A/N: Sorry about the long wait. Thank you for the wonderful response and the amazing reviews on first chapter of this story. I had a little writer's block, but I know once again where I'm going with this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pride and Prejudice, but it is my favorite book and I took a couple of quotes directly from the book as I decided to also make it Madge and Gale's favorite book...;-)
Just a reminder: Peeta Everdeen and Katniss Mellark (I used their last names in the chapter and at times it got confusing to write...:-))
Thank you, RoryFaller, for the beta.
His hands felt clammy and he felt a little nauseous, but he moved with determination. There's no way I'm letting Gale make a move on my girl, even if it is as a joke. The last thing the boy from the Seam needed was for the girl of his dreams to fall for Gale Hawthorne. Peeta took a deep breath and moved through the crowded cafeteria at school. The Seam kids sat at one end with their almost-empty or no lunch boxes at all. The town kids sat at the other end with their boxes bustling with food.
Katniss and Madge sat at one end of the table by themselves. Katniss didn't have a shortage of friends, but she and Madge always ate by themselves. Peeta briefly wondered the reasons, but not for too long because it was good for him that there weren't too many townies at her table.
Peeta stepped up to the table nervously and was thankful for Madge as she immediately smiled and said, "Hello, Peeta. How are you?"
Peeta smiled back and said, "I'm well. Did you like the strawberries this time?" Peeta spoke to Madge but looked at Katniss out of the corner of his eye.
Madge smiled mischievously and asked, "Would you like to sit with us, Peeta?" He didn't miss that Katniss kicked Madge under the table. His heart deflated; Katniss didn't want him here.
Peeta was about to decline and turn back to his friends, when another boy from the town walked up and said, "Hey, Everdeen, go back to your kind. Or are you trying to regain your mom's status?"
Anger flashed through Peeta's eyes. He didn't like anyone talking about his mom. He was proud of her falling in love with someone from the Seam and marrying him. She gave up the comforts in her life for love. Before Peeta could answer, Katniss spoke up, "And what makes you think we need you, Eric? Madge and I asked Peeta to sit with us. But we don't want you here. If we did, we'd have asked you. So move along…nothing here for you."
Eric rolled his eyes and said, "Whatever, Katniss." He then turned to Madge and asked, "See you at five, Madge?"
Eric walked away and Katniss raised an eyebrow at Peeta and asked, "Well, are you going to sit down or do you need an actual invitation?"
Peeta laughed and pulled out a chair across from Madge. Katniss turned to Madge and scolded, "Really, Madge? Eric?"
Madge's cheeks turned pink at the insinuation and she said, "Eric and I are just practicing for a duet for the school play. He's going to play the guitar while I play the piano."
Satisfied with Madge's answer, Katniss turned back to Peeta and asked, "So, you sell strawberries to Madge and all I get are squirrels?"
Peeta flushed and replied, "I didn't know you liked strawberries. I can bring you some next time."
"Will you show me where you get the strawberries from?" Katniss asked.
Peeta shook his head and said, "No way. Then you'd be able to get them yourself and what would I sell to you?"
Katniss laughed and Peeta was instantly spellbound. She leaned forward and asked conspiratorially, "How do you kill the squirrels? What do you use?"
Peeta laughed and leaned in even closer and said, "A guy's gotta have some secrets. I can't tell you everything on a first date." He didn't know where his confidence was coming from. Flirting came easy to him, but he never thought it would come easy with Katniss.
"A date, huh?" She raised her eyebrow and asked, "So, you think this is a date?"
Peeta shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yeah, I think so. If you don't, then what would you consider one?"
"Hmmm…some flowers and maybe a walk through the District. The school cafeteria isn't exactly my idea of a date."
Peeta rubbed his chin thoughtfully and as he got up he said, "Alright. Then, I'll pick you up at the bakery at five for your kind of date."
Madge laughed; Peeta winked at her and moved back towards his friends. He saw Katniss' shocked expression as he walked away. That went a lot better than I thought. He heard Madge say, "He totally got you." Peeta smiled.
Ron, a friend of Peeta's from the Seam in his year at school, gave him a disgusted look. "What's that look for?" Peeta asked him pulling out a chair across from Ron.
