Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: This story is a tag-team effort between me and the glorious Medea Smyke. I started it and got stuck, and she gladly stepped in and finished it for me. It takes place within the same universe as my Odd Couple story. But in the future. Hope you enjoy.
The Golden Fleece
I'm sitting, staring at the empty dining room table as I hold my head in my hands. I have a pounding headache, no doubt brought on by listening to those ridiculous Capitol sponsors drone on hour after hour. And without even a drop of alcohol. I know I promised those kids I'd stop drinking, but I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out.
"There you are, Haymitch," Effie trills, just before a large box is thrown onto the table with a dull thud.
Uhhh. Her voice is like a drill inserted straight into my brain.
I don't even look up as Effie begins to unpack her box, but she shoves whatever it is under my nose. It's a tray covered with a black cloth. Oooh, mysterious.
"Well, don't just sit there staring stupidly. Open it."
I have just enough energy to lift my head and scowl.
Without the fanfare she was planning, she rips off the velvet cover, revealing…jewelry. I mutter something under my breath, disbelieving how horrible this day is going.
"What was that?" Effie asks, her brown eyebrow arching primly.
Hmph. Her mouth is as filthy as mine. Still, I can't believe my luck that she would remember her idea of dressing us all the same.
Effie's fingers clench into fists, but she manages not to hit me. But only just. "I spoke with six different jewelers to get these. And even though you managed to have two Hunger Games winners in one year, they were still reluctant to have you wearing their products. Don't make me regret arguing your case to them."
There's still another fifteen minutes before Katniss and her lapdog return from training. Effie doesn't need me here for her to keep playing the martyr. But the second I stand up, she's scrambling to my side of the table, faster than any woman should in three inch heels.
"Uh, uh, uh. Not so fast," she says, slamming down on my shoulders. Hard. Someone so tiny shouldn't be that strong.
I try to back up my chair, but it wouldn't budge. She's behind me, immovable and implacable. A five foot three mountain of stubbornness. Her shadow falls over me as she leans forward, bringing her mouth next to my ear. The metallic gold of her wig scratches my face. And this close, I can tell she smells like wild flowers.
I shake my head, dislodging the idiocy from my thoughts.
"Now you are going to sit here, pick one of these out, and wear it," she hisses, her voice devoid of that atrocious Capitol accent, which manages to disappear whenever she's angry. She's angry a lot, and always at me. Fancy that.
"And if I don't?" I ask.
She pulls back, teeth arranged in her camera-ready grin. Then she does the unthinkable. Taps me on my nose with her finger, like I'm a dog. "Don't even entertain the thought. I'm certainly not."
Of all the times to be sober.
"Now stop growling, and choose one." Her perfectly manicured nails spread through the air, showcasing at least twenty different gold bracelets she has arranged on the dining room table. "Personally, I like this one." She runs her finger over a thin band with white stones embedded in it. Figures she'd choose the most feminine of the lot. Though I can't really call any of these pieces of jewelry manly, because what man is going to wear anything on his wrist other than a watch? And I don't even wear one of those.
"It even has pearls in it," she says, as if that's a selling point.
I snort, and she wrinkles her nose in disgust. So predictable.
"No. Absolutely not," I say with a smile, which goes completely unnoticed.
"How about this one?"
We do this about ten more times, and she's so angry, she doesn't even realize that I'm not looking at the bracelets.
"Alright! What is it going to take for me to get you to wear one of these?"
Hmm, bribery. This is new. Normally, I let her think she's bullied me into having her way, which I had planned on doing. But since she's offering, I might as well get something out of this. And I know just what I want.
Her lips thin, and she holds them together for a few seconds, thinking over my request. But rather than insult me or roll her eyes, she quietly says, "No."
I try not to show how desperate I am for something to drink. Right now, I'd even beg for one of those fruity drinks Effie's always sipping on. Well, was sipping on until she decided to stop drinking around me. "No?"
Effie clears her throat, then straightens her shoulders and raises her chin. "No more drinking for you."
"It's not up to you anyway." Which is true.
"I know. It's up to you, and you don't want to drink. And I'm not going to let you use me to do something you'll only hate yourself for afterward."
What the hell? Where did that insightfulness come from?
Effie clears her throat as she runs her hands over her already unwrinkled suit. "At any rate, I've done all the complicated work. All you have to do is wear the trinket. Can't you manage that without a drink?"
I cringe at the play on words, intentional or not. Are these bracelets a symbol of solidarity or the District 12 escort's dominance over a victor she considers less than a buffoon?
Effie raps her long, false fingernails on the tabletop in time with the pounding in my head. I cast a jaundiced eye on the obnoxious Capitol loot she managed to dig up. I'm tempted to pick one just for the pleasure of being left alone with my damned sobriety.
"You know," she adds. "Showing a little more support for Katniss and Peeta wouldn't hurt. Not if it's the last thing you'll be able to do for them."
That actually stings. I don't know if she's always been this good at kicking a man where it hurts, or if it's because I've lost my cushion. I realize that Effie is a bully. Which is odd considering she's almost a foot shorter than me, and has the face and freckles of a teenager. But she's somehow managed to get me to considerer wearing a man bracelet.
Somehow an idea forms in the bone-dry sponge of a brain I've got. It could really use a good soaking right now. Yet, I get the vague impression that I don't need to pick a trinket for me. Not when it would look just as good on a certain victor who needs a way of presenting himself to my knuckleheaded mockingjay as a viable ally.
Effie hisses through her nose. "Haymitch, choose a bracelet or so help me..."
"Alcohol, woman," I roar. "That's my condition and I don't care if it comes from your medicine cabinet." I lay my head down on the table and gloat as she sputters.
Effie leaves the room, giving me the peace I need to formulate a plan for delivering the stupid thing to Finnick. Maybe I can send it to him wrapped around a delivery of flowers? He gets them by the truckload from his Capitol tramps on a daily basis, so it wouldn't be conspicuous.
She returns with an attendant who is carrying a silver tray and a single glass of red wine.
"At least it has some health benefits, unlike your usual concoctions," she grumbles.
I smirk over this victory, and especially her unhappy expression. Maybe her wig has lost its shine? It feels good to have a hand in tarnishing it. Perhaps then she'd stop wearing those infernal mops.
I take a sip, then drain the glass in one long pull.
"Well?" Her arms are crossed over her chest and she's tapping a shiny shoe on the carpeting.
"Not until you've chosen a bracelet."
I scan the table and pick the least offensive piece I can find. It's covered with flames, but other than that, it's pretty bland. Perfect. "What about this one?"
She frowns. "This one? Why?"
"You shouldn't have put it on the table if you didn't want me to choose it."
"But it's so boring." She lifts the wide band and inspects it, her mouth pouting in distaste. "Well, I suppose you'd better put it on."
Effie practically snarls as she pages the attendant. "Mr. Abernathy needs a refill."
That's more like it. Who's the dog now?
I watch, pretty pleased with myself as the attendant comes back bearing the most glorious thing I've ever seen: a bottle of liquor.
While I'm salivating at the sight of liquid bliss, I feel something slide around my wrist and hear an ominous snick.
Effie's smile widens, with a sparkle that matches the psychotic glint in her eyes. She laughs, tossing her golden hair over her shoulder. "See how nice it looks?" She turns to the attendant, still beaming. "I was mistaken. Mr. Abernathy has had enough to drink for the day."
I gape at the gold piece now gleaming on my wrist. Looks like a manacle. Or a dog collar.
I reach for my empty glass.
A/N: Possible epilogue, in which Finnick may or may not respond well to Haymitch's advances, to be added...if interest is there.