I Disclaimer:All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

The conversation between Haymitch and Peeta after the Quell was announced. In catching fire. Peeta came to Haymitch but we never saw what happened. We were there when Katniss arrived and saw the very brief exchange. Note – I do understand that many of you do not like the Haymitch – Katniss romance element. Please see my ending comments and Haymitch is 24 years older than Katniss – many seem to feel he's 30+ years older and that is not the case.

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I will be going back to the games. Another Quell, but this time I will do it right. This time, I willsave the girl.

I sit drinking away the shock, but it is doing little for my quaking hands. I am pure fear tonight. I wonder which one of them will be the first to arrive. I expect her. She will beg me to go with her. I already know she and I will agree. I want to see her little calculating face, the hard gray eyes, as she tries to talk me into dieing.

I smile a modest, amused resolve, as I hear the door open softly. She won't have to talk very hard. I know what my girl will ask of me and for her I will die. I don't really know exactly what I feel for her, but it is something that makes little else matter to me. She matters, and all else is bland next to that feeling. Maybe I love her as a father, that protectiveness is there. Maybe It's wrong the way I love her, but beings I would not act on those feelings, if they exist, they are harmless. Many things can be stirred up in love, even hate. She makes me so mad I do hate her sometimes. If she killed me, I could not hate her for that. The things I hate her for, are the bits of her, I see in myself.

I welcome death, even if it is by her hand. Especially, if it is by her hand, in fact. Who better could I ask to be my last vision in life. A perfect wild spirit tucked in a goddess of raw beauty. I would be lucky to close my eyes in final rest to that sober face. I can see her and I, the final two. I can imagine her little tears, as I will whisper kindly, "It's ok sweetheart. Think of it as an act of love."

I intend to hold still and smile as she skillfully slits my throat. She might even sing one of her little songs for me as I finally slip into the place I should have been long ago. Death ,my friend, finally remembering my suffering and giving me pity.

The tortured face of Peeta greets me and I silently hand him my bottle. He chokes on his little sip. "Don't worry you will relish it someday boy. So what may I do for you Peeta old Pal? Did you bring me rolls or did you want to talk about the odds being in your favor?"

"I want you to promise me you will let me go." He says little smile playing on his face. He thinks I would be a coward and let him die next to her, when my death is the only promise they have of a life together? How pathetic can this insane boy be?

The friendly smile on my face fades. "Not a chance. I go, end of talk. I will take her to the final two, then let her win, with a smile on my face." I say laughing at his stupid idea.

"Haymitch, your too old. You can't win like you did last time." He says. His words are blunt and I hate the hopeless death seeping into his blue eyes before we have even let the announcement settle. He's finding his distance and wanting to die for her again. We are both fools.

"Really?" I glare at him as I show him how a man drink's this blessed liquid of life. "Think I have pickled to many brain cells since the good old days? Think again boy. I didn't win with brawn the first time. You couldn't take me now if you wanted to. You won't be anything but a burden, you and your leg." I meet his eyes with my own cold hard resolve.

"Well, I can volunteer and then it won't do you any good to fight me." He says flopping down in the seat next to me.

"So, you want me to watch both of you die? No thanks." I shake my head because he's just a young idiot. " They won't let you pull another happy ending on them. There will only be one winner this time. I have to go. I have to keep her alive, so she can come home to you. She and I will make a dandy team." I say, satisfied he will see my intent.

"No. You have to get us sponsors and you can't kill them, because they are your friends. I can and I will. She lives. I die. You will be here for her. She can marry Gale this way. Or you even, if I know what I think I do?" He says studying my face like a cat ready to pounce.

I raise my eyebrows at his tone. The bottle slams on the table as anger swells in me. "You know nothing Peeta. She loves you, and it will break her to be without you. She might take up with Gale, if you act like an idiot and take a swan dive, against what she wants. But there is nothing on this earth I could do for her if you die in my place. Turn her into a slobbering drunk like myself maybe, but that would be as far as it would ever go. God your a bumpkin." I lean over and look at him with pure malice.

" That what you dream of at night boy? Me holding her in your place, sound like a good plan to you? You want to die so she can be mauled by a drunk, old enough to be her Daddy every night? Do you see her smile as I give her the things of the night she wanted from you? Do you really think she would live with that for long? " I know I am being nasty but if it takes that image to make him understand then so be it. I have hidden my feeling for the girl. I keep my stupid adoration to my self most of the time. I would never think of subjecting her to my attentions. The fact he has picked up on the tiniest inkling of my secret just rumbles my chain.