"I thought you really liked Katniss."
"I do," said Peeta confused.
"You're from the Seam; she's from the Town. So you're going to do what? Get her to fall in love with you and then move to the Seam with you? Because you'll have so much to offer her once you go down in the mines?"
A couple of the other boys held Peeta back; he was known for his temper. Peeta shrugged them off and spit out at Ron, "My dad loved my mom; she grew up in Town. He was able to provide just fine for her as a miner. She doesn't regret marrying my dad at all. You're just saying that because you like Katniss too and we both know she wouldn't give you a second look. Katniss will be mine one day and she won't care about the Seam-Town boundaries." Peeta walked off disgusted with his friend. The young Everdeen had faith in himself; he would love Katniss more than anyone had loved and he'd provide just fine for her. He wasn't going to let Ron get to him.
"Hey, Undersee," Gale called out jogging towards Madge.
"Hawthorne," she said as she narrowed her eyes at him.
"Wait up; I'll walk you home," he said with a smile that usually made girls swoon on the spot.
Madge put her hand on her hip and with a raised eyebrow she asked, "Why? Have I suddenly forgotten my way home?"
"What? No. I just…," he replied confused. He expected her to blush and be giggly like most other girls.
She interrupted him and asked, "You just what?"
Gale recovered and shrugged his shoulders as he said, "I just thought I'd walk you home. You always walk alone."
She rolled her eyes and walked away from him. Out of the corner of her eye she saw he had caught up to her with his long strides. He kept at least a foot between them as he walked next to her. Madge kept walking completely ignoring him. Gale realized he would have to change his strategy a bit; he didn't expect this from Madge. Whenever he glared at her when he and Peeta sold her strawberries, she was always polite and blushed easily. This was a side of Madge he hadn't seen or expected.
"So, how's school?" he asked conversationally.
She stopped and looked at him making the boy from the Seam feel uncomfortable under her gaze. She eyed him head to toe as if sizing him up; there was nothing appreciative about her scrutiny. He made the mistake of catching her eyes as he found himself getting lost in her blue irises. He had never noticed the different shades of blue that sprouted out from the dark pupil in the center making the iris look like a blue dandelion in full bloom.
Their eyes caught and held as a charged current flowed from one to the other. Oddly, though, there was nothing romantic about the moment. Madge blinked unaffected and said, "I do not need you to walk me home. I do not want to pretend we are friends and make small talk with you. I don't own this road and you have as much right to walk on it as I do. Let's leave it at that." She turned and walked away.
Gale stood dumbfounded for a moment and then a laugh bubbled out of him. He rarely laughed; Peeta was the only person other than his family that could make him laugh. And now a girl had made him laugh. He wasn't even sure why he was laughing; his knee-jerk reaction in the past was to take offense to such words and tone, especially from a Townie. She was the Mayor's daughter; she was richer than him. He was a poor kid from the Seam; he had nothing. Oddly, he didn't feel slighted because for the first time in his life it felt like a girl talking to a boy. It wasn't the Mayor's rich daughter talking to a poor, fatherless boy from the Seam.
She was the first person that had ever treated him as Gale…just Gale. He didn't know how long he stood there watching Madge walk away. Finally, he walked home in a good mood. For once, not angry just at ease.
The next day, Gale couldn't wait for school to get out. He'd asked Peeta to walk Rory and Vick home. He caught up to the Mayor's daughter walking home again. Like yesterday they both walked quietly with a foot of space between them. Gale was lost in thought trying to figure out what to say to her so she'd look at him. He wanted to see the blue eyes once again. They reached the metal gate that marked the entrance to the long drive of the Mayor's mansion. He still hadn't thought of anything else to say, so he arrogantly said, "You're welcome for the walk home."
He almost laughed out loud when Madge turned to him with angry eyes. This time the blue iris didn't remind him of a blooming dandelion; rather it reminded him of a lightning storm in the sky. Once again he was lost in her eyes. Madge snapped her fingers in front of his face and when he didn't respond, she huffed, mumbled something under her breath and went inside.
Gale smiled the entire way back to his house. Even his mom noticed a difference, but she was too happy to see him smile to ruin it by asking him the cause of it.
