Heyy everyone, yes you read right, this is an Annie Cresta and Gale Hawthorne fanfic. Not sure how many there are out there, but I hope you like it. I was actually planning a completely different Annie/Gale fic set five years after the Capitol falls, but well, I was amidst exam pressure and very bored and this happened.
This story, just to warn you, is not action packed, it's about friendship and healing and love. So don't go expecting any bombs or anything ;) Anyway, enough rambling, and on with the story! Please review xx
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters.
... ANNIE ODAIR...
The bombs explode. The Capitol falls. The rebels win.
I fly into the Capitol along with Johanna and other District 13 officials, fully expecting to see Finnick, to feel his touch, hear his laugh...
Coin sends Commander Paylor to break the news – that he's dead, that he's gone that I'll never ever see him again – and my whole world falls apart.
After Coin's death, the other victors leave the Capitol as quickly as they can. They are keen to escape the aftermath, keen to escape the city they hate so much, but I can't seem to find the strength to go home. How can I return to 4? How can I go home to an empty house? Without Finnick, without Mags, without my family, I have nothing whatsoever left in the whole world.
As I watch the hovercrafts rise into the pale sky, the taste of resentment – sharp and metallic like blood – seeps across my tongue.
Beetee still has family in 3, Enobaria has her sister in 2, Haymitch has Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Peeta have each other. Even Johanna returns to District 7 with a man on her arm.
Only Gale stays, seemingly as unable to return home as I am. His family has already left 13 and returned to 12 to rebuild, but he stays with the emerging government in the Capitol, using his startlingly astute political mind as an excuse to stick around.
Back in 13, I was always a little frightened of him, too in awe of him to ever mutter more than a hello. But it didn't matter, I didn't need him. I had Finnick and he had Katniss.
That is until we lost the both of them.
He's bitter, I'm bitter, but even now, stuck in the Capitol as the rebels gradually restore order and reorganise the thousands of confused and bedraggled refugees, I avoid him. We're too different, too preoccupied with our own grief to recognise our similarities.
Sometimes I pass him in the corridor and our eyes meet, but I always look away.
Weeks pass and the country slowly begins to function again. I, however, remain trapped in the past.
I lie on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, just remembering. Sometimes, I remember the good things – Finnick's laugh, the sound of the sea, Claudius Templesmith's voice echoing out across the arena telling me I'd won – but most of the time, I can't remember anything other than pain. Whether real or imagined, I grow unsure.
Like a ghost, I wander around the presidential mansion, avoiding the political meetings and everyone else. I live in a strange sort of purgatory; not dead, but not quite alive, fading memories and bitter fantasies of what should have been haunting my every waking moment.
One crisp, grey morning, nearly two months after the Capitol's fall, I make my way slowly through the gardens, the cracked dying leaves crunching beneath my boots. I sit on the edge of the marble fountain and pulling off my boots and socks, dip my bare feet in the cold water. It has become a regular habit of mine, sitting in the fountain, and Paylor makes sure no one bothers me.
I stare at the rushing water, allowing its frigid temperature to permeate my bones. It reminds me – as much as a fountain in the middle of the land locked Capitol can – of the coolness of the ocean.
I miss the sea. I miss its colour and its depth and its expanse. Tears burn in my eyes.
I want to go home.
A crunching sound behind me makes me jump and I turn to see Gale – his hands rammed deep in his pockets, his eyebrows furrowed – making his way towards me. Without meeting my eye, without saying a word, he steps into the fountain and sits beside me.
I don't know how long we sit there. Me with my damp eyes fixed firmly on my bare feet, him with his fixed firmly on the water gushing over his boots.
"Why don't you just go back to 4?" He asks eventually.
I close my eyes and a warm tear trickles down my cheek.
He doesn't answer.
"Why don't you?" I ask after a minute's silence. A little sigh slips through his lips.
"I can't either."
Neither of us speak again for a little while. I can't think of anything to say because really, I don't know Gale and he doesn't know me. I'm not entirely sure why he's here, why he's sitting next to me with his feet in the fountain.
