Heyy everyone, I do apologise for the delay in posting this I've been working on my other fics ;) Anyway, as always, thanks for reading in advance and thank you for those who have reviewed already. I love to hear what people think of this XD
Just a note: Originally wrote this with Annie still as Annie Cresta. Someone mentioned it as odd and now I read it back, it works better with Odair anyway. I think we'll have a point in time when Annie loses that last name, though. This is a fic about moving on. Maybe it was a bit soon though.
I hope you enjoy this chapter (I enjoyed writing it) and please remember to review xxx
PS. I don't own Hunger Games, or Annie and Gale. I do own the OCs though.
... GALE HAWTHORNE ...
"You alright, Gale?"
My head snaps up to see Tobias Daniels, a soldier from 13 who's somehow managed to stick around and get involved in the new government, standing in front of my desk.
"Nah, man. I'm fine."
"You look like you've been up all night." He says, perching on the edge of the desk and knocking a folder to the floor in the process. I leap forward, scrambling to catch it.
"Yeah, well, that's 'cause I have." I say, standing and shoving the folder grumpily back on the desk, shooting a glare in Tobias's direction. "Paylor asked me to have a look at some of these plans for district 12 since I know the area." Apparently, they've shut down the Seam and they're planning on building a medicine factory, except where Paylor's proposed building it, the workers would have to cross above a particularly precarious section of the mine tunnels every day. I spent all night, looking over the folders, working out new plans, but I don't mind. Doing something positive for 12 and the people back there helps. You know, it helps me feel like I'm starting to make up for... stuff.
I look back at the papers strewn across my desk and the endless notes and suggestions I've made and sigh.
"I sort of got carried away."
"Looks like it." Tobias says picking up a file and flicking through it boredly. A smirk creeps across his face. "Been spending a lot of time with Annie Cresta, haven't ya?"
I sit back in my chair and regard him through narrowed eyes.
"I guess so." I say. I don't bother to correct him about her name.
It's been nearly a week since we made that pact to help each other get over our losses and get home, and I've spent a good couple of hours every day with Annie at the fountain, as well as sitting with her at every meal and moving in to the room next door to hers. Of course that raised some eyebrows. Annie had been reluctant at first, but I've only switched rooms so I can get to her when she has an episode and help her as I said I would. She hasn't had one yet and from what she's told me about them, I'm actually a little worried about my first encounter with one. I've been selfishly trying to convince myself she's getting better and she won't have another one that I'll have to deal with.
Regarding the room switch, my intentions may be innocent, but it seems that Tobias – and everyone else apparently – has got the wrong idea...
Tobias's grin turns wolfish.
"She's kind of hot." He says. I scowl at him, suddenly defensive.
"Don't say that."
He just smirks at me.
"Oh come on, Gale. Don't tell me those green eyes don't do it for you. Oh and that ars..."
My fist comes down on the table without me even thinking about it.
"Don't talk about her like that!"
Tobias holds his hands up with a laugh.
"Hey man, she's all yours. Heard she's a little loopy."
"She is not loopy." I say furiously, shooting to my feet. "You'd be damaged too if you'd been through half of what she has."
Tobias backs off, slipping off the edge of the table and putting a few feet between us. Generally, since me and him met in 13, we've always got on pretty well... but he has been at the wrong end of my fist a few times before.
"Look, Gale, I didn't mean it." He says. "I know she's had it hard. I was just teasing." When I don't stop glaring at him, he heaves a great big sigh. "Really, Gale, I'm sorry. Everyone agrees it's nice to see you doing something other than moping around after the Mockingjay."
I feel myself tense up. There were so many things wrong with that sentence I can't even begin to refute it all.
"Me and Annie aren't like that." I say heatedly. "We've both lost people. We're just helping each other."
Tobias grins at me.
"Right." He says. "She's too old for you anyway."
"Yeah." Tobias says. "What were you... like ten when she won her Games?"
"Fourteen." I snap. "And she's only three years older than me." He laughs.
"Okaaaay." He says, drawing out the sound in a way that makes me want to smack him one. I glare at him again.
"She is not too old for me and it doesn't matter anyway because it's not like that. She still loves Finnick."
Tobias makes an apologetic face.
"Aw man." He says, shaking his head. "Avoid her. You don't wanna be the rebound guy."
I lob a pencil at his face.
