Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, student loans would not be an issue and I would be able to travel the world. Alas, student loans is an issue and the world has yet been mine for the taking.

Pairing: Cato/Clove, Gale/Katniss/Peeta, Marvel/Glimmer, Finnick/Annie, others mentioned and alluded to.

Summary: AU. After a horrific accident, Clove McAllister is sent to live with her cousin Gale in the small town of Panem. Life, love, trust and tragedy come full force as a group of friends are confronted with falling apart of coming together.

Author's note: AU. So, no Hunger Games. Panem is a fictional town outside of Connecticut (which obviously doesn't exist, but humor me, please). Also, I just really like the idea of Clove and Gale being cousins, so this where this came from. Cato doesn't make an appearance in this chapter but he will in the next one. I promise. Clove may seem out of character but no worries, you'll see the real Clove a little later on and in flashbacks. Hopefully you all enjoy! Reviews are great appreciated but please no flaming. Thanks again and enjoy!


This bittersweet tragedy

Chapter 1


It's hard for her to breathe. Her body is radiating with pain she didn't even know existed. Her eyelids are heavy, hard to open and when she finally manages, she wishes she kept them closed. Her vision is blurry and all she can see are startling blue and red flashing lights. Everything feels wrong to her. It may be the smell of metal and fuel that overwhelms her senses, it may be the distant voices she hears, all she knows is that there is a tight ball in the pit of her stomach that is telling her something is wrong.

She gets her answer in the faces of her dead parents.

She feels her heart explode, feels the panic grip at her when suddenly it all comes back to her. Car. Red light. Truck. The gnashing sound of metal, the screams that pierced the air.

It was raining. She was at her soccer game when it started to downpour but they played on. Thirty more minutes of grueling running, slipping and sliding and they won the game. One step closer to the championship. She was soaked to the bone. She remembers her mother fussing and her father grumbling good-naturedly about his wet socks.

And then everything changed. One split second and her entire life is torn apart by blood, broken bones and twisted metal.

"Miss." She hears. The voice is distorted and she blinks wildly at the flashlight that is directed at her eyes. "Everything will be alright. We're going to pull you out nice and slowly now."

She wants to ask about her parents. Wants to ask why she's so tired all of a sudden. Wants to beg. Wants to cry. But she can't. So, instead, she just closes her eyes and welcomes the darkness.

In the distance, she can still hear the rain. The steady beat of it reminds her of heartbeats.

(And then the heartbeats stop).


One month later

"Clove?" His deep voice resonates through the now empty house.

She winces at the echo; she was never accustomed to this house being empty. It was never empty before. She was born and raised in this house. She laughed, loved, cried, lived and now died in this house. "Up here." She calls out, her voice wavering just slightly.

She's standing in the middle of her now empty bedroom. She doesn't look at him when he leans against the doorframe. She continues to stare at her bare walls that used to be filled with posters and pictures. She used to have a bookcase and she used to have her cleats on the left side of her bureau. She used to have a desk that was her own organized mess ("how you can find anything in this mess, I'll never know" her father used to tell her, "you're just jealous," she would reply, "well, of course I am!")

But now it's empty. Just like the rest of the house. Everything has been stripped down and taken away. Locked up in storage or sold.

"Truck's all loaded up and ready." He tells her softly. "Cecelia is outside."

Clove nods and finally turns her head to look at him. He's large, but then again, Gale Hawthrone always seemed larger than life to her. His brown eyes are tired and sad and Clove has to remind herself that she's not the only person mourning. Her parents were Gale's aunt and uncle and they were close. Gale always coming down and spending the summer with them.

"It seems wrong, doesn't it?" He asks, his voice steady but Clove can detect the faintest of wavers. "The house being so empty. So…hollow."

"Everything is wrong." Clove responds.

Gale nods. "You ready?"

That's a loaded question, Clove thinks miserably, I don't think I'll ever be ready. She nods and grabs her bag that's next to the door. She walks down the steps next to Gale and holds on to him for support. Even though the doctors have cleared her, her body still protests, still hurts. She's not quite what she used to be and doesn't think she'll ever get back to how she was.

She steps out of the front door and is greeted by an older woman. The woman smiles sadly at her and opens her arms. Clove bites her lip and leans forward. "Oh sweetheart." Cecelia murmurs.

Cecelia watched her grow up. She watched her cry, laugh, love and watched her mourn. Cecelia was the grandmother Clove never had and it was requested that anything real estate related was to be dealt by Cecelia. Clove had no problem letting her do everything. "I'll miss you CeeCee." Clove whispers.

