Part 1-Ghosts Across My Heart
It starts when she's born to a mother with a broken heart and a father too weary to carry them both. She comes into the world in a house shadowed in painful memories and haunted by the ghost that shares her mother's face. Heartbreak is coded into her DNA and she learns early that hearts are fragile, breakable things.
Madge's heart breaks before she even knows such a thing is possible.
Heartbreak follows her into childhood, falls in step with her at school.
Children from the Seam watch her, watch her with accusation and hostility and resentment. They avoid her, keep their distance, but always their gaze sticks to her, like needles in her skin. They hate her but she is young and doesn't understand. She doesn't understand why, just that it hurts.
She tries to make friends, to endear them to her. She buys them cookies and hands them out after class, but the older kids glare with such force it almost sends her to her knees. We don't want your charity they spit and she shakes her head, because it isn't charity, she swears it isn't. They kick dirt at her, laugh at her dress, accuse her of thinking she's better than them, of lording her money over them. It isn't true, none of its true, but they don't listen, too busy hating her for things she can't control. They throw her cookies on the ground, crush them with their feet and she can feel the tears prickle at her eyes.
Madge doesn't bother trying to make friends after that.
The town kids aren't much better. They aren't as bad as the Seam, but her clothes always outshine theirs and her food always outclasses whatever they have. They watch with narrowed eyes as she eats pretty meals and they crunch on stale bread and spotted fruit. They're polite but distant and Madge sits alone, a class unto herself.
She'll never be reaped is whispered through the halls, never go hungry.
She doesn't understand, she'll never understand
Buddy-buddy with the Capitol
thinks she's so much better
we're starving and she wastes money on pretty little hair ribbons
Madge builds armour around her heart but it isn't to keep her safe, it's to hide her broken heart from the rest of the world.
She goes home in tears and falls into her father's arms, her words a blubbery mess. He strokes her hair, whispers soothing words and finally she calms enough to tell him about school. Tells him about how they hate her, how alone she is, how much it hurts. His face is sad, so terribly, horribly sad and she realizes it's her fault.
She keeps her mouth shut from then on, smiles and says school is fine, everything's okay. Seeing her father that sad breaks her heart in ways nothing else could. She resolves to be strong because her father's already carrying too much. She won't let her heartbreak be a burden for him to bear.
Instead she carries it herself, the weight growing familiar on her shoulders.
And then comes Katniss. She's resigned herself to a life on her own, quiet and kept apart from the other students. But then comes lonely, closed off Katniss Everdeen and Madge's heart starts to feel almost mended. They sit together at lunch and even though they don't talk much, she feels warm just having someone there. They pair up in class and make a good team, falling into rhythm with ease. They walk together sometimes and companionship feels like a balm to her fraying edges. They're quiet and alone and they fit together better than most.
Madge has her very first friend and it feels nice, incredibly so and she feels smiles come naturally to her lips. School becomes okay, becomes bearable because she isn't doing it alone anymore, Katniss is facing it with her.
And Madge begins to think, begins to believe, that broken hearts are a thing of the past.
But Katniss brings heartbreak with her, drags it behind her until Madge is floundering in it.
Katniss is Madge's best friend, her only friend, but Madge isn't hers. Katniss' best friend is Gale Hawthorne and Madge knows it, knows she'll never be as important to Katniss as Katniss is to her.
She meets Gale for the first time one day when Katniss brings her fresh strawberries from the woods. Katniss stands by the back door, the basket in hand and Gale stands beside her, eyes darting each and every way, posture ready to flee as if expecting a Peacekeeper ambush at any moment. He meets her eyes for barely a second, but she can see in his gaze that he doesn't trust her, that he expects an ambush because he expects her to sell them out.
Madge feels the sting straight through her bones but doesn't react because if there's one thing Madge is used to, it's being hated. And hate her he does.
His body stiffens any time they're in the same general space, his lips curl, eyes narrow. His words are biting, cold and full of venom. She knows he hates her with every breath, hates her for what she has, for what he doesn't have. She understands and doesn't blame him, knows he's simply drowning in a life that refuses to give him a break.
But still, it hurts to see his looks, hear his words and know she'll always be second best to him so she bites back, never as harshly but still with enough edge to give him pause. He hates her and she's jealous of him and she knows he'd hate her worse if she ever said the words aloud.
