Gale: Chapter 5
Peeta Mellark was possibly the nicest guy in the world. When we showed up in District 12, he moved into Haymitch’s house so my mother, brothers, sister and I could have a comfortable place to stay. We had no money, of course. We had nothing, like many families returning home, and yet our cupboards were always full of food.
I walked over to Haymitch’s one night and thanked Peeta, and he said, “It’s the least I could do. I heard you were the first to volunteer to come and get me after the hijacking. I owe you my life.”
We shook hands and I forced my ego to accept his generosity until I was well enough to work again and take care of my own family.
As soon as I was able, I started helping in town with the rebuilding. Yes, I needed to make money, but how could I let others give their time while I didn’t help? I didn’t know it at the time, but people had already started working on our house. Some were old friends and neighbors and some were strangers. Slowly but surely, we got our lives back—our homes, our purpose, our dignity.
And I had Katniss. We spent every day together in town, working side by side. And our families ate together every night. She and I would often go for walks after dinner, and those walks always included stolen kisses and hands held and whispered promises. I was happy. And she seemed to be as well.
The agony of watching and waiting for her to die on TV every night seemed like a distant nightmare. While the world had watched and hoped for two young lovers to survive together, I’d been tormented by the shame of jealousy—knowing that his love could save her, but still selfishly wishing she didn’t return it.
The alternative, of course, would be her death. As awful as it was to see them together, I knew I’d do anything—even give her away—to know she’d still walk this earth. I couldn’t bear the thought of her loss—of my life with only the memory of her.
I was thankful every day that that torture was behind me. And that hope was in my future.
I spoke to her mother alone one night and told her of my intentions and she hugged and kissed me. She also cried a little when she told me she loved me like a son.
I disappeared on a few afternoons and built a little nest for me and Katniss at the lake house.
One night on our walk, Katniss said, “Can I ask where you’ve been going lately? Should I be worried?”
I didn’t like keeping secrets from her and never wanted to worry her, so I just said, “Girls with birthdays coming up shouldn’t ask so many questions,” and that shut her up.
On her eighteenth birthday, I had asked her to pack a backpack for an overnight trip and I picked her up in the afternoon.
We started walking towards the meadow, hand in hand, and she asked, “Are we going to the lake?”
“Yeah,” I said.
I watched her actually blush as she said, “And our mothers know? Gale, they’ll … you know … know.”
I laughed and answered, “You’re eighteen. What can they say?”
She just covered her mouth with her hand and grinned.
When we got to the house, she was nervous. I took her inside and she saw the bed. I had covered it with a soft blanket and dried flowers.
She turned and ran outside and I followed her, catching her hand and turning her to me as we stopped.
“It’s okay,” I said. “If you’re not ready ….”
She searched my face, and I was aware of her eyes following my scar. She reached up and kissed the end of it on my cheek and whispered, “I am ready.”
It was nothing like I’d ever experienced, and it was everything I’d ever hoped for. It was tender and slow and then urgent and sweet. We traced every scar on each other’s bodies with kisses and told each other we loved each other over and over.
As the light faded, we lit candles and ate the food we’d brought and laughed and talked without a care in the world.
When the birds stopped singing and the insects heralded the start of our night together, I cradled her in my arms and said, “I don’t have money for a ring.”
Her face went still, and I wondered if I had rushed her.
I waited for an answer for a long time and watched her eyes fill with tears.
“What is it?” I asked. Should I have waited?
“Yes,” she whispered and the tears spilled over. “My answer’s yes.”
I kissed her and crushed her to me, and first told her how much I loved her and then I showed her.
That was the beginning of our life together, and the end of my wondering what my future held. It held Katniss and all the joy she put in my heart.
I finally forgave myself for failing her, for not stealing away with her into the woods that day of her first reaping.
I had watched her find her way in a world that was determined to ruin her, and she had come out in the end the bravest, strongest person I knew. Yes, she had changed, but she was still mine.
And I’d always be hers.
A/N: Thank you so much to everyone who read, reviewed, alerted and favorited this story as well as Everdeen. As much as I adore these characters together, it’s even better to share my adoration with friends, both old and new.
I’m not sure if or when I’ll revisit these two. Of course, you know I always say that and then often I wind up writing more. Please let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see regarding this story. Your ideas are often much better than mine, and these stories are for you, after all. And something tells me you won’t have to twist my arm to get me alone with Gale again to ask him a few questions.