His face is stoic but I see the anger flash there. He takes another pull from my bottle. "The two of you don't hide how you feel as well as you think." He snorts his nose at me and shakes his head. "The only reason you bicker so much, is you are so much alike. You aren't so bad when you're not wallowing in puke and week old underdrawers. She loves you too Haymitch. She would never tell you. If she didn't care, don't you think she'd be here by now pleading with you to go with her? If she's taking this long to make up her mind, it says something to me. Something nice Haymitch, not the way you put it." He looks down and blushes.

I sigh. I can't meet his eyes; the tenderness I have developed for her is too deep. "Peeta, I would never act on those feelings. I am sorry you could even guess." I say ashamed but now actually wondering if he could be right about her as well. Could she care for me even a tiny bit? Not just in that way, but could she love me even a tiny bit, even as just her worthless old drunk friend? Maybe a little. Maybe i know she does, a little.

"I know Haymitch. Not while she has other options, but I would rather her end up with you, than someone who would hurt her." He sits silently.

I sigh at his stupid suggestion. She would probably rather be dead. "She would never forgive me for even the thought and we both know it." I hope my declaration will end this line of discussion. I pass him the bottle again.

"My way, or I tell her." He whispers, the bottle just touching his lips. "I will tell her. Your secret would be out and you would have to face her. You couldn't drink away all your emotions in that arena. That would be fun to watch."

I study his face for a moment; angry he would use something like that against me. "Tell her whatever you want, but, tell me this. Is she still a virgin Peeta?" I smile my most sinister smile.

He's caught off guard buy my response and his eyes falter, telling me the truth, that she is. I wait for him to finally respond. "Of course she is." He manages.

"My advice is don't let her go into the games again as one. You don't know some of the possible candidates like I do. Take care of it or so help me I will find someone who will. Don't let that be the only time for her Peeta. Don't let them use that against her or be part of how she dies after they have stolen your little leg and beaten you to death with it." I say attacking.

"What are you saying?"

I roll my eyes in disgust. "Peeta you have seen the tapes. Think about Cato. He said 'his way'? Only after the announcement did Clove step in. Clove didn't want to watch him enjoy his plans. So, she volunteered to make it a bloody show. When are you going to wake up Peeta? You go in there, with her as a virgin, are you certain you can make sure she comes out as one? Can you guarantee she dies as one? No. I can. Trumps your martyr complex." I smile at him and swig deeply. Where is Katniss? She would back me up in this.

"Oh god Haymitch? Has that ever…"

"You bet it has boy. They don't play that on the regular copies. You have to buy the special editions to be treated to the full celebration of our Capitals real art." I belch. "So I go."

He sat quietly for a while. Then, stubborn as he had always been, he tells me that he still doesn't see my plan. "Then I guess we can't agree. I get picked and your going to volunteer for me and if you get picked, I will volunteer for you. We have the same odds, just in reverse."

"Shouldn't you take a second and ask her what she wants. Doesn't she even get a vote Peeta?"

"No, cause just like always, you already know what the other one is thinking. You're like two keys on the same piano. I hoped we would understand each other, for just once." He says.

"Oh, we do I think. We both want to meet glory, protecting the same little bird? Trouble is, only one of us can make the little bird live, while the other makes her sing. Mix up that order Peeta, and she won't find her way at all." I say feeling poetic and wise.

"Haymitch – you can't take a bottle in the ring. They all will know. You're going to get weaker by the hour."

My face hardens at that truth, and I am mortified that he's right. Could I face this dry?

"On top of that, you picked her last time. So now you owe me."

I frown at him. "Because you wanted it. I picked her …"

His voice goes up just a tiny bit in anger. "Because even then Haymitch, you could stand to see me die! But, you couldn't stand to see her die. I know. Effie told me, how you were when the sleep syrup seemed like a mistake, when you thought Clove was going to kill her so slowly."

I opened my mouth to say something, but I had lost it pretty badly, even for my vast disreputable image. I threatened their future tributes among other offences at that moment. Oh well it wasn't the first time there was a little side-action in a control booth. Peeta being able to put so much together was humiliating.

Peeta put his hand on my shoulder. "I get it, but you can't tell me you could see her die now. I think it would be even worse. Where do you think you would really do her the most good? We would both take her place if we could, but instead we have to figure out who can benefit her the most in the long run." Peeta is a sly one at times for such a little pup.

He doesn't say any more. He removes his hand, turns and quietly leaves me with the greatest most shattering fear of my life. What if he's right? What if she is killed before my eyes on screen, or in my arms? There isn't enough liquor in the world. That sight would prove hell is aquainted with Haymitch Abernaty, and finally broke him into tiny shards.