"I'll miss you too. But we're not far, you hear me? You come back and you visit this old bat."

Clove manages a smile. "As often as I can."

Cecelia looks over her shoulder to Gale. "You take good care of this one, you got that? Or you're going to have me to deal with."

Gale nods quickly and fights back laughter. He kisses Cecelia on the cheek. "I'll personally take care of her every whim."

"Be safe."

Clove takes a deep breath and places the house key in Cecelia's hand. "As safe as I can be." She gives her one last hug before she gets in the passenger seat of the truck. With the seatbelt secured across her chest, Clove turns her head to look at Gale as he takes in a deep breath and starts the car. He honks to Cecelia as he pulls out of the driveway and Clove waves and stares at Cecelia, her old house, her old life.

She keeps staring until it disappears from the rearview window.


Clove McAllister grew up in Manhattan. She lived, laughed, cried, loved and watched her parents die in Manhattan. Which is why staring at the Welcome to Connecticut signs looks strange to her. It's not that she hasn't been here before. She has. Gale comes up for the summer, she goes down for Christmas. But she was only ever there for a week, two, at the most.

Now, she's going to live here. Live in a different state and in a small town.

Panem is a small town just outside of Connecticut and it always amused Clove how everyone knew everything about everyone. Now, she's dreading it. Dreading what they know. What they don't know. She's a bundle of nerves and it's so unlike her. She's used to being in charge. Used to being strong. Used to not giving a shit.

"We should be there in another couple hours." Gale says. "You want anything to eat? Anything to drink? Wanna go shop or something before we get there?"

"Gale, I'm fine." He's been like this for the past month. Always protective. Always making sure she eats and drinks water and doesn't get too lost in her depression. He took her to her appointments, helped settle whatever there was to settle with the lawyers. He helped her pack, held her while she cried and stayed up at all hours of the night going through old photo albums. "Thank you, for everything."

He glances at her and smiles, "Clove, you don't ever have to thank me for anything. Besides, this was…it was good I got out while I did."

"Why?" She asked quickly, "what happened? Are your brothers and sister okay? Your mom?"

He shook his head, "nah, they're all good. Great even. Mom and Pose can't wait till you're actually there. Vick and Rory are pretty psyched too."

He doesn't say anything else and then it suddenly clicks in Clove's mind. There is only one other person that affects Gale as much as she does. "Katniss." She doesn't miss the way her cousin flinches at the sound of his best friends name. "What happened?"

"Peeta Mellark happened."

"The baker's son?"

Gale nodded. "They started dating a month before…well, before."

"Oh, Gale. Why didn't you tell me?"

"You were a bit busy with tests and soccer and tennis and ballet and seriously, how many extra-curricular activities were you involved in? And then…well, then…yeah. So, I came up and basicallyblewoffeverysingleo neofhertexts."

"What?"

"I've been ignoring her." He says, his voice low and full of regret. "I just…I couldn't help it. Every time I would see her name pop up, I would get this anger and hurt and I didn't even read them and then I kind of stopped answering everyone because it was just easier that way."

"It's kind of shitty that she would get with Peeta even after you told her you've been in love with her since forever."

He snorts and rubs at his neck. His neck is starting to flush and his fingers drum against the steering wheel. Clove stares at him and then groans. "You didn't tell her. She doesn't know that you love her? You told me you told her!"

"I tried telling her." He defends, "I just…couldn't."

"And then Peeta got there."

Gale nods, "And I can't even hate him because he's a nice guy. He's good for her."

"Not as good as you though."

"No. Not as good as me." They're silent for a few moments when he clears his throat. "It's just…back at house, remember how you said everything is wrong? That is exactly what this feels like. It's just…wrong. Like the world tilted on its axis and fucked everything up."

"This is life, Gale." Clove says quietly, "life fucks you up and then you die."

It's morbid but the hollowness she feels tells her that she's right.


Her aunt Hazelle is out the door as soon as they pull into the driveway. Clove blinks rapidly to stop the tears as aunt Hazelle hugs her as soon as Clove steps out of the truck and murmurs sweet nothings into her ear.

"Mom." Gale says, "give her some room to breathe."

"Of course." Hazelle wipes at her eyes and smiles wobbly at Clove. "You look exactly like your mother." Even though her father was Hazelle's brother, Clove knows that both her mom and aunt were best friends ("sisters" her mother once said, "we became sisters by marriage and decided that blood never really meant anything to begin with.")