The next day, once again Gale caught up to Madge on her way home after school. When he was right next to her, she sighed exasperated and turned to him. He stopped in his tracks. Madge said, "Do you know why I walk home alone or why I don't have a lot of friends or even a boyfriend?"
Gale shook his head; he had no idea anymore. Not that he'd ever given it any thought before, but if he had he would've assumed it was because of her shyness.
Madge continued, "I walk alone, have few friends and no boyfriend because that is what I prefer. I'm a loner and I like it that way." She raised an eyebrow at him willing him to understand what she meant so he'd leave her alone.
Gale smiled; he knew she wanted him to stop walking with her. He shrugged his shoulders, knowingly misunderstanding her as he said, "I guess you and I are more alike than I thought."
She turned frustrated and started walking again. He noticed the slight stomp to her feet as they carried her closer to her house. He couldn't hold it in and he laughed out loud. Madge stopped once again and asked, "What is so funny?" Her blue irises darkened with anger and Gale decided he liked this color even more than the dandelion and the lightning storm.
This teenage girl across from him made him feel like a teenage boy and nothing else. A thrill shot through him as for a moment he felt that's all he was – a teenage boy. Gale pointed down to her feet and said, "You were stomping your feet while walking. I guess you're not used to not getting your way." He laughed again.
Madge's hand moved back to her hip as she straightened her frame. She narrowed her eyes and said, "You are exasperating. You think you're so much better than everyone else. How dare you accuse me of not getting my way? You are so proud that it just makes you vain."
Nobody had ever called him vain or proud. Madge's eyes darkened with anger again and he realized that he liked to provoke the Mayor's daughter. Gale walked around her slowly as if she was his prey and he said, "Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."
By the time he finished the quote, he was standing in front of her again. He saw her eyes widen with surprise; her blue irises looking more like the blooming dandelion once again. It seemed Madge was too stunned to speak so he bowed formally and walked away from a speechless Madge.
Once again Gale laughed on his way home. He'd finally left her speechless. What did she think that I didn't know the difference between the two words or I couldn't speak so eloquently? If only she knew those aren't my words. Gale shrugged his shoulders and decided there was no reason to tell her they weren't his words.
The next day, Gale cursed as he ran out of the school. His Math teacher wanted to discuss a problem with him. He was the only one that solved it correctly in the entire class, impressing his teacher. Gale didn't want to miss Madge. Once outside the school, he realized the road to town was empty. He cursed again because now he knew that he'd missed Madge. Dejected, he walked towards the Mayor's imposing mansion anyway. Once on the other side of town, he smiled as he saw her. There she was…leaning against a railing…dare he hope – waiting for him?
Gale was next to her in just a few strides and he smiled at her. Without saying a word they both turned and started walking. Madge didn't turn towards him or stop walking when she asked, "You know Pride and Prejudice?"
This time Gale stopped in his tracks. Without meaning to his hand reached forward and halted her when it landed on her arm. Madge looked down at his hand on her arm and then up to his eyes. Gale removed his hand and asked, "How do you know Pride and Prejudice?"
Even though there was no one around them, she stepped closer and whispered, "The book has been in my dad's family since before the rebellion. I've read it several times. How do you know it?"
"I don't, really. I've read bits and pieces of it. I found a few pages at the Hob and traded a couple of rabbits for them last year. There was something about the words that just drew me in. I don't even know the story, but I've made up several different scenarios in my mind." He looked up at her as a sly look crossed his eyes and said, "I'm actually quite proud of myself for some of the stories I've come up with. I tell the different scenarios to my sister, Posy, every night as I put her to bed."
Madge smiled at him and said, "Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation."
"That sounds like something Darcy would say," Gale said immediately. Madge laughed out loud. He'd never heard her laugh before. If he wasn't so curious about his favorite story then he'd be entranced by her laugh. "I'm right, aren't I?" he asked her wanting to know more about the story and the characters he had invested so much time into.
They both started walking again; Madge laughed and mischievously said, "I'll tell you who said it when you tell me some of your scenarios."
"No way. You've read the book. I'm not going to tell you my scenarios so you can make fun of me for how far off I was in my imagination."
