because I knew. I knew what I'd been avoiding for so long, since the day we started hunting together.
"No," I answered honestly. "But I think you do."
And when she leaned in and kissed me, I knew I was right. I knew that this girl wasn't Katniss. She was somebody else entirely. She wasn't forced to grow up too fast, she forced that on herself. She forced all of the strength and maturity and even the romance that'd subconsciously grown between us, and she forced it so much that it became her reality.
This, in her head, was the reality she had to accept. She had to accept it because her sister was dead.
It took me a second. And then I kissed her back.
And as I did, we sat there and completely immersed ourselves in each other by the edge of the creek.I held her face my hands, and she moved them for me, and before I knew it I had my hands on her breasts, the small of back, her waist, everywhere. I only knew I wanted more of her, and it didn't feel wrong at all. Because even though six years were between us and she was the sister of the girl I'd loved and this was incredibly wrong, the spell was broken.
Prim wasn't forcing this to be her reality. Katniss dying had made her see past an illusion.
This was the way the world really was.
Things can work out poetically sometimes. I believe that shit happens. Life's a sick joke when you live in District Twelve. But fate, God, or whatever it is that exists, sometimes plays a part in the scheme of things. Looking at my life especially, you can't really deny it.
I loved a girl and I never got the chance to tell her, because she died in the Hunger Games. Her sister, the girl I was supposed to take care of in her memory, wound up being the one I got the chance to be with, in the most intimate of ways at that.
It was poetic that she was Reaped again, for the 78th Hunger Games.
It was poetic that she was sixteen, the age her sister was when she died for her.
No one was there to take her place this time.
We said our goodbyes in the Justice Hall. She didn't cry, she wasn't scared, and she kept telling me, "Take care of my mother, Gale. Teach her how to hunt so she can do it herself." That was all she said before she kissed me, and that was how we spent our time until the guard came to take her to the Captiol.
I watched her go. I watched her fight in those Games.
It was poetic that she won.
And I could hear the thunder and see the lightning crack And all my bones began to shake, my eyes flew open
And all around the world was waking, I never could go back
'Cause all the walls of dreaming, they were torn right open
And finally it seemed that the spell was broken
And all my bones began to shake, my eyes flew open
And all my bones began to shake, my eyes flew open
A/N: This fic is inspired entirely by Florence and the Machine's hauntingly beautiful song Blinding. I got this crazy image in my head of Prim being the hunter, and Prim being the one that wound up with Gale somewhere down the road. Crazy, I know, but writing her evolution and her character like this was a blast for me.
I hope you guys enjoyed this! I know I've fallen off the FF grid lately (school and sports are to blame), but I'm trying to get back on it. This is the first of many Florence and the Machine inspired Hunger one-shots that I'll be writing! I'm not trying to give myself any set deadline for when I'll be posting them, but I'll be cranking them out as I'm inspired in between now and Christmas.
Hope you guys enjoyed! Leave a review, it brightens my day :D