It is the last Sunday before the Reaping for the 3rd Quarter Quell and Gale is helping Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch train. Canon fic. Told from Gale's POV, as he watches and interactions between the Victors and ponders his fate.
Thank you to fnur who came up with this interesting prompt. This work was part of the Ao3 Spring Fling gift exchange.
I want to give huge thanks to my betas kismet4891, my personal Gale expert, and katnissinme the grammar wizard. Thank you so much you guys!
The Last Sunday
The sky was pregnant with heavy grey clouds, making District 12 look even drearier than usual, the wind whipping ferociously as Gale arrived at Peeta's house and descended down the basement stairs. The storm had made him late. If his empty stomach, wet feet, and overall contempt for the world at the moment didn't already have him in a terrible mood, the sight that awaited him certainly would. Peeta had Katniss on the ground, crushing her petite frame with his large, robust one. Both of them were panting, Peeta had her hands pinned to the floor above her head, and they were staring into each other's eyes.
Why in the hell did I agree to this? Gale thought to himself as he beheld the scene, just as he did every week that he helped them to train for the Quarter Quell. Well he knew why, but he didn't want to admit it. Gale could have been an ass and only agreed to help Katniss and not Haymitch or Peeta. She was who he was concerned about, certainly not the baker's son and the town drunk. But he knew that it would only infuriate Katniss to refuse, and earning him her wrath with their time together so limited was not of interest to him. Besides, he understood that helping them was really helping her, and today would be the last time. The Reaping was only days away.
"Damn it, sweetheart," Haymitch spat, "hit him like you mean it! Get up and try it again!" The greasy-haired man finally looked in Gale's direction and acknowledged him. "Hey ya', Hawthorne.
Katniss's attention was quickly drawn from Peeta's face to where Gale was standing. She blushed brightly and pushed herself up. Katniss and Peeta both greeted Gale before returning to their sparring. They circled round and round with wooden daggers in hand. Katniss approached her large opponent and swung at him with her toy dagger, but anybody could tell that her heart wasn't in it. Peeta easily blocked her.
"No, Katniss! Don't go easy on me! Go for my weak spots – my nose, my groin, my bad leg, don't be afraid of hurting me!" Peeta authoritatively demanded of Katniss. "Do you think that a Career would give you this much time to think? Do you think that everyone will be nice to me because of my leg?" To some, Peeta might have sounded like nothing but a bully or a dick. Yet Gale saw it differently. Peeta wanted to give Katniss a chance to make it out of the Quarter Quell alive, and he was preparing her as best he could – it was the same thing he would have done if their roles were reversed.
Usually on Sundays they trained outside, setting snares and practicing with bows, but it had been storming all morning. So instead they were in Peeta's basement, which had been made into a makeshift training center. There were mats on the floor, weights in the corner, and a bull's-eye on the wall to practice knife throwing on rainy days. Haymitch's gruff voice called, "This shit is getting us nowhere. Peeta, let me in there, she's not going to hurt you!" Peeta stepped off the mat and handed Haymitch his dagger, who took a fighting stance and gave her a "come hither" wave with his free hand. "Come and get me, sweetheart."
Katniss did not hesitate this time, she quickly punched the old drunk in the nose, grabbed him around the neck and had her dagger to his throat before pushing him to the ground.
"That's more like it." Peeta patted Katniss on the shoulder, like a coach would an athlete, before helping Haymitch up. It was the most affection that Gale had seen between Peeta and Katniss since the announcement of the Quarter Quell. Gale had been surprised and a little encouraged when he noticed that Peeta was now cold and distant with Katniss; they no longer held on to each other as they had before. Although it would have made Gale even more optimistic if he couldn't sense how much Katniss was missing the consolation that she had once found in Peeta's arms. Gale had tried to comfort Katniss, especially since she had told him that she loved him after his whipping, but she hadn't responded to him like she had Peeta. With Peeta Katniss always seemed calmer, more at ease, and relaxed. She was slowly slipping away from Gale.
Haymitch dabbed the blood running from his nose and glared at Katniss and bellowed, "Damn it, sweetheart, you didn't have to hit me that hard!"
"Sorry," Katniss said not so sincerely, "I've been waiting to do that since the train."