Gale Hawthorne is hurt and angry and poised like an arrow ready to shoot straight through Madge's heart.
And shoot he does.
Sometimes she thinks she has nothing left to break, but she is always, always wrong.
Reaping day dawns bright and hazy and Madge readies herself for one of the worst days of the year. She hates it, hates it so much she feels like she's burning alive. She is forced to stand and watch two children from her district be reaped, be dragged away to be slaughtered and she can do nothing.
Her chances of being reaped are incredibly slim, which everyone loves to remind her of, as if she could ever forget. No, she does not fear being reaped, she fears the helplessness she feels when she sees others reaped. She wants it to stop, wants the Capitol to burn, wants death to stop haunting their every step.
She wants to save them all but even though she's the mayor's daughter, even though they all think she has the privilege to do whatever she wants, she can't, can't help them, can't save them.
She can't do anything at all.
The day begins with strawberries and Gale's cruel taunts.
She retreats inside after they've left, puts the basket on the counter and prays for them both. Katniss is her dearest friend and Madge prays she'll be spared from the reaping, prays she'll be safe for another year. And even with his harsh edges, Madge knows Gale is a good man, knows he is loyal and brave and caring. Knows he takes care of his family, knows he helps whoever he can, knows that beneath his anger is a loving heart. She prays he'll survive his final reaping, prays his family will never lose him.
Hopes and prayers cannot save everyone, but she hopes she can at least save them. Please, please, please she whispers and then it's time to go and she presses her fingers to Aunt Maysilee's pin on her dress and promises she'll be brave.
But then Primrose Everdeen is reaped and there isn't enough bravery in the world for this.
She has a moment of horror, of sick terror creeping through her veins before the cracks in her heart burst apart.
Katniss Everdeen has volunteered.
Tears burn her eyes as she watches Katniss on stage, watches her best friend try and hide her quaking fear. Prim's screams echo in her ears and Madge clenches her hands so tight she draws blood.
It isn't fair! Not Katniss, not Katniss, not Katniss! Why? It isn't fair! Her mind wails but then, it's never fair.
Madge fidgets in the Justice Building waiting for her chance to say goodbye and she thinks she may vomit. She can see the Mellarks nearby and her heart aches for Peeta. He is so sweet, so kind and he doesn't deserve this.
Nobody deserves this.
She knots her hands in her dress and Gale looks everywhere but at her and she thinks that it should hurt that even now, now when they are both preparing to say goodbye to Katniss, he cannot stand her but her heart's too broken to care.
Her body shakes when it's her turn, but she cannot fall apart. Katniss needs her to be strong and she presses her fingers to the Mockingjay, swearing to keep it together.
Katniss can win this. And Madge will lend her strength, will give her all the courage she can.
Her fingers tighten on the pin.
There is a recap of all the reapings that day but Madge doesn't think she can bear to watch it alone. Her mother's too ill to leave bed and her father's in the town square with the other officials and Madge's house feels much too empty.
She gets up and leaves, heads quickly for the Everdeens' house in the Seam. Curious eyes watch her from dirty windows and she can feel their gazes following her, a mix of surprise and accusation and hostility. You don't belong here their faces whisper but Madge ignores them, walks steadily ahead.
She knocks on the Everdeens' door, hands shaking and then Prim answers, eyes red. Madge's heart snaps a little at the sight and she wants nothing more than to wrap the poor girl in her arms and hug away the hurt. But she knows no hug can fix this.
"Madge?" Prim asks, voice scratchy and Madge feels her insides sag.
"Hello Prim, I was just wondering if you and your mother wanted to come over to my place to watch the Games tonight," she whispers it and wonders why she's being so quiet, but something in her balks at being too loud.
"Actually, the Hawthornes are coming here," Prim tells her and Madge feels herself deflate. It makes sense, makes perfect sense that they would and she feels stupid for not figuring it out on her own.
"But you can stay too if you want," Prim continues and for a moment Madge thinks of saying yes, thinks of staying but she knows she can't. She doesn't belong here and the Hawthornes certainly wouldn't want her intruding on their grief, Gale especially.
She won't be a burden, won't force her way into their home. They deserve to mourn together without a girl they barely know hovering in the background. She smiles as best she can at Prim and shakes her head.
