This is our last chapter before the Epilogue. I cannot wait to hear you what you all have to say!
Revolution. The word silvers on Madge's tongue. What does it mean? What can it mean in a world like this? A world of Games and men and pawns and endless trains and the Capitol. Revolution. It rolls around in her mind. It rolls in with the tide of her mind. She goes through several stages.
"Finnick. There is no District Thirteen."
She beats him aimlessly as hot tears streak down her face.
"You've let them do this to me when I could have been helping you?"
"You've damned me, Finnick!"
She puts her hands over her ears and threatens to turn him into Snow. Anything to save her own skin.
"Gale can't be safe. Annie can't be safe. Are they?"
"I'm in. Tell me what to do."
Madge and Finnick stay in the Capitol longer. Their nights don't end until the last of the stars go out. Madge writes everything down. The secrets keep rolling in, off the tongues of cooperative patrons. They fill chapters in Madge's mind, then libraries.
Haymitch raises his glass to them in private. The good fight is theirs. A glooming pride threatens to overtake him. He is almost proud of his daughter that never was. His fear is there. But maybe she is the one. Maybe she can beat it. Maybe she can turn what she has been created against them.
Maybe she is a Mockingjay.
The sun rises over the Capitol. Madge wears her gown from last night. Her hair is unkempt. Her nails are ruined. The bruises are visible. Her head is full of secrets. She likes the idea of using people instead of being used. She wants to scrub her skin from her body a little less with every secret she uncovers. A storm is brewing in her mind and lightning is sparking between her fingertips.
Today, she will return to Twelve. The trains prepare themselves in the distance. In a few hours, she will be on one. Emotions fight for their right inside her. She settles on indecision. She is stuck. She knows that Twelve means rest. Haymitch. But she knows that means never following that path to the Seam. It means that no road ever leads to Gale Hawthorne. The air is suddenly dense and hard to breathe.
Finnick appears at her side. His clothes are barely on enough to be called decent. A vague smile hangs on his face. Madge sees an ocean and a girl and an old woman and rope and laughter in that smile. She sees it in his future. She is happy for him. It surprises her how happy she is for him.
"Are you going to see her when you get back?"
Finnick nods and looks out in the distance. The sun breaks over the buildings. It is blinding as it glints off of the mirrored roofs. Finnick doesn't care. He defies this light. The sun off the waves in Four is brighter. The sun from Annie's smile is brighter.
"The second I get there."
Giddy anticipation crackles at the air. Madge rolls that over in her mind. She inspects every corner with awe and fury. She cannot imagine this. She cannot imagine him. She cannot imagine what he has gone through. She cannot imagine what he goes back to. She cannot imagine how he puts her through that danger. What guilt. What sacrifice. What conflict.
"How can you do that? You know you can't protect her."
The thought is not there. Regret follows those words. Madge hangs her head and mutters an apology. Annie is a subject best left on an untouchable shelf. Finnick clenches and releases his hands. Violence follows him still. It is a part if his skin. It flows through his veins. He struggles to control it around Madge sometimes.
He counts to three. Then to ten. And then he thinks of Annie once more.
"We're changing things. They won't be able to touch her for much longer."
This hangs on the breeze. Finnick looks at the bruises on his skin, then on Madge's. He remembers earlier nights when they would count the moments until experts would buff them out. Now, they take their mornings in his bed, comparing battle scars. Proof of a night well abused. Finnick's smile falters, but only for a moment. His eyes travel from bruise to bruise. He counts them like stars, searching them. Finally, he meets Madge's eyes.
"I love her. Being with her is the best protection I can give her."
He only holds her gaze for a moment. But Madge thinks that revolutions are born on such moments.
Gale is trapped in this nightmare. It happens every few nights. The idea of sleep haunts him. But her face, her voice, the promise of a glimpse beckons. He cannot deny. The nightmare grips and drags.
It always begins the same. Madge is across from him in a field. The scars from the arena peek through her dress. The sun plays off of the dead skin. Her lips are pink. Her eyes smile at him; the rest of her face follows. This is his Madge, not the one they stole, not the one they rewired. Gold fills him from the tips of his fingers to the edge of his eyes. He takes a step closer to her.
Then, the bombs go off.
He yells. She pursues. Their fingertips brush for a moment's breath. But he loses her in the smoke. His lungs fill. He wakes in a cold sweat. Every time.
Gale doesn't have to ask what it means. He knows. Madge is gone. He has lost her to the Capitol. He got too close. He scared her off. And now she's gone for good.
Gale forgets what forever looks like. He forgets what it feels like to have eternity at your fingertips. To know what you want tomorrow to look like. With Madge gone, he has lost his ability to see it. It is gone. The future vanishes.
He works. He hunts. He lives for his family. He never looks hopefully to the train tracks. He never checks the television for a glimpse of her. There are moments of other girls. Moments of pity or obligation. But he is simply Gale. Gale and no one else.
One afternoon, his family visits his father. The grave is empty. But the symbolism is there. His sister picks flowers and his mother talks to her husband for an hour like he can hear her. Gale asks to stay behind. He knows his mother will want his father to know. About Madge. About heartbreak. About everything.
Gale stares at his ceiling. He picks at the memory of a nightmare, peering through the haze for something to grab on to before his rational mind can tell him what a bad idea it is.
Then, a knock on the door. His mind does not go to Madge because he knows she is lost to him forever. There is no swell of hope in his chest. He knows she is lost to him forever. There is no flutter of the heart. He knows she is lost forever. There is only curiosity at the oddity of a visitor. Because he knows she is lost forever.
The world holds its breath when he opens the door. It is her. She holds a suitcase. She wears a miner's green shirt. Her lips are pink. Her eyes are blue. A rainstorm hides behind her eyes. The bruises on her face, the marks on her skin, are a punch in the gut for Gale. Uncertainty colors her cheek. Hope grinds her teeth.
Gale's chest is pressed uncomfortably against her picture in his pocket. He just stares. He doesn't move. Fear shocks him still. When do the bombs go off? When does this happy ending turn?
On the train, Madge plans this whole thing out. Things to say. Grand gestures to make. But speech escapes her.
Finnick gave her the courage to live her life. She finally gave herself the permission. But she spent so much time avoiding the life she wanted. Now, it is at her fingertips. How can she simply reach out and take it as though it belongs to her?
As though she deserves it?
She puts her suitcase down. Gale flinches at the thud. It sounds too much like bomb fire. Too much like nightmares. His hand twitches. He aches for the feeling of her artificial, Capitol clean skin on his hardened hunting skin. Just to make sure she is actually here.
"I don't know how to explain myself."
The words are simple enough, but there is a world behind them. And Madge bears that world on her shoulders. Gale feels oppression from across the threshold. The words choke Madge on their way up. She swallows. Gale breathes.
"So, you're really here, then?"
Gale feels like he is speaking from under an ocean of water. The shock of her appearance disarms him. Madge nods. A twitch of her lips almost becomes a smile.
Something strange happens. Something that Madge did not plan. She takes a cautious step forward. It is a step that asks questions. The creak in the floorboard speaks volumes. For a moment, Madge is a child. That step sheds the baggage of her last year. She is a step closer to Gale. After a moment of inspection, she pulls his arms from his chest, one after the other. She frees up space.
And then, she wraps her arms around his chest, sinking into his skin as though she belongs there.
"I had to know what it is like to do this for real."
Gale's arms clench her. He half expects the bombs of his nightmares to take her away. His face contorts in confusion. She returns from the Capitol to find out how to do this?
Madge feels rest sink into her bones. Sunlight goldens her skin, turning the icy porcelain warm. Her eyes slide closed. Madge breathes her words against his chest.
Gale looks out from his porch. He sees no train in the distance. No cameras. No customers. He sees the sun playing off of puddles, Madge's finished suitcase. He sees Madge's light hair tucked into his body.
He sees forever. Gale just sees forever.
Epilogue to come! Please review! Please!