A/N: So here it is, the insanely long (for me) extended version of 'Real'. Actually this version came first, as I couldn't stop writing. Nearly 6000 words in a few hours... yay for procrastination from real life!

So much love for Haymitch and Effie. I mean I'm all for Katniss/Peeta and Finnick/Annie, but it's all about Hayffie for me!

Hope you enjoy, this is the first fic I've actually written in a long time as uni and work kind of meant I didn't have time to write and as such found it a struggle to do so. So thanks Hayffie for some inspiration ;)

If you've got a moment free, please review as I would love some feedback :)

It wasn't love at first sight. It wasn't even love at second sight, or third. In fact, if anything, it would be described as loathing at first sight. Effie was the prim, proper and eccentrically made up Capitol butterfly. Haymitch was the drunken Victor and mentor of District 12.

She hated his attitude towards the tributes, and was disgusted at the way he would drink himself into a stupor at all hours of the day rather than help them. He hated everything she stood for; she chose the names of the unfortunate children who would be going into the arena and she didn't seem to care. It was all a game of fashion and status to her.

Most of the time they ignored each other, having at some point come to an unspoken mutual agreement on the matter. On the odd occasion they did speak, it almost always ended with raised voices and one or the other storming out of the room.

At least the Games were only for a few weeks. The rest of the year they could spend doing exactly as they pleased without a second thought of each other.

It wasn't until the 74th Hunger Games that things started to shift between them. The way Katniss had volunteered to take her sister's place as Tribute had moved Effie. Never had District 12 had a volunteer, and for that reason alone Effie knew that Katniss was not their ordinary Tribute. Perhaps this year they finally had a chance.

Once they were settled on the train, Effie sought out Haymitch. It was not surprising in the least that he was in the bar car. She watched him for a moment, eyes narrow and lips pursed, before she pushed open the door.

"Put down that drink and go and talk to them." Effie said sharply as she entered the room.
"What's the point, sweetheart?" Haymitch sat down, drink in hand. "They all end up dead."
"The point, Haymitch," Effie fixed him with a glare, "is that we might actually have a chance this year. Katniss has a spirit unlike any of the others we've had."
"Spirit does not mean victory." Haymitch drawled.

Effie watched as he stared at the liquid in his glass, swirling it around before downing it and standing to get a refill.

"Perhaps not." She agreed. "But it's a start." She waited for him to give her any sort of response, but when it was clear he was only interested in the alcohol she gave up. "You are supposed to be their mentor, Haymitch. So help them. If you actually do your job as a mentor, it might be enough."

"It will never be enough!" Haymitch said sharply, his eyes dark. "There are no victors! No one ever comes out of those games alive."

With that, Haymitch stormed from the room, leaving Effie staring daggers at his back. She didn't know where he was going, and she didn't particularly care. If he wasn't going to help Katniss and Peeta, then she would. She had been watching the Games since before she could remember; surely what little advice she could give would be better than none?

She left the bar car, and was about to push open the door to the lounge when she saw not two, but three people in there. Haymitch was sat opposite Peeta. Deciding not to intrude, Effie turned and walked away.

When a knock sounded at the door to her room that evening, she expected it to be someone coming to give her an update on the journey. Perhaps there was some sort of problem that would delay their arrival? What she did not expect was to open the door to see Haymitch standing there. Shocked, Effie mutely opened the door to allow him in.

"You were right."

Effie, already surprised at his presence, stared at him. There was nothing sarcastic or otherwise unpleasant in his tone of voice.

"She has spirit." He added after it became apparent that Effie was lost for words. "Perhaps she does have a chance."

"I believe she does." Effie said, recovering herself. "So, does this mean you're going to help?"

"Yes." Haymitch nodded. "I can't promise to stay away from the drink, and don't ask me to. But I can promise that I will stay sober enough to help them."

"That's all I ask." Effie knew that after so many years being dependent on alcohol it would probably be more detrimental for him to give it up completely. Plagued with withdrawal symptoms, he would be in no fit state to mentor. But if he could control his drinking and stay sober enough to help... that would be ok.

It was during those few weeks that Effie felt she really began to understand Haymitch. As they watched Katniss and Peeta enter the arena and prepare to face the other Tributes, Effie couldn't help but notice the set of Haymitch's jaw and the expression in his eyes. It was then she realised what he meant when he said no one ever wins the Games; even if you came out with your life, the memories stayed with you. You were never the same again.