We're too different to ever understand each other.
Gale Hawthorne charges forward and makes things happen to him. Me? I remain passive, unable to do anything other than let things happen.
Gale Hawthorne fought on on the front lines during the war, a brave soldier, the genius behind many techniques the rebels used to win. And me? I stayed in 13, letting others fight and die for me, hiding underground like a frightened animal.
Gale Hawthorne is strong, fiery and determined. Me? I'm just the poor mad girl from district 4.
Guilt works its way up my throat, thick and as sour tasting as bile. I have to swallow hard.
"I'm sorry." Gale says suddenly.
I glance at him sideways, startled. What has he got to apologise for?
"About what?" I ask hesitantly.
Those stormy grey eyes shift to meet mine.
"Finnick." He replies softly and I can't help it, I flinch a little at his name. Gale's eyes narrow slightly in sympathy as he notices my expression. "He died saving us, you know." He adds.
I don't reply. I don't need to know that Gale is alive because the man I loved most in the whole world is dead.
"He went back." Gale continues quietly. "To stop the mutts getting through, to stop them getting to us."
My eyes flutter shut. Of course he did. Of course Finnick would put Katniss and Gale and Peeta before himself. He'd worked too long for the rebellion to throw it all away by letting the Mockingjay and her lovers die.
"He shouldn't have." I say, bitterness twisting my voice. "He should never have gone with you."
"I know." He replies softly. "But he knew what he was getting into, you know that right?"
I lift my feet from the water and spin round on the fountain wall to shove them back in my boots. Gale watches silently as I stand and look over my shoulder to meet his eyes.
My voice whispers across the water like a cold bitter wind.
"Doesn't make it any better."
The next day, Gale appears at the fountain again. I don't acknowledge his presence, but I don't get up and leave either. I keep my eyes on my toes, watching with satisfaction as they turn a faint shade of blue.
After a few minutes, though, I hear a small rustle and a little bag appears in front of my face.
"Peanut?" Gale asks. I blink a little and he lowers the bag. "They're salted." He falters. "I thought you might like them." I turn to look at him and he shrugs. "You know, the sea is salty an' all."
And then the weirdest thing happens.
I laugh. I actually laugh.
Only a weak giggle, but still a laugh all the same. Gale stares at me in surprise and I clap a hand across my mouth, staring back at him with wide eyes.
"So," Gale says after a moment, giving the bag a shake. "Did you want a peanut?"
Gale joins me at the fountain the following day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and soon it becomes a little ritual. Neither of us speak very much – just the odd, brief conversation about nothing much – but Gale always produces some sort of snack, and I begin to enjoy his company, even if I never speak without him talking first. I grow curious about him, about his family, about why he's still here. Sure I'm sticking around too, but I have nothing for me in 4. Gale? He's got his mom and all those siblings waiting for him back home.
It's not until nearly a two weeks after the first time he joined me, though, that I finally work up the courage to instigate a conversation.
"How is your family?" I ask, popping the last chocolate raisin into my mouth.
"Okay, I think." He says, licking his fingers. If he's surprised I'm finally taking the initiative, he doesn't show it.
"You think?" I question. He shrugs embarrassedly.
"I haven't spoken to them since they went back to 12."
"You haven't spoken to them?" I echo. He shoots me an irritated glance.
"Are you just going to repeat everything I say?" He demands.
I look at him, my lips parted in silent hurt and then I turn back to face the fountain, wrapping my arms around my middle and folding in on myself like damp paper. So much for that conversation.
There's a silence.
"I'm sorry." He says softly.
I don't reply, not for a little while anyway.
"My family are dead." I say eventually, watching my hands twist in my lap. "I'd give anything to be able to see them, just one more time."
In the corner of my eye, I see him swallow.
"I can't go back to 12." He whispers. "I just can't."
"Why not?" I look at him then. "They're rebuilding. Your family is there."