"Piss off, Daniels." I say irritably, sitting back down and picking up a pile of papers. I flick through them, hoping he'll get the message to leave me the hell alone. But he doesn't. He just stands there, forlornly rubbing his cheek where my missile hit him.
"You could have taken my eye out." He says and I roll my eyes.
"Just be glad it wasn't the stapler, mate."
He pulls a face.
"Fine." He says with a huge sigh. "I get the message. No teasing you about your little miss Cresta." I open my mouth to tell him she's not my little miss Cresta at all, she's actually still someone else's little Mrs Odair, but he flaps a hand at me. "Oh shut it, Hawthorne." He grins. But then the grin fades and he pauses, suddenly serious. "Did you hear she went to see the medics earlier?" He asks.
I look up at him.
"Joel went past her room earlier and heard her chucking up in the bathroom." Tobias shrugs. "He dragged her off with him to get a check up."
"Is she okay?" I ask worriedly.
"I don't know. I think Joel is with her but I haven't seen him since."
I shoot to my feet.
"Is she still there now?"
"I already told you." He says. "I don't know. You'll have to go see."
I start stacking papers haphazardly, stuffing wads of them into files. Ugh, Paylor's going to kill me for messing them all up. I look at Tobias pleadingly.
"Will you file these away for me?"
He backs away.
"What? No way!"
"Aw come on." I whine. "I'll cover your patrol shift this afternoon."
"Fine." He says, and then he suddenly looks mischievous. "I'm meant to be on refugee duty today."
I groan. Everyone hates the sorting and redistribution of refugees, who, despite the two months since the Capitol fell and they arrived here, are still numerous, but well, someone's got to do it. And according to Paylor, trained soldiers are the men for the job.
"Fine. Whatever." I say, stepping out from behind the desk and heading towards the door. I look back over my shoulder. "Just make sure these are all sorted out and in the proper files."
"Yes, boss." He says, flopping down in the chair with a sigh. When I pause in the doorway, he looks up at me. "Go on. I can sort a few files, you know." He puts on a dramatic voice. "Go. Run to your little lady. I'll just drown back here under mountains and mountains of paper..."
"If I had another pencil," I say drily. "I'd throw it at you."
"Get out of here, loverboy." He says. I shoot him a glare and slam the door shut behind me, stalking off through the corridors towards the medical suite.
Loverboy. I shake my head in disgust. Tobias is such a child.
Come to think of it, though, I can remember a time when that nickname belonged to someone else and I would've given anything to be him...
I crunch through the dry leaves out through the gardens towards the fountain. As I hurried through the mansion, I'd bumped into Joel who told me he'd stuck around outside the room whilst Annie was checked over. He said after about half an hour, she'd reappeared, her face as white as paper and her eyes glassy with tears. She'd muttered a thank you to him and then legged it, heading off towards the gardens.
I'm guessing she went to the fountain. Where else?
I might not like Annie in a romantic way (although Tobias may suggest otherwise) and I might have my own problems, but I do care about her and Joel's description of her reaction to the check up has got me worried. What could be wrong with her?
I spot her sitting on the edge of the fountain – her huge coat wrapped tightly around her, her boots on the floor beside her – and hurry down the path towards her.
"Annie." I call as I grow nearer. "Annie, are you okay?"
She doesn't turn, but I see her lift her hand to wipe her face. My heart jumps anxiously.
"Annie?" I ask nervously, as I stop just behind her. I hear her take a wobbly breath and then she turns her head to look at me. Her cheeks are stained by tears.
"Hi Gale." She says with a weak smile. "Where have you been? You weren't in your room this morning."
"I was just sorting some stuff out." I say, waving my hand dismissively as I move over to sit next to her on the wall, facing the other way to her so as not to get my boots wet again. "What about you?" I ask tentatively. "Joel told me he took you to the medic."
Her eyes flutter shut, moisture still glistening in her lashes, but she doesn't answer.
"Annie?" I prompt gently. "Is everything alright?"
I wait silently as those pretty green eyes open and flicker across to meet mine. Her cheeks are still wet with tears and look horribly pale in the thin sunlight. She looks so tired and sad, even more so than on that first day I joined her at the fountain. I reach out to take her hand and find her fingers are cold.
"I'm pregnant." She says, her voice barely a whisper.
I stare at her, thinking I've heard wrong.