She watched him after that. She saw the pain in his eyes when Katniss or Peeta got injured, the way he would tighten his grip on whatever he was holding when they were in danger, and even the hint of sorrow in his expression when Rue was killed. What's more, she saw the look on his face whenever they were in one of the halls with sponsors and the children were running around pretending they were in the Games. He despised them, not out of anger but because they didn't know better. They didn't know what it was really like. Effie didn't know what it was really like, though she felt she was starting to understand.

At the same time, Haymitch felt he was seeing a new side of Effie. Her determination for him to see Katniss as a prospect was what had caused him to actually talk to the Tributes, if only out of curiosity to see what she was making such a fuss about. But he had seen it, and allowed himself the smallest glimmer of hope.

Now that he was a little more sober than he had been for almost as long as he could remember, he was more aware of what was going on around him. The Games were difficult to bear, and he remembered clearly why he had started drinking in the first place. The temptation to reach for a bottle was almost overpowering, but he had made a promise. And so he found himself watching Effie. He saw her horror when Katniss was injured, saw her heart break when she thought Peeta was betraying Katniss, and saw the faintest glistening of tears at her eyes when Rue was killed. All this time he had thought she was just another Capitol doll, parading around in ridiculous costumes and clown make up with no thought of the Games beyond the entertainment value. Perhaps it was the fact he was sober, or because she felt that there was a chance this year, but Haymitch was actually seeing Effie as human.

When Katniss and Peeta defied the odds and made history as the first Tributes to win together, Haymitch and Effie were sat in the penthouse suite with Cinna, Portia and the prep teams. They all jumped up as the announcement was made, clinking their glasses together. The Capitolites proceeded to exchange hugs, whilst Haymitch sat down, not a fan of all the fuss. Besides, he wasn't so blind as to think there wouldn't be consequences. Katniss had defied the Games when she pulled out the Nightlock berries. Still he smiled as he watched the others celebrate, though he couldn't help but notice Effie seemed slightly less enthused than the others. She must just be tired from it all, he reasoned. The Games had been particularly emotionally draining for them both this year.

It wasn't until the Victory Tour that Haymitch realised there was more to Effie's lack of enthusiasm at the Victory. It all started as he expected, with Effie shouting orders and making sure everyone was where they should be at every moment. Her treating it like a celebration clearly annoyed Katniss, who stormed off once they were on the train. Peeta followed, leaving Haymitch and Effie alone. He thought he saw a flicker of tiredness in her expression as she watched their Victors go, but as she turned back to him she masked it so quickly he wasn't sure he hadn't imagined it.

Still, he couldn't shake the thought from his mind and found himself subconsciously watching her more closely after that. It was because of this that he didn't put her reaction to the reception in District 11 down to her being a diva, and his suspicions were all but confirmed at her reaction to Peeta ignoring what she had written on the cards she had given them both for their speeches.

Back on the train that evening, Effie sat alone in her room at a desk, pen in hand as she read and re-read the speech cards. The knock at the door came as an unexpected but welcome distraction. It wasn't such a surprise to see Haymitch there as it had been the first time he had come to her room.

She opened the door wide enough to let him in, and shut it behind her before turning to face him. He had come to her, so it was only right he speak first.

"You know." He said softly. It was an ambiguous sentence, perhaps deliberate on his part in case anyone was listening, but Effie knew what he meant. The expression in his eyes confirmed it.

"Yes." She said, keeping her own voice quiet. They said no more on the matter, neither sure if their conversation was private, but neither wanting to be alone with their thoughts.

So Haymitch sat on the end of the bed as Effie returned to her desk, pondering over the speeches once again.

In the end, they worked on them together, wording and rewording until they were happy that Snow wouldn't find anything incriminating in them. Though it was a stressful task, and quite literally a matter of life and death, it was nice to have company. Neither of them felt quite so alone.

Throughout the remainder of the Victory Tour, they felt themselves growing closer. In the evenings, when they found it impossible to be alone with their thoughts any longer, they would meet in either of their rooms, or sometimes in the lounge. They rarely spoke, but just sat in a comfortable silence.

When the Quarter Quell was announced, Effie plastered on a smile and clapped and cheered with everyone else. Inside, though, she as in agony. Katniss would be going back into the arena, that much was certain, but as for the male Tribute... the thought of Peeta going back into the arena so soon was awful, but the thought of Haymitch going back in to a situation that had mentally scarred him so much before, and to fight against people who had become his friends... that was unthinkable.

