Disclaimer: The Hunger Games belong to Suzanne Collins.
A big thanks to my beta, fnur for all her help.
Warning: This story is rated maturely for adult content, explicit language, and triggers including but not limited to: death/dying and self-harm.
For my good friend: Misshoneywell.
"Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water,
And everyone you love is made of stardust, and I know sometimes
you cannot even breathe deeply, and the night sky is no home,
and you hav cried yourself to sleep enough times
that you are down to your last two percent, but
nothing is infinite
not even loss.
You are made of the sea and the stars, and one day
you are going to find yourself again."
In theory, I should be stressed the fuck out right now.
The music is too loud. The slick road is disappearing beneath us too quickly. The turns are too sharp.
Typically, every single muscle in my body would tense with effort to stay calm, and my normally slack jaw would clench tightly as my teeth gritted inside. Overstimulation has always had a paralyzing effect on me.
But, when my eyes reopen and I see the sparkling pavement under our headlights, still wet and slippery from the rain earlier today, I feel nothing but excitement coursing through my veins.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure we just talked about this in biology. The adrenal glands. They like, secrete hormones and shit through the body in order to react to highly stressful situations. I had to laugh when my teacher first mentioned it, his voice monotone as he continued scribbling on the chalkboard. If his theory was correct (that the adrenal glands secreted hormones every time the body was stressed out) I should be on a fucking adrenaline high all the time.
I release a small chuckle, wishing I could explain to Gale what was going through my mind without sounding completely wasted. Only I could be more than slightly buzzed and still be thinking about school and fucking glands.
Still, he hears me laugh from his spot behind the driver's wheel and smirks as he turns a corner sharply. (Non-buzzed Katniss would not approve).
"What's so funny?" he asks, a light laugh evident in his tone. His hair looks wild right now, sticking out in every direction and clinging to the top of the ceiling from static.
"Nothing," I insist, shaking my head. I reach up to run a hand through his hair and he releases a gentle smile in return, moving to turn the music up a couple more notches.
"Oh my god," he says, his tone laced with foreknowledge.
"Admit it!" he urges, "You're having fun. Ha! Never thought I'd see the day where I got Katniss Everdeen to drink and have fun at the same time!"
"Definitely not," I argue, but bite my lip to keep from releasing a traitorous smile.
"All right, you're not then," he smirks. "But, any time you're ready to turn around and shun your wicked lying ways, I'll be here to lend a listening ear."
His hand leaves its spot against the steering wheel, slithering its way over the top of my palm and entwining his fingers through mine. He gives them a tight squeeze which I reciprocate easily.
He has a point, though. This is one of my rarer moments. The wall I've worked so hard to build up my entire life (although Gale seemed to find a way to catapult over it) is down in its entirety tonight.
Gale lurches the car to the left without warning, hurtling us further away from civilization and deeper onto the winding backroads of Capitol.
I loosen my hand from his grip and the hurt look that immediately encases his face turns to one of confusion and excitement as I lay it to rest on my thigh. Gale's hand has never rested this far up my thigh and I watch his Adam's apple bob.
It's not that I don't trust Gale to touch my thigh... or further even. It's just that... I trust him more than I've trusted anyone else in the universe. And that's a lot of weight to rest on one person's shoulders. So we take things slow, because it seems like you only see careless mistakes coming from people who take things too fast.
Outside of my younger sister Prim and Dad, Gale is the only person I've ever trusted fully. But even that is completely different. You're born into family, right? And so you sort of have to trust them. You have no other option but to trust your parents to feed you and clothe you and love you when you're only a small infant or child.
You trust until trust is broken.
Gale was an outsider when I met him in seventh grade though. An older boy who had taken an odd interest in me and my life and who (for that reason) was absolutely not to be trusted. But, he kept trying. He didn't seem to care that I wasn't interested in doing any kissing at the local theater or touching under the shorts during summer vacation like other giggling girls. I made that abundantly clear, but, it only seemed to make him like me more.
He stuck around. Through all my silent tests and mixed signals, Gale Hawthorne finally wore me down. And now... well, now I'm trusting him to touch me in places further than my thigh.
I feel the pad of his thumb trail indistinguishable patterns along my jean-clad skin before he gives it a gentle squeeze and glances over me. Perhaps it's the way my own cheeks feel hot against my skin, but I swear I see a tint of color to his cheeks in the darkness.
There are no rules against touching like this, so why do I feel so paranoid? Gale's hand trails over mine once more before bringing it up to his lips to firmly kiss.
"I love you, Katniss," he reminds me, "You know that, right?"
I don't know why the word feels so taboo in my mouth, or why his hand on my thigh makes my heart beat fast for a thousand different reasons.
Of course I love him. He knows it just as well as I. There's no one else I'd rather spend my free time with, no one else I allow to kiss me the way he does. No one else I tell my secrets to.
But when I go to open my mouth, my tongue feels like a dry piece of sandpaper.
Gale, never being one to care for awkward silences, begins swiveling the steering wheel of the car, making it shake and jerk as he shouts out loudly.
"Gale!" I squeak, the euphoric feelings from too much alcohol consumption beginning to wilt and that familiar tightening in my chest begins to rise. I grip the side of the door, feeling the vibrations from the music on my palm. Its loud bass disturbs the peaceful night around us as Gale lowers his window.
He shoves me playfully, frowning just slightly.
"Awe, come on Kat, we're just having a little fun."
He shoves me again, forcing a smile past my lips and finds my hand with his own once more.
I'm not sure what the speed limit here is, but I'm positive we are several miles above it. Gale doesn't seem to be bothered, he's experiencing the same type of feelings most seniors do, the feeling of being invincible, uncontrollable, unstoppable.
And I let him, because after he graduates this June the feeling of invincibility will quickly melt away. When he's forced into becoming a man.
"Catnip," Gale emphasizes, smirking as he sees me cringe at the horrible excuse of a nickname he's acquired over the years for me. "A smile just won't do. Come on, live a little! Be bold!"
I mull his words over. Bold.
I think about his hand, half resting in mine, half on my thigh. Bold. I think about the way his head is half out the window, screaming into the dead of night, like a typical idiotic teenage boy.
Without thinking, I snake my fingers more firmly around his, the inside of my palm resting against the back of his hand. Slowly, I move it up past my hip and over the curve of my stomach. The screams die on Gale's lips and for a second I see his eyes flash to me.
"What're you doing?" he asks, slightly slurred.
I don't answer. I'm afraid if I start talking about it, I'll lose my will and courage to do it completely. So instead, because he doesn't stop me, I move his hands further until the tips of his fingers brush the bottom swell of my breasts.
I can be bold.
I hear a quiet intake of breath before I move to make his hand run over it completely. At first, his hand stiffens in its grasp, but slowly he moves to shape his fingers around it, giving a gentle squeeze.
I glance up at his face and his lips are slightly parted, his eyes fixated on his hand that rests on my chest. This is new. This is exciting, but this is new.
"Katniss," he moans, and just a moment later, as my eyes flicker to the road I shout out: "DEER!"
Gale swerves without looking, sending us flying down the jagged and bumpy hill off to the right.
Looking back, I remember seeing tree limbs scrape along the busted windows as the car toppled down, rolling like a ball, unable to stop. But if you asked me only moments after the accident, I would have told you I saw only black.
Spinning, swirling blackness.
The car stops, slamming into a tree larger than it with the wheels facing the sky and blood rushing to my head as I'm flipped upside down. The whole thing probably lasted fifteen seconds, but it might has well have been hours.
I stay still, body limp and afraid to move before finally testing my neck, only slightly craning it to the right to look out the window which no longer held any glass.
"Gale," I whisper, my voice shaking, and waiting for a response. When there is none, I turn my head shakily to the left.
He's not there.
"Gale?" I try louder, but the intensity of the moment has passed. The music is no longer blaring through the speakers. Gale no longer screams. It is completely silent around me.
I lift my hands, which shake uncontrollably and test them out by rolling my wrists and shoulders. Nothing hurts. But I can't tell yet if it's true or not.
I need to find Gale, my mind screams as I try crying out for him louder. I wince at a shooting pain that spasms in my chest.
I realize with a second glance around that even though I might want to move, I am completely trapped inside of the car. I have no choice but to sit here and wait for help, screaming in hopes that somewhere Gale can hear me.
I chant his name as loud as my lungs will allow.
I hear the sound of an ambulance in the distance. There are a few houses back here on this winded road, perhaps they heard and called for help.
"Help," I whimper, hopelessly, tears staining my vision. "Help! Gale! Help."
He doesn't respond in the way I'm hoping, telling me he's all right. That everything is going to be fine.
He doesn't respond in the way that I think he might either, by telling me he's not ok and needs help.
He just never responds.
I hope you all enjoyed the prologue. I plan to update weekly similar to the way I had with With Eyes to Hear but this story is not completed yet so it might not be the case. Chapter one will be up within a few days but after that look for updates on Sundays! Thanks for reading :)
I'm finnickshardtrident over on tumblr, come chit chat!