I don't really like Gale and Madge - it is more than improbable, but this felt right. This is AU - Katniss and Peeta never went to the Games, but they did start dating. I think I could've done better with this, but I'm in a bit of a slump at the moment. Enjoy!
One Hundred Percent
I heard this news today, all about your new romance. There is always going to be someone better than me, I guess I never had a chance.
- The New Disease, Everclear
He stands in front of the cracked mirror, looking at his reflection in the dirty glass. He wears a mask, an emotionless farce. But its not real. If he looks close enough, he can see his pained expression buried underneath all that nothing. He knows has to keep trying, trying to make himself void of all emotion. Then maybe one day his façade would trick even himself.
My name is Gale Hawthorne.
I am twenty. No…nineteen. I'm not sure.
Katniss Everdeen is not mine.
So get over it.
Silently, only in his mind, he repeats the mantra over and over, until he can think it mindlessly. He burns it into his brain. Maybe if he did it enough, it would get better. He'd finally accept it, maybe even move on.
He turns around, pretends to have been rubbing at a spot on his shirt, and looks up at the person. It is Madge. The room is so dim that he can only see her faint outline, but he knows it is her.
Madge has become his best friend, his comrade of sorts. They understood each other so well - Gale is hopelessly in love with Katniss, while Madge has been nursing a ten year crush on Peeta. Each knew how the other felt, and tried to support each other as best they could. After all, the people they have loved have inadvertently fallen in love and were seemingly on the verge of getting married and having children. It is only fair that he and Madge would unite together, if not romantically, then at least as friends. It is a different friendship than he had had with Katniss - Madge is more understanding, more patient and caring. She knows his pain and helplessness just as much as he does.
Gale cringes whenever he thinks of how cruel he used to be to Madge. He had barely known her - only was mean because she was so much richer, so much more privileged then the children in the Seam. He was stupid and awful, and he regrets it every time he looks into her sweet, understanding face. Maybe this is why Katniss has picked Peeta, maybe that's why she does not love him.
"Hi, Madge," he says, trying to ignore this new revelation (He has one just like this at least once a day), but he doesn't hide the pain from her anymore. Madge got it. Madge Undersee understood.
Madge silently pads over to the foot of his bed, grabbing his hand and pulling him down next to her. The bedsprings give a soft creak.
Gale turns his face and looks at her - really looks at her. He immediately saw the hopelessness, the pain. But it seems worse than it has ever been. To him, she seems to be…defeated, something Madge never is. She is the hopeful one, the optimistic side of him.
Then it clicks.
"No," he says slowly, staring directly into her eyes. "No, please tell me-"
She shakes her head, straight blonde hair bouncing in its ponytail. "Peeta proposed," she says dully, brown eyes full of regret. "This morning, in the bakery. His brother told me."
Gale doesn't say anything for a long moment. He feels dead - his brain isn't coming up with any thoughts. No feelings of pain or anger or remorse come to him, as he has expected they would. Maybe because it is over, but he feels relieved. No more worrying, no more obsessing. It has ended - his chances of a relationship with Katniss that has nothing to do with friendship has dissolved completely in less than a second. Now all he has to feel was sadness.
Madge takes both of his hands and squeezed them - her hands are small, dainty. Gale's envelope almost all of hers.
"We can get through this," she murmurs quietly, though her face begs otherwise. She looks strangely broken - like the resilient light that always seems to be shining in her eyes is somehow duller, fractured like a smashed mirror. A tear slips down her cheek.
Gale wants so badly to comfort her, but he doesn't know how. He settles for wiping her tears away, catching each one as they fall down her cheeks. He pulls her close, putting her whole body onto his lap and rocking her like a small child. She sobs into his shirt.
"I'm so confused," she whispers, fingers tightening on his collar. She looks up at him, eyes still full of tears.
"Peeta doesn't deserve you," he says adamantly, gripping her harder. "You're too good for him.
She shakes her head even as he says the words. "No, Gale. You don't understand…it hasn't been Peeta for a while - at least, not really. It's been you," she breathes, eyes wide and full of pain. Her cheeks are streaked with tears.
His heart, which has been dulled since hearing the news, gives a jolt at hearing this. The emotions surprise him - for the first time in a long time, he felt hopeful. Happy, even.
Madge reacts badly to his silence. "I'm sorry," she mumbles through her tears, pushing herself off of his lap.
In a split second - Gale makes a decision. Katniss is gone, and he knows it. But maybe Katniss isn't what he really needs. Katniss is too strong, and she only understood the side of him that was just like her. But Madge - Madge saw almost everything about him that he has always tried to hide from others. His hurt, his pain, his anger. How he sometimes just broke down and cried for no other reason than just wanting to give up. She knows his dreams - even the one about wanting to shove all the Peacekeepers into the electric fence - and his hopes for the future. And she gets him - all of him - in a way that Katniss never has.
He catches her as she tries to stand up, hooking his arms around her and pulling her back onto him. She twists her head to looks up at him, wide, pretty eyes full of surprise. And love. Definitely love - how has he never seen it? It isn't fiery, not like Katniss, but it is strong all the same. Strong and lasting.
"No," he says quietly, burying his face in her hair. "Stay."
They sit in complete silence for what seems like hours, just listening to the sounds of their breathing. It comforts Gale in a way he has never thought he could be.
After what seems like ages, Madge stands up. She blushes as his arms immediately reach up to pull her back in.
"I have to go back home," she breathes quietly, her eyes warm. "See you tomorrow?"
He nods. "Tomorrow." He walks her to the front of the house, opening the door for her. Surprising even himself, he swoops down and kissed her lightly on the cheek, causing her to blush hard. He waves as she leaves, and doesn't stop until she is only a pinprick on the horizon.
He is not in love with Madge Undersee - at least, not yet. But he is positive, one hundred percent sure, that he can be. The thought makes him happier than he has been in a very, very long time.
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