"Which one?" Peeta asked, raising an eyebrow, and then helping Haymitch up.
"The first one," Katniss said matter-of-factly. "And every one since."
The three of them shared a knowing look, an inside joke. Haymitch cackled and the other two shook their heads with a slight chuckle. In the middle of all of this gloom, they could find a moment of humor. Gale resented the bond that the three of them shared. They were all so different: the huntress, the drunk, and the baker. Yet they were this bizarre brotherhood that only they could comprehend – they were Victors. Katniss now clung to these men as she once had to him, she had chosen them over him.
Gale knew that once he and Katniss had a similar bond, the one that had been born in the woods and matured and grew as they did. He wanted to think that a year ago they were on the cusp of becoming something more, lovers perhaps, but they would never know what would have been because the 74Th Hunger Games had changed everything. Most of all the girl he loved, she was gone and replaced by someone foreign to Gale. The girl he once knew, the one happiest in the woods, and concerned only with her family's survival, was now a Victor. He often tried to remind Katniss of what they once had, but to little avail.
Gale's brooding was interrupted by the sweet voice of Primrose Everdeen. Prim reached the basement and gasped, "Haymitch, what happened?"
"Your sister," Haymitch replied as Prim started to look him over.
"It doesn't look broken. Come over to our house, I'll fix you up," Prim told him. "Come on guys, lunch is ready. Oh, and Gale, my Mom insists that you come too, there is plenty."
Every Sunday, Gale would try (unsuccessfully) to pass on eating lunch with the group despite being hungry. The group reluctantly left the basement to go eat. Food, after all, was as much a part of their preparation for the arena as training was. The results of their routine were visibly apparent: Peeta was bulkier and more muscled than he had been a year before, more of a man, less of a boy; Haymitch looked healthier than Gale could ever remember seeing him in the past; but Katniss's appearance had been most altered. Her face was fuller, and her curves were now obvious – she hardly resembled the wiry girl who had volunteered to take her sister's place just last spring. Gale admired the change. She was even more beautiful than ever, yet it was just another reminder of how Katniss had changed.
In Katniss's kitchen the four of them sat around the table and stuffed themselves with meat, pasta, and fruit. It was the same table where Katniss had kissed him and told him that she loved him just a few months ago. Once or twice he thought that perhaps that he'd only imagined it with the help of the morpling, but he knew it happened. Only now Katniss acted as if that exchange had never happened. In the moment that Katniss kissed him he had been hopeful that maybe there would be a future for them yet, or at least it seemed so in his drugged state. It was now probable though that if that confession had been made it was possibly out of guilt instead of longing. Although Katniss would never admit it, she had a soft spot for the weak and injured. It was the reason why she bought the sick goat for her sister years ago, it had been as much for the goat as it had been for Prim. Then there was her alliance with Rue in the games. Not to mention all of her attempts to save Peeta after she found him half-dead in the creek bank.
Gale looked at the table with longing. There was more food on this table at the moment than his family would likely see all week. Despite knowing that the Everdeen's would gladly share their table, Gale only ate his fill. He was too proud to accept food, but eating here meant that he wouldn't have to eat when he got home, leaving more food for his siblings. Peeta sat between Katniss and Haymitch and went over notes he had made while watching old Hunger Games clips. Katniss rested her hands on Peeta's arm as she looked over his notes. Neither of them seemed to take notice of the action, it was second nature to them. Gale was reminded of how Katniss used to be like that with him in the woods.
Gale envied how Katniss would touch Peeta not only in front of the cameras but also at times like right now, when she wasn't even aware of what she was doing. It was one of the many reasons why Gale resented the seemingly perfect Merchant boy. Peeta had never suffered like Gale and Katniss had. Even though they had grown up within a mile of each other they were worlds apart, separated by class. Peeta had always been well fed, even if it was on stale or near moldy baked goods. He'd never had to go to bed with an aching belly or listen to his siblings cry for more food as Gale and Katniss had over the years. Even if he hadn't become a Victor, Peeta would never have had to work in the mines, as Gale did six days a week. Gale had often wondered what he might have become if he hadn't been born in the Seam. I wouldn't be in the mines, that's for sure. Then there was the biggest reason for his jealousy – Peeta was engaged to Katniss, even though it was only for show, and was a last ditch effort to protect everyone. Gale scolded himself. But that doesn't really matter now, does it? Most likely only one of them can come back, so there will never be a toasting. Katniss and Peeta will only be together a while longer before one, or perhaps both, of them will be dead.
