a/n; LOL Gale's a vampire in this. What was I thinking? Honestly.

I used some basic vampire traits, though I either cut down on the intensity of some or boosted others. I may have also made some up by accident. This is mostly because I'm bad with already fit guidelines, but also because of the planned conclusion of the storyline. Also, this isn't a story I wrote ahead of time, so there will be longer waits.

Madge/Gale undertones because I'm a sucker.

Sweet Heart: One: Bloodletting

Gale wakes up in the forest one morning. Dawn is struggling to break over the line of the far away hills, orange, dull light cutting through the haze of dew.

Something's wrong with the way it looks. It tingles his skin, it hurts his eyes. His back is wet from the early morning, droplets seeping through his clothes. He's so uncomfortable, hungry. His stomach bends with nausea, urging against the tissue of his abdomen, desperately seeking a food he can't define.

His fingers close into fists, and he clumsily stands. The light gives him a fast headache, his already dry eyes becoming drier. He's sluggish, slow in his movements. His legs shake as he walks. He breathes hard against the daylight. He itches everywhere.

He can't admit that he doesn't know why he's here, nor can he admit he's lost. He's known this forest ever since he was small. He's got it all mapped out in his head, he knows he does, but it's like it's hiding from him. He searches his mind for it, but it feels blank and he sees black. He sees no outlining of trees, no patterns of rock and moss. All the grasses have no differential markings like they used to, no prominent landmarks he can pick out.

As the sun rises higher, the frailer his bones feel. His shoulders creak in the silent air, knees cracking to bend forward. He'd panic if he wasn't so hungry.

When he hears the snaps on the forest floor, he immediately smells the rabbit. He can hear its fluttering heart, ripe with red, healthy blood. He sees the ears peeking above few blades of grass, fifteen, maybe twenty feet away. He sees the eyes darting around, dark brown fur twitching with the movement of its skin. Its nose flickers and flickers with smelling the crisp, cleaned air.

It's suddenly in Gale's hand. He can't remember moving toward it, can't remember reaching for it. But it's tucked in his palm, its stomach and back clutched in his fist. It struggles, eyes bulging and darting frantically, forearms and hind legs kicking against his arm, so fast the thing is almost vibrating. It squeaks in wrenching horror.

But what he notices is the spike in the heartbeat. How the tissue pushes the blood through the veins, the building pressure in the arteries. His eyes can almost see the paths they make, running through his head and legs.

He can't stop himself—he's so hungry, hungrier than he's ever been—and he never knew a hunger could become so demanding. Here in District Twelve, he thought he knew what it was like to starve and crave and want. But what he's feeling now is so acute and powerful, it changes his thoughts and his worry about what he's doing into simplistic demands: Find food, get food, eat, eat, eat.

His teeth sink into the delicate flesh of the rabbit's neck, tasting the delicious life from those veins, fresh from the heart. It fills his mouth like the juice of fruit, cleansing his tongue. It slips down his throat in thick rivulets, warm in its several lines. He can feel when it hits his stomach, his arms, the joints of his knees.

The rabbit falls to the ground when he's done, deflated and lifeless. Gale's eyes are heavy when he blinks, but he isn't satisfied. He wants more of it. More blood, more soul, more something.

He still isn't sure, but the bloodless rabbit at his feet doesn't appall him like it should. Instead, he looks down at it like he's been doing this all his life. He wants to be frightened - but he's not. He's not sure why he craves blood and iron when he should only want meat and flesh and nuts and fruits. He looks at the palms of his hands, closes them and opens them again. He touches his teeth, wondering with odd fascination how sharp they are. His fingertips wipe away with residue from the rabbit.

He wants to want to throw up. He wants more. He's so torn that all he can do is stand there. Stand there and wait, for anything.

Another animal moves through the grasses. His new, freakish, impossible desires flare up within him, and he can't ignore them. Not as much as he wants to. He flashes through the forest without knowing he's running, catching up with whatever other animal he smells.

He eats. And eats and eats. Then the sun gets too high, and he itches all over. He wants to shed the skin that's vulnerable and hide in the shadows.

