Hey all! This is my first fanfic so any and all comments are appreciated! The story takes place after the Hunger Games and includes no Catching Fire. If you're a Gale fan, stay tuned…there is a lot more Gale to come!


"It's for me. They are doing this in order to get to me…well, to get to Katniss through me. To make her suffer while she watches me die. This can't be happening." I keep an impassive face as these thoughts whirl through my head. I feel someone squeeze my arm, pulling me out of my thoughts. I raise my head to see my mother looking into my eyes with concern. No, not concern. Fear.

How can I reassure her when I know that I am doomed? Her eyes shift slightly, subtly indicating the rest of the room. I glance down from my perch on the sofa to my brother Rory clenching his jaw, two tight fists in his lap. My brother Vick sits next to him looking scared and confused. Little Posy snuggles up next to Vick, not understanding what is happening, but looking wide-eyed and solemn because of our sudden tense silence.

Right, mother wants me to reassure them. Be strong for them.

I slap what I hope is a cocky, sideways grin on my face and say, "Well I guess that means extra tesserae for us this year!"

"It also means that your name will be in the reaping ball 48 times." Rory bites out angrily.

I swallow at the scary truth of his words. Not that it even matters how many times my name is in the ball; I know my name will be picked. That is why that rule change was made. So my name could be picked, and Katniss could watch me die.

Instead of voicing my concerns, I smile and say, "Well, the odds have been in my favor so far. What's one more year?"

Rory does not look satisfied, but Vick seems to have calmed a little. Rory opens his mouth to say something more, but my mother smoothly slips in, "Let's get ready for bed; we have a big day tomorrow. Come on, let's go."

She lifts up Posy and softly kisses her on the forehead, gives her free hand to Vick, who takes it meekly, and walks out of the room. Rory gets up to follow but stops to turn and look at me. "Gale. I, I…I love you, you know," he says unexpectedly. Then he puts his arms around me quickly.

I am startled but happy, gripping him in a tight hug. "I love you too, little brother," I say tightly. I close my eyes, remembering when Rory was just a little kid who used to follow me around all the time, trying to be just like his older brother. "Everything's going to be fine," I add. He lets go and looks at me incredulously. "It will," I say, with an assurance that I don't feel. "You and me, we have to be strong for mom. And for Vick and Posy."

He nods with understanding. I ruffle his hair, causing him to scowl. "Up to bed, little man," I call as he turns to leave the room.

Alone in the room, I can finally think about what has happened. Think about how my life has changed. I run a hand through my thick black hair as I recall the mandatory television bulletin we just watched. Caesar Flickerman appeared on the screen amidst flashing lights that made his pinkish hair and skin appear even more lurid.

"Hello, Panemmmmmm," he called out amidst canned applause and cheering. "Now we all know that tomorrow is the reaping for the 76th Hunger Games. But tonight I have news that will make tomorrow even more exciting. There has been a rule change for this year's Games." Caesar pauses for emphasis while the audience gasps and looks excited. There hasn't been a rule change in the Games as long as anyone can remember. Caesar smiles, knowing that his news has shocked the nation.

"Nineteen year olds are now required to submit their name for reaping!" he cries with relish. The audience gasps and then cheers loudly. Older kids mean stronger competitors…children fighting with almost-men.

It takes me a moment to make the connection, and when I do, I inhale sharply. I am once again eligible for the Hunger Games. But why?

And then it clicks. President Snow would only authorize a rule change under the most extreme circumstances. And Katniss's stunt with the berries was pretty extreme. The Capitol cannot take out Katniss, Peeta, or their families without igniting suspicion throughout the country. But he can kill me. And he can make it slow and painful. And he can make Katniss watch.

And Katniss won't even be there to help me. Normally, Hunger Game's champions mentor tributes from the district, but Katniss and Peeta are both already in the Capitol, ostensibly preparing for their wedding.

Is this President Snow's revenge, then? To force Katniss to watch her best friend be tortured and killed in the arena while she must play the happily engaged Hunger Games champion? My stomach churns at the thought.

I know Katniss has to marry Peeta. That there is no other choice but for them to remain Hunger Games champions and lovers forever. But in the back of my mind, I had always had a spark of hope that one day, when everything had calmed down, Katniss would leave Peeta, would run away with me. I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't help hoping, biding my time until she realized that we have always belonged together.

But now that Capitol has taken even that far-fetched hope from me. I clench my fists in anger and then rake my hands through my hair again in frustration. I lean forward, bowing my head, my hands clasped behind my neck. I close my eyes tightly, thinking that all I ever wanted was to be with Katniss, living off the forest and having a well-fed, happy family. I didn't want riches or power. I just wanted peace and happiness. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently.

I let out a long sigh and then feel a soft hand rubbing my back. I open my eyes and raise my head to see my mother.

"Go to bed, Gale," she says. "You won't solve anything by staying up all night worrying."

I look at her faced pinched with hunger and fear and concern, and I wonder how she will survive when I am gone.

"Mom, what can I do?" I whisper. "You know my name will be called tomorrow."

She shuts her eyes briefly. "You don't know that," she says sadly. I am about to scoff in protest when she adds, "And even if it is true, we will get on as we always have. You and I, we will be strong and find a way to survive."

I look into my mother's eyes and see the strength and determination there. I can't give up. I have to be strong for her. It doesn't matter that the Capitol will stack the Games against me. I have enough skills to make a good fight of it. And I have to survive. For my family. For my dream of being with Katniss.

"You're right," I say. I reach out to her the way Rory did to me not long ago and pull her into a hug. She clutches me tightly, trembling, stroking my hair, not wanting to let go. Finally I release her and say, "We both have to get some sleep. We have a long day ahead of us." She nods, wipes a quick tear from her eye, and walks slowly to her room.

I get up too and slip quietly into the room I share with Vick and Rory, wondering what tomorrow will bring.