As Haymitch, Peeta, and Katniss discussed likely opponents they'd be facing in the arena, Gale again got lost in his own thoughts. No matter what else Gale felt toward Peeta, he had to compliment the baker's son on his ability to pull all of this together and to think clearly enough to make an actual plan of action. Gale knew that he probably wouldn't have been able to do the same if he were in Peeta's shoes. He would have been able to arrange a strategy but he never would have been able to accept his fate like Peeta had. Lately Gale had come to the realization that as much as he wanted to hate Peeta Mellark, he just couldn't. It wasn't like Peeta had asked for any of this to happen, he'd only had the bad luck to be reaped. So instead, Gale reminded himself of who was really to blame, President Snow and the stupid Capitol citizens who loved the games.
Gale often thought that if circumstances had been different then Peeta and he could have been good friends, but their shared interest in Katniss had prevented that. He was in awe of Peeta's talent to win people over with just a few words. Peeta had made Gale rethink how he felt about Merchants in general. How could someone with such a witch for a mother end up being so personable and likable?
Gale had, in fact, hated Peeta while watching the 74th Hunger Games. First, there had been his alliance with the Careers. The night that the Careers and Peeta had trapped Katniss in the tree, Gale thought for one brief moment of going to the bakery and setting it aflame. But he knew that he would be caught and both his family and the Everdeens would be totally helpless. So instead he punched a hole in the wall of the room he and his brother's shared. That had been the longest night of his life. Gale could not believe how the scene had played out, with Peeta watching Katniss the whole night – he couldn't understand why. From the Seam, Gale cheered wildly when he saw his best friend sawing the tree limb containing the tracker jacker hive – he knew her plan. Peeta had run as soon as the limb started to fall. Then the baker's son had come back to where Katniss had landed, subdued from the stings she had received. Gale thought that Peeta had come back to kill her, but instead Peeta had screamed for Katniss to run and then drawn Cato away from her, nearly dying in the process. Only then did Gale understand – Peeta had been trying to save Katniss, not himself.
When Gale had watched the injured boy hide himself in the muddy bank he remembered feeling oddly…relieved. He couldn't dislike the Merchant boy any longer for he had just bought Katniss time and a chance. Gale had hoped for Peeta's sake that death would come quickly.And Gale thought that would be the end of Peeta Mellark, that the kind boy would join the ranks of the Hunger Games victims. Never in a thousand years did Gale think that the Gamemakers would change the rules to allow two winners from the same district. Nor had he anticipated Katniss's enthusiastic (well, as enthusiastic as the girl he knew could get) response to the announcement, or her desperate search and recovery of the injured boy.
When they had kissed for the first time, Gale had hated Peeta all over again. Her first kiss was supposed to belong to me. When Katniss risked her life to get Peeta's medicine Gale hated Peeta even more. When they both awoke afterward and kissed, Gale knew that Katniss felt something real for the baker's son, by the way she blushed and looked at him through hooded eyes, which was the moment when Gale hated Peeta the most. As Gale watched the climax of the games he again had experienced a mix of disbelief, rage, and sadness as he had watched Katniss and Peeta fight to stay alive and together. He watched as time and again Peeta offered Katniss the easy way out by letting him die, but she refused every time. Gale didn't know who he was more upset with, Peeta or Katniss. But then Peeta had confessed his love for the girl that Gale had envisioned as someday being his. In hindsight, Gale realized that his hatred of Peeta had been driven by jealousy. After that, Gale could not hate Peeta anymore.
"Gale, hey, Gale!" Katniss called for him from across the table, waking him from his daydream. "It's stopped storming, what do you think about going outside and showing us some snares?"
"Yeah, sure Catnip," Gale replied. "Where are the supplies?"