Once again they had reached the metal gate at her driveway. Madge turned to Gale and with a smile, she said, "I'll see you tomorrow, Gale."
He would've replied back if his own name off her lips didn't keep bouncing around in his head. She had never called him Gale before and he decided he liked the way his name rolled off her tongue. Surprisingly, even now there wasn't anything romantic about their interactions. Gale saw her as a girl who saw him as a boy. It was that simple in his mind. He liked watching her get angry and he liked the way she defended herself and her choices.
Nothing had ever surprised him as much as finding out she owned a copy of the book that had almost become an obsession to him.
"It's about time you showed up. Where have you been?" Peeta asked irritated with Gale. His friend was never late for their hunting excursions. It was as if Gale lived to hunt – to be out in the woods.
Gale shrugged as he walked closer to Peeta and immediately dropped to the ground to skin the duck Peeta had obviously just shot. He said, "My Math teacher wanted to talk. Apparently, I'm too smart for the class." A sly look crossed his eyes. Both friends had a good laugh as they worked harmoniously.
"So, you've been in a good mood lately," Peeta said conversationally.
Gale almost told Peeta the reasons. He'd never really hidden anything from Peeta, but then he remembered he'd never told Peeta about the pages from Pride and Prejudice. The story was his obsession; it was his little secret. It was something that transported him out of his world and into something magical.
When Gale didn't answer, Peeta continued, "So have you made any progress with Madge?"
Gale looked up at Peeta and said, "I'm not going to talk about Madge to you."
Peeta raised an eyebrow at Gale, but it did him no good as Gale had already lowered his eyes closing off the subject. Peeta shrugged; he knew Gale would tell him when there was something to tell. He took Gale's embarrassment to mean that he hadn't gotten far with Madge. The younger Seam boy knew Madge better than his friend and knew that Madge would be a challenge. Several boys had tried to date the Mayor's daughter and she hadn't let anyone in. Thinking about Madge made him think of Katniss.
Peeta blushed slightly and said, "So, I took Katniss Mellark on a date."
"You did?" Gale looked up at his friend. He hadn't really seen Peeta since the day they had made the challenge – last Sunday. Had it really been four days since they'd even talked? Gale couldn't remember the last time they had gone four days without talking.
"Uh, sorry, Peeta. I guess I've been a little pre-occupied. When did you and Mellark go on a date and what did you do? I have a few coins saved up; you should've told me because I would've given them to you for the date," Gale said earnestly.
"Nah, save them for a rainy day. I picked some dandelions for Katniss and then we went for a walk around the District. We've taken a walk every day before her shift at the bakery. Today I took her to the meadow and…and I kissed her cheek."
Gale looked up at Peeta happy for his friend. "That's great, Peeta. Just be careful, okay? I know I pushed you to do something about it, but you know that you don't need to prove anything. I know how much you care about Katniss. I just don't want you to get hurt."
"Gale, you don't have to worry. I know your views on townies are different from mine. But trust me, Katniss is different, anyway. Even you would like her if you got to know her. Katniss is a lot like my mom. She'll leave everything for love," Peeta said dreamily.
"I trust you, Peeta. If you say she's different then I'll believe you," Gale said as he stood up, finished with his work.
Peeta rested his hand on Gale's shoulder and said, "Thank you. You know that your approval is important to me." Gale smiled at his friend as they walked back towards the Seam. Peeta continued, "Gale, I'm glad you pushed me to do something about Katniss, but our bet has really been bothering me. It was fine for Katniss and me. Madge is a nice girl." Peeta stopped.
Gale turned to glare at his friend and said, "I know that."
Peeta softened and said, "I know you do. I want to take my challenge back. Madge is a nice girl and she's the Mayor's daughter. I know you don't want to hurt a nice girl and we both know there's no future for you and the Mayor's daughter. She's in an entirely different league than all of us, Katniss included. So let's just forget about the challenge, okay?"
Gale walked back to his house lost in thought. Peeta was right; there was no future for him with Madge. They belonged in different worlds where even a friendship between them wasn't feasible. He knew that whatever was happening between Madge and him needed to stop.
A/N: Let me know what you think!
Also, please feel free to send me any ideas you have - I will find a way to incorporate them!