"Clove!" Posy shrieks as she comes running out in her pink overalls. The little girl starts talking a mile a minute and Clove can only nod back. She sees Vick and Rory come out of the house, their hands shoved deep into their pockets.

"You two wanna help me with some of this stuff?" Gale asks.

They nod and start unloading the truck.

Posy tugs at her hand and Clove looks down at her. "Yous sharing wit' me."

Hazelle clears her throat and blushes. "We just…we don't have any more rooms. I hope that's okay."

"It's perfect." Clove responds. "Thank you for doing this. I'll…I'll repay you for everything."

"God, Clove, that's not what I meant!" Hazelle says frantically. "You're my niece. I would and will do anything for you."

"I know." Clove reassures her.

"Mom." Vick says, her voice straining under the baggage. "The neighbors are staring."

"Nosey bastards." Rory mutters.

"Rory! Language!" Hazelle reprimands.

"It is true though." Gale agrees.

Hazelle nods hesitantly. "Let's get you inside and settled in. Leave the boys to bring this in."

"I can help." Clove says as she grabs a couple of bags only to have them taken out of her hands by Rory.

"Nah, we've got this. You three just go inside and make yourselves to be princesses while the men do all the work."

"You're such a drama queen." Gale teases.

"Which is why he doesn't have a girlfriend." Vick snickers.

Hazelle shakes her head, picks Posy up and gestures for Clove to go inside. "Boys, what can you do with them?"


Clove can't sleep. Even though she's mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, she can't sleep. She tosses and turns as quietly as she can as to not wake up Posy but the little girl sleeps peacefully.

As grateful as she is for her aunt to take her in, Clove can't help but feel out of place. She doesn't have the memories that Gale, Rory, Vick and Posy do in this house. She doesn't know this town like the back of her hand. She doesn't have friends in this town. The only friends she has are in this house. She's only ever been a visitor here and now she's meant to stay. Meant to create an entirely new life.

Tears pricking her eyes, Clove lets out a huff and gets out of bed. She makes her way around the house quietly and creeps down the stairs. She straightens up as soon as she sees the television glowing from the family room. She walks in and spies Gale on the couch. He lifts his head at the noise and stares at her. "Couldn't sleep?"

She shakes her head. "Nope. You?"

He shakes his head and sits up so that she can have the other half of the couch. He holds up his phone. "Catnip messaged again."

"What'd she say?"

He sighs, "'I thought we were friends.'"

"You are."

"Are we? God, Clove…I feel like I haven't been friends with her for the past couple of years. Just this growing ball of something other than friendship. She's consumed me."

"What are you going to do about it?"

Gale shrugs. "Nothing. Practice for football starts up again. Gonna throw myself into that. Get good grades. Hopefully nab a decent scholarship to a college out of this state and get the fuck out as quickly as humanly possible."

"With as little to no interaction with Katniss and Peeta." Clove finishes for him. She nods in understanding, her plan similar to his. "Isn't that going to be hard though? Aren't the rest of your friends, well…don't you have the same group of friends?"

He groans. "Don't remind me. Finn and Cato have left me messages full heartedly believing I'm dead and Jo is threatening to kill me if I'm actually still alive. Marvel is convinced I've gone off the deep-end and just buried myself in alcohol."

"They don't know?"

Gale frowns and then shakes his head wildly. "No. No. No one knows. Mom, Rory, Vick…we're the only ones that know and Posy just thinks you're here because you miss us. It wasn't…it's not our place to tell. Besides," he says bumping his shoulder with hers, "I know how much you hate pity and well…this town, it's no one's business."

The relief she feels is unlike anything she's ever felt before.

"Gale?" Clove calls out after a period of silence.

"Mhmm?"

"I'm…I think…I'm scared. I don't…I just…"

He sighs and pulls her closer to his head. "I know. Trust me, I know. You'll pull through, Clove. We'll help you get through this."

She sniffs and wipes at her face. "Gale?"

"Yeah?"

"Why are we watching SpongeBob SquarePants?"


So….what do you all think? This is my first venture into The Hunger Games so I'm really nervous about it. Also, I'm just in the middle of starting it but I really really really love Clove and Cato and Gale so I kind of needed to do this.

Reviews are greatly appreciated! Let me know what you guys think so far, but please, no flaming. That being said, constructive criticism is the food of Gods. I know that Clove is out of characters but don't worry, the stubborn Clove will be back and you'll even see her in flashbacks!

So, hopefully you all enjoyed!

Thanks,

Bex

P.S. Any mistakes are mine and I apologize if they offend anyone!