A/N: Part 1 of 2


Madge had known for years… It had always just been an innocent sort of crush that helped fill some of the lonelier hours of Madge Undersee's life. She was used to the quiet that came with her father being busy and her mother shutting herself up in her room. Hobbies were required to stay as quiet as possible which had led to learning the piano which eventually even got to be too much for her mother. When you were already a quiet person, it was hard to have a lot of friends to give you something to do when things were particularly quiet at home. Her best friends had become some of the people who were paid to work at the house. Most of the kids at school took her silence for snobby and thinking she was better than they were even among the town kids rather than what it was: just simple shyness.

So her hobbies had turned into reading and day dreaming about the boy with the strawberries from the Seam. It was the sort of partnership that would be frowned upon by most of the District: the mayor's daughter and the moody coal miner. Not that he ever gave her much reason to hope when the commentary went from her dress for the Reaping and turning it around into a comment that she was never going to have to worry about going to the Capitol to compete in the Games. For the same period of time he had though she was on the edge of her seat watching the 74th Hunger Games come down to two of few people who she vaguely considered friends. She felt bad for him when the boy with the strawberries had become the cousin of the girl on fire while they had come to interview her just to really get to hear about the token everyone was talking about in the Capitol. How it had probably saved Katniss' life with her ally from District 11 and she'd just given a hollow laugh that it was probably due for being good luck.

Her growing friendship after that was both a welcome blessing of growing friendship and the occasional excuse to get to see more of Gale. Katniss seemed to miss him just as much down in the mines all of the time while they barely got into the woods where she tried to teach Madge how to shoot a bow. At least until the extra Peacekeepers started showing up along with the addition of Thread.

Madge was in the middle of playing for her mother, who was thankfully having one of her better days when one of the girls had come in apologizing for her tardiness in getting back but it had been impossible to get through the crowds at the whipping. Her fingers had slipped when they mentioned "that Hawthorne boy". A cold shiver went down her back just thinking about it as she finishes the song and excused herself to the bathroom for several minutes. Not Gale… Madge didn't bother asking before putting on her coat and heading out to find out more only to get stopped a few feet into the outskirts of Victor's Village by Thom and got more of the details.

She kept going over it all in her head what she was going to say after hastily stealing six of her mother's morphling vials. It was unlikely she would think too much of it with any hope and if so it was going to be all on Madge rather than on Gale. Of course the door had to make her feel like they were waiting for an ambush instead of just her all by herself and coated in a solid layer of snow. A few quick comments and practically shoving the box into Katniss' hands and she was gone again into the night and heading back home.

Stupid… What, did you think they were going to let you in so you could just hold his hand? read her diary that evening.

The snow was a welcome distraction from what was going on and even her visits to Katniss never involved any conversation of her best male friend. As much as she didn't like gushing about boys and clothes however, the wedding dresses were still breath-taking on her television. As was the announcement that followed…

It had been just one of the usual sessions they would hold with training of the current trio of victors and she would sneak out a many of her father's newspapers as she could manage with all of the newspaper reports on the Quell and anything they could gleam about the other Districts between the lines. Of course Gale was there as well this Sunday, teaching the trio how to set traps and snares that might be useful in the Arena. With Thread there hadn't been any reason for Gale to be showing up selling anything and despite tossing the idea out there, they apparently had enough help around the house that they didn't need to be hiring on Hazelle Hawthorne too. Madge had heard she'd found work thankfully, but things were still getting harder for everyone in District 12.

She was lingering though, probably longer than she really needed to just watch while they tried to copy the current snare Gale was going over. He just looked at her when she wasn't just leaving. "Guess you're probably happy."

Madge just looked back at him, wondering if he was being some sort of sincere in that statement. "What would I be happy about?"

"Well at least you don't have to worry about getting reaped this year and getting all dressed up for the Capitol. Just in case."

If his words were meant to cut right through her then they had their desired effect as she just nodded the slightest. "I suppose that is true." She bit back on the sour taste of the words that wanted to follow just to bite back at him and prove she wasn't entirely weak. Maybe you'll get lucky and I'll have to have my name in for all of this year's entries I would have been due and next year's… The idea of actually having her name in the reaping ball 13 times next year while Effie Trinket's perfectly manicured hand tried to pick just the right one was already terrifying though. "I'll go though. I was just curious." She turned and went home, hearing something going on behind her and ignoring it. Madge wanted to be back to her books and trying to forget stupid boys with their stupid piecing eyes.

She avoided Sundays from then on when there was anything in the paper worth stealing and even the Reaping wasn't nearly as hold-your-breath as usual when the big question was if Peeta got reaped if Haymitch would willingly take his place. She was already working on some words of encouragement to give her friend before they left for the Capitol again. Had it really been a year since she'd last come to the Justice Building intent on giving Katniss the same token that had gone with her aunt into the Arena? It seemed longer and shorter at the same time just thinking over everything that had happened even since the Victory Tour.

She just smiled faintly at Gale while they waited for the chance to say good-bye that never came until the Peacekeeper told them all to go home. Peeta and Katniss were gone… Madge just went back home to her books and piano and dinner by herself before the Reaping recaps and then bed. She was sure the Quell was not bringing back any sort of happy memories for her mother…

And then came the fire. Flames licking across her skin as it tried to devour her while she screamed for mercy. It made it impossible to breathe even while she wondered why anyone would do this to them. There had to be something that would just let this all be over once and for all and let her finally settle into peace. Somewhere she thought she could hear a voice screaming her name. "MADGE!? MADGE! SOMEONE HELP ME!"

"Gale…" came the soft reply from her lips.

And then darkness.