Effie could not remember a worse time as she stood on that platform, forced to pick out names of people she had grown to care about to send them back into an arena that could take their lives. She fought to maintain her composure, almost losing it, but reminding herself how dangerous it would be if she did. Not just for her, but for those she cared for.

She had always put great thought into what to wear, and now was no exception. The difference was that whilst she had once tried to ensure she was at the very height of fashion, she now wanted to make a subtle statement that she was part of a team. Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch and herself.

With her new gold wig and Katniss' gold pin, all that was left was to get something for the boys. When she told them all of her plan on the way to the Capitol after the reaping, she couldn't help the way her voice broke and was grateful for the hand Haymitch reached out to her. She took it, almost as surprised at the comfort it gave her as she was by him making the gesture in the first place.

He didn't know why he had done it. Over the last year, he and Effie had grown closer, but never had there been a moment that seemed quite so intimate. It wasn't, of course. It was merely holding hands, with Katniss and Peeta sitting with them. But something about it felt right.

They spent their time watching the Games in the penthouse suite. Haymitch had never much felt like joining in the social gatherings anyway, but this was the first year he was not pressured into going because even Effie did not fancy them. How could she even think about carrying on as normal when two of the people she cared most about were once again in a situation that could cost them their lives?

As the Tributes went about putting Beetee's plan in motion, Effie was on the edge of her seat. Even if they succeeded, that would mean they would all start turning on one another. Katniss and Johanna had just set off to take the coil of wire down to the beach when, beside Effie, Haymitch stood suddenly. Effie glanced up, watching as he made his way towards the door, then stopped. He turned to look back at her, frowning almost as if he was confused before a determined expression took its place.

"Come on." He said, and now it was Effie's turn to be confused.

"What? Where?"

"Effie there's no time for this." Haymitch said, walking back towards her. "I'll explain on the way but please, come with me." She still looked puzzled, and was hesitating, so he held out his hand. "Do you trust me?"

She thought about it then. Slowly over the course of the last year, the two of them had not only learned to get along, but to almost depend on each other. The way they sat together in silence during the Victory Tour, the way they sat just that little bit closer to each other as they watched the Games... they had become friends almost without either of them realising it. So did she trust him?

"Yes." She nodded slowly.

"Then come with me." He said again, his voice soft but with a hint of urgency creeping in now. Effie met his eyes, and then put her hand in his. He grasped it firmly, though gently, and pulled her to her feet.

Haymitch didn't know what he was going to say to Plutarch. Effie had never even been mentioned in the plans, and he wasn't entirely sure she would be accepted in District 13. But as he went to leave the room, he had felt something pull him back. He had loathed her once, but over the last year he had seen a side of her that he liked, and somehow they had become friends. He couldn't bring himself to leave her behind; not only was the thought of her being imprisoned and tortured too much for him to bear, but he also couldn't imagine being without her. She had been a source of comfort for him this past year, and yet wasn't afraid to tell him when he needed to get his act together. So he had asked, no, begged her to join him. She might not like where they were going, but it was a damn sight better than leaving her here.

Effie wasn't that pleased to discover what was happening, but it wasn't because she was angry. She was happy they were going to rescue the Tributes, but she was scared. The thought of war, which was clearly where this was heading, was terrifying to her. And District 13... well, she had always been taught it was destroyed. She didn't know what to expect, but she knew for sure they wouldn't have the luxuries she was used to having in the Capitol.

She had withdrawn into herself as they travelled, barely even noticing as Plutarch left to check how far they had left to go until they reached the arena and only vaguely aware of Haymitch coming to sit beside her. It was a testimony to how well they had come to know each other that he understood what she was feeling without the need to speak.

"I couldn't leave you." He said quietly, breaking the silence.

Effie didn't know how to respond to that; there seemed to be more meaning in those words than was apparent on the surface, but was saved from having to reply by Plutarch returning, his face set. They were nearly there.

They were greeted by a group of people all dressed identically in grey. Effie couldn't think much beyond that; her thoughts were with Peeta. They hadn't had time to save him or Johanna. What the Capitol would do to them she dreaded to think. She descended the ramp and, after being stared at for a moment, was guided to a room in the Hospital area where they did a quick health check before finally escorting her to another room equipped with a bed, desk and a wardrobe filled with grey garments.

She didn't see Haymitch.