He's able to fight the impulse, if only through force of will. Looking around, the map of the forest pieces back together slowly. Things are clearer than before—much clearer. He still stumbles a few times, getting tangled in the long grass stalks, pot holes made from groundhogs, but he's able to find the fence. It's a palpable relief when he sees it, hears the silence it gives off, absent of currents that are supposed to run along the metal.

He pushes himself under it like it's a sudden freedom. He can't understand why he feels this way. So happy. So sure. Not when he just—sucked dry—what might have been half the population of the forest without even thinking about bringing them back home with him.

He almost doubles back at the thought, feeling the stupidity, the shame that crawls into him, wondering how he could do that, to not even think about his family—when he—when he smells something.

Hears something. Wants something.

Suddenly, he doesn't care about the animals of the forest. All that fills his mind is the new prospect of food.


The first one is a mistake. All of it was a mistake, when he thinks about it. Humans are animals, except they aren't animals. Except they are. Except they aren't. He can't think that way, because it might make doing this natural, and this can never be natural, not with how life is now, not ever.

His body was smart, at least. He didn't kill the boy in front of the morning crowd of the Hob. His cravings were sedated enough from the animals before to keep him from running rampant on impulse. He waited behind one of the dilapidated buildings of the Hob, sensing the movements of the boy, almost seeing the future of his footsteps, and how he'd turn behind the building. Why he'd come behind here, Gale didn't know. Nor did he care. When the boy arrived, he looked surprised to see Gale, leaning against the back of the building's boards. He was close to starting a greeting before Gale pounced, teeth finding the jugular automatically. The boy was in too much shock to scream, drained too fast to fight. He probably couldn't have fought, anyway. He was a town kid. Not many of them knew how to defend themselves. They mostly knew how to make things, man a business—very different work from the Seam.

Gale tried to stop himself before the boy keeled over, but his attempts were too late. The veins turned gritty and dry, the rush dwindling. The boy's body fell into Gale's chest, and all Gale could do was hold him, feel the limpness of the boy's shell. He had brown hair. Couldn't be older than sixteen.

More emotion filled him than he could ever remember. A run of apathy and hate and confusion darted past his eyes, before regret and remorse came to finish the job. His arms shook, pain flashed behind his eyes. He didn't know what was wrong with him, didn't know what to do.

He jammed the body in the large, old and rusted trash can before he sped off, away from the Hob and hearts as fast as he could.

He's in the forest again, having darted there faster than he thought he'd ever be able, pressing his body against a tree.

He can't go back to his family—not if they're walking targets, begging him to suck them dry like the boy. How could he live with himself if he slaughtered them? If he even tried to slaughter them?

He can't hear a heartbeat inside him. Underneath his skin is a long, dark echo of silence. But his breath comes out hard and fast, and isn't that some kind of contradiction? He doesn't like to think about it.

He has to stay here. He has to live like an animal, because isn't that what he is now? Higher than humans on the food chain, leashed by his new, dark desires. He's controlled by what he is now, whatever he is, and he must stay here.

He falls to the ground, back against the thick birch. The bark snags his coat, loose threads breaking to freedom.

Everything is crystal, through his eyes. They can almost read the rhythm of the wind, lines playing across his eyes. Blades of grass are sharpened knives, glinting like razors against the sun. His skin prickles like he's being infested with insects, like mosquitoes are gnawing hungrily at his flesh when he moves in the sunlight. He becomes incrementally more active as the day passes, which doesn't make much sense - but he's too mentally drained to think of what might, truly, make sense anymore.

The blue of the sky is bluer, cerulean and graceful, more than anything he can compare it to, colors stark and standalone beside each other. The greens and the yellows and the browns and grays. They are no longer colors. They are souls by themselves, thrumming with a singular, definite link.

Gale roves his deadened fingers against the new life and colors, stinging with remorse when he touches them. He is no longer worthy of this curiosity—he knows it, subconsciously, as he sits and wonders about them. He's changed, and so have they. He may be a king with what he preys on, but this forest is untouchable with its trees and stalks and moss. The animals he can kill, but nothing else. It's like intuition.

