A/N: So here's a quick little one-shot I've had floating around my head for a while now. It borrows fairly heavily from a lovely little Harry Potter fic called The Gentle Strains by yesterday4 so I can't take complete credit at all. I hope you like it!


I hear the sounds of their argument before I'm fully down the stairs.

Perhaps it's more a function of my sensitive hearing than the volume of their voices. They aren't being very loud, but I've been attuned to notice even the smallest of sounds when it means the difference between shooting a squirrel and going hungry that night.

I pause, straining my ears over the tinkling music and low murmur of banal conversation in the ballroom beyond. The clinking of glasses punctuated by laughter, the sound of a world enjoying victory and determinedly moving beyond the memories of rebellion.

It's why I had escaped as soon as I could, why I had taken the coward's way out and hid upstairs, scowling at the carefree sounds below. Because how can you just move on and rebuild and reform and all those other words that the rebels use for forget?

I haven't been able to forget. Not the murdered children or the crumbling mountains or my sister, incandescent and angelic and screaming in the fire. Or forget Peeta, months after we thought it was safe, his body wracked with spasms and his nerves crackling with fireworks of pain, crippling aftershocks of the trackerjacker venom still lurking in his blood. Or Peeta, pale and still, a trickle of blood dripping from the corner of his mouth seeping into the sheets, lying dea-.

But no, I stop myself there. I suck in a deep breath, searching for composure. Those days are over now. And the fight, it means nothing. He's doing nothing wrong. I close my eyes, battling the demons of paranoia and fear that have threatened to overwhelm me ever since my first Games.

I slip down the last few stairs, silent as a ghost, and take a few cautious steps into the corridor. I can see them now, half hidden behind a bend in the hall. I wonder how I had never noticed it before. Of course, I remember how they used to be in District 12. He would always have a swift, cutting remark, pointed and deadly. And sometimes, I think she would take pleasure in the opportunity to slice back, her insults hidden behind an icy, superior smile. And hearing those cold remarks as she handed him money, it used to drive Gale wild with anger.

Everyone knew that when Gale and Madge ran into each other there would be an angry explosion almost breathless in its intensity. I never understood the bitter hatred between my two best friends, and likely never will, something that will always leave me on the outside. I had never watched them closely, always obsessed with the sale or the hunting conditions or the girls that wanted to seduce Gale and steal away my trading partner. I was only aware of immediate dangers, oblivious to anything else. I never paused to think of what their hatred might mean. I certainly never thought it mattered.

How much it matters now!

And when Peeta…died, my mind still stutters on the word, I didn't think twice before seeking out Gale in District 2. Begging him to make me whole again. Because Gale, who knew me better than anyone, was right all along: I would choose the man that I needed to survive. And without Peeta, I longed for someone who knew me and would know what to do to make me feel better. And I thought I knew Gale because I was certain he would forgive me, certain he still loved me. Thought I was certain, anyway.

And Gale said and did all the right things. He took care of everything, moved my things from District 12 himself. I always had food and clothes. He took me hunting when it all became too much and would come into my room and hold me at night when I would wake up screaming. And when my mother protested at my moving to District 2, he didn't hesitate in asking to marry me.

But as I sneak another peak down the hallway, feeling the weight of his ring on my finger, I know that Gale may have said and done all of the right things, but he never looked at me the way he is looking at her now.

Madge, always so quiet and reserved at school, always proper and well mannered when she opened her back door, glares at my fiancé, her normally pin-straight hair wildly mussed as though she just rolled out of bed. Her pale skin is flushed with heat, her chest heaving with indignation in her low-cut gown. But it's her eyes, fiery and fierce, that make her truly beautiful. It is a testament to the fact that, even though the war and the class divisions that started it are over, there is something explosive and volatile and inexplicable between the two of them.

And Gale, Gale who used to save his unrestrained anger only for the forest, leans in much closer than the dictates of personal space and good manners allow, his hair askew and his eyes blazing. Its as though Gale, always the strong, reliable, steady one, has lost all control. His hands are in her face, almost as if he wants to strangle her. But if he would just reach forward a little more, his hands would be in her hair. If he leaned in just slightly their lips would collide in heat and friction and passion.

The jealousy burns in my stomach.

Gale is pressing his point, stepping closer to Madge, whose back is already against the wall. Her hands fly to his chest to push him away, but Gale is immovable as ever. He smirks knowingly at Madge and moves deliberately closer, practically pressing along the length of her, towering over her, eyes smoldering, hoping to goad her further. And Madge, refusing to yield an inch, tosses her hair defiantly and strains her neck higher so she can look him in the eye. There is an electric tension snapping between them, anger and desire and the draw of the forbidden.