Haymitch was detained in a quiet area of the compound after the initial health check owing to the alcohol in his system. It was a prohibited substance in District 13, and so they wanted to keep him hidden whilst he went through withdrawal and give him therapy to help him. It was for his own safety as well as the safety of others, they told him.

As he lay there that night, feeling the first shakes start to take hold, he couldn't help but wonder where Effie was and how she was coping.

Effie isolated herself, not enjoying the stares she received from the people of District 13 on the one occasion she did leave. Someone, she wasn't sure who, had arranged for food and drink to be brought to her so at least she wouldn't starve to death.

She found herself strangely bothered by the lack of Haymitch, and wondered where he was and why he hadn't come to visit. Plutarch had been a handful of times, always trying to convince her she wasn't a prisoner, but Haymitch never came by. Effie didn't like to ask anyone, either. She had looked for him sometimes, leaving her room shortly before curfew when it was still allowed for her to be out but was generally very quiet.

Finally, Plutarch came to tell her that Katniss had agreed to be the Mockingjay, the figure head for the rebellion and they needed someone she trusted to help her. Seizing the opportunity, Effie asked about Haymitch and was told he was drying out. It made sense, then, why he had not been to visit her and why she had been unable to find him. She briefly wondered how he was coping, but then pushed those thoughts to one side. She informed Plutarch that aiding rebels was not her forte, which he took to mean as her declining to help. Perhaps it was, she wasn't sure, but the moment he mentioned replacing her she knew she couldn't sit by and let that happen. It wasn't that she minded being replaced so much as she couldn't let that happen to Katniss.

It wasn't fun, being without alcohol. It wasn't necessarily the sobriety that was hard, surprisingly the therapy had helped and he didn't find himself hallucinating or screaming as he once had, but his body was finding it difficult to cope without the alcohol and had caused him to get fairly ill. Still, he had something to focus on now. He had been given permission to leave the facility that afternoon, and as he walked out of the doors he was met by a messenger who had come to tell him what he had missed out on, including Plutarch's propos. He was guided to a room where they were filming and snuck in at the back quietly, watching take after take.

Finally he made his presence known and approached Katniss, glancing at Effie as he passed her and briefly noting that her face was free of the awful make up she usually plastered it with. She looked better for it. Much better.

Effie heard the sarcastic clapping and turned, knowing instinctively that it was Haymitch. He didn't look well, but she was sure he must have looked far worse while he was in seclusion. Still, it was both a relief and a comfort to see him again.

As those in attendance at the meeting left to make the necessary arrangements for Katniss to journey to District 8, Haymitch and Effie found themselves in the room alone. Though neither would admit it, they had both lingered in the hopes that this would happen. They had spoken only a few words to each other, and already they could tell there was a different dynamic. When Haymitch had said he liked her better without the wigs and make up, and Effie had responded about liking him sober, there was something undeniable in the air between them.

"How are you?" Effie asked, a small smile on her lips.

"I've been better." Haymitch shrugged. "And how are you? Coping without the clown suits?"

"Grey is a very boring colour." She commented dryly, causing Haymitch to laugh.

They sat, talking about nothing much for a time, simply enjoying each other's presence again. Before they knew it, it was time to head back to their rooms for curfew. Haymitch had to find out where his was, and Effie accompanied him on the way. It turned out he was in a room next door to Beetee, on the same floor as Effie's though at the opposite end of the corridor. As they made their way there, the cold started to set in and Effie shivered a little. Haymitch noticed, and silently removed his black woollen cardigan and draped it around her shoulders. She glanced at him and smiled her thanks.

They reached Haymitch's room first, and they said goodnight before Effie continued on to her own room. It was only when she was inside that she realised she still had Haymitch's cardigan. She changed into her sleepwear, and put the cardigan on over the top. She slept well that night for the first time since arriving in District 13.

The screen went black, and Haymitch shared a look with Katniss before telling everyone it was a warning. Thankfully Coin took them seriously and had the sirens started to get everyone downstairs into the bunker on the lowest level. Katniss ran off to find her sister, and Haymitch turned to leave, pausing as he saw Effie standing there, frozen with her eyes still transfixed on the screen.

"Effie." He spoke urgently, putting a hand on her shoulder. That seemed to shock her, and she turned to look at him. He would have had to be blind not to see the fear in her eyes. "We have to go, sweetheart." He told her firmly. He took hold of her hand as she nodded, and led her out to the corridor. "Follow the others." He said, "I'll be right behind you."