His mind strays to Katniss, eventually. His picture of her is vivid, a blurry snapshot finally in focus. She's a beautiful thing there, behind his eyes. It makes him wonder what she would look like now, standing in front of him.

She'll wander into the forest soon enough. Too soon. He's not safe to be around like this. How will he explain to her what he can barely explain to himself? He won't be able to stop himself from biting her, mind thinking about her sedated pulse, how rich her blood must taste... He can't let himself see her.

She's the only one that can tell his family, he argues. His emotions are a mess. Something is off about them. He feels like they've been magnified, sadness pulling at his tear ducts, the love that consumes him when he thinks about his mother and Posy and his brothers filling him to an uncomfortable tautness. Every other thing that he's ever felt is like a pressure point. Almost like being crippled by feeling. It's a tangible weakness, already exhausting him. It's never been a terrible problem before. It's going to take a while to get used to, after years and years of it subdued.

Gale wipes the sweat off his forehead, pressing his teeth back against a groan. He isn't sure what to do. He takes a breath, and he automatically takes a piece of twine out of his pocket, fastening knots along the rope.

Then he thinks better of it, impulsively tying them around his wrists and around the bark, holding him in place.

He hears her long before he sees her, her practiced, careful footing easily distinguishable. He straightens and pushes himself against the tree he's tied himself to. He can feel his strength inside him, and knows this is near worthless, but when she walks closer and his wrists buckle against the rope and her scent, he knows he'd never forgive himself if he gave up this chance to protect her.

When she comes into view, he can hear the threads of his twine begin to snap.

"Gale?" she says, eyes quickly noticing his position. They widen and she begins to run over to him.

"No," he commands her, throat straining through its thirst. "Stay away from me."

Her face is concerned, her mind working fast to come up with an answer she accepts. "Who did this to you?" she asks, and he notices her legs wanting to betray his command. She inches closer to him. She glances around, as if something will pummel her from behind. "What's going on?"

A wind breaks through the trees, like it's taunting him. It brings her scent to his nose. He feels his teeth tear through his gums.

"Get away from me, Katniss," he growls through his fangs. "I'm not me, anymore."

She stares at him, her eyes hooked on his mouth. Surely she sees his elongated canines. Her eyes dart to his, and she takes a step back. It makes him wonder for a brief second what she sees in his face.


"A monster," he snarls. If anything can work, maybe he can scare her away. He can already feel his mind succumbing to madness, lust, eyes zeroing in on her neck.

She shakes her head. "What's going on?" she repeats. "What happened to you?"

One of his arms rips through the twine. His fingers dig into the soft dirt that separates them. The action makes her jerk.

"Leave," he forces. "Leave. Just go. I can't…I'll…"

His other arm is dangerously close to freeing itself. And she smells so good. Her building fear smells even better. It makes her perspire, her heart shudder like the rabbit he killed first.

He wants her. He wants her unlike any other thing.

His left arm breaks away. He can see the hair on her arms stand, knows the fight or flight she's desperately fighting against. He hates that she's fighting it. She needs to run as fast as she can, but she stays.

"Katniss," he rasps, trying to anchor himself in the roots of grass. "Please. I can't…control…"

She finally runs, legs taking her back to the fence. He's only able to hold back long enough to give her a meager head start. Then he feels his body take him to her. He's on her so fast, he isn't sure if he touched the ground.

She struggles underneath him, real terror, no matter how subtle, passing through her pupils, dilating them and forcing her to see him for what he really is. She punches and kicks and thrashes, but it does nothing to him. Her hits are absorbed like rain.

He bares his fangs, coming down on her neck, before he feels a horrifying pain dart through his ribs, into his stomach. It's so sudden and urgent that the bones of his mouth shift back.

He trembles, wheezing out a moan before he backs away from her. His right hand gropes at the pain, finding the hilt of a knife. The knife he had given to her not long ago. Never did he think he'd be grateful the first thing he'd seen her use it on was him. He takes his hand away, clotted blood, dark red, almost obsidian, painting his fingers.

