I'm a long-time contributor to this site, and recently read "Hunger Games". This is an idea I came up with, based on an idea for an interesting character combination and a Ray Bradbury story. To start things off, I decided to postpone the exposition I had planned and open with a good "in media res"...

Gale Hawthorne awoke with a woman in his arms. His first impulse was to check who it was. He looked to find his companion already looking at him with wide, somewhat slanted eyes. For a moment, he had a vision of a half-seen, scaly visage half-seen in darkness, just before it struck. Then the face resolved itself into a very familiar one, gazing patiently yet expectantly at him in the early morning light. "Katniss," he said.

"You sound surprised," she said.

Memories of the previous night rose in Gale's mind, blurred impressions of ecstatic frivolities that ended at the door of a concrete cabin, and other scenes of previous days and nights, sharp yet oddly disjointed, like cue cards seen from a stage. "I guess I need time to get used to this," he said.

"Time to get used to being married to me?" Katniss asked.

"Well, it's only been one night," he said. "I can't say it's the first thing I would have expected, either. Especially not with you." As he spoke, he recalled something he had overheard his father say once. It had gone to the effect that if one awoke in bed with a woman without a clear idea how one got there, it was best to get out as quickly as possible. It was one of the nicer things he could recall his father saying about women.

He started to sit up, but supple arms drew tighter around him. "But you wanted this," Katniss said, pressing closer. She was clothed in a nightshirt, which Gale knew was more than she would be wearing if anything had happened. But if the night of the Toasting had been anticlimactic, she was clearly more than willing to give him another pass.

He gently but firmly extricated himself. "I have, for as long as I've wanted anyone," he said. "But I can wait. I need to go search the woods, to see if there are more people like us. If we made it, others could have too. You should come with me. You love the woods."

"No," Katniss said. "I loved being in the woods with you. You and my father. Now that we're here, I don't care as much about the woods."

"Then come and be with me, and we'll relive old times," Gale said. He threw open the curtains. The cabin window looked across a lake, surrounded by mountains and forest. Around the edges of the lake were other cabins. They were well-spaced, and built with an eye to camouflage, but they were all over, and where he spotted one, as often as not he saw another. It was a sizable village worth of cabins, and the cue cards in his mind showed him its construction.

First, it was him and Katniss, hiding out from the Capitol in a one-room cabin used by her father, fleeing a convoluted scheme to force Katniss to marry another young man. Then their families followed, and friends, even Katniss's official fiancee Peeta, and they had met up with people who had been living in the forest all along. At first, they made do with hiding in caves and crude tents, avoiding any semblance of new construction that might attract the attention of the Capitol hovercraft that could be seen cruising overhead. But then there was the great exodus, waves of scores and hundreds of refugees from District 12 with ever more dire tales of Capitol crackdowns and attrocities, and finally of a conflagration that wiped out District 12 and rumors of a general rebellion. By then, Capitol craft were nowhere to be seen, and people were freely building their own houses, at first only crude lean-tos, and then simple cabins, and soon enough good-sized houses. But he insisted on staying in the first simple cabin, and when Katniss agreed to marry him, they took the Toast and she moved in that very night.

Cue cards in Gale's mind put names and faces to cabins. The nearest belonged to his family, and Katniss's. A lakeside cabin in the near distance belonged to Haymitch, champion of the Capitol's cruel Games. Another, almost directly across the lake, held an old man named Jan Donner, who lived with his granddaughter Jo. Donner had been one of a number who had been living in the woods even before the migration. Next door were three others, a woman named Twill and her husband and daughter.

Gale's gaze flicked back to the Donner cabin, to glimpse a moving figure that was utterly innocuous, except that the furtive manner of movement suggested someone who did not wish to be seen. Then he noticed something else that seemed off. The figure- he was fairly sure it was a woman- had hair dyed an unnatural red and styled in spikes, like something out of a bygone Capitol broadcast. "I should go outside for a while," he said to Katniss.

"But you cannot go out today," Katniss said. "We have to be here when our families and friends come to congratulate us. My own family said they would be coming over for breakfast."

"Yes. Your mother. And Prim," Gale said. He wondered why he felt a chill rising in him.

"And my father," Katniss said.

"Yes. Of course. Your father," Gale said. Outside the window, the woman was drawing closer. From around a tree, she waved, as if trying to get his attention. She glanced over her shoulder, and then ran. "I think I shall wait for them on the porch."

The front porch was almost as big as the cabin interior, and set up with benches and a decent-sized dining table. He was greeted by a woman he knew well, and regarded with a kind of condescending endearment: Old Silly Dilly Cartwright, who a placecard told him was now wife of Peeta Mellark. He had a satisfying vision of his old rival living with Dilly in a luxurious house on the far side of the lake, just out of sight. Dilly chattered randomly as she dropped off a basket ot rolls. He remembered something else his father said, about how a woman talking was like a squeaky wheel, and Dilly was one person who lived down to it. Gale nodded and smiled along until she wandered off, marveling at her banality and wondering what even Peeta could have done to deserve being married to her. "Hey," a voice hissed, "Other Lover Boy."

He looked down to see the woman from Donner's house, crouched in the bushes. "Do I know you?" he said, puzzling over the question himself.

"Yes, you know me," the woman said. She spoke through gritted teeth, and he got the feeling that she was compensating for a feeling of doubt or uncertainty about what she said. "My name... is Johanna... Mason... I come... from District Seven. I came here... with you... and we are not... where you think... You must... come with me... now."

Just then, Katniss appeared at Gale's elbow, or else she had gotten there so silently that he did not notice. "I am sorry, but my husband can't come out now," she said. "But we can give you tea."

Johanna nodded and mounted the steps, smiling. "Do I know you?" Katniss asked.

The guest looked at her and smiled wider. "No," she said, "you don't." With that, still smiling, she thrust a knife into Katniss's heart.