Effie, almost in a trance, nodded and let go of his hand, immediately missing the security it gave her. But instinct had kicked in now, and she followed everyone else down the many flights of stairs to the bunker, her heart racing as the first bombs shook the compound.

As she passed the blast doors, she looked around, desperately trying to see Haymitch. He had said he would be right behind her, so where was he? Finally she saw him, pushing Beetee's wheelchair. She could see Haymitch's eyes scanning the crowds as they made their way to the door, and finally a flicker of what seemed to be relief as he caught sight of her.

"You should be at your bunk," he said as he reached her, allowing Beetee to continue alone now that they were safe.
"You said you'd be right behind me!" Effie retorted. "Where were you?"
"Beetee's chair can't cope with the stairs." Haymitch explained, his tone almost apologetic. "I couldn't let him go on his own."

Effie nodded, softening. Together they made their way further into the bunker. They found Haymitch's bunk first. For obvious reasons, Beetee would be taking the lower bed and Haymitch the upper one.

Reluctantly Effie carried on walking, trying to find her own bunk, but stumbled as a blast shook the compound fiercely. She would have hit the flood, had a strong pair of arms not grabbed her from behind. She turned, though she already knew it was Haymitch. He met her eyes, and without a word led her back to the bunk he was sharing with Beetee. He climbed up to the top bunk first, before helping Effie up.

Then they sat. Neither said a word as they waited for the next blast to hit.

Each time another hit landed, Haymitch could feel Effie flinch beside him. If he was scared, she was downright terrified. Almost without thinking, he put one arm around her shoulder and drew her closer. She immediately leaned into him, and he wrapped his other arm around her. He held her tightly throughout the course of the attack, and didn't let go for some time after. He felt her relax, and her breathing steadied. Glancing down, he smiled to himself as he saw she had fallen asleep.

It was sometime later when Boggs came to find him to tell him that Plutarch wanted Katniss to shoot a propo to tell the Districts that she was alive and well. Gently, he woke Effie, and the pair walked to the door of the bunker where they met with Katniss and the propo team.

White roses covered the ground. Whilst there were confused expressions and words exchanged between many of the people present, Effie shared a horrified look with Haymitch. She had been in the very heart of the Capitol for too long to not know the roses were the symbol of President Snow, and Haymitch knew all too well the threat they promised.

Katniss, too, was already clued in. So it came as no surprise to Effie when the girl broke down, refusing to do the propo because of what Snow would do to Peeta in retaliation. The escort quickly told Cressida and the crew to turn off the cameras, and followed Katniss back inside. She didn't know what to say. Really, there was nothing anyone could say that would make things better at a time like this. So she gave Katniss a hug, and an understanding smile that let her know she would be there if Katniss wanted to talk, before letting the girl leave to be alone.

Haymitch waited for a few moments before following Katniss and Effie back inside. As he rounded the corner, he saw them hug before Katniss walked away, Effie watching. He approached her, coming to stand by her side.

"Something needs to be done." Effie spoke first, not even needing to look his way to see it was him. He nodded his agreement.

"We need to get Peeta back."

Effie's blood ran cold the moment Snow revealed he knew there was a rescue mission underway and cut off the connection. Beside her, Haymitch was holding a distraught Katniss as she realised that she could have lost both Peeta and Gale in the space of just a few hours.

As she watched, Haymitch met her eyes and reached out a hand, inviting Effie in. She didn't need to be asked twice, as she too wrapped her arms around Katniss. They stood there for some time, until at last Katniss' sobs quieted and she left, retreating to be alone as she did so often.

Effie watched her go, swallowing her own emotions. She had to stay strong for Katniss.

Haymitch stepped up behind Effie, his hands subconsciously taking a firm yet gentle hold on her shoulders. The contact comforted him as much as it did her.

It seemed like an eternity passed before they were alerted to a hovercraft entering their airspace. Effie and Haymitch had remained in the control room, sitting silently together as they waited to hear any news. As soon as they knew that Gale was safe, and that Peeta had been rescued, they stood and left the room.

Effie hurried to the hospital whilst Haymitch went to alert Katniss and Finnick, who had found themselves waiting together for news of their loved ones.

The moment Finnick and Annie caught sight of each other, they were in each others arms. It brought a smile to Effie's face, and she couldn't notice the small smile Haymitch had as he looked on. Katniss, meanwhile, was embracing Gale. They spoke for a moment before he indicated where Peeta was.