"They're at my house," Peeta offered. "Gale can come help me get the stuff and we'll meet you guys there. Katniss, why don't you work with Haymitch and the bows until we meet you? I didn't think that it was possible, but he is even worse with a bow and arrow than he is with a knife."
"Yeah," Katniss added sarcastically. "You'd think someone who sleeps with a knife could hit the side of a house with one."
"Ha-ha-ha, very funny, I was just rusty," Haymitch sneered, and they parted ways.
Gale followed Peeta back over to his house. If I didn't know better I'd think that Mellark was trying to get me alone,Gale thought. Nonetheless, his interest was piqued. When they reached Peeta's house he noticed Peeta had stopped to pull a camera out of a closet. Gale gave Peeta a "what in the hell" look. Peeta smiled and shook his head. "I know that this is going to sound strange, but I'm making a gift for Katniss, and I need your picture."
Gale's suspicion had just been confirmed. Haymitch and Peeta's plan was to get Katniss out. Even though Gale hadn't ever had the conversation with either one of them, he knew how it would go down. Katniss had to go in, there would be no other option as there were no other female Victors from 12. Peeta was all but guaranteed to be the other tribute. Even if Haymitch was chosen, Peeta would volunteer and everyone knew it. Just like everyone knew if anyone from District 12 was going to survive the Quarter Quell it was going to be Katniss. Well, almost everyone knew, everyone but Katniss that was. "You're going back in with her no matter what, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," Peeta said plainly confessed.
Gale wanted to ask why, but he knew what the answer would be – that Peeta loved Katniss – and he hated hearing that. So instead he inquired, "What are you making for her?"
"A reminder of what she has here, of all of the people who love her, need her, and want her to come back home," Peeta said coolly, although his voice cracked slightly at the end.
Gale couldn't believe this kid. Here he was yet again, more than willing to lay down his life for Katniss. The baker's son would gladly die to protect her, to keep her alive. Peeta had already offered to do it in their first games, it had not just been empty words. He had meant it. Looking back now Gale wasn't sure if he could have told her the same thing. Do I love her enough to be willing to die for her? To actually encourage her to kill me, or kill myself, in order to allow her to go home, maybe fall in love with someone else?The easy answer was yes, but the more honest answer was that he really didn't know. Perhaps that was why Gale Hawthorne could not out and out hate Peeta Mellark, and why he wanted to hate him more than anything. Gale knew, without a doubt, what Peeta's answer would be, yet he didn't know what his own would have been. His sense of self-preservation, born out of years of struggle, was strong, whereas Peeta didn't seem to have one at all. The thought of Peeta's all but assured death would be easier to handle if Gale were able to hate him.
"Alright," Gale agreed.
Peeta asked Gale to smile and took a few snapshots before he thought he'd gotten the right one. "We'd better go meet Katniss and Haymitch," Peeta declared after he took the last picture.
On the short trip to where they trained in the meadow Peeta caught Gale off guard when he made a request of Gale. "If…when she comes back, be patient with her. She'll need time and space, and then, when she's ready, she'll let you in."
"How do you know that?" Gale challenged, he was a little annoyed that Peeta was telling him how his best friend would act.
"Because she loves you," Peeta admitted quietly. "She chose you, you know – when she didn't run."
Gale had been stunned silent. This was news to him. Katniss had chosen me? It hadn't felt like he'd been her choice, to Gale it looked as if she'd chosen Peeta. She hadn't attempted to be affectionate or seek comfort from him, in fact the last affection that the two had shared was when he had hugged her and offered again to run into the woods after the announcement of the Quell. If anything, she was further from him now than she'd ever been. Gale said in disbelief, "No, she chose you."
"No," Peeta said with a bitter-sweet smile, "if she'd wanted me, we'd be getting ready for a wedding right now, not training for the Quarter Quell."
Gale wanted a deeper explanation, but they were now within a few yards of Haymitch and Katniss. Katniss was trying to explain to Haymitch for the umpteenth time about shooting, and they were both obviously flustered. Gale could hear Katniss dismiss Haymitch. "Look, there's Gale, have him show you some more snares. Peeta come over here, I want you to practice with the bow." Peeta nodded to Katniss and joined her.
"Hey, 'cuz'," Haymitch grinned, "looks like you get to babysit me for a while."