"I'm pregnant." She repeats and a few more tears trickle down her cheeks. Unfortunately, my brain is a bit slow to respond and is apparently not engaged with my mouth.
"Is it Finnick's?" I ask without thinking. A look of hurt crosses her face and she pulls her hand from my grasp, turning away and folding her arms across her chest.
"Of course." She says.
I wince as she closes up before my very eyes.
"Oh God, Annie." I say apologetically. "I didn't mean to ask that." She doesn't reply. "Annie." I whisper. "I'm sorry. I was just shocked."
"How do you think I feel?" She asks, turning back to me, despair in her eyes. "I'm going to have a baby and I have to do it all on my own."
"You're not on your own." I say automatically. Her lips part a little and her damp eyes widen. I realise what I've said, what I've committed to and begin to flush. A ghost of a smile traces Annie's lips.
"You're blushing." She says. I purse my lips briefly before continuing.
"What I meant," I say carefully. "Is that you don't have to do this all on your own. I'm not going to go back on my promise and run off just because you're pregnant. In fact," I add triumphantly. "This is a good thing."
Her eyebrows crease.
"Really?" She asks sceptically.
"Yes." I say. "It gives you more incentive. You don't want to have a kid here, do you?" When she shakes her head, I carry on enthusiastically. "Well then. We've got a date set now, haven't we? We're going to have to get you out of the Capitol before you have this baby."
Her eyes light up a little but then her shoulders slump.
"But I can't cope on my own in 4." She says sadly. "It would have been bad enough on my own, but now I've got a child to think about."
"Well," I say, thinking quickly. "We don't necessarily have to go back to 4. If I manage to get back to 12, you could stay with me for a bit. Or we could go to 7 and find Johanna, if you want."
"We?" She asks.
"We made a pact. We're in this together until we're both sorted."
And then she smiles, a real, proper smile, and it's one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time.
"I'm going to have a baby." She says, shaking her head in wonderment. "I'm going to have a baby."
I wake up that night to screaming.
I throw back the covers and leap out of bed, racing through the darkness towards the door. And promptly smack into the wall. Oh right. New room.
The screams grow louder and cursing under my breath, I grope blindly along the wall, looking for either the door or a light switch. This situation is exactly the reason why I swapped rooms and moved in next door to Annie, and now I can't even get to her.
"I'm coming, Annie." I mutter, and then my hand closes around the door knob. Yes. Flinging it open, I swing round into the dimly lit corridor, covering the small distance between our doors in seconds. My hand finds her door handle and I tug at it but it won't budge. Key. I need a key. Where the hell did I put it? I stumble back into my own room and flicking on the light, spot it on my bedside table. I hear another terrified shriek and with renewed anxiety, I grab the key and race back round to her door.
"Annie, hold on!" I call, struggling frantically to fit the key in the lock, panic making my fingers clumsy. "Come on, you stupid thing." I growl on hearing another scream inside. "Come on." And then door flies open and I'm inside. "Annie!" I cry, slamming a fist into the switch and flooding the room with light. "Annie, I'm here..."
I falter, my voice fading away to nothing, my hand dropping back to my side.
Because she's on the floor, curled up in a ball with her arms wrapped around her head and her legs pulled up to her chin, sobbing and shaking and screaming uncontrollably.
I hover just inside the room, my eyes wide and my lips parted in horror. She told me her episodes are bad but I never expected this. God, no wonder she was so reluctant to give me a key to her room. I edge further into the room, pushing the door shut behind me. What do I do? Swallowing hard, I make my way slowly towards her, dropping to my knees beside her curled up form.
"Annie." I say, reaching out to touch her arm. "Annie, it's okay." As soon as my fingers make contact with her skin, she recoils, scooting across the floor away from me with a sob.
"Please don't hurt me." She cries, looking at me with wide wet eyes. "I don't know anything! I don't know anything!"
I start to panic. I don't know what to do. I'm not Finnick. I promised her I'd help her, but now, kneeling next to her, seeing her look up at me like I'm about to hurt her, I have no idea how I'm going to fulfil that promise.
"Annie." I begin tentatively, edging towards her again. "Annie, it's okay. It's just me."
The look of pure terror that crosses her face actually makes my chest hurt.
"I don't know anything about it, I swear." She whispers, tears streaking down her cheeks. "Finnick never told me."
"Told you what?" I ask gently, reaching for her again. She shrieks again, pressing her hands into her eyes.