Haymitch and Katniss went in alone; Effie, not wanting to crowd Peeta, elected to stay outside the window. She watched, tears prickling at her eyes as Peeta looked at Katniss, and then cried out as he lunged for the girl. She yelled for people to help them, her eyes never leaving the scene before her.

Hijacked. That's what they said had happened to Peeta. His memories of Katniss had been distorted, so that he thought she was the enemy. It broke Effie's heart. At least Katniss was more or less ok, and they believed they would be able to treat Peeta and bring him back to normal.

The whole day had been one nightmare after another. Perhaps it was for this reason that Haymitch and Effie couldn't bring themselves to be alone that night, and why Haymitch ended up sleeping on the spare bed in Effie's room.

It was amazing, really. In the midst of something so terrible as a war, there was still something so precious to be found. Effie smiled as she watched Annie walk down the aisle. Beside her, Haymitch was watching almost proudly. He had always got on well with Finnick, and had felt a little like a father to the younger man at times. Or maybe it should be a drunken uncle, as more often than not Finnick was to be found trying to get Haymitch back to the penthouse after he inevitably consumed too much alcohol at the parties the Capitol threw during the Hunger Games.

Now, Haymitch was sober and Finnick was finally free of his days being sold to wealthy Capitolites who wanted a night of pleasure and was able to at last marry the love of his life. It was a good day.

He watched on as they made their vows, glancing briefly beside him at Effie. He smiled softly, before he caught himself and looked back at the bride and groom. He could no longer deny how much he cared for the woman who stood next to him though, at least not to himself. He wasn't entirely sure when he had come to feel this way, but he knew he would do anything he could to protect her.

It was finally over. Snow and Coin were dead, and the Hunger Games would be no more. Everyone was safe, so why did Effie feel so sad?

Katniss was to return to District 12, and Haymitch was going with her to make sure she was alright. He was sober now, and even during the celebrations he had limited himself to a single glass of wine. He was a changed man from the drunken mess Effie had first met. She smiled as she thought about how much their relationship had changed in such a short space of time. And now he was leaving. Would she ever see him again?

She waited at the bottom of the steps as Katniss and Haymitch made their way down. After she bid farewell to Katniss, who proceeded to walk to the hovercraft, Haymitch stepped forwards.

"Don't be a stranger, Effie." He told her, before leaning in. She turned her head, allowing him to peck her cheek, which he did. They pulled away, and then he went in again, this time meeting her lips with his. She was surprised, more so by how right it felt. Then she told him to look after Katniss, and they parted ways.

She watched them go, the tears pooling at her eyes.

Haymitch walked to the hovercraft, his lips still tingling. He had known he couldn't bear to leave without at least doing that once, but now that he had...

Still, he had a responsibility to look after Katniss. So he boarded the hovercraft and watched out of the window as Effie became no more than a dot.

Things went more or less back to normal in the Capitol, with the exception of them now producing their own food and other things previously imported from the Districts. People still walked around in the crazy fashions, and parties were still held almost every night. It was almost as though nothing had changed, aside from the Games being a thing of the past and a new President being in charge.

So why did Effie feel so out of place?

She had changed. She could still dress the part, talk the talk and put on an act, but deep down Effie knew she wasn't the same person as she had been before the war started. She didn't fit in. The Capitol, even with all its comforts and luxuries, no longer felt like home. And try as she might, she couldn't forget that kiss. It had been a split second, but it had stayed with her. She couldn't deny it any longer. Recent events may have changed the way she thought, but her heart had also been changed, and that was all because of him.

Somehow, as Panem was being torn apart by war, something had grown in the shadows. She wasn't sure when or how, but she realised now that she couldn't spend her life here, feeling alone in a place she no longer belonged.

A week later, she stepped off a train in District 12. The Victors Village had remained untouched, and so she found his house easily. She knocked on the door, holding her breath. What if it was a mistake? What if he had simply just been saying goodbye with that kiss?

The moment the door opened, however, she knew. His eyes brightened, his lips curving up into a smile.

He couldn't believe it when he opened the door. He had repaired his telephone in the hopes she might call, but she never did. He had started to think she hadn't changed as much as he thought, that she had slipped back into the Capitol lifestyle and forgotten everything else. Forgotten him.

And yet now here she was, standing on his doorstep looking both hopeful and scared at the same time. He smiled at her, unable to remember a time he had ever felt happier, and opened the door to let her in, picking up her bags and carrying them inside after her.

It wasn't love at first sight. It wasn't even love at second sight, or third. But it was real.