"Thank you very much but it's alright. If you ever want to come by though, you're always welcome." And then she leaves, dark eyes glaring from every direction. She can't go home, can't sit alone in her living room so she heads for the town square where there's always someone.
It might not be real companionship but at least it's something. She settles in at the edge of the crowd when she arrives, takes in the large screen displaying the reaping of District One. Her eyes drift around the square, catching on Gale Hawthorne.
His arms are crossed and his face angry and she realizes that of course he'd be here. He wouldn't want to be confined in the Everdeens' tiny sitting room, surrounded by Katniss' family and his. He seems the type to want to deal with his emotions himself, to want to always appear strong. He's hiding from his family, hiding any emotions that may slip past and Madge imagines holding his hand. She imagines telling him he isn't alone, that she understands how it feels to have to watch his best friend, to watch Katniss.
She knows it isn't the same, knows his friendship is deeper, knows he cares for Katniss as more than just a friend, knows he wouldn't want her empathy.
Still, she imagines them suffering together. Imagines them holding each other together.
But they suffer alone, so close but always too far away.
She alternates between her house and the town square in the next few days, watching the boring interviews and the chatting amongst past victors. She won't see Katniss again until the parade and she hates listening to the commentators talk about her, hates how they laud her bravery but scoff at her chances.
Gale hates it too, she can tell as she catches sight of him watching in the square, recognizes the hatred in his body language.
Katniss is more than just the foolishly brave and she wishes she could shout it across all of Panem. Instead she watches in silence, her hatred for the Capitol growing with every breath she takes.
She thinks sometimes of walking over to Gale, of standing with him.
She never does.
She finds herself in the town square the day of the parade.
Katniss and Peeta are incredible, burning with a fire she can feel in her heart. The crowd loves them and Madge feels long dormant confidence start to rise. Katniss can do this.
Katniss can win.
She finds Gale in the crowd and wanders over, blood thrumming with conviction.
"She can win," she tells him firmly and his jaw clenches.
"I know," he snaps but he doesn't move away and they watch the rest of the broadcast in silence.
They watch it together.
It becomes a sort of routine, the two of them standing beside each other as they watch the Games.
It isn't much but it's enough, enough to have someone who loves Katniss standing with her. She slowly rebuilds the walls around her heart and sends Katniss all the courage she can.
I'm with you
Gale never says a word but Madge is grateful for him, for the strength his presence gives her and she knows, somehow, that he's thankful too.
Sometimes it takes her awhile to realize when her heart starts to crack.
The training scores are revealed and Katniss receives an eleven. Madge feels her jaw drop, because this is the best score she's ever seen. For a moment, she is jubilant. Sponsors will love this, will be clamoring to lavish her in gifts. An eleven!
Gale's eyes are wide but lighter than they've been since this started and hushed murmurs slither through the crowd. An excited bubble builds in District Twelve.
Katniss Everdeen received an eleven in training.
Katniss Everdeen can win.
She should be happy, but something horrible occurs to her. She looks at Gale and he looks back, his face grim. They've both come to the same conclusion.
Katniss received an eleven in training.
Katniss has a target painted on her back.
She finally recognizes the feeling of her heart fracturing.
For the first time since this started, they walk together.
"They did this on purpose," she whispers to him in a rage, her voice strained with all the emotions she can barely contain. "They knew it would make the careers target her." She pauses, breathing ragged. Katniss, Katniss is now top of the careers list. It doesn't matter why, just that she is, just that the judges did this, those monsters sitting safe in the Capitol. They've condemned her and Madge feels tears start, filled with anger and frustration and heartbreak.
It isn't fair.
"I hate them," she hisses and it's dangerous to say things like this, to even think it but she doesn't care, too infuriated with the Capitol to feel any fear. Gale looks at her, shock in his eyes and she wants to laugh and cry and scream. He's always thought he knew her and this is when he starts to realize he's never known a thing.
"I hope she wins. I hope she makes them look like idiots. I hope she proves them all wrong."
The cracks in her heart hold together and for the first time in their lives, Gale Hawthorne looks at her with something like respect.
It only gets worse from there.
They stand closer tonight, arms brushing and the anticipation humming through all of District Twelve makes everyone jittery and ready to burst. No one speaks through the first few interviews, everyone too caught up in the idea that this is it, tomorrow it begins.