"Katniss is there." He snaps. "Katniss and Peeta."
Resentment tightens in my chest and I feel my lips twist.
"At least she's alive, Gale."
He glares at me, his eyes angry.
"At least Finnick chose you." He retorts fiercely. "You knew Finnick loved you." He continues sourly. "Katniss didn't and she never will, not after..." He falters, but then his jaw sets and the bitterness returns. "Katniss never loved me."
I am suddenly furious that he can even think of comparing our situations.
"Finnick's dead." I spit.
"Katniss might as well be dead to me." He replies.
I shoot to my feet.
"You are such a child." I growl, glowering down at him. "You have no idea how selfish you sound! Katniss is happy, your family are alive, you can see them any time you like. You've lost nothing, Gale, nothing!" Tears well up in my eyes and I brush them roughly away. "I've lost everything that ever mattered to me, Gale. Finnick, Mags, my family!"
He leaps up too, towering over me, his lean strength intimidating.
I shrink back under his furious gaze.
"Don't you dare tell me I've lost nothing." He hisses. "I've lost my home, my friends, the girl I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with..."
"She's still alive, Gale!" I interrupt angrily, folding my arms across my chest. "You could still see her if you want!"
His lips twist and there's such grief, such bitterness in his eyes, it makes me wonder if there's more to this. If there's something even deeper than Katniss and Peeta that's eating him away.
"You don't get it do you?" He growls. "No one ever doubted that Finnick loved you. God, you should have seen him when we were in 13 and you were in the Capitol. He was a mess." He shakes his head, raking a hand through his already unruly hair. "Everyone knew I loved Katniss, everyone thought it'd be me she chose. Except she didn't. She chose Peeta and she left me and everyone knows why!" He turns away, so much pain in his voice it makes my chest ache. "Everyone knows she doesn't want me. Everyone knows she can't stand to be near me." He continues, his voice cracking. "I can see it when they look at me. They all pity me."
My anger dissipates like mist because I know how he feels, I know what it's like for everyone to think you're broken, for everyone to see you as someone to be pitied. I reach out to tentatively touch his arm.
"I'm sorry, Gale." I whisper. "I didn't... I never..."
His breath shudders through him and he turns slowly to face me.
"I bet you think I'm a mess." He says, a little rueful smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
"No more than me." I say. His laugh holds no humour.
"The widow and the scorned lover. We make a great pair."
The word lover intrigues me. More than it probably should.
"Were you and Katniss ever..." I begin, flushing slightly, wondering why I'm even asking this question. "You know," I carry on hesitantly. "Like that?"
"No." He sighs heavily and then his eyes lift to meet mine. He quirks a dark eyebrow. "I'm guessing you and Finnick were." My cheeks darken even more and this time when he chuckles, there's a faint intonation of affection. "You're cute when you blush." He tells me.
I sit back down on the wall, heaving a great big sigh.
"Finnick used to tell me that." I say sadly.
"You were a good couple." He replies, sitting next to me. "Everyone thought so."
I open my mouth to tell him that he and Katniss were perfect for each other when it hits me that actually, that isn't true.
"You and Katniss weren't." I tell him. His head jerks towards me.
"You could do better." I say. He's still staring at me in shock and I nudge my knee against his. "You were too similar," I tell him. "You were both all fire and strength and fight. You clashed."
"We didn't." He protests.
"Yes, you did." I say. "I don't know how I never noticed before."
"She was my best friend." He says. "I loved her. I still do."
"I'm not saying you don't. I just think that you weren't right for each other. She needed someone who'd balance her out."
"And you think I didn't?" He snaps.
"I think Peeta does it better." I see in his eyes that I've gone to far and immediately regret my outspokenness. "Gale, I..." I try to apologise but he cuts me off.
"Thanks a lot." He snaps, leaping to his feet and storming off across the fountain. I jump up and follow him, hitching my dress up to my thighs and hopping out of the fountain as he stomps off down one of the garden's pathways. The dead leaves on the ground prickle my feet and the wind bites at my bare ankles as I race after him.