He's so surprised, he can only stare at her. His face must change back, because the fear in her eyes turns to horror.

"Gale. Gale, no, I didn't mean to—Gale, look at me."

His eyes have a hard time focusing. It's strange. He knows he isn't going to die, but the pain is exhausting, like his body is having a hard time repairing. He falls to the side, hand going back to the hilt, weakness fighting against his urge to pull it out.

Katniss quickly follows him, her hand on his cheek. She tries to make him look at her.

His eyes see half her face and half his eyelid. She slaps him, and his eyes open a bit wider.

"Gale, look at me."

"I see you, princess," he grins, and if he knew what being drunk was like, he'd call it this. He's certainly never called her the pet name before.

"Don't die on me, okay? Promise me you won't die."

"I'm not," he says. His hand tenses and loosens on the knife, finally deciding to pull it out. He grunts when it frees, slinging it off to the side. "I'm going to be just fine."

Her eyes follow the bloodied knife before she looks to him again. Her palms press against his wound, and he feels how warm they are through his shirt.

"Gale," she pleads. "I don't know how…I don't have anything…"

He catches one of her hands. "Run," he demands. "Run before I can chase you."

She furiously shakes her head again. "There's no way you can—"

"Yes, there is," he says. "I'm going to heal in a few minutes. I'll want to kill you. Run."

His words ring true. He starts to feel better, but hungrier, starving. Her eyes widen as she stares at the skin stitching back together underneath her hand. She stares back at his face.

His teeth begin to grow. "Run, Katniss."

Her face is uncertain, but she listens.

She sprints, and he's too exhausted to chase her. He finds wild turkey instead, and the scar that had formed on his third rib vanishes like it had never been there.

Even after that show, he knows she'll come back later. He's not sure when or where she'll show up, or even if he'll be able to control himself at all when she does. But he prepares himself the best way he can. He eats enough small animals to sedate his throat, having the sense of mind to bring along all the dead animal skins with him this time. Their blood is disgusting, now. He can't forget about the taste of the kid earlier, how sweet his blood was compared to all the animals he had eaten before. It's almost hard to keep the blood down.

He sets traps out of habit, goes to the fruit bushes and tries to see if he can still enjoy normal food. He hopes in the second before he bites into it that it'll sustain him.

He realizes what a miraculously idiotic idea it is, once he swallows and tastes the sugar and juice of the berries, the texture which once was satisfying now dull, and the fumes that fill his nose lacking. It doesn't do a thing to cut through this different hunger. He feels the shell of the berry land in his stomach, doing nothing to replenish his veins. He spits out a seed in disdainful annoyance. The edge of it cuts through three stalks of grass.

He trudges over to the grasses and moves his fingers over the shortened blades. Then the glances around, looking up at the tops of the trees and toward the hills they've never dared to venture. He picks up a loose rock and hurls it at a tree, watching as the rock bruises the bark like a bullet. He throws another one, then another, then another, throwing them as hard as he can. The last one imbeds itself into the trunk.

It astonishes him. He eyes the hole and the rock, exhilarated by strength. He focuses on a branch, crouches, then jumps. He springs up and lands on it like a cat, the branch bending slightly under his weight. He uses its bounce to jump from branch to branch, and it's so easy, he has a hard time thinking its real.

He experiments while he can. He jumps from tree to tree, seeing how far he can go without missing one. He finds out twenty feet is his limit, when his fingers can barely grasp the edge of a branch before he falls to the ground. He has to get used to how easily he can brush things off. He doesn't get hurt as much - falling from the tree barely gives him a pause.

Curious from Katniss' knife earlier, he pulls off a branch in one hard tug. The point created by the pull is sharp to the touch. His eyes linger on it as he taps the wood. He turns the point where it touches his wrist, his skin declining into a concave dot. He uses his new strength to press hard into his flesh, dragging the branch down his arm to create a dark, deep gash. The pain that arises is white hot, but it lasts nearly a second for each inch he makes. It sews itself up right as the cut is made, like a backward fuse following his trail. The blood doesn't get a chance to seep out before pushed back into him again.

