Stories in the Stars
Stories in the Stars -- "Make a wish, Catnip."
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"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Gale asked with more amusement than annoyance in his voice as he followed Katniss through the forest.
"Yes, Gale." Her irritation was obvious. Katniss was taking him to a pond her father had shown her once. She'd insisted it was over this ridge even though Gale seemed dubious. He'd explored this area before and didn't remember seeing a pond. But Katniss insisted, and was taking him mostly just to prove him wrong. "It's just over this ridge," she spoke with more confidence than she actually had.
He shook his head and smiled. "That's what you said about the last ridge, Catnip."
She spun around, eyes challenging. "What? Are you getting tired or something?"
"Of this? Never." He said evenly as he quieted his laughter.
"You can go back if you want." She huffed as she resumed her lead.
"And leave you out here all alone?"
"You don't think I can handle it?"
"That's not what I said. I know you can handle it. But what kind of friend would I be if I just left you out here…"
"Yeah, we're friends, aren't we?" Gale was a little hurt that she had to consider this, but he wasn't really surprised. His relationship with her was hard-won. It took him months to get her to trust him, and maybe a year to get her to like him, and of that part, he sometimes still wasn't sure.
"Yeah, I guess," she said almost indifferently, like a concession, as she pulled herself up the hill.
"Oh, Catnip," he muttered, mostly to himself. Sometimes, he didn't know what to make of his hunting partner.
"What? I didn't mean that as an insult. Friendship just seems so…superficial. Like, people have friends for fun. What we do is so much more…important."
Gale was a little taken aback by her comment, her complement. "I can see that. But you know," he jogged up next to her, and playfully knocked her shoulder with his, "a little bit of fun wouldn't kill you." The look she gave him told him it just might. He smiled again and shook his head. "Alright, Catnip," he said pulling himself to the top of the ridge, "let's see this pond."
There was no pond. They faced an endless expanse of green growing towards the distance. Gale wasn't surprised that the pond wasn't there, but he felt a little bad for her. Gale considered making a joke at her expense, but when he saw her face fall and cheeks burn with humiliation and anger, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"Maybe it's over the next one?" He offered hopefully, trying to make it better.
The look in her eyes said nothing was going to make this better. He saw the defeat written on her face. Her eyes told him that she knew the pond wasn't over the next ridge, and worse, she knew that he knew that too.
"Whatever," she huffed, as she turned sharply and immediately started heading back the direction they came. "We need to head back or we won't make it home before dark."
"There's no way we're making it home before dark," Gale said, trying to catch up to her.
"We will if we walk faster." She quickened her pace.
"Catnip," the doubt in his voice cut her. "Hey, Catnip," Gale practically had to jog to catch up. "It's not that big a deal."
She stepped up her pace and didn't respond.
"Come on, don't be like that." He reached out to her, but she shoved away. Tears were starting to slip out of her eyes, and she was determined to not let Gale see, she hadn't let him see her cry yet, but Gale was quicker and stronger than she was, and he finally managed to grab her, pulling her to him. He looked shocked as he saw her tears, which she quickly tried to wipe away. "Don't be upset," he said, trying to calm her, "I doesn't matter that we didn't find the pond."
"Maybe not to you!" she snapped, and Gale suddenly realized—it wasn't about her not finding the pond to show him, it was about her losing the pond her father showed her. It wasn't about him, it was about her father. Gale felt like an idiot.
"Hey, I'm sorry," he said, bringing her into a hug automatically. This was the first time he'd hugged her. She stayed stiff and pulled away.
"It doesn't matter," she said, wiping the final tear from her eyes, "let's go."
Gale wanted to say something to make her feel better, but couldn't think of anything, so he just followed.
They'd jogged for nearly two hours when Katniss finally had to stop for a break. The sun was setting and they were still miles from home. "We're not going to make it back tonight," she said considering the shadows after she took a sip of water.
"Nope." Gale's tone was matter of fact, while Katniss was just coming to terms with this knowledge, he already knew it. Why didn't he care? she wondered.
"Are you hungry?" She asked, pulling an apple from her bag.
"Yeah, a bit." Gale was lying, he was 15 and had been going through a perpetual growth spurt since age 12. He was always hungry.
