Be Brave, Sweetheart.

A/N: Minor Mockingjay spoilers. Haymitch's girl. Her story. Her life. Her punishment. Canon. One shot.

Disclaimer: I don't own Hunger Games and co.

=Ξ=

"Be brave, sweetheart."

You whisper the words into his chest as you rock back and forth in his caring embrace. He's warm as always and he smells like fragrant pine needles. Part of you is desperate to suck up as much of him as possible; his strength, his heartbeat, his love. Part of you wants to hold on to him 'til the end of time; keep him safe.

Part of you thinks he's going to die, and deep down, you know you're helpless.

So you tell him to be brave while you try to hold yourself together and you can feel your soul ripping into shreds. Everything is tingling painfully, and you feel—no, you know—that as soon as you leave the room, you will collapse. But you're not a hypocrite. If you want Haymitch to be brave, then you would at least try not to cry.

And yet the tears run down your cheek anyway, and when they dampen his shirt, it makes him stop in his rocking and look down at you. His eyes reflect the colour of your own, but they hold an aged gruffness you could never capture. Ten minutes since his name had come from the Reaping, and he's grown a hundred years.

Now your tears aren't all from your pain, but some of it is aching pity, too.

"Have a little faith," he murmurs into your hair. "I'll come out of the arena; for your sake, if nothing else." His hand is gripping at your thigh with a shudder that belies that calmness of his words.

You're both sixteen. He's going to die, and you're going to watch him. Even so, he still can't say the words 'I love you'. In a way, you're glad. If he'd said those words now, at the point of desperation, they'd lose some of their meaning.

Instead, you bury your face into his neck, deeply inhale his pine musk and brush your lips against the sweaty skin in a shadow of a kiss.

That's how you were found sitting before the Peacekeepers ripped you out of his arms. Before he could shout out his last words to you, they'd force you out of the room, a hand clasped over your mouth to muffle your shriek.

However, you think you hear him cry out,

"I'm sorry."

=Ξ=

"Be brave, sweetheart."

He can't hear you, you know he can't. Yet you can see his face on the screen, and even without that smile that marks it when he looks at you, it's comforting enough that the words leave your lips in a semblance of a lover's whisper.

While he can't hear or see, you can. And you aren't quite sure which reality is worse when the screen cuts off sharply to another young male contestant being roughly gutted by a brutish looking female. The commentators clap wildly at the display, and you briefly spare a thought to wonder whether they would clap so enthusiastically if their children entered the Games.

A forbidden thought; an impossible thought—so entirely pointless, you think. Everything is so, so pointless.

Huddled on the threadbare couch, your arms are wrapped protectively around your body, tightly gripping at your legs tucked up beneath your chin. There's a mug of steaming tea in front of you. Well, it's more hot water than tea, the leaves having been recycled so often they'd lost their flavour. But you appreciate your father's gesture.

Though you know you should drink it before it gets cold, or nibble at the plate of mash left for you beside it on the rickety table, you can't. You can't pretend to be okay when you see Haymitch on the screen with an uncharacteristic scowl marring his face—with blood still dripping from fingers leaving a cooling corpse.

The knife shakes in his grip, just the tiniest bit, but you'd known him since you were very, very little, and all his tells are second-nature to you. His set jaw, the tightening of his fists, the way he rolls his neck to crack it. They're all tells of how upset he is.

Understandable, since he's just killed someone. He'd killed someone. In self-defence, of course, but still...

Part of you wonders if you could forgive him.

The screen cuts out again, yet you catch him mouthing something and you know that of course you can forgive him – if he comes back.

Straightening up, you voice what he had to mouth to save face on the screens. You say what he couldn't because he had a Game to play. You mutter into the quiet night air,

"I'm sorry."

=Ξ=

"Be brave, sweetheart," he says in a shuddering voice.

It's shaky because he's crying and speaking through sobs is hard; you know that when you thought he was going to die—time and time again during the Games.

His words remind you of when he was leaving to the Capitol after the Reaping. Except that time, you were the one to say the words.

This time, he's the one crying. And you're the one going to die. Even the fact that you're not touching—you are so completely different to the intimate and private room of the post-Reaping visitors—changes the scenario. It's weird how things went topsy-turvy so quickly.

It's weird that you're not crying.

Everything isn't blank. You're frightened and you know your Seam skin is probably paler than it's ever been before, but you're not freaking out. The blood dripping down your forehead, the bruises blooming on your arms, the pricking burning sensation in your legs hadn't broken you.

But seeing the President's hand on Haymitch's shoulder, it makes you resigned to your death in a way you never thought possible. You wouldn't mind it so much if you were alone though. However, you're not, and having a witness makes things worse.

The President leans down and whispers something into Haymitch's ear, and you see him pale drastically. A flare of protectiveness heats up your soul, but you're too tired to do anything but look up at the pair in front of you. His eyes are still the same grey, the same as yours. Familiar and warm; even in this time and place and scenario, they make you feel safe.

You're not out of it enough to miss the irony of that statement.

The shackles on your wrists are starting to chafe, but you don't really care. Haymitch looks up at you with pained eyes, and even though he whispers, you can hear him.

"Why not me?"

"Because you'll be an example," the President murmurs back. "And if not now, then in another week, and who knows how many cuts we can add on her pretty little body?"

You see his finger on a remote control a split second before you look up and meet his gaze. So, not a witness then, you think as your eyes flit to the flinty steel gaze of the unyielding leader of Panem before back to the young man.

Haymitch is your executioner.

You're the sacrifice because you're anonymous and you'll cut the real victim deeply. A welling of love and pity finally pushes one tear out from you.

The final thing you hear from him is exactly like the scene from the Visitor's Room.

"I'm sorry."

A flash of light, a burst of excruciating pain, and then nothing.

=Ξ=

A/N: I tried so hard not to make an OC, but still show Haymitch's girl; this was as close as I could come. I killed her with an electrocution by Haymitch's hand because I can see Snow forcing him to do so. One of the cruellest ways to go for him. :'-(

Why do I seem to love torturing obscure HG characters? *Sigh*.

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