Finally the boy from District Eleven steps off the stage and Madge holds her breath. Gale tenses beside her and she wants to squeeze his arm in reassurance, in solidarity. She doesn't.
Katniss steps out and Madge gasps. She looks stunning, looks brilliant. Gale's eyes widen and his stance slackens, a whisper rising through the crowd. They're all captivated by Katniss, every single person in Twelve and, Madge realizes, everyone in the Capitol as well.
Katniss isn't Katniss throughout her interview, except her sweet moment about Prim. Her giggling, her twirling, it hardens Gale's face but Madge understands. It's a ploy, a strategy, a chance to win sponsors. Gale knows it too, but she thinks it makes him angry that it has to happen at all. That Katniss has to play someone else, and maybe even that she's giving in. The Capitol, controlling everything, even your personality.
Katniss leaves the stage with a smile and then out comes Peeta, smiling with an easy charm that seems to warm the audience immediately. As much as Madge wants Katniss to win, she can't help but root for Peeta, can't help but smile softly as he works magic with Caesar. They love him. Gale notices her expression and scowls but she doesn't care. Katniss will always be her first choice but that doesn't mean she wants to condemn Peeta.
And then he drops the bomb that breaks all their hearts.
Caesar asks him about a special girl back home and something twinges in Madge's chest, warns her of oncoming danger. Peeta's smile is sad enough that the audience is already extending their sympathy and then he says it, says the one things none of them ever expected.
"She came here with me."
The square is dead silent and Madge covers her mouth with her hands. Gale is stiff beside her and Katniss' face is shocked and surprised and totally caught off guard. It's a ploy she tries to tell herself, a play for sympathy but she knows, deep down, that it isn't. She feels it like a knife in her chest.
Peeta, oh Peeta
Gale stomps off without a word and she watches his back with tears in her eyes.
Their hearts break like dominoes.
The Hunger Games begin on a Sunday morning, cool and fresh.
Madge stands in the town square and is surprised when Gale joins her. He doesn't look at her, his face resolutely forward and she has to force herself not to reach out and take his hand. Peeta's words reverberate in her head and she's sure it's been even worse for Gale. She wonders how Katniss feels about it, if she even believes it. Maybe it's better if she doesn't.
The tributes rise to their starting positions and Madge barely hears the announcer, her eyes focused on Katniss. A glint of gold assures her that Katniss is wearing her pin and Madge clasps her hands tight above her heart.
Keep her safe Aunt Maysilee, please keep her safe.
And then they're running, each of the tributes sprinting for the Cornucopia and Madge holds her breath. Katniss nearly gets a knife to the back and Madge's heart stops beating. It doesn't start again until Katniss is safe behind the tree line and Madge can feel a cautious sort of relief flow through her. A glance at Gale tells her he is just as on edge and again she has to stop herself from reaching for him.
She turns back to the screen and takes a deep breath.
Gale walks slightly in front of her as they leave the square, just enough so they're not walking together. She watches his back, wonders how he feels and if he talks about it with anyone or if he keeps it bottled up tight like she does.
"She was wearing your pin," Gale mentions, still looking straight ahead. Her eyes widen, surprised he noticed.
"It was my Aunt's," she starts and pauses. She sucks in air through her nose and tries again. "It was her token when she was reaped." She can't see Gale's face and she's glad, not sure if she wants to know what he's feeling.
"My mother gave it to me at my first reaping. She made me promise to wear it, insisted that I'd always be safe if I did. She said Aunt Maysilee would protect me." She stops again, the memory swimming in her eyes. "It's the most lucid I've ever seen her. I know it's stupid and silly to believe in superstitions like that, but...I just wanted Katniss to come back. I just wanted to do whatever I could to keep her safe." Gale doesn't say a word but stops walking, waits for her to catch up.
They walk the rest of the way together.
Nothing in the world has ever hurt like this.
Day in and day out, Madge is forced to watch Katniss fight for her life. She watches her almost die of dehydration, watches her burn, watches her chased up a tree, watches her be stung over and over by tracker jackers, watches her pass out, venom in her veins.
She tries not to think about Peeta, tries not to think of him bleeding out, tries not to think of him dying after warning Katniss to safety.
She goes to the bakery and buys as much as her allowance permits, wanting to do what she can for the Mellarks. She gives some to the Everdeens, wants to make them feel better. She goes home and plays the piano as loud as she can, trying to drown out the terror in her head.