Katniss tossed him the apple, hoping it offered as some sort of apology for her mood, but it didn't feel like enough. "I'm sorry I snapped at you," she added not exactly looking at him as Gale took a bite.
"Don't worry about it."
"And I'm sorry I got us lost."
"Really, Catnip, I don't care," he said between crunches with a smile.
"But I wasted your entire day."
"It wasn't a waste."
"Because I was having fun." Katniss looked at him like he was crazy and clearly didn't understand. Gale just smiled and took another bite.
"I can probably shoot a squirrel…for dinner."
Gale thought seriously for a second and then shook his head. As much as he wanted to eat, he knew they shouldn't risk it. "We probably don't want to take the chance with fire. We don't know who's watching."
Katniss met his eyes. Both were remembering the time they saw the Capitol hovercraft in the woods. She nodded, "right."
She and Gale didn't bring any camping supplies, so they walked around until they found a grassy clearing where they figured it'd be most comfortable to sleep. Gale tried to reel Katniss in with a few attempts at conversation, but was unsuccessful, and he knew she wasn't going to talk if she didn't want to, so he started talking about the constellations because he didn't want to sit in silence.
"And that one there, can you see it?" he pointed, "that's the bear."
"That doesn't look like a bear to me," Katniss said.
"Use your imagination, Catnip."
"It still doesn't look like a bear."
"Okay. Well, you see those three in a row there?"
"That's the great hunter."
"Those three stars?"
"They're his belt. That's his arm, there, and his feet. See?"
"Yeah. I guess."
"He's a hero," Gale said like it meant something.
"Why? What'd he do that was so important?"
Gale thought for a moment and realized it never occurred to him to ask. "I don't know," he finally said, softly. "Does it matter?"
"Of course it does!" Katniss said, finally with a bit of spirit in her voice. "Hero is usually just another term for villain...it just depends who's talking." Gale turned over to face her, clearly interested but not totally understanding. "I mean," she said with a shrug, "the Capitol has people they'd call heroes too, you know, but what would we call them?"
Gale took a deep breath. She was right. He never thought about this before.
"There's an archer too," he finally continued, looking back up at the sky. It seemed less bright now. "But I don't think we can see it now."
"Where'd you learn about this?" Katniss asked, legitimately interested. This time she turned to look at him. Even though his face was still, she could see his mind moving, but she hasn't learned to read him as well as he had her.
Gale's father had taught him all of this. His father had loved to tell stories. Gale wasn't sure if he should bring that up after the incident with the pond, if should talk about something his father left him when she'd just lost something from hers. As he considered how to respond, he saw a shooting star.
"Make a wish," he said excitedly as he pointed.
"The shooting star. When you see one you get to make a wish."
His reason didn't seem to be good enough for her. "Did you?" Katniss asked, looking at him.
"What'd you wish for?"
"If I tell you, it won't come true," Gale chuckled softly as he spoke.
"It won't come true anyway." Gale let out an exasperated breath, and shook his head as Katniss spoke. She realized what she said sounded harsh. "I just mean, we're seam rats, remember?"
"Yeah," Gale sounded slightly crestfallen, "I know."
"Nothing good will ever happen to us." She didn't even sound sad as she said it.
He looked over at Katniss, she was pulling her father's jacket tightly around her, feeling the night's cold. She felt Gale's eyes on her and looked over. He seemed to be considering something heavily for a second, and then took another deep breath. She tried not to shiver as he watched her, afraid he might offer her his jacket. But he just said, "Good night, Catnip."
"Good night, Gale," she returned as she curled up.
When Katniss woke up, Gale's jacket was covering her.
"No," she said immediately, looking at him like it was a stupid question as she rubbed her sore neck. "Did you?"
He laughed, "No, I guess not. Here, I found this for breakfast." He handed her some nuts he's scrounged. "Are you ready to head back?"
"Yeah," she said, getting up and stretching. "We should try to get back soon. Our families are probably worried."
"Yeah," Gale agreed, offering a hand to Katniss to help her up.
"I'll try to hit a few squirrels or something as we get closer so this trip isn't a total loss."
Gale looked almost hurt as she said that, but he shook his head before she could read him and made a joke. "That's a good idea. Come on, let's go."
She handed him his jacket back, and without another word, they headed home.