A/N: Hi, help, I can't get The Hunger Games out of my head. I'm rereading the trilogy right now, and while I really do adore the end of Mockingjay, one of the things I'd really like to see would be some resolution for Katniss and Gale. (After all, they were best friends; it really breaks my heart to think that they just never saw or talked to each other ever again.) I set out to write a fic with that originally in mind, and somehow ended up with... this. Title taken from the Horace quotation, 'Pulvis et umbra sumus'
They were headed back one cold afternoon in late autumn, just as the sun was beginning its trip to dip below the horizon. The haul had been decent that day, more than worth the chill that penetrated the protective layer of her father’s old hunting jacket. Not quite worth a trip to the Hob, but, nevertheless, both of their families would eat well tonight.
(A partnership still in tentative beginnings that had thus far served its purpose.)
The soft hum of electricity that greeted them when they bent down to the fence, however, had other plans.
This had never happened to her before, and so she’d hardly been ready to expect it. Panic began to set in, questions racing through her mind, even if she tried her hardest to show no visible indication of it, crossing her arms and keeping her intent gaze on what was straight ahead of her as neutral as possible. How long were they going to be stuck out here? What were they going to do? Should they…?
Her teeth started to chatter.
“Come on,” he said, his voice calm and reassuring, offering her a place to store her trust if she chose; she dared to shift her gaze to meet his. “I’ll build a fire.”
It was the fire he built that destroyed her.
The flames that drove her to action but now took away the reason coursed through her one last time. Burned with a vengeance, obliterated everything in their path. Brighter, more radiant than the sun, one last time for the audience, before they vanished. Extinguished for good.
Left only the charred, scattered, broken remains of what she once was. Paper-thin wisps of ash that crumbled to dust in her fingers the more she tried to hold onto them.
It’d take years to recover all of the pieces. She wondered if she ever would.
It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.
She turns to meet his eyes for the first time in ten years.
His presence is instinctive, even after all this time. As much a part of her now as it ever was. Even before she detects the always-quiet footfall of his steps, she knows he’s there. Because standing here in the woods, bow in hand and quiver slung over her shoulder, feels complete again.
Familiar Seam gray, but muted. Ashen. That’s what she sees. The fire has burned out of him too. Left only lines of shadow on his face, the ones she knows she mirrors. Hollow vestiges of the boy she once knew, who she once trusted with her life and her secrets.
Her grip on her bow tightens because there’s nothing else to hold onto. Thousands, millions of words that all contradict themselves (she misses him so much that it aches; she’ll never forgive him) rise up and seize her chest, but die in her throat.
He makes the first move instead, one as tenuous as the small, sad smile he gives her.