Haymitch is forty years old.
Katniss is eighteen.
Her mother doesn't approve, neither does Gale. In fact, all who are aware of their arrangement are quite disgusted, or simply bothered. Mother and Gale put up with it- for Katniss. They try to ignore it- for Katniss. After all, their precious Mockingjay has been through much. They will not hurt her over it.
They will not deny her happiness.
Katniss is happy when she is with Haymitch. At first it was tentative, something they refused to talk about. If they saw each other during the day, they would always pretend to hate each other. Constantly they would sit, arguing and bickering. At night, they would love- intensely and passionately, clinging to each other and refusing to let go. By morning that would change, and they'd instead refuse to meet each other eyes.
It had all changed six months before.
Peeta had come for a visit. No one knows for sure what he'd been thinking. He had never fully recovered from the hijacking. While he could stand near Katniss, even talk to her, he still could not get over his desire to destroy her.
He could not stop hating her.
Katniss had been alone at the time, curled in a ball on her porch. When Peeta had appeared, walking up Victor's Village Road, it had been as if she'd seen the sun shine again. Her face lit up and she jumped to her feet, eyes alight and face flushed. Though Peeta was still halfway down the street, she took off running, her dark hair flying out behind her. He stopped, and when she pounced, throwing her arms around him, Peeta stiffened.
"Peeta!" She had gasped, grinning. How she'd missed him! His beauty and his love, and how he refused to see the world like anyone else. She loved him, and he had finally, finally come back to her.
Peeta still hadn't said anything. His arms had not encircled her. He was trembling slightly, but to his credit, had managed not to shove her away.
"Peeta?" Katniss asked, concerned. She looked up at him, then steps away quickly. His perfect face was distorted. Peeta's eyes were narrowed and cold, and his upper lip had pulled back in a snarling grimace.
"Katniss." He said, stiffly. He hadn't looked at her yet. Katniss felt a strange fear growing inside her.
"Peeta? Come on, Peeta, it's me. Katniss. I love you, Peeta." Katniss pleaded. She reached up and tried to hold his face in her hands. Peeta looked down at her, mouth opening and closing as if to say something.
"This was a bad idea." He said finally. He shrugged off her touch and turned around.
"I'm sorry. Good bye, Katniss." Peeta said gruffly. Katniss stared at him in horror before leaping forward.
"No, no Peeta, you can't go yet. Why did you come? Why'd you come, Peeta?" Katniss cried out. Her hands enclosed around his bicep, but he swung around quickly, his knuckles slamming into the side her face, turning her olive skin dark. Katniss tumbled to the ground, skinning her knees and back.
Peeta stood above her, arms shaking. Katniss stared up at him in horror, reaching up to touch her face.
"Peeta?" She whispered, shocked. He had tried to strangle her once, but hadn't hurt her since. He had, she thought, learned to control it better.
Peeta took a deep breath, running a hand through his blonde hair. He gazed at her with wide, confused eyes. She watched the play of emotions cross his face- pain, confusion, hate, guilt, and regret. There was no love there.
"I am sorry, Katniss." Peeta apologized. "I thought..." He didn't finish the sentence.
"You thought what?" Katniss snapped. She pulled herself to her feet, cheek and eye already swelling.
"I thought if I saw you again... I thought maybe it had changed." Peeta replied, quietly. Katniss scowled at him.
"You can change it, you bastard, you just don't want to!" She snarled, eyes glistening. Peeta stared at her, then shook his head and turned away.
That time, Katniss hadn't stopped him. She had stood there, breathing heavily, then returned to her house, not noticing the pair of gray eyes that watched her from across the road.
For the first time in a long time, she called her mother, and cried most of the night. Her mother did what she could to calm her daughter, but ended up just listening, unable to handle the grief. Finally, Katniss had hung up. She laid in the darkness alone for a long time.
When the downstairs door lock began to turn, Katniss had lifted her head, glaring concerned into the dark. She reached out and grabbed a knife from her bedside table. Heavy foot steps climbed the stairs, and soon a black figure of a man stood in the doorway. She could smell the scent of alcohol and sweat, and something else, distinct to its owner. Katniss relaxed.
The black shadow walked closer, then stopped. He was tall, but his shoulders were slumped.
"You gonna' kill me with that, sweetheart?" Haymitch asked, sitting down on the side of her bed. Katniss blinked and set the knife down. Haymitch sighed and leaned over her, pressing his scarred palm against her cheek.
"Peeta..." Katniss said sadly, but she didn't cry. Her head hurt and her eyes were sore. There were no more tears left in her.
"Yeah." Haymitch responded simply, and just like that, Katniss knew he knew. His fingers rubbed the bruise on her cheek softly.
Katniss reached up and pulled him down towards her. Haymitch gave a deep breath, then crawled over her, laying down behind her. He reached out, rather tentatively, to wrap his arms around her. Katniss relaxed and pressed herself against his chest. Haymitch buried his head against her neck, running his fingers in soothing strokes through her hair.
They layed together for a long while, neither speaking. Haymitch did not let go.
Later, when they were both caught in the disoriented place between wake and sleep, Katniss stirred against him.
"Haymitch?" She whispered, slurring slightly in sleepiness. Haymitch nuzzles her jaw slightly.
"Hm?" He hummed, and Katniss bit her lip slightly.
"Don't leave in the morning." She said. Haymitch stiffened slightly, and was at once fully away.
"What?" He asked, though he knew very well what she said. Katniss swallowed, nervous.
"Don't leave in the morning." She repeated. Haymitch closed his eyes in thought.
"You sure?" He asked, and Katniss nodded against him.
"Yeah." She said.
Haymitch smiled, and leaned down to plant a light kiss her neck.
And just like that, everything changed.
From then on, those few people who had returned to District Twelve became aware of their relationship. They still bickered, but they no longer pretended to hate each other. Every morning they would still be together, as they would be every night.
For the first time in a long time, Katniss, and Haymitch, were happy.
Nobody would deny them that.