A/N: Well, I know it's not very long, but...here's the epilogue to Haymitch's story. It mainly just focuses on how he developed his alcohol addiction.
2 weeks later
There is always a price for rebellion – and I have paid it. I swill the bottle of brandy in my hand and take another swig. The stuff is foul and burns its way down my throat – and yet, it is the only solace I know. I am alone, but the memories still tear their way through my mind, like screams that I can't silence. I cling to myself and screw my eyes shut as I remember what happened, only days past.
The Peacekeepers came knocking at the door of our house in the Victory Village. It was a huge place, although it seems even bigger now that I'm alone. I remember we were in the kitchen – Mum, Lucan, Emaleigh and I. I could tell by their tense stature that the Peacekeepers weren't there for anything good and I scramble to my feet as they wordlessly grab my family, my girlfriend. I am seized too, grabbed by the collar and dragged out into the street like a common criminal.
"What's going on?" Mum sounds alarmed, glancing between the Peacekeepers with growing panic. The Peacekeeper holding Lucan force him to his knees. I look into my younger brother's wide, fearful eyes as they level the gun with his head. Like the coward I am, I can't watch them fire the shot. I just remember the sound, Lucan's small body slumping forward, Mum screaming and screaming, tugging against the guards.
Emaleigh is silent. I glance at her and notice that her bottom lip was trembling, her eyes are screwed shut. She wants to shut everything out, only I know that I can't do the same. I suddenly know why the Peacekeepers are here. I remember ducking as Velvet hurled her axe at me. I had known about the force field. I wasn't supposed to know. My family was going to pay the price.
It's Mum they drag down next, leveling the gun with her head. I force myself to watch. She offers me a fierce smile through her tears and I know that even though my heart is heavy with guilt, she doesn't blame me. I don't look away, not even as the gun goes off and her body crumples to the ground, lifeless like Lucan's. I glance down at them, the only family I had. My mother and my brother. Their blood stains the streets and it's not fair. They didn't do anything. I wait for the Peacekeepers to force me to my knees, to put a bullet through my brain. I wish they would.
Only it's Emaleigh who's next. She cries out in panic and I want to run to her, hold her in my arms. I want to tell her that life is the same for us all: that it could all be over in a second. She looks up at me and there's no hatred there, no accusation. She knows I'm the cause of this, but I'm not the one she blames. That makes me feel even worse as they fire the gun once more, and Emaleigh's body gives way.
Someone's screaming. It takes me a few moments to realise that it's actually me, wordless sounds of agony escaping me as I reach out for my family, for Em. But the Peacekeepers drag me back into the house. The house in the Victor's Village that is better suited to someone like Torian. I would give up the damn house, anything in the world, to have them all back.
Their ghosts still linger in my mind, crying out, reaching for me. I shut them away, because it's too painful. I hardly venture out of the house, for I can see the pure hatred of the people of my district. It's my fault that Emaleigh and my family died. Emaleigh's parents don't even look at me, and I hide away from them as much as I can. It's because of her association with me that their daughter was killed. Everyone knows it.
The only person I can talk to is Cairo. Even he doesn't fully understand. He might have won the Games, but he never condemned the people he loves to death. For that, I can't forget and I certainly can't forgive myself. Next year, I will mentor tributes and I will watch them live and die…but I won't hurt for it. I don't deserve to.
I clutch at the brandy bottle in my hand and I smile. One small mercy in a world so cruel. The alcohol drowns the pain, dulls the senses. It tastes terrible, but I don't care much for the taste. I will cling to this, something I can use to numb what's real, to numb what I still have yet to do. Surely feeling nothing at all is better than living in constant pain?
Well, I understand now what I didn't before. You go into the Hunger Games and you fight for a life you can't have back. You fight for something that doesn't exist. In the end, all of the tributes die in the arena – even the Victor. For the only parts that are left now are the ones that don't matter anymore.