Finally, here she comes. Bloody and tear streaked as always. Her face so full of her sorrow, I can't even figure out what she is thinking.

I didn't want to hear her tell me that she would kill me by then. I wanted her to care enough that she didn't want to murder me. I can't let her see my need for her kindness, because I am sure she would not extend it. I fall into our normal pattern. I tried to hurt her feelings a little. I make a comment about her finally doing the math and did my impression of what I expected her to say. I could not be too kind to her or she would read my words as fear. I could not let her believe she was going to die. If I was nice, she would know that I had no hope that any of us might survive.

She fools me. The pain in her eyes as she contemplates my words, feel like razors squeezing my heart, every beat unable to help the cutting damage.

"I came for a drink." She says to me and my breath caught, as I realize she is destroyed by either choice. Oh bless you, sweetheart, for that. Thank you, for not laughing about how easy it would be to kill me. Thank you for caring even a little. How could I not love her? Somehow, I will keep you alive my darling little sweetheart. I burst out laughing in relief and the last joy I ever expected. In some small way, she does care for me.

Tomorrow my own games begin. I am going to stop these things if I can, once and for all. That would be something worth going out for. Tonight we drink. Her mood changes to drunken laughs as we imagine ourselves in the arena and we play out who we could kill. I have more opinions of who would please me by getting eaten by a giant purple turnip, and she laughs at my sarcasm aimed at others. Then later, the laughs fade to far more drunken tears, as she confesses to me how she couldn't live if Peeta were killed.

I wake to find the sun painful and Katniss still at my table offering me a cup of broth. Of course I just about changed my mind about my ability to kill one little unnamed victor. He traipsed around my house like Father Temperance, and wasted half my stash of liquor. Peeta is no fun on his noble mission to die young, and his flaring disapproval of drunken slobs. My kids. I smiled as I made my plans for the day, it was time to get my phone fixed. I have a rebellion to plan and I finally have a reason to get my head into the game.

End

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Comments -

If Haymitch feels equal affection for both – what could motivate him for always choosing Katniss over Peeta? He prefers Peeta and believes him to be the better person. ( page 178 – you could live 100 lifetimes and not deserve him)

If he betrays her to keep her alive,(pg 179 agrees to help Katniss keep Peeta alive) there must be some element of preference not explored. What could it be? Could Haymitch perhaps have deeper feelings than he's willing to profess? ( Pg 178 – unbearable where ever I am) the only constant is Katniss must go in the arena – he doesn't say what he would prefer or what he wants, or confirm that he wants to live or die/ mentor or tribute – either option is unbearable - Life or death – what is unbearable factor. (killing friends or seeing them die -or is it just the knowledge that Katniss is demanding death – and his only hope to save her this time is to make it to the final two and then force her to win?)

That key held against her statement that they must save Peeta – and only then does Pain flicker across his bloodshot eyes – (not at his own death -but it means she won't survive if the tributes are Peeta and Katniss – her death is the pain)

Ok, once again I do realize that the pairing is iffy – but it is not that far fetched that one or both of them could at some point develop feelings beyond plain friendship, affection, and kindness - those things are all elements of love and true love, deep love does not have to ever be acted upon to exist.

( Grail Romance – and a knight in shining armor who moans an unavailable or unattainable woman is a very classic literary theme – Chivalrous love was at one time considered the only TRUE form of love – you lusted and lived for someone but could never act on it in any way – but your idiot heart could not give up hope of someday winning the girls heart even though the odds were minisule)

Haymitch is the old Arthur – the old king true and brave but harmed – injured – ie symbol of the Maimed King -

Peeta is the young Arthur – the ladies champion – the bread boy – bread is symbolic of life – the Sacrificial king who will fall and yet be reborn. (true Grail king) the boy who gave the pearl (symbol of God – love – pure truth)

Gale is the Lancelot – he is doomed to unrequited love – and if he wins her the kingdom falls.

Finnick – the Balin figure – the knight of two swords – the myth and the reality that clash. He is also symbol of the Fisher king – the one who waits.

Kaniss – is Gwen – the warrior Queen.

Now I know these are probably the longest notes ever - but within this context – I do NOT find this pairing offensive.

(I am not showing a Haymitch who is seducing a young girl – dateline internet predator style – that has nothing to do with love)

The question is only -Could Haymitch have deeper feelings for her than expressed? This is my take - and you don't have to like it -I have the experience of being in love with a man who was 21 years older than me and I used that experience as fodder for the stories in this catergory -Thank YOU ALL for your reviews!