"I don't know anything about it!" She cries again. "No more needles, no more needles, please!"
I stare at her helplessly. How did Finnick do this? Annie never told me what he did to talk her down. I wonder what brought on this episode. Maybe the fact that she's going to have a kid has finally sunk in and it's pushed her off the edge. I'm suddenly worried that the stress of her episode is going to hurt the baby and realise I'm just going to have to make this up as I go along.
Setting my jaw in resolve, I grab her arms tightly, forcing her to look at me. She screams again.
"Annie!" I yell over her screaming. "Annie, it's okay, it's just me. It's Gale."
"Let me go!" She shrieks, struggling against my grasp.
"It's not real!" I grunt , holding her firm as she fights back. Damn, she's strong. "It's not real. You don't have to go through this, Annie." I have no idea if this approach is going to help her or just make it worse, but going at things head on was always the way I've found works for me.
Annie suddenly stops fighting and stares at me, still terrified, but now looking rather confused too. Feeling hopeful, I try again.
"It's me." I say again. "It's just Gale. I'm not going to hurt you."
She blinks at me.
I shake my head.
"No, Annie. Finnick's gone. You remember that?"
She shakes her head, pauses for a moment, and then nods.
"Gale." She says finally. "You're Gale."
And then she's suddenly sobbing again, but this time it's not half crazed, it's just devastated. Realising the episode is over, I pull her into my arms and she doesn't resist. If anything she moves closer, shifting further into my lap and pressing her face into my bare chest, her tears hot on my skin.
"Oh Gale," She sobs. "I'm so sorry." My arms tighten around her. God, she's so broken, worse than I ever imagined.
"Sorry for what?" I ask gently, resting my chin on her head.
"For bringing you into this." She chokes. I sigh.
"In case you forgot," I say. "I agreed to help you. Plus," I add with a smile. "It's not like I'm not getting anything out of this. You promised to help me too."
She gives a sort of half laugh, half sob, and then dissolves into complete sobs once again.
"How can I have a baby?" She wails and I press my nose into her hair, holding her tightly. I knew there was something behind this. I knew the pretty smiles couldn't last forever.
"You'll be fine." I say unconvincingly. She lets out another anguished cry.
"No, I won't!" She laments. "I'm a mess."
"It's just the beginning." I tell her softly. "You'll get better. We'll find a doctor..."
"No doctors." She interrupts, lifting her head to look up at me. "They just try to give me drugs and tell me I've got acute mental distress disorder."
"I meant for the baby." I say gently. She sniffs, deflating a little.
I give her a squeeze.
"Everything's going to be fine, I promise."
She lets out a tearful hiccup and then leans back into my chest, pressing her cheek just below my collarbone. Neither of us speak for a little while and I wonder if she's enjoying the human contact as much as I am. I haven't held anyone like this in, in... in fact I don't remember the last time.
I've held Katniss, wrapped tightly in my arms like this before, of course; not for a long long time, though, and thanks to the many stupid mistakes I've made, the awful awful things I've done, I'll never get to hold her ever again. I can't help but wish I could, and that this small feminine body in my lap was hers and not Annie's. I expect Annie is thinking the same about me and Finnick.
But it's actually kind of nice to just sit here with Annie in my arms, both of us still longing for someone we'll never have but neither of us longing for each other. I guess that's why we're drawn to each other, why we've struck up an unlikely friendship... because we understand, to some extent, what the other feels.
I'm ready to move on, I think suddenly. I'm ready to get over Katniss. It's going to be a case of easier said than done, of course - just thinking about Katniss in Peeta's arms makes my heart hurt so badly, I'd happily tear it out – but I want it done. I want to move on. Unrequited love is actually really really exhausting.
I feel Annie's hand come up to trace little patterns on my arm and I close my eyes, her hair tickling pleasantly in my nose. She smells of apples. It's strange. Katniss always smelled of pine.
"Finnick will never know." She whispers suddenly. I frown, so lost in my own thoughts I've forgotten what we were talking about.
"Never know what?" I ask.
"About the baby." She says sadly. "He'll never know he's going to have a child."
"You'll know." I say softly. "And the baby will know what amazing parents she had."
"She?" She inquires, tilting her head up again to look at me.
"I think it'll be a girl." I say.
"I want a boy." She tells me. "A little baby boy with green eyes."