And if Gale should just dip his head, his lips would be on her neck. I can see it, the fire of his kisses on the pale, creamy hollows of her throat. Her pink lips parting, her fingers clutching in his hair. His body pushed against hers, caging her against the wall.

The image leaves me breathless.

And Gale does lean down, his eyes as intense and focused as on a hunt, intent on the kill. His lips are nearly moving against her earlobe, so close I can feel the tingle of their almost contact as he whispers something, almost gently, his words bitter and biting, likely something unnecessary about her wealth or her charmed childhood. But instead of being cowed or dissolving into tears, Madge just tilts her chin up rebelliously; a slow smile curves her lips and then she looks him right in the eye, throws back her head, and laughs.

And only Madge ever knew just how to get under Gale's skin, hot and prickly. I can see how her laughing drives him crazy, how his eyes burn, how his fists clench as he shoves them against the wall on either side of her head in frustration, wild to tame her, overcome her, possess her. And Madge licking her lips, replying with words meant to rouse and fire Gale up further, meeting him glare for glare. His whole body shudders at her words, and he bends forward again, lean and feral, their bodies brushing against each other, his fingers so close to either side of her head that they tangle in the tousled strands of her hair, close enough to her lips that he could reach out and nip them, bite them, kiss them into swollen, pink, gasping submission.

Suddenly it's all too much. I look away quickly and stride toward the ballroom, preferring to face the two-faced politicians and their disingenuous smiles than Madge and Gale, their body language so obvious it hurts.

Almost an hour later I see Madge reappear in the ballroom, her dress straightened, not a hair out of place. Her back poised and straight, her face smooth and detached, chatting with one of her father's colleagues on the Rebuilding Committee.

My view is abruptly blocked by a glass of wine, and Gale smiling blandly. His shirt tucked in, his hair flattened, his eyes a smooth, slate grey, as though they weren't crackling with fire and passion mere moments before.

"Catnip," he says as I take the drink, "I went looking for you. I thought you'd be hiding upstairs." His eyes are briefly dazzling with a hint of mischief and a knowing smirk, and I feel silly for the little flip in my stomach at the small bit of flattery, the indication that he knows me better than anyone.

The feeling is quickly replaced with a sour bitterness as I sip the wine. Anger, a low burn in my stomach, as I think of the way he looked at Madge, a fierce longing smoldering in his eyes, a wild need for something only she can provide.

It hurts, and I ignore it.

I swallow the rage and the self-righteous fury. I hide the scowl. I nearly choke on the words I fight to hold in: how could you and how dare you and she hates you. After all, I don't have a choice in the matter. I need him, even if he doesn't love me anymore. And he will never leave me because he owes me. Because he killed my sister and, though he will never breath a word of it, I know he will spend the rest of his life trying to make it up to me.

But he will never love me.

Not in that blazing, explosive, irrational way he thinks of her.

The thought is agonizing.

I keep my face blank though, and I smile at Gale through my eyelashes. I know he still thinks I am beautiful, but in a way that is safe, familiar as our well-worn trails through the forest. Now that Peeta is gone, Gale is comfortable, certain that I am his now. There is no thrill, no hunt anymore. Only a never-ending, never-fulfilled obligation to atone for his unforgivable mistake years ago. An endless duty to try and fix the pieces that he is sure he has broken.

"Don't worry, it'll be over soon," Gale murmurs, mistaking my forlorn expression for a desire to leave the party. His hand is warm and dry in mine as he pulls me close, putting his arms around me and running his fingers soothingly through my hair.

And I think that perhaps it will be different when we are married. That I will make him feel that blazing desire when we are together, that his eyes will smolder only for me. That his kisses will burn trails of fire down my neck, and only I will be make him shudder and groan.

I close my eyes and bury my face in the heat of his neck, and push away the thought that I was never much good at that sort of thing, that I was always too uncomfortable and uptight for such fiery abandon.

Instead I rest my arms on his chest and close my eyes. I breath in the scent of my almost husband and let him whisper sweet words and comfort in my ear.

I don't once glance up to see where he is looking.

A/N: Well I hope you enjoyed it. And do let me know what you think!

And for those of you waiting for an update of A Lot Has Happened, I have an outline of the next chapter; I just have to, you know, write it. So I'll get on that at some point.