Madge glares at her phone, because Marvel has cancelled on her yet again and she's beginning to wonder if they'll ever get this stupid project started. Her fingers shake with frustration as she types her reply and she has to physically hold in a growl.
Marvel is a grade A butt head.
"You get stood up?" a voice asks and Madge rolls her eyes as Johanna slides onto the stool beside her.
"Just by my dumb partner for sociology," she answers, pushes send with a bit more vehemence than necessary. Johanna appraises her critically and Madge's rage at Marvel starts to recede, replaced by worry at Johanna's expression.
"What?" she asks warily and Johanna smirks. Warning bells start to clang in Madge's head and she leans back nervously as Johanna leans in.
"Just trying to figure out who I should you up with," Johanna replies wickedly and Madge goes white.
"Excuse me?" she squeaks, remembers the last horror show of a date Johanna forced her on.
"Madge, come on, you're in college and you've been on what, one date? I'm just trying to help a friend out."
"You don't need to," Madge insists hurriedly but Johanna doesn't look at all inclined to believe her.
"And why not?"
"Because...because I-" Madge casts her eyes around wildly and they catch on someone's discarded magazine, the blaring bright headline of The Truth about Finnick Odair's Secret Love!.
"Because I already have a boyfriend," she blurts out and then claps her hands over her mouth. Johanna's jaw drops.
"What?" she nearly shrieks and Madge flaps her hands desperately, trying to get Johanna to quiet down as everyone in the cafe turns to look at them.
"It's a secret," Madge tells her and then wonders why she's doing this to herself, digging herself deeper when all she really needs to do is say 'no, Johanna, I don't want to date any of your crazy friends'. Johanna's eyes are as wide as saucers and Madge should put a stop to this, she really should.
"You have a secret boyfriend?" Johanna asks, voice heavy with incredulity and Madge nods, inwardly sobbing at her own stupidity.
Madge nods again and Johanna's face lights up, promises Madge a thorough and very long interrogation.
This is not going to end well.
Madge leans her head on her arms, Johanna having finally left. She's probably off to tell everyone about Madge's entirely faux relationship status and why, why does she insist on doing to herself? You could've just said no, just told her the truth. Instead, you've managed to tie yourself into a very embarrassing lie that everyone is going to know about. Secret boyfriend? Yeah right, she thinks derisively, wonders if she can just hide under her bed until this all blows over.
"Hey," Madge hears and looks up, sees Gale giving her a friendly grin.
"Have you talked to Johanna?" she asks immediately and he furrows his brow in confusion.
"Huh? No, why?" Madge almost sighs in relief. Well, at least there's someone that doesn't know about her obviously fake "secret boyfriend".
"Nothing, no reason," she insists, waving it away. Gale raises an eyebrow but accepts her blatant lie.
(he's nice like that)
"So, what are you up to?" he asks and Madge frowns. What she'd really like to be doing is hiding in a hole where no one can find her, but here's Gale (totally handsome, incredible Gale who is definitely just her friend), who has no idea about her stupid, so maybe she can combine and conquer, or something...
"Wanna see a movie?" she offers, because hiding in a dark theatre where no one can see her sounds fabulous. She sounds a bit more nervous than intended, desperate to get away from anyone who might've talked with Johanna and she fidgets her fingers, playing with her hair in her most obvious tell. She peeks at him from the corner of her eye and he looks a little surprised but then grins, the really nice one that makes her stomach do funny things.
"Yeah, love to. Which one?" He sounds way more into this than she'd thought he'd be and Madge scrambles to think of what the heck's playing.
"Uhhh, oh! How about that awful action movie you keep talking about?"
Gale snorts. "Awful?"
Madge gives him a pointed look. "Yes, awful. Painfully so. My soul aches just thinking about it." Gale rolls his eyes but scoops up her bag, swinging it over his shoulder.
"Well, now we're definitely seeing it."
Madge shakes her head, but can't fight the beginnings of a grin on her lips.
"Good, I don't think I can handle anymore of you nerding out every time that trailer comes on," she says, sliding off her stool and falling into step beside him. He looks down at her, one eyebrow up.
"So, I guess that makes you the pot and me the kettle?" he asks and she frowns.
"We both remember you, the trailer for The Boy with the Bread and much freaking out, right?" he questions, amusement warm in his voice.
"Okay, but that was actually a good movie," she insists and this time both his eyebrows go up.
"Really? I'm pretty sure I slept through most of it," he teases and she sticks out her tongue.
"Obviously, you just have awful taste," she tells him and he stops, eyes wide.
"Yes, really," she replies and then they're just grinning at each other stupidly and Madge forgets to care about secret boyfriends.
Because really, who needs 'em?
"Ew, I can't believe I'm paying so much for something so terrible," she says with a shake of her head at the automatic ticket counter.
"If you want me to pay, you could just ask," Gale says from behind her and Madge turns pink, spins quickly to face him.
"I wasn't-" she notices Gale's smirk and rolls her eyes. "If anyone should be paying, it should be me, since I'm the one who asked you to come."
"Well, how about a deal?" he offers and Madge tilts her head in question. He grins.
"You pay tickets and I'll grab the snacks."
Madge pauses for a moment in thought and then nods.
"Okay," she says with a shrug, "but I hope you know I'm going to order like, eight, large popcorns now, right?"
(Madge's heart may or not skip a beat)
Madge stares up at the concession stand menu, eyes taking in the way too overpriced food. The cashier looks at her with annoyance, clearly wants to move things along and Madge can feel embarrassment wriggle in her stomach.
"Um, I'll have a..small soda?" she mumbles lamely, sounds very unsure of herself and Gale looks at her like she's insane.
