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Not Yet a Hurricane, 3/8


Gale wakes up early the next morning and quietly turns the television on at a low volume while he heats some water for tea. He barely slept at all, thinking about the pack of Careers hunting at night with their night vision goggles. He won't be able to think about anything else until he knows for sure. The morning announcers are describing the nighttime death of a tribute at the hand of the Career pack, some fool who had no supplies and started a fire in the middle of the night.

Gale busies himself with his tea until he hears Katniss' name. The fool with the fire was right below Katniss, and then the filmmakers play the scene for the audience's benefit, shifting to Katniss every so often to keep the suspense alive.

Mellark is part of the Career pack and Gale finds himself gripping the table in anger so tightly his fingers start to hurt. Gale's mother and Posy wake up while Mellark is looming with a knife over the fire girl, who's slowly dying of a stomach wound. She's making terrible sounds like a cross between crying and moaning, clutching her gushing wound. Mellark makes no attempt to hide his anguished expression and leans down to whisper something to the girl.

Gale is so focused on the screen he barely notices his mother signaling that she's taking Posy outside - the four-year old is too young to be exposed to this. Mellark is still leaning over the girl and nodding stiffly as she pleads with him to finish her off quickly. Gale thinks it would be a mercy at this point; there's no recovering from her wounds, which will just kill her slowly. Evidently Mellark agrees because he reaches for his knife, which he had dropped upon initially approaching the girl. He's speaking softly to her again - too low for the cameras to pick up - and then delivers the final, merciful stab. He holds the girl until the life seeps out of her and remains immobile until the firing of the cannons jars him out of his trance. He unsteadily stands up, wipes the knife off, and rubs his face so the tear streaks aren't as obvious.

The Career group leaves the area near Katniss and one camera follows them, while another stays on Katniss, who waits a safe amount of time and seems relatively unphased. Gale knows how good she is at hiding her emotions, so he still can't tell if she was surprised at discovering Mellark is with the Careers or not. As he watches Katniss check her snares and cook a rabbit on the dying embers of the dead girl's fire, he entertains the idea that Mellark is faking an alliance with the Careers… Not that that changes much; even if an alliance helps Mellark last longer in the arena, that will just mean an increased likelihood of Katniss having to kill him in the final stages of competition…

A television plays a live feed from the Games in the courtyard of the school, and Gale checks it throughout the day but not much is happening. The tributes who hid are largely succeeding at staying hidden - aside from the girl who started a fire - and attempting to keep themselves alive in the forest. Gale is getting concerned at Katniss' dehydration. The announcers are driving him crazy, pointing on the map how close she is to a water source but not finding it. He can tell she's losing it - she stumbles more often and is wearing a glazed expression.

The Careers have no such problems, having set up their camp near the lake and hoarding all the food and supplies. They keep probing Mellark for insights into Katniss' strategy and secret skills - the leader of the group, in particular, can't get over the fact that she outscored him. Gale isn't sure if Mellark's vague answers are based on his own lack of knowledge or a hidden agenda to protect Katniss. But he never mentions how good a hunter Katniss is, for example, he just says she's good at identifying plants to eat.

By the following morning, Gale is so worried about Katniss' need for water that he seeks out Madge first thing at school and asks if she can send their sponsorship money to Katniss, who clearly needs help more than Mellark at this point - can't they get her some water?

"I had my mom call and ask Haymitch last night," Madge says. "He says the situation is under control."

Clearly it isn't! "She can barely walk. How is that under control?"

"He says he has the final say on what gifts are sent and when and to who."

"Then what the hell is the point?"

Gale storms away, unable to stand such uselessness while Katniss dies of thirst. He skips the rest of his classes and disappears under the fence into the woods, hoping a pack of wild dogs will attack him so he can shoot one.

When he returns to his house, Rory is glued to the television. Gale almost snaps at him to turn it off, until he sees images of Katniss by a lake, purifying water, eating, and getting her supplies organized. He slumps in relief and drops the game on the floor. She found water.

"Just in time," Rory says. "She passed out in a puddle just a few feet from the pond, but woke up and filtered some water. Close call."

The screen shifts to another tribute, struggling ineptly to skin a rabbit, so Gale leans down to collect the fruits of his labor. He's so relieved Katniss won't die of thirst he allows himself to take a drink of water for the first time that day, not having realized he was unconsciously putting himself through sympathy dehydration.

The firestorm is all over the televisions the next morning. Apparently the Gamemakers felt the need to force the tributes into altercations. No one at school, teachers included, even pretends to do anything but watch the broadcast of the Games.