He finds that he doesn't fear this new, unusual ability. In fact, it elates him, makes him swell inside. Surely he isn't immortal, but he's something close to it, and this could change things. He can start something. A one man army. He can go against Snow and the Capitol, instilling fear in the ones that laugh at the murders of children, the gluttonous savages and the superficial audiences.

His mind runs rapid with all kinds of ideas. He can do this, or he can do that, because the people won't know how to handle something that they can't understand. Maybe he'll volunteer at the next Games, catching all those Capitol mongrels off guard with what he can do, run to Snow and slit his throat in two blinks of an eye, maybe suck his dirty skin dry. He can do that, can't he? He's fast enough. He can run through the entire forest in less than three minutes. None of the Peacekeepers or the Capitol guards would be fast enough to stop him.

It takes his mind a while to simmer down to where the ideas aren't so consuming. They quiet to a whisper when he realizes the one fatal flaw.

He can't control himself. Anything that skitters by with a heartbeat is more than likely to be eaten. And there isn't a way he can contain himself around people. At least, the hunger is too new to be able to control. Not yet. Maybe if he waits long enough, grows into whatever he is...

His eyes stray to the open valleys stretched before him. The sun pierces him with angry rays, though he's gotten used to them well enough. The itching sensation has decreased into a subtle nag, with the sun now quickening its descent. He wonders if he should flee to those places beyond him, for a few days, weeks even. He can tell Katniss, kill the animals needed by their families for her to collect on her hunting days. That would make things easier. She could deliver them to his family, perhaps even tell them a story about why he needs to be away for a while. He's got other responsibilities, too. School, though that's completely worthless. He's going to start the mines in six months. His absence will get people talking, and that's not something he wants if he runs off into the wilderness. Peacekeepers might come looking for him - though the threat they once posed is no more than an annoyance. He can kill them simply if they're somehow able to find him. He isn't sure how his family will take his absence, either. They've already lost a father. What would they do if they lost a son and a brother?

There's no telling how long he'll have to be away before he gets used to this.

The idea eclipses what he wants. And he's always been slightly more selfish than selfless. He doesn't want to leave his family. He wants to be better now. He hates how this controls him, like everything else, and it's worse than Snow because how is he supposed to fight himself?

He goes to his and Katniss' meeting spot after a while. He stands there and glares at the sun and the valleys. He tears the belt off of his waist and lays it across the ground below him. She'll find it when she comes looking for him.

He looks out to the valleys again, and for the first time in all his life, they give him the feeling of sorrow and apprehension. Two of the most opposite emotions he's ever felt toward the view.

Sorrow turns to rage in an instant. He topples over boulders, rips branches from trees, shreds through grass like a machine.

He falls to the ground after several minutes, feeling ashamed. Being a slave to his emotions, losing control to them so easily. Being angry at what he's doing consciously.

If he can't even keep his emotions in check, how is he supposed to keep anything in check?

Hopelessness sprawls onto him like a wet blanket. He hates this feeling, too, but as much as he tries to push it off him, it's unavoidably heavy. He lies on the forest floor and stares up at the swaying leaves on the trees overhead.

He sees birds flicker by, every once in a while. Their hearts are hammers as they pass, and he concentrates on them, feels his mouth salivate, forcing mantras through his head that ring hollow.

You don't want it. You don't need it. You don't want it. You don't need it. Why do I want them, anyway?

It's a grueling battle. As the ribbing hunger claws in his mind and mouth, pushing back all his thoughts, doing its best to erase his anger and confliction. He can almost see it all drain from him, wanting to care but coaxed to not. Slipping into the attractive haze of baser desires and instinctual, primal potency. His teeth grow without any more provocation, his eyes sharpen onto all the pulse points of life in the forest. He doesn't grow claws or horns. He isn't a human any longer, but his body desperately clings to the idea that he is.

