man, writing this chapter was like pulling teeth. i started writing way late because i had exams, and then after that i was hit with major writer's block. i was way too mentally dead to write, plot bunnies kept biting at my ankles (i've got another fic in the works, i couldn't resist-- stay tuned for it in a few weeks!), and adding that the chapter is mostly angsty didn't help matters. also, madge chapters are usually not as fleshed out from the beginning as other chapters because they tend to be less plot-related, so i only had about a paragraph in my outline for this chapter. and yet somehow, in trying to fill it up, i ended up making it 7k words long. i don't know how these things happen to me. -_-;;;
also, in an attempt to reduce my stress levels, i inadvertently ended up finding yet another fandom to obsess over: pitch perfect. is it my fault that movie just never fails to make me feel better? and i need cheering up these days. school has been killing me lately. so yeah, i think by now i've read just about every jesse/beca fanfic ever posted online-- but still, if any one of you happens to be part of the fandom and has some recs to throw my way, they'd be more than welcome! =D
anyway, despite all the troubles this chapter gave me, i quite like it. but that may be because i'm currently on a hawthornes spiral and this chapter is heavy on my bbs gale and rory. here, have a small excerpt.
"Happy birthday, Rory!" Posy exclaimed, after blowing out the candles on the cake. Everyone else chimed in after her, and the birthday boy gave all those present a cheeky smile.
Apparently this was a tradition in the Hawthorne household that they had extended when they came to Thirteen. When it came to birthdays, they rarely had money to buy a cupcake, let alone cake, but living in the Seam they usually kept candles in stock because more often than not, their power went out at night. So blowing out the candles was more or less the only "special" thing they did on birthdays, followed by a still-modest-but-larger-than-usual dinner, and all the brothers usually passed the honor of the candles to Posy because she enjoyed it so much when she was little. Even now that she was almost ten, she got a kick out of blowing out seventeen candles in one try.
At least this year they had cake. Food was very tightly rationed in Thirteen, but every citizen had the right to a small cake and an optional get-together during "reflection" hour on their birthday. Peeta had gotten permission to bake Rory's cake himself-- it wasn't anything extravagant, just a small vanilla cake with honey buttercream frosting, but it looked delicious regardless. Once Hazelle handed her a plate, Madge could confirm that it tasted delicious as well.
As she sat down to eat her cake with gusto, she snuck a glance at Katniss, who was sitting by herself to one side of the dining hall. Peeta had set a plate with cake down in front of her, but Katniss had barely looked at it. She had barely spoken at all since the day she broke down in front of the camera, and Madge's heart went out to her, but Katniss wasn't letting anyone in. Everybody who tried to talk to her got a glare and a harsh request to leave her alone. She wasn't letting anyone even try to comfort her, like she was forcing herself to be in a sort of limbo, just because Prim was.
She was still staring at Katniss's back when Gale came up to her, plopping down on the chair right beside her as he took a bite of his own piece of cake. "I hate to say this, but damn, Dough Boy can bake." He rolled his eyes. "I'm going to say it only tastes this good because I can't even remember the last time I had cake. Yeah, that's probably it."
Madge had to laugh at the nickname. "I still can't believe you call him Dough Boy," she said, shaking her head in amusement. "You know, it won't kill you to admit that Peeta has at least some good qualities. And this cake is really good," she added, as she took her last bite of the delightfully spongy dessert. She scooped up some of the traces of frosting that were left on the plate as she asked: "Hey... have you talked to Katniss recently?"
She saw Gale's eyes shift in the same direction she herself had been looking in before, toward the side of the room, where their mutual friend hadn't moved an inched. He frowned. "No. I tried to ask her what was wrong, but she wouldn't talk, and I know from experience that pushing her isn't going to get me anywhere." His mouth twisted into a grimace and Madge couldn't help but wonder what that "experience" had entailed.
ETA for chapter 31: tomorrow morning, most likely! i've got tons of classwork to work on, but i'll do my best to post it early tomorrow.