Gale rolled his eyes, took Haymitch to a small grouping of trees and began to demonstrate how to make a snare with a sapling. He was working quickly.
"Slow it down, stretch, explain it to me step by step" Haymitch grumbled.
Gale stopped and glared at Haymitch and raised the question. "What's the point? I know that you're not going back in."
"Shh! Don't let sweetheart hear you say that" Haymitch said lowly. "So, did you finally figure it out all by yourself or did the boy tell you?"
"Both," Gale returned. He was torn between the newfound hope of having Katniss all to himself and facing the fact that Peeta would have to die for that to happen. "Why can't you go in?"
"You know that blondie would never let that happen! For some damn reason he thinks that I can be more useful to her on the outside, and he can protect her on the inside." Haymitch lectured Gale in a low tone, "Do you think I want to watch him or potently both of them die?! I've been trying to kill myself for the past 25 years. The only fucking thing that has kept me from hanging myself or slashing my own wrists is the fact that the kids who get reaped would have no one! I'm not much, but at least I can get them a drink of water before some damned Career comes to slit their throats. Do you think that I like this situation?! I love those two kids, they're all that I've got! And I'm gonna have a front row seat to their demise. Even if she does live, she'll be dead inside when she comes back. I know you think that if the boy would have died in the arena that Katniss would have gotten off that train and straight into your arms, and none of this would be happening now. But the Capitol never would have let that happen. That girl that you knew died when her sister's name was called. You'll never have that Katniss back again." Gale stared at Haymitch, seething with anger. Haymitch met his eye and stared him down. In that moment Gale could see the Victor that he had once been and decided to show him what respect he was due; disrespect for your elders was unforgivable in District 12. Not to mention the fact that if it weren't for Haymitch giving his mom a job the Hawthorne family would be even worse off.
"Calm it down there, kid," Haymitch said evenly. "You have no clue what that boy has saved her from. She would have gone the way of Annie Cresta without him," Gale gave Haymitch a confused look, though the name rang a bell. "She was a Victor about five years back, and she's bat shit crazy now. But still that's better than some, 'cause they leave the crazy ones alone. Peeta saved her from all of that. I've seen enough Victors to know how they would have handled it. Katniss never would have made it without him. He's kept her sane."
"You bastard," Gale growled. Haymitch had gone too far insulting Katniss. "How dare you talk that way about her!?"
"Because despite what you may think, I know her," Haymitch rolled his eyes and continued. "Don't worry, you're still going to probably be the one to get her, or at least what's left of her when this is all said and done. I just think you should know what you'll have to deal with if she comes back."
Gale could not believe what he was hearing. Why am I listening to this old piece of shit? Gale was silent, mulling over what the old rake had told him. Finally he replied, "Peeta thinks that she'll be okay again someday."
"Yeah, well, he thinks too highly of people, especially her," Haymitch said flatly. "According to him even I have a redeeming quality or two. I was going to let him die and he still likes me."
A noise drew their attention and paused the conversation. "Peeta, that's great!"Gale heard Katniss exclaim from across the clearing. "Haymitch, Peeta got a bull's eye!" Haymitch gave them a thumbs up and they continued on with their practice.
"It should have been me, to go into that arena with her," Gale lamented as he watched them. He was reminded of how Katniss had taught him how to shoot a few years ago. Peeta had caught on to it even faster than he had. If the baker was given enough time he might get as good as Katniss herself…but he didn't have that kind of time.
"You would have been my dream, in a typical year," Haymitch admitted with a smile. "Smart like Beetee, handsome like Finnick, shrewd like Gloss. You're the total package – those Capitol twits would have eaten you up with a spoon. You would have been able to win the game like a Career. But I never could have sold you and Katniss as a team, between her stiffness and your mouth it never would have worked, and you would've been targeted as a threat from day one. Those two are magic together, it just worked. Two kids from opposite ends of the district in love, it was the kind of story that was too good to be true."
"And it wasn't true," Gale hissed.
"It's truer than you might think," Haymitch said lowly. "She loves him, she just doesn't realize it. And that's why, if she makes it back, she won't ever be the same, her heart will die with him. If she lets him die." There was something cryptic in those final words. Haymitch was trying to communicate something but he wouldn't come right out and say it.