He remains lying on the ground, taut with overwhelming sensation. He tries to step outside himself for a moment, to remember what this is, what he feels as he's sucked into the dark valleys of his altered conscious. If he can remember and know all the vulnerable pinches he feels in these few seconds, maybe he'll have that much of a higher chance to fight it.

He lasts a few minutes before he rounds up another massacre.

Gale loses track of time. When he dares to notice, the sun is drooping between the midpoint of the sky and the horizon. It must be late afternoon, though it's almost as if its been a lifetime of sitting and fighting and waiting.

He knows the moment Katniss slips underneath the fence and into the forest. He's been strung up like a wire for so long, twitching toward every miscellaneous noise. He hasn't made a plan for this confrontation. But he's come up with the conclusion that he'll have to have enough willpower to keep away from her. Nothing is more of an incentive than keeping her alive.

He steels himself, grabbing for a dead groundhog and allowing for its scent to overpower the soft breezes. He stares at its vacant eyes.

Her footsteps are much more deliberate than earlier, more careful, slow and cautious. If he closes his eyes, he can see the path she walks, feel the vibrations like a sonar. He knows when she's behind him, ten feet away at the very most. Her heartbeat is tremulous. His mouth waters without hesitation. He bites his tongue.

"Gale," she says, softly.

He swallows the new blood in his mouth. It tastes different than iron. It's almost sweet. "I can't be near my family," he begins quickly. "Or people. Not yet. I'll hunt for the both of us and leave you the animals here. Tell them I have to figure something out. Tell my mom to tell the school that I've come down with illness. I want to be back no later than a week."

"Gale," she repeats, in a tone that belies what he thinks she should be expressing. She speaks calmly and softly, and he can't imagine why she doesn't sound afraid. "They found a dead boy in the dumpster in the alley of the Hob. It was you, wasn't it?" When he doesn't answer right away, she continues, "The District is overly alert and scared. The boy's family is raging about how they're going to force the Mayor to call in more Peacekeepers. Everybody's on edge because of it."

Gale mulls over it hurriedly. "They're not going to. Peacekeepers are more trouble than they're worth. Cray and Darius will handle it."

"You killed him," she says, emphasizing. "You left him bloodless. This is a big deal, Gale. People are already making up rumors about a beast that lives in the forest. Some say the Capitol is punishing us - "

"The Capitol uses us every year for sport. What's one kid out of twenty-three?" His hands unconsciously rip through the skin of the animal. The inside of it hits his nose with the stench. "They'll get over it soon enough."

He hears her shift for a moment, nerves and questions palpable in the movement. "Gale, what happened to you? I...don't understand what's going on. Everything was fine yesterday."

"It's what it looks like," he says, voice rumbling with an already climbing impatience. "I woke up today and I drink blood. From anything. I crave it. It haunts me. You're lucky enough that I can't smell you, or..." Her heartbeat taunts him. He squeezes his eyes shut.

She takes a step forward, undaunted. "Then I can help you, can't I?"

His impatience jerks up. "You don't realize how difficult it is to concentrate when you're this close, Katniss." He shakes his head, eyes on the ground. "I can snap your neck with a finger. I can..." he bends the groundhog, and it's so sinfully simple how the spine cracks in half. "I can't be around you. I might kill you."

"I trust you."

She says it easily, as easily as it was for him to casually kill the boy in the alley. He snarls, flashing his head around to look at her for the first time. It almost stuns him to see how passive she is, with her hands on her hips, looking down at him. But he knows she's scared, she has to be, totally clueless to what's really wrong with him as she bites the inside of her lip.

"Remember a few hours ago?" he says, tone riddled in sarcasm. "You want to chance that, Catnip?"

She tries to hide her flinch. She isn't good at it.

"You probably won't be able to learn how to control yourself around people if you stay in this forest, though, right? There's no people for you here to be tempted by...their blood."