"Chances are it'll have green eyes." I point out. "Considering you and Finnick both have them."
"Finnick's were greener than mine." She says with a sigh. "Like the ocean."
"The ocean's blue." I say, baffled and she lets out a soft giggle, resting her head on my shoulder.
"It is sometimes. But it's green and black and white and silver and red and purple and gold sometimes too."
I ponder this sceptically but then again, what do I know?"
"I've never seen the ocean." I admit.
"I'll take you to district 4." She tells me recklessly. "And you can see the ocean. You can see the cliffs too, and the harbour, and I'll take you out to the island. We can have a picnic."
"Sounds good." I reply. "I'll have to show you 12 too, though." Sadness overcomes me as I think of my home, my district, flattened to the ground. "Probably not much left of what it used to be, though."
She must hear the grief in my voice, because she slips an arm around my back and squeezes gently.
"I'd like to see the forest where you and Katniss hunted." She says softly. I stiffen a little at the mention of Katniss, but then make the conscious effort to relax. I'm supposed to be getting over her, aren't I?
"You know about my hunting?" I ask Annie. I feel her smile against my skin.
"Of course. Everyone talked about it back in 13. Everyone talked about you."
"They did?" I ask, surprised.
"Yes." She says, and then she yawns. "Ooh." She says, lifting her head from my shoulder and blinking sleepily at me. "Sorry."
"It's fine. You should probably get some rest, sleeping for two an' all."
She frowns at me.
"How does that work?"
"Don't ask me. All I know is that my Mom slept a lot when she was pregnant with my Vick, Rory and Posy. I think it's a pregnancy thing."
"Oh." She says, screwing up her face confusedly. "I don't know much about kids. You'll have to tell me what to do."
"Well, if you leave it all to me," And here I gesture towards her still flat stomach. "That's gonna be one messed up kid."
She smiles, but it trails off into another yawn.
"Bed time for you, I think." I say, sliding my hand under her legs and scooping her up. She squeaks in alarm before settling back into my arms as I stand, lifting her with me. I move over to the bed and deposit her gently on it. She shuffles back and wriggles underneath the covers, lying down flat on her back and smiling sleepily up at me. I sit on the edge of her bed next to her.
"You feeling better?" I ask and she nods.
"I think so." She replies, her smile growing shy. "Thank you, Gale." I smile back at her and then suddenly, she lets out a little snigger.
"I've just had an idea." She says, her smile widening and her eyes closing. "Maybe I should ask Johanna for child rearing advice."
I'm suddenly hit by a strange wave of affection for her and laugh, reaching out to smooth her hair back from her forehead.
"Probably not your best idea, sweetheart."
She draws in a sharp breath, her eyes flickering open to meet mine. The term of endearment hangs in the air between us, strange and new and vaguely perplexing.
"Um, well, you better get some sleep now." I say awkwardly. "I'll, ah, pop in here in the morning to check you're alright." I pause. "Is that, uh, is that okay?"
She nods, a strange look in her eyes.
"Yes." She says quietly.
I stand and head towards the door, flicking off the light. I hover for a second, my hand on the door knob, turning back to see her propped up on her elbows and watching me in confusion.
I let out an embarrassed breath.
"Well, uh, Good night, Annie." I say, my voice strangely formal even to my own ears. She offers me a little half smile.
And then with a business-like nod, I shut the door behind me and walk the little way down the corridor back to my own room, wondering what on earth is wrong with me.
Ah Gale. Bless him. He doesn't know how to cope with his own emotions. He is a guy though...
I can't tell you how much fun this is to write, it's just so... fluffy. Gah, I'm loving me some fluff! I hope you enjoyed this chapter, please review and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading xx
PS Can you work out what Annie was seeing during her episode? And did you like Tobias? He's gonna a bit of a permanent fixture from now on, so I hope you did. He does a great job of irritating Gale no end XD
PPS It's also been pointed out that Gale hasn't mentioned Prim yet. I've gone back and added little hints at a deeper grief to both chapters, but in this chapter, Gale is so preoccupied with dealing with Annie's pain that he sort of hasn't had a chance to focus on his own pain. I think he wouldn't just come out and say it, he'd have to trust Annie enough to reveal his grief to her. She's a lot more trusting and open than he is. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, Gale will tell her about his involvement with Prim's death and just because he hasn't yet doesn't mean it won't come up.