It never works.
Katniss makes an ally of the little girl from eleven, Rue, and Madge knows it won't end well, can't end well.
It's been a week of this, of living on pins and needles. Peeta's dying and Katniss is setting herself up for heartbreak and please, please let this be over soon.
Her heart thuds against her ribs as she watches Katniss and Rue enact their plan to take out the Careers' supplies. Gale stands beside her, fingers digging into his arms and his jaw clenched tight.
"You can do it Katniss, you can do it..." she whispers and Gale nods slightly with her words.
We're with you, Katniss
And then it all goes up in flames, a giant burning inferno swallowing the careers' food and weapons and sending Katniss hurling backwards. Madge gasps and grabs a hold of Gale without thinking, her fingers twisting in the material of his shirt. He doesn't pull away or shrug her off and they draw closer as Katniss crawls beneath a bush to hide.
For the first time, Madge begins to truly feel like they're in this together.
They come to interview them then, all of Katniss' friends and family.
Madge smiles and talks about how much she loves Katniss, how brave she is, how smart. How sweet she is with Prim, how Madge is inspired by her and is ever confident she'll come home. It's a bunch of fluff to enchant the Capitol, to make them love Katniss and support her, sponsor her. It's stupid and tastes bitter on her tongue but Madge is willing to do anything to bring her back.
Gale is less inclined to play ball, especially when they call him her cousin. It's a lie to keep the Capitol's favourite love story alive, to eliminate any potential threats. He is furious and forced to the back, a scowling, silent figure without a voice.
But why should today be any different.
Rue dies the next day.
Madge watches Katniss' heart break and wants nothing more than to reach through the screen and hold her. Katniss sings to Rue as she dies, comforts her but there is no one to comfort Katniss.
Madge feels the tears burn her eyes and she feels useless. Stupid and pathetic and good for nothing.
Gale's hand finds her shoulder, squeezes. She grabs his hand, squeezes back.
They can't be there for Katniss, so they'll be there for each other instead.
On Day 10, the game makers twist her heart in knots.
They announce the rule change, how both tributes from one district can win together. Can go home. The District comes alive at the announcement, because both Peeta and Katniss are still alive. District Twelve can have both their lost children come home.
Except Madge knows it's a lie. She knows the Capitol is doing it to try and force Peeta and Katniss together, to get more mileage out of the "star-crossed lovers".
Gale knows too, his eyes burning with rage and hatred like she's never seen before. They'll probably revoke it at the last minute, because there can be only one winner. They won't let two people walk away, won't let the Districts have this small mercy. It isn't how they work. No, they'll change it. If the boy from eleven or girl from five win, it won't matter but if the last two standing are the two from District Two or Katniss and Peeta, they'll suddenly announce that the rule's been changed back. It will be cruel but the Capitol will devour the drama.
She has never hated anyone more.
"Peeta!" Katniss breathes out as soon as they announce the new rule and Gale looks away, eyes dark. Madge watches him sadly.
No one gets a happy ending. Not when the Capitol's involved.
Peeta is dying.
Katniss finds him but his wound from Cato is killing him. They both know it too. Katniss tries to tend to him, tries to make him better, but she can't save him. Maybe it's better this way. If he dies of his injuries, Katniss won't have to kill him.
Madge wonders if she's an awful person for thinking like that.
Katniss kisses him, kisses Peeta for the first time and Gale tries to be angry but Madge knows he isn't, not really. She presses to his side, hopes he takes whatever comfort he can. She knows this isn't easy but if it brings Katniss home, she'll hope the star-crossed lovers set the Capitol aflame.
Katniss and Peeta play true love well and Madge watches as it rips away at Gale. She knows there's nothing she can say to make it better so she settles for holding his hand throughout. She doubts he wants her sympathy but he never pulls away and she's glad he lets her help, at least a little.
And even though her heart aches for Gale, she cannot help but support their act. It gets them sponsors, gets them food and gives them a chance.
Come home Katniss, I don't care how. Just come home.
They always did say be careful what you wish for.
The Feast is a bloody, awful disaster.
Katniss risks it all for Peeta's medicine and Gale's heart breaks a little more. The girl from two has her head bashed in and her partner begs her to stay with him.
It isn't fair.