He ignores me and I have to break into a jog to catch up with him. When I finally do, I grab his arm, darting in front of him to stop him going any further.
"Listen." I say a little breathlessly. "I'm sorry. That was mean, but it was true." He glowers down at me.
"Get out of my way."
"No," I grab his other arm too. "Listen to me. I know you love her, Gale, but doesn't that mean you should be happy for her? Peeta's better for her, he'll help her heal."
"I could help her heal." He says, his bottom lip jutting out.
"You could help me heal." I say without thinking. His eyebrows shoot upwards and I feel myself flushing again. "I mean," I say embarrassedly. "That we can help each other heal."
He regards me silently for a moment.
"What makes you think we need healing?"
My own eyebrows raise.
"You're love sick and terrified of going back to 12." I say. "I'm insane and terrified of going back to 4. I think we could both do with a bit of help."
The corner of his lips rises.
"You're insane?" He questions.
"So they tell me." I give him a funny look. "I thought everyone knew I was crazy."
He chuckles softly.
"I just thought you might be getting better. You don't really act insane... not all the time anyway."
"I don't know. I might be getting better but I'm not really sure. I'm still having episodes. Mostly at night though."
"Episodes?" He asks. "Like nightmares?"
"Sort of." I say, wrapping my huge coat tighter around me as the wind somehow gets colder. "But they're more intense. I feel like I'm there, wherever that may be, in the arena, in the Capitol's torture rooms, and it's not something I can really wake up from."
His forehead furrows.
"You can't wake up from them?"
"I have to wait for them to end." I say miserably. "Finnick and Mags used to be able to talk me down, but..." My shoulders slump. "But they're not here anymore."
He watches me for a moment, his eyes sad.
I look down, my bare feet wavering my vision as tears cloud my eyes.
"You think we can help each other?" He asks suddenly. I lift my head to stare up at him in surprise and a faint smile traces his lips. "You help me get over Katniss and I'll help you with your episodes."
"How?" I give a little sniff. He pulls a face.
"I don't know." He says. "But I know I want to go home one day and I won't be able to until I accept Katniss is gone and get over her."
I know what he's saying applies to me too, but the thought of accepting that Finnick is my past now makes my throat ache.
"I don't want to get over Finnick." I say. "I love him."
He contemplates for a moment, his lips pursed in concentration.
"Maybe you don't have to stop loving him." He says. "Maybe it doesn't have to work like that. But you want to go home, don't you?" I nod. "Good. Me too." He sets his jaw decisively. "Well then, that settles it."
I frown confusedly.
"Our goal." He lifts his chin confidently. "Our goal is to work up the courage get home."
I think about my empty house on the cliff tops back in 4.
"I don't know if I can." I whisper.
"Of course you can." He says. "I don't know how we'll do it, but we'll get home. I'll go back to my family and you can go back to..." He falters and I give him a little sad smile.
"Nothing. I'll go back to nothing."
"You had friends, didn't you?" He asks. I shake my head.
"I was the mad girl. People stayed away from me."
"We'll think of something." He tells me. "You could go to 7 with Johanna." His lips curl upwards in an amused smile. "I'm sure once she's got bored with that guy she dragged back with her, she'll be looking for some company." I let out a little snigger, because that'd be so like Johanna, and Gale's eyes light up."See." He says, holding out a hand to me. "You're getting better already."
I eye his outstretched hand warily before lifting my gaze to meet his. There's a question in those grey eyes and I know that if I accept his hand, I'm accepting his challenge, accepting the goal of getting over Finnick and moving on.
"Annie." He says and I realise it's the first time he's ever said it. I like the way it sounds. It's kind and caring and full of hope.
And so I reach out and take his hand.
Ahh I do like Gale, more than I ever liked Peeta. And yes, I'm still a Finnick/Annie fan to the death, but it's nice to try something different for a change. Please review, I'd like to see if anyone's interested in a story like this :)