He blinks at her. He hadn't thought of that. Was his entire plan in vain? Would this time secluding himself be more detrimental than helpful? He bares his teeth more, feeling the canines poke at his bottom lip. He doesn't mean to be so angry, but now he can almost taste her on the air, and all she does is stand there like she knows what's running through his mind when she doesn't.

He holds up the broken animal in his right hand, letting the limp arms and innards dangle in her view. "This is my temptation. And this is what it becomes. I'm going to control it in this forest by myself. I can use these animals. I'm not going to use you."

Her lips thin, and she stares at him hard. Her eyes linger on his teeth.

"I'm not going to let you go through this alone."

"You don't know what I'm going through. You don't have to know."

"Yes, I do. Stop acting like you're stronger than you are, Gale."

"I'm not acting like that at all!" he shouts at her. His eyes keep straying to the fluttering pulse on her neck. It betrays her bravado. She's as frightened as anyone else would be. He decides to use it. "I'm weak," he stresses. "I can't contain myself, can't you see?" He gestures to all the hollowed animals surrounding him. "I look at you, and half my thoughts are wondering what you taste like. The other half just wants to rip you into a million pieces."

A shadow passes over her face. Then she glares at him, and he's ready for her to say something along the lines of, stop being dramatic, or, I know that's not what you're thinking. Instead, she surprises him and holds out one of her arms.

"Then do it," she says. "Break my arm. I want to see you do it."

He feels this strange rush of adrenaline. He follows the line of her arm and has to fight the impulse of actually going through with it. He wants to touch her skin. He wants to peel it back and analyze how she works inside.

He closes his eyes. "You're scared shitless, Katniss. Get out of here."

"You'd do this if it was me."

She says it like it's an answer to everything. He'd laugh if he wasn't so sad. His body twitches involuntarily at her rising blood pressure. She notices.



A slow line of sweat has progressively formed along his forehead. His breath comes out shallow, and he doesn't know when he began to stare at her wrist, wondering at its thinness.

He mutters nonsense as he tries once more to demand her to leave. His body moves forward. She takes a step back.

"You're not going to scare me into running away," she keeps on. He can hardly hear her. "You're not going to kill me."

His mind gets stuck on the word. You're not going to kill me.

He rushes forward and grasps her wrist, and she gives a surprised, strangled cry. Then his teeth imbed into that one, thick vein, and she's so warm and delicate and vibrant as she slides down his throat. Lights hit the back of his eyes in blissful bursts. Katniss pushes at him, grasping at his hair and trying to leverage him off of her.

"Gale, Gale, stop it! Stop it! Get off." She heaves one more shove against him before collapsing. His sane mind is hazy and pressured into hiding, but he pushes against the force. He puts in practice what he did before when he was tempted, in reverse. The ache comes first. Then the anger, mixed with the guilt. Then the repulsion. The disgust, the You don't need it. Why do you want this, anyway?

It all happens in a second. Her pulse slows, bordering on lethargic. And then he pulls himself away.

Her legs shake, and she crumples to the ground. He follows her, folding his arms behind her back. His horrification subdues all other impulses that he has. He cups her cheek in his left hand, slapping it when her eyes close.

"Shit, Katniss. Stay with me. Please stay with me." He grabs her wrist that's still weakly bleeding. He squeezes it, then fears he'll break her bone. He rips off part of his shirt and wraps it tight around the wound. He pushes back her hair and holds her face, saying nonsensical things until her eyes flicker open.

"Stupid, Katniss, you're so fucking stupid," he breathes out, her eyes trying to focus on him. "You should have listened to me. I told you to listen to me."

She tries to lift her hand but he catches it, forcing it back down. She blinks slowly.

"You're bleeding," she says.

At first, he thinks she's delusional. Then he feels a burning warmth on his face. He reaches up and wipes away dark blood. He trails his fingers up more and finds out that his eyes are hot and stinging, the blood trail starting from his eyelids. He wipes roughly at them, refusing to believe that he's this emotional, and too worried to care why it is blood and not water.

Katniss watches him, still blinking too slowly.

"I told you I trusted you."

He can't come up with a decent reply. She closes her eyes and falls asleep.