But then it's the Hunger Games, it isn't meant to be fair.
She thinks she might be starting to get sick of the way the Capitol forces Katniss and Peeta's love story. Nowhere near as sick as Gale, but sick nonetheless.
She wonders what will happen when Katniss comes home. (Not if, when). She realizes she doesn't care, just as long as Katniss comes back.
Only three left.
Katniss, Peeta, Cato.
Madge knows how she wants this to go, who she wants to kill who, knows who she wants to come out on top.
I'm sorry Peeta. But Katniss, you have to come home. You have to.
On Day 18, Peeta and Katniss are the last two standing.
Madge knows what's coming next and she's right. The Capitol announces the rule's been rescinded, Katniss and Peeta can no longer come home together. Gale spits at the ground, the square gasps and shouts and curses and Madge closes her eyes to try and stay calm.
Monsters. Every one.
But Katniss won't play their game, not this time. She pulls out nightlock berries and she and Peeta plan to take them together. The Capitol can choose, two victors or none.
Everyone holds their breath and Madge prays the Capitol bends. And they do.
Katniss wins the Hunger Games.
Peeta wins the Hunger Games.
Madge can feel Gale's veins humming. A match's been lit. And soon, someone'll have to burn.
The Capitol spins their failure as best they can.
They claim Katniss did what she did out of love. That she was so consumed by foolish, senseless love that she couldn't bear the thought of living without Peeta.
It's a lie but then, The Capitol's a kingdom built on lies.
And one day, they'll all come crashing down.
Katniss comes home and Madge stands by the station ready to welcome her.
She wants to pull her in her arms, hug her and never let go. Gale the sullen cousin stands behind her and sparks flitter through the Districts.
Madge doesn't think there's enough glue in the world to keep them all together through what's to come.
Katniss comes home with heartbreak like a cloud over her, raining down on each and every one of them.
Madge has her best friend back and she knows it's horrible of her to be anything other than ecstatic. But there are shadows in Katniss' eyes Madge can't reach, nightmares she'll never understand. The Districts are blooming with rebellion, growing from the seeds Katniss inadvertently spread and Madge can do nothing but try and fight away the demons clawing at Katniss' door.
They spend more time together than ever before, Madge even tries teaching her the piano. Katniss' fingers fumble over the keys, never quite getting it and soon she gives up. She listens to Madge instead, an almost calm look on her face and Madge would play until her fingers bled if it would make things better.
If only it were that easy.
Katniss takes her out in the woods and she's surprised to find it so invigorating. She feels lighter, freer. The air smells fresher here and heartbreak falls away like dying leaves. Even Katniss seems calmer, less on edge. They don't speak much, but there's a strength in togetherness. She watches Katniss hunt, watches her skill with breathless awe. Madge tries her hand as well and she knows she'll never be as talented as Katniss but she starts to feel less clumsy, the bow feeling surer in her hands with each and every outing.
The mayor's daughter, learning to hunt beyond the fence. What a scandal that would make.
She doesn't see Gale around, but then, she isn't surprised.
The Victory Tour draws closer, looming over them and Madge feels it like a hand against her throat.
She needs something, anything to keep her busy, to distract herself. She wanders through town without a purpose, buys baubles and bits from random shops and then one day she stumbles across Posy Hawthorne salivating at the bakery window. Her hands press against the glass, her eyes round, mouth open in a perfect circle. Madge knows she'll be in horrid trouble if Mrs Mellark sees her, catches her anywhere near the shop. Mrs Mellark hates everyone but Seam kids especially.
Madge starts to head over but Hazelle Hawthorne arrives and pulls Posy away. She casts a last longing long at the bakery and Madge feels something inside of her squeeze. She sees her again the next day, dawdling behind her mother so she can stare in the shop window and Madge finally decides what to do.
She goes to the bakery early the next morning and buys a dozen of their prettiest cookies. She steps outside and nibbles one, thinking of how Gale would hate it if he knew what she was planning but Gale's never scared her before. She eats her cookie and waits, something like anticipation scuttling beneath her skin.
Madge waits and waits and waits but Posy Hawthorne doesn't walk by today.
She presses her ear against the door to her father's study, hears reports of violence in the other Districts.
Katniss has started something, something ready to set Panem ablaze.
Madge wonders if they'll live to see what rises from the ashes.