Gale was beyond irritated. He broke the snare back down. "I'm done with this, let's go see what they need."
When Haymitch and Gale rejoined Katniss and Peeta, Katniss had Peeta halfway up a tree, maybe twelve feet off the ground. "Remember, Peeta, three points of contact at all times."
"Damned goofiest looking squirrel I've ever seen," Haymitch chuckled when he looked up the tree.
"Hey, he gets up there faster with a prosthetic than you do on a good day," Katniss defended Peeta.
After getting as high as he could go, Peeta made his way back down. Coming down was harder than going up, even for Gale. When he was about eight feet off the ground Peeta's prosthetic leg slipped and he was left dangling by one hand. Gale noticed Katniss's face reflect the horror she felt. In all of their years hunting together he'd never seen her get so worked up over him. Relief washed over her face when Peeta righted himself and made his way back to ground.
Internally Gale felt a torrent of conflicting emotions brewing. One of these two, or possibly both of them, will be dead soon. All because they pissed off some sick, twisted bastard a thousand miles away.
The storm clouds were starting to roll back in. Peeta declared training to be over for the day. As they all packed up their supplies, Peeta approached Gale and shook his hand sincerely saying, "Thanks for helping us, Gale." There was a sense of finality in his voice that was palpable.
"You're welcome, Peeta," Gale returned and gripped Peeta's hand tightly. "And thanks for looking out for her."
Peeta nodded and picked up his bag and walked back to the Victors' Village. Haymitch waved to Gale and followed Peeta back home.
"Come on, Gale, I'll walk with you back to town," Katniss offered.
They were mostly silent, with the tension thick between them. Gale wanted to get a reading on her mood. He admitted to her, "It'd be better if he were easier to hate."
She gave Gale a brief smile. "Tell me about it. If I could've just hated him in the arena, we all wouldn't be in this mess now. He'd be dead and I'd be a happy little victor all by myself."
Gale thought about what Haymitch had told him about how Katniss would have reacted to being the sole victor, and he realized that Haymitch was more than likely right. Katniss never would have been able to deal without Peeta. But the thought of Katniss being a sole victor was a nice dream. He had to know what might have been. Gale asked, "And where would we be, Katniss?"
She paused and thought, but like always what she was truly thinking was unreadable as she answered evenly, "Hunting. Like every Sunday." They had reached town and they bid each other farewell. Gale was disappointed by her lackluster response; he wanted to hear that they would be together and that she loved him. He decided then that he would try to confess his feelings for her before she got on the train on Reaping Day. Katniss had to know how he felt, maybe then she would have more of a reason to fight to get home.
As Gale walked home he thought about her emotionless response. There was no warmth, no hope, and no promise of her return. Haymitch's cryptic words came back to haunt him, "If she lets him die." Shit, shit, shit! Gale cussed to himself, and fell to his knees in the mud outside of his house when he realized what Haymitch had meant. Katniss is going to try to spare Peeta this time. She's willing to die to allow him to live.
It all made sense now. The reason why Katniss was so distant with him, why she wouldn't run. She was letting Gale go along with everything else, because she wasn't planning on coming back. All this time Gale had convinced himself that Katniss could only love one man, but that was not true. She loved them both, even if she didn't know it herself. Although now it was obvious to Gale that she loved Peeta more, since she was willing to die for him. Gale shook with anger, frustration, and fear. Why doesn't she want to live for me? Shouldn't her love for me and her family outweigh her feelings for him?
The rain started to fall from the sky, soaking Gale where he knelt in the mud. The cold rain did nothing to ease the fiery anger that burned within him. Now he realized where his rage needed to be directed – the Capitol. None of this would have happened if it weren't for the Capitol and President Snow! I wouldn't be in the mines, my family wouldn't be starving, and Katniss and Peeta wouldn't on their way to certain death.
Gale now had a direction in which to channel his rage, a new mission in life – to find a way to fight the Capitol and bring it down.
Thanks for reading! All reviews are greatly appreciated.
This is my first T rated story I hope you liked it. I'm on tumblr and Ao3 as izzysamson, so come check me out.