Katniss very nearly doesn't make it out from the fire, still weak from deyhdration. She gets badly burned and takes refuge in a tree, which leaves her trapped by the Careers and Mellark.

Gale ends up at the Everdeen home that night - he won't be able to sleep and knows they won't either. They keep vigil with Katniss in the tree, each privately concerned these will be the last hours they can ever spend with her. Gale feels a flicker of hope when he realizes she has a plan to use the tracker jacker nest as an escape strategy. He still can't figure out Mellark, who stays awake all night at the base of Katniss' tree, looking up into the branches with night vision goggles periodically. The broadcast analysts are salivating at the possibility of him killing her or her killing him; they report record numbers of bets being placed at the Capitol's gambling parlors.

All hell breaks loose in the morning when Katniss drops the tracker jacker nest on the Careers. Gale is torn when he sees her stumble back to the tree's base to relieve the dying Career girl of the bow and arrow; Katniss unquestionably needs the weapon, but it's risky given her state and the proximity of so many Careers.

Sure enough, two of them come back as Katniss is drunkenly trying to grasp the bow and arrows. Mellark gets there first and does what Gale wants to do: yells at Katniss to GET OUT OF THERE. Katniss stumbles away with the bow and arrow while Mellark fights off the most vicious of the Careers, a psychopath named Cato. Mellark receives what looks to be like a fatal wound to his leg, and then the tracker jacker poison starts to take hold and all the affected tributes lose touch with reality, stumbling and barely coherent. Katniss ends up in a hole, Mellark drags himself away, and the others collapse wherever they happen to be.

Gale feels like he's empty by the time it becomes clear that the Gamemakers are going to let the tributes sleep off the tracker jacker poison. He makes his way back to his own house to sleep, but is besieged by images of Katniss falling out of trees, being hacked to pieces, and being chased by flames and wasps. He's not at all rested by the time he stops pretending he can sleep and leaves the house to go hunting.

When he winds up in town the following afternoon on an errand for his mother, Madge finds him and he starts to wonder if she has a tracking device on him.

"Now can we send in the sponsorship money?" She isn't one for greetings.

Gale considers. Mellark probably won't last much longer, with the number of stings he suffered and the severity of his leg wound. But Katniss will probably recover and could use the help. At the very least, even if a gift is split between the two of them, Mellark proved himself to not be a traitor.

"Let's do it," Gale agrees. He walks with Madge back to her house, where they sit at the kitchen table and tally the total amount they have. The people in town were indeed generous: it's more money than Gale has ever seen in one place.

Madge announces the total and smiles at Gale. She has a pleasant smile… Probably because she's had such an easy life.

"My mom can phone Haymitch this afternoon to arrange for a wire transfer," Madge says. "Should we put in a request for something specific? I fully expect him to ignore it, but it never hurts to ask, does it?"

Gale thinks about the fact that Katniss has a bow and arrow now, burn medicine to help her burned leg recover, and food and water. "Bread, I guess, since they can't catch it in the woods."

Madge pauses. "How about medicine?"

Gale frowns - Katniss already has burn medicine. "Something for the wasp poison?"

"I was thinking more like anti-infection medication… Have you seen Peeta's wound? He's in bad shape."

Gale has, and thinks it's unlikely that Peeta will survive to make much use of medicine. He just wants to get the money to Haymitch, though, not squabble with Madge about how it's used - and it's not like Haymitch cares what they want anyway.

"Let's just send it and let Haymitch decide," he says, with what he hopes is a diplomatic tone. To Gale's thinking, Katniss is the favored competitor at this point - has been since the beginning, actually - and Haymitch undoubtedly realizes that. If Madge wants to think their gift will help Mellark, fine.

Madge pushes her chair back suddenly, eyes flaring with anger. "He sacrificed himself for her. Doesn't that count for anything?"

"What good is it for us to talk about this?" Gale asks, angry as well. "We can send this money, and maybe, possibly, it will help one of them or both, but we have no control over that. Just like we have no control over anything associated with any of this!"

"I know!" Madge shouts. Then she looks around cautiously and Gale realizes neither of them should be saying the things they're saying, especially not in the mayor's house where there are usually either household staff or his office staff milling around. Madge clamps her mouth shut and seethes in Gale's direction for a few moments. Then she exhales violently and says, still in an angry tone, "I'll let you know when my mother has gotten through to Haymitch. And what happens."

"Great." Gale is already moving toward the door. As he leaves, he's relieved to see on the large screen on the town square that nothing dramatic is happening in the arena. The screen is split into several squares, and one shows that Katniss is still passed out recovering from the venom. He suspects the Gamemakers will let the tracker jacker victims recuperate without further threat; killing someone while they're unconscious isn't exciting entertainment.

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