"I ate...lunch?" she offers, feels silly but this stuff's so expensive and she feels bad ordering too much. Gale continues to look at her like she's mental and then her stomach rebels against her, growls rather loudly. Madge feels mortified, can't look anyone in the eye.
"How about we share a popcorn?" Gale asks and Madge nods quickly, cheeks still red.
"And those sour cherry things, you love those, right?"
Madge flushes, can't believe he remembers that.
"You don't have to, I mean..." she trails off uselessly. Gale just smiles, makes her all warm and fuzzy.
"I want to."
Madge goes hot all over, feels like she may explode and tries to organize the chaos in her head.
He's just being friendly. Because they're friends. Which is exactly what Madge wants them to be.
They head into the theatre and Madge has to restrain a shiver at the ridiculous cold of the air conditioning. What is this, the Arctic?
"Where do you wanna sit?" Gale questions and Madge looks up at him, eyes bright in the dim light.
"Middle, of course," she answers and he smirks.
"Yeah, dead centre is the perfect view point. Only an amateur doesn't know that."
Gale snorts. "Ah, didn't know I was dealing with an expert."
"Well, now you do," she replies primly, leads him up the stairs. They settle down in the best spot in the theatre and this time Madge can't restrain her shudder.
"Just a little bit," she answers in what is obviously a lie. But seriously, were they trying to give everyone hypothermia? Gale shrugs out of his jacket and Madge's eyes go wide as he holds it out to her.
"Here," he says, draping it over her shoulders and Madge is glad for the gloom, feels her face flame up.
"Oh, no it's fine," she tries to say, even as her fingers tighten the jacket around her body. Gale just smiles.
"Don't worry about it."
Madge nods, snuggles a bit deeper in his coat, warm and smelling just like him. Not that she knows what he smells like or anything.
(like evergreens, if you were curious)
Gale's arm finds its way along the back of her chair halfway through the movie and Madge reassures herself it's just more comfortable that way. A few minutes later that arm is wrapped around her shoulders and she's certain it's just because he's worried about her being chilly. He's always been very considerate, after all.
And if her head ends up leaning against his shoulder, well, she was just trying to avoid the head in the row in front of her that was (not at all) blocking her view.
"Oh my God, what was that?" Madge asks, laughter spilling through her words.
"That was a masterpiece," Gale declares, failing to quell his own laughter.
Madge shakes her head in disbelief. "It was so bad, I don't even know how to handle it."
"You loved it," he insists, bumps her shoulder with his.
"I'm not even upset I wasted my money, I mean, that was a whole other level of terrible."
Madge turns and there is Johanna, walking towards them with Katniss in tow.
"Hey," Gale greets and Johanna looks over the two of them, a strange expression coming over her face. It takes Madge a second, but then she realizes what Johanna must be thinking. Madge and Gale giggling as they leave the theatre, Gale's jacket draped over her shoulders, today's talk of "secret boyfriends".
"I can't believe you didn't tell me," Johanna says and Madge panics, makes awkward gestures with her hands in an attempt to tell her to shut up.
"Well, it's kind of a recent thing," Gale says with a grin in his voice and Madge is immediately flummoxed. Umm, what?
"And you couldn't tell me, why?" Johanna demands, arms folded across her chest.
"Might've killed the mood if we had to stop and call you from our first date," he replies, still smiling in a way that makes Madge's heart do funny things. Until her brain catches up with his words that is, and her heart fumbles in bewilderment.
"Wait, what?" Johanna and Madge say at exactly the same time. Gale looks between them in confusion.
"Madge said you guys have been in a secret relationship for weeks," Johanna says slowly, eyes narrowed.
"Wait, what?" Gale almost squeaks, eyes stretched perfectly round. Madge freezes in horror.
"No, no. That's not-it's not Gale-" she starts, doesn't actually know how to continue.
"But if Gale's not your boyfriend, then who is?" Johanna interjects in frustration and Gale stiffens.
"You have a boyfriend?" Gale asks, voice quiet and Madge looks up at his drawn expression.
"A secret boyfriend," Johanna supplies (not at all) helpfully and Madge winces. Gale looks suddenly devastated and takes a step away from her.
"Shit, I...shit, sorry," he mumbles out, won't meet her eyes and Madge feels her chest squeeze.
"Gale..." she begins and then trails off, realization ramming into her like a truck.
He thought this was a date.
He wanted this to be a date.
He wanted to date her.
"No," she answers his question firmly, wills him to meet her eyes.
"No, I don't have a boyfriend," she clarifies and then he does meet her eyes, relief all over his face.
"But, I uh, wouldn't mind...having one, if um, you're, you know, interested," she stumbles out, dropping her gaze as her cheeks turn pink.
"So the secret boyfriend was a lie?" Johanna butts in and Madge sighs painfully.
"Maybe we should go," Katniss, who'd been listening to the whole conversation with a bemused expression, interjects and Madge wants to run over and give her a hug.
"Fine," Johanna agrees, surly because she can't continue to gloat. Madge watches them go until they're out of sight, feels suddenly terrified because she's alone with Gale and her weird attempt to ask him to be her boyfriend hangs between them.
"Ha, sorry," she says, still staring determinedly after Katniss and Johanna.
Madge takes a deep breath, knows she should just get the whole awful thing out of the way.
"But yeah, um, about the whole 'boyfriend' thing..."
"Yes," he interrupts and Madge whips her head around to stare at him.
"I am definitely interested," he answers and Madge turns red and giddy all over.
"Oh...good," she mumbles, tries to keep her voice level.
"Yeah," she affirms, taking his hand.
Gale smiles at her and really, who needs a secret boyfriend when you can have a totally real boyfriend that holds your hand at the movies and smiles at you like that?
Not Madge, that's for sure.