So Much Like Me
"Katniss…" I hear Haymitch murmur as the fog around my mind thins. All I can think is that I don't want to listen to whatever he has to say. I don't want him to say anything to me. I have not forgiven him for letting the Capitol get Peeta. If they kill him, which they very well may have already done, I will hold Haymitch responsible until my dying day. Which could be sooner than later.
"There's so much I wish I could say to you," Haymitch continues. I inwardly scoff, still paralyzed by all the painkillers in my system. Of course there is, Haymitch. Of course there is. He coughs. "I'm—" He clears his throat. "I'm too much of a coward to say these things to your face, so…maybe you can hear me, but I feel…uh, I feel better with you unconscious."
I laugh again, inside of course. I bet he does, what with what happened last time he tried to talk to me. I wonder what his face looks like after those nasty scratches I'm sure I put in him. But now I'm pinned down and groggy with the hazy chemicals wafting through my thoughts. I decide not to moan for more drugs. Maybe Haymitch really has something to say worth hearing. I listen as he goes on.
"You're…you've always been something else, kid. So strong, so stubborn. So much like me."
If I had been awake I would have scowled at him. I make a note to do so later.
Haymitch laughs softly. "So much like me…" I will scowl extra nastily at him once I awaken, I decide. "We never really got along, did we sweetheart?" He chuckles again. "But Peeta was right. You are my favorite. I think that…I think, if I hadn't been a player in the Games, maybe I'd have had a family. I think that…if I had a daughter, she'd have been a lot like you."
This catches me off guard. I've never heard Haymitch talk about a family or friends or anything really. He's never been this open to me—or to anyone really. I soften a little bit toward him, but only a little.
He heaves a deep sigh and I hear his weight shift, like he's taken a seat at the chair next to my stark white bed. "I think of you as my daughter sometimes, Katniss. I don't mean to, but it happens, and it scares me more than being in the arena ever did. More than the darkness, more than the nightmares. More than anything."
He pauses and I can picture him behind my dark eyelids, rubbing his hand over his eyes, his hair, settling it back into his lap. I can't imagine how sober he must be to make this speech. Or maybe he's so drunk he is able talk seriously to me about this. I don't know. This moment seems too intimate to be really happening with Haymitch.
His words break my heart. He thinks of me as a daughter. I don't have a father anymore; I know that perfectly well. Haymitch doesn't take my father's place in any way, but I don't think anyone ever can. I don't know how I see Haymitch in my head—no, in my heart—but it might be similar to the way he sees me. Again, I don't know. I find I don't know much anymore…
"It scares me because—" he takes in a ragged breath, and I can't force the image of Haymitch crying into my head. It just doesn't fit. "It scares me because I can't bear to lose you. I remember what you said one time, about never having your own family because you wouldn't watch your own children go to the Capitol to be slaughtered in the Games, and now…I think I know what you mean."
I suddenly feel terrible for the way I've treated Haymitch. Not like a daughter should. Then I remember…I'm not really his daughter. Not really his friend either. We're tied together by something entirely different, but possibly as strong, now: the Hunger Games, the rebellion against the Capitol. My chest aches, and Haymitch resumes.
"You're more than the Mockingjay, Katniss, so much more! You need to stay alive for the uprising, of course, but there's more than that. The people. Everyone that loves you. Your mother, Prim, Gale…"
Another crack appears in my heart with every name he utters, and I know he is right. I owe these people everything.
"Cinna, Peeta…" A heavy silence falls over us, and I wish I was conscious so I could smile and Haymitch, or pat his hand, maybe even hug him. I have a feeling that this conversation wouldn't even be occurring if I was alert enough to do any of those things, though.
Haymitch breaks the silent shroud in a softer voice than I've ever heard escape his lips. "Me."
I feel the fog begin to recede, and I'm swimming towards consciousness with everything I have, straining to hear what my mentor says next.
"I love you," he finally whispers. "I love you, Katniss."
He stands, leans down and presses his lips softly to my forehead. "And I'm sorry."
Pushing hard against the shield my body has set against me, I pull and pull myself toward the bright, stoic light of reality. I need to be here, with Haymitch, as he tells me these things. I need to be here.
As he turns and begins to shuffle out of the room, my eyes fly open and I gasp at the sudden brightness and coldness of consciousness. "Haymitch!" I choke, barely audible. "Wait!"
He spins around to face me slowly and I am able to pull myself into a sitting position. I see the marks on his face that are definitely the result of my nails raking down it, but I don't have time to feel bad again. My mind is ten steps ahead of me.
"What-what are you sorry for?" I pant, my hair sticking to my sweaty neck and hanging over my face in disarray.
Haymitch hesitates in the doorway, just staring steadily at me. "You heard all that?"
I nod and swallow.
"So you heard…?"
I nod again.
He rocks back on his heels and stuffs his hands into his pockets, blowing a thin stream of air out between his pursed lips. "Well then…I guess everything. But at the moment I'm most sorry I let the Capitol get ahold of Peeta."
"We have to get him back," I tell him, and now it's his turn to nod.
"We will," Haymitch assures me before turning again and heading out the door.
"Haymitch," I call again. He stops, doesn't turn around, but I know he's listening. "One more thing."
"And what's that, sweetheart?" His tone is sardonic and I know he's Haymitch again. Maybe my opportunity has passed, but I barrel ahead anyway.
"I love you too."
A/N: I tried to make their little moment as unromantic as possible, since I'm pretty sure a lot of readers would be offended and grossed out about it :P But I just really love Haymitch and I think there's more to him than his gruff exterior. Thank you for taking the time to read, now take a little more and review (: