Because She Came Here With Me.

Author: Howlynn
Realm: The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Story Title: Because She Came Here With Me
Summary:. I know, just an AU about what I wish happened at the end, maybe just a little bit. Canon until the hovercraft lands in district twelve, and then it's time to howl.

Character/Relationships: Haymitch and Katniss, Gale/Johanna, Peeta/Annie, Darius/Delly

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.

Author note: Fun happy ending, just cause nobody thinks I can write one. Well not a clean one anyway. Big Grin, proof I can ship in murky waters and not mention the other kind of happy ending.

My mentor smiled, "Guess who else isn't coming, sweetheart."

"Don't tell me. Let it be a surprise." They are all leaving me except him? Haymitch is all I'm left with? "Why are you going back?"

His face calms and he raises his chin a little. "They didn't know for sure what to do with me either."

"You're lying. They are making you aren't they. So we are both sent to hell? You sure Snow is dead? Seems like pretty harsh sentence for us both. What did you do? Must have been a good one?" I say.

He shrugs, "It doesn't matter. Some things are worth hell. Now eat your sandwich, while I investigate hobby supplies." He rose and began searching systematically for bottles of liquor, tucking a huge stash into every tiny bit of space our bags have available. All this stuff must belong to him, I don't have more than a toothbrush and some stinking cream for my skin. I watch him abandon some of his possessions as he wraps bottles carefully in neatly packed clothing. I eventually fall asleep.

We land in twelve. Haymitch has to carry me. I tried to walk, but I am just too weak. "I'm sorry you have to carry me."

He rolls his eyes, "You weigh what, seventy pounds? I have suitcases that weigh more than you do."

He settles me in my house by the fire. Sae has been here cleaning and a nice soup waits for us as a welcome. He hands me a bowl. It is dark before he has made the three extra trips carrying all our stuff into my entryway and dropping it there. "I am going to pick up a few things from my house. Can I get you anything?"

"No. You're leaving already?" I smile with knowing venom.

"I will be back in a few minutes." He says painfully patiently.

"I won't count on it." I say back seeing the bottle in his hand.

"Good. I have never been very dependable." He says with irritation before the door slams.

I laugh and think I have seen the last of him. I wander into the kitchen pick up a paring knife and carefully slice my wrists. The morphling keeps it from hurting and I sit quietly on the kitchen floor, leaning in the corner against the cabinets, watching the red pour from me. I make more cuts and soon I feel the happy tired satisfaction of knowing a job well done.

I hear cursing and feel jostled by something, but I am too tired and don't really care what it means. I am searching for her. She has to come for me. I just want to see Prim, but instead I see angry Haymitch and know I went to hell instead. I keep my eyes closed and ignore him.

The sun is bright and I smell bacon. For a moment I think my head rests on Peeta. I snuggle to find a non-Peeta chest, belonging to my smiling mentor. I sit up quickly and glare at him. "What are you doing here?"

"I bandaged your wrists, watched you breathe, made wild love to you and took a nap."

"Jerk." I say crawling over him and heading to the bathroom.

He pulls me back down on top of him and looks me intensely in the eye. "Rule number one, no more of this." He holds my arms up.

"Nobody's coming back. You weren't supposed to either. It won't be long. I just have to wait for you to get drunk. You don't make the rules." I say glaring right back at him. He lets go of me, but for a second I see a little bit of hurt in his eyes.

I come out of the bathroom. He is standing in the hall, arms crossed, glower set. "He will come back as soon as he can. He's in District Four now, at the new hospital. They are trying some innovative options. It is said to be the leading facility. Have patience with him."

Shrugging, I wander down stairs and sit on the couch looking in the dead fire. Haymitch brings me a plate of stewed peaches in oatmeal and thick salty bacon and then builds the fire back for me while I pick at the food. Sae and he pass the time with conversation about who has returned, may return, or has moved on. I listen but I don't join them.

I discover that Haymitch has welcomed himself to live with me. I don't speak to him for a week. Even when he changes the bandages I stare away from him. "You will bathe today or I will do it for you."

My eyes widened. "You wouldn't."

"Sweetheart, I assure you if you prefer showering together in your pretend catatonia, I will be pleased to oblige. Beings I can't trust you alone for more than ten minutes, don't trust me to be bluffing." He never looks at me and his voice never changes from calm, which was the way he delivered his most annoying statements.

I push it until late in the evening. He finally sighs and stands. When he begins unbuttoning his shirt, I bolt upstairs and stand in the blistering shower with the door locked and my breath sucking the steamy air in fury that he thinks he runs my life. I lay in bed for a long time fuming and frustrated with him. Later when I woke screaming and Haymitch held me, shushing me and telling me that he's there, I am not so mad at him anymore. I cry and he kisses my head and tells me how sorry he is.

There are people who return. Delly knocks on my door one day. She's back and her face shines in happiness. I look behind her and find a sheepish Darius, grinning at me. They are welcomed with pure joy. Peeta was confused. The person he thought was once our Avox, must have been a victim for some other reason. It makes us both cry to see him and he is scribbling answers to our questions as fast as he can write. Darius uses sign language and Delly interrupts most of the time. They are in love. This tiny miraculous spark of hope pulls Haymitch and me out of the doldrums. We go on walks in the evenings and I begin to feel stronger. He doesn't have to hold me every night, but when I need him, Haymitch is there.

Months go by, and Haymitch and I find a rhythm. I patiently wait for him to pass out and he stubbornly showers me with his version of disdainful kindness. Sometimes, I feel close to him but the emotional blip usually only lasts a day or two before I go back to hating him, or simply playing indifferent to his insufferable sympathy. Buttercup returns. I don't drown him. Haymitch inconveniently refuses to drown himself in liquor.

I pigheadedly await the word that Peeta is well or forever lost. Haymitch keeps planting seeds about how hard Peeta is working to be normal again. I refuse to die until someone admits that Peeta can't be fixed and come home and at the same time I refuse to get any better until he finds his way back to me. I can't betray him and just end myself if he's trying to get better for me. I am all he has left and if he needs me, I have to stay long enough to find out.

One day Haymitch is on my phone talking in his sarcastic voice nearing a roar. He sees me, and his tone falls to a pleasant calm. "I will take care of it. Don't give it another thought, Peeta." But the way he slams the receiver in the cradle makes me jump.

I wait in the hall, my heart thundering. He turns to me and clears his throat. His eyes are full of pain. I don't understand. "Is he ok?"

"He's fine. Katniss, Peeta isn't going to come here." He wraps his arms around me. "I'm so sorry. He's not coming home."

I don't cry. I grab my bow and run to the woods. I haven't been in them since I came home. Haymitch had taken me as far as the meadow, but I now escape into the deep woods. I find little here but forgetful moments that have moved on and left me dreaming of my life before I stood on the platform saying goodbye to my sanctuary. Sanctuary is lost to me now. Even the trees have forgotten me.

Gale is gone. Peeta refuses to return here. Nobody will come to my rescue now. Even my mother has given up on me. Haymitch is stuck babysitting me. I didn't hunt. I just stare off into the green. I sleep in the cocoon of my woods, high in a tree. I wander aimlessly and don't return home until the next afternoon. I really only return for some answers.

Haymitch lay in the dining room, passed out. He's fallen out of his chair. Bottles surround him. He hadn't been like this since before he'd left for the Quell. He'd been counting on Peeta too.

I stand there watching him snore for a while. He must be so lonely. I know he is fond of Effie and I wonder if the news that Peeta's not coming home, has made him realize that he'd made a mistake. I am only a burden to him, keeping him from whatever happy place he can hope to find. His Mockingjay has turned into a millstone. I wonder why he put his life on hold for me and I think that if he wasn't stuck here with a ghost of what could have been a girl until her sister burned, maybe he could find someone to make him content.

I watched him sleep. His eyes are puffy and red. I didn't throw cold water in his face. I reach out and touch his hair. My fingertips brush his cheeks carefully. On the floor, vulnerable and without his mask of disapproval, I could see him better. I feel sorry for him.

Everyone else got to move on after the war. I heard Sae talking about Gale being in District Two with a fancy job and an evening talk show that discussed government agencies and how people could be involved with rebuilding a safe fair administration.

Haymitch is locked to a burden he'd never assumed. He had long ago gone above and beyond all mentor requirements. Here he is though, still shackled to his useless plucked bird. I thought of what life would be like without him, and suddenly I feel more shattered and cold than ever.

His eyes open and focus on me. "Katniss, thank God." He wraps me in his arms and holds me sitting on the floor.

"You got drunk?" I ask after a while. He drank every evening, but he hadn't failed to stop after three or four. I forgot this scene that had once been so familiar.

"You came back. I won't do it again, sweetheart." He says.

"Why won't he come home?"

He takes several deep breaths before blurting, "Because he fell in love with Annie. He has to do what he thinks is best, Katniss. He thinks Annie needs him more. They went through a lot in the capitol. I guess he doesn't have the episodes with her. He asked us to come there, if we wanted to. I told him no."

Peeta is in District Four, falling in love with Finnick's wife. I didn't blame them for hating me. It was fair in some weird way. I cost Annie the love of her life for nothing. She had a baby on the way and her taking Peeta's heart from me felt like bitter justice. She had my mother too. We were both crazy as June bugs, but Annie was an endearing form of broken whereas I was more like broken glass, painful and dangerous. It was right they picked her.

I fidget with my hair, now almost grown back. It smells of fear and the woods. "I never deserved him. You told me that."

"I was wrong. He didn't deserve you." His voice rumbles in his chest.

"You don't deserve to be stuck with me either." I say quietly meeting his eyes.

"Don't be silly. I meant he is no longer worthy of you, not that what has happened was right. I'm not stuck with you. I want to be here."

"No, it's stupid. You should leave too. You aren't doing anything here. You could do stuff, maybe find someone. Fall in love. Meet a nice lady."

"Nobody in their right mind would have me." I feel his hot breath in my hair.

"You're not so bad. You should move to the capitol. Find someone to love. That's where Effie is." I say thinking of how he and Effie always seemed to have chemistry despite her adamant disapproval of Haymitch's every action.

"I can't do that, sweetheart."

"Why not?"

"Because, I don't want to."

"I would be fine. You can't be expected to just watch me until my five years in exile is up. You need your own life, Haymitch. Who knows what you're passing up? You should pack your things and forget about the dead district. There must be life out there somewhere and who knows, you might find someone to fall in love with and start a whole new family. You've had plenty of parenting practice dealing with me. Don't you want to fall in love? You aren't that old."

"It wouldn't do me a bit of good. Now hush about this. I am not going anywhere." He hugs me and stands up, yanking me to my feet as well. He goes to the kitchen and downs a few pills, rubbing his neck.

I reach up and massage his shoulders, wondering what is in his head. He groans in appreciation as I silently work knots from his muscles while he leans over, elbows on the counter, eyes closed.

"Why don't you want anyone to love you? You aren't as broken as you pretend to be. It wouldn't take much for you to win Effie Trinket's little pink heart you know?"

He stands and looks down at me, wanting me to hear him and drop this conversation. "Because, I am already in love. I have been for a long time, now please. Drop it."

I smile at him a little, hopeful he will consider leaving if he believes I don't need him. "Then you need to go. I want you to be happy."

"What makes you think I'm not happy? What makes you think I have a chance in hell of ever winning her? She doesn't know I'm alive. In truth, she detests me."

"Because, you deserve someone nice. You deserve that, after everything. You have to at least try. You can't just let this place swallow you and never know."

"Passing out good advice, sweetheart, only maybe you should think about what you just said. That boy in District Two still writes you. How many of his letters have you even opened? Is the pot calling the kettle hot? You need me right now. When you stop needing me, then you can kick me to the curb. It isn't an option right now." He pats my face and stomps upstairs. The shower runs a long time.

Somehow the end of the Peeta limbo has made the world more real to me. I try to be kinder to Haymitch. I try to prove I am getting better, so he will be able to seek whatever life waits for him. I find myself wondering who he's in love with. I invite Effie to visit, but she makes excuses. I am just guessing that he loves her. It could be some capitol woman who I never met. He referred to her as if she is alive so I have faith it is someone who survived the war.

The letters from Gale diminish, but don't stop. One day I order them by date and read the whole pile in one sitting. He begins declaring his love and begging forgiveness. Those fade into a melancholy plea for forgiveness. Later they take a tone of sorrow and hopeless loss. They become less friendly for a while before he writes of being unable to function. Finally they become distantly cheerful and only speak of neutral topics of his work and who he may have encountered. I read these with a dreadful curiosity. One name becomes repetitive in his now overtly happy drabble. Johanna Mason has replaced me. They go to plays and have dinner. Gale no longer asks anything of me, as if he is writing to a diary instead of me. I understand what it means even though he doesn't actually admit they are dating.

Haymitch has observed me without interfering with my activity. I hold the last letter for a long time then slowly feed them one by one into the fire.

"Johanna and Gale?" I say as Haymitch takes a seat next to me, offering me a glass of his beloved beverage. I sip it but don't feel like I should have been surprised.

"They will be married soon. I didn't know how to tell you. Afraid too, actually. She is a nice girl. He could have done worse." He says watching me.

I bow my head and blush. "Yeah. He could be stuck in your shoes, with nothing but me. I'm glad he…they…" my mind just flies away and my voice follows. I hold the glass, eyes locked on it as moments with Gale flash before my eyes. For a few days, I don't say anything again. I don't see this big house or the man who holds me without being asked to, all I see are Johanna and Gale laughing and Peeta and Annie playing with a little miniature Finnick.

Haymitch is spooning a salty stew into my mouth when I again comprehend he's there. I blink stupidly as I realize my hair is damp and I feel clean. "Why am I wet?"

His head tilts oddly and he sets the food on the table before leaning into me and taking my hands in his own. "Can you hear me, Katniss?" I have never once heard his voice so mild and timid.

I frown at him. "There is nothing wrong with my ears. You are a foot away. Why are you feeding me like an infant?"

A tear betrays him, glittering down his cheek. "Welcome back, sweetheart. You have had me worried. I was about to take you to the capitol to see the doctor. I have been waiting on your travel papers. Even had to call Mr. Hawthorne to get them pushed. Aurelius was getting nowhere."

I look down at the clean clothes and how my skin shines with lotion. My fingernails are clean and clipped. "So you finally got your shower with me?"

He grins with ornery grace. "Highlight of my year, sweetheart."

I shake my head at him. "Glad it was memorable for one of us."

His hand slips across my cheek and settles at the back of my head. His lips close to mine and I suck my breath in and open my eyes wide, pulling away as my heart suddenly keeps beat in my ears. Haymitch is kissing me? I make a little squeak but for a second I stop protesting. His lips are so warm and I, little by little, relax and then I am closing my eyes at his pleasant sure caress. Haymitch is kissing me.

For a second he pulls back, eyes sparkling and so open. I zero in on his lips with my own, wanting to feel that again. It is more than pleasant now. It is better than the full feeling of the warm stew. It fills me up and makes me hungry at the same time. Long minutes draw out and I don't pull away or tense as I have kissing Peeta and Gale. Haymitch melts me. Melting requires more air and my lungs pump as hard as my heart.

Haymitch shivers a little as my hands slowly feel my way from his shoulders down his chest, around his ribs and curl my fingers into his back, demanding he continue. His teeth nip my lower lip. He flicks his tongue on my throat then sucks at the skin just below my ear. I tilt my head and sigh, giving him access to keep going.

He pulls back before I know what happened. I look at him, wondering if I did something wrong.

"Holy hell, Katniss. I'm sorry." He stands quickly and asks if I finished eating or if I am still hungry. He lifts my bowl and assumes my silence means I don't want more. I don't know what to think. I am embarrassed at how much I liked his lips on me. I am still unable to catch my breath and he has switched gears in a blink.

I watch him for three days, as he pretends it didn't happen. I give him opportunities to let it happen again, but he just grows sarcastic. It settles on me that he has no interest in kissing me again. It fades, as insignificant as a weather anomaly. It was nothing.

I am watching television as Haymitch piddles around in the kitchen after dinner. Familiar faces still my attention. Peeta sits on a red couch, his arm draped casually around Annie's shoulder.

The camera shows a peaceful beautiful child sleeping fitfully and the audience makes soft moans of adoration. I stare at Finnson Seacrest Odair, with as much rapture as the audience. He is a radiant little beauty. They speak of the late Finnick Odair and I am amazed that Annie answers some of the questions with a stoic strength. When she falters, Peeta smoothly steps in and covers for her as she respectfully looks at my Peeta with the same adulation she once saved for Finnick. There is no question that they both have not replaced Finn, but they lavish him praise as a united front. Peeta speaks of how he owed Finn a debt he could never repay.

"Is that how the two of you began? You saw Annie as an obligation to your fallen friend?" Flickerman asks.

Peeta blushes, "Well, no. Not entirely. We were held together in The Capitol as you know and I developed a terrible crush on her. Then we were rescued and I couldn't think of ever acting on those feelings. I made the mistake of teasing Finnick about it once, but he saw right through me and told me not to make him regret restarting my heart. Her heart was taken. I had no place and no hope of ever allowing my silly feelings to be known in any way. I hoped if I ignored them, they would pass. We were both so devastated when we learned he had fallen in the battle for the capitol. He saved what was left of his squad, but it didn't make it any easier to endure. I did try to comfort her. When I was burned, she would sit with me and we would talk. We tiptoed into each other's hearts and I finally confessed how I felt about her. Yes, some of my decision to move to District Four had to do with the obligation I felt to her husband. I didn't imagine much hope of it moving into something more. I tend to fall for emotionally unavailable women." He pauses and the audience chuckles at my expense.

Haymitch's footsteps are heavy and fast as he hastily heads to shut off the broadcast. "No." I say firmly.

His hand pauses at the power button. "Please, sweetheart. You don't want this. You will…disappear again."

"No. Leave it on." I say firmly standing to physically battle him if I have to.

He snorts in discontent, but stands aside, watching me rather than the happy couple. I take my seat again.

"…any wedding bells to be announced?" Flickerman smiles in a knowing way.

"Maybe. We are taking things slowly. We want to make sure. Nobody is going to push us." Peeta says quietly with a little bashful glance at Annie who is blushing bright red.

"We don't have to hurry. I already said yes, but I want to wait out of respect. It isn't right to not give my Finn his Widow's Heart Day." Annie says carefully.

"Of course. I forgot District Four has a three-year ceremony. That isn't so far away really. Very sweet. I am sure your act of veneration is a comfort. Now Peeta, we don't mean to pry, but what of Katniss? We hear you parted as friends? Care to elaborate?"

"Katniss will always have a place in my heart. We simply didn't survive it all in the same condition as when we were star-crossed. Sometimes stars fall. I think everyone must sympathize with the concept of moving on, looking to the future, not miring ourselves in the past. I am thankful to have known her and we wish her nothing, but every happiness."

"We hear rumors that she and Haymitch Abernathy have…"his eyebrows bounce suggestively. " Tell us the truth Peeta, did she break your heart?"

Peeta smiles with humor, "She broke my heart every day. Don't all women, Caesar? As far as she and Haymitch, that is something you would have to ask them. It would please me to find out that they are madly in love. I know they have always cared deeply for each other, when they weren't threatening to kill one another, that is." The audience laughs right on cue again. "But whether or not they ever figure it out is anyone's guess." The television flicks off.

"Haymitch!" I protest.

"I am not listening to the ungrateful whelp any longer. Katniss. Nothing he says matters. Please don't fall apart. He is a thoughtless fool…"

I stand up and nod. "Yes. He's making himself look good, just like he always did, all so wrapped up in sweetness, nobody knows how stupid he is. He damned sure didn't admit that he broke my heart this time. Or that the capitol destroyed the way he felt for me. He just blamed you. I know you don't love me. I just hope whoever she is, that she didn't see it and take it all wrong. I don't mean to embarrass you like that." I head to bed and give him a commiserating smile as I head up the stairs.

""Katniss, I…" he stops, eyes searching the room for something to say.

"Don't worry Haymitch. I'm just mad at him. It's fine. Goodnight." I say raising my hand to save him the degradation of having to let me down gently or try to soften that we are just the farthest thing from possible that could exist romantically.

I softly close my bedroom door, stuff my face into a pillow, and weep. He's not my boy with the bread any longer. My Peeta is really, truly, Annie's Peeta now. I lay awake in the darkness, slowly coaxing my heart to empty itself of Peeta and Gale, like a good emotionally unavailable woman should.

It is late morning when I softly pad out of bed. I hear Haymitch talking, annoyed and in full blown sarcastic mode. "How do you suppose she took it? Trying to give the 74th a final victor after all, Peeta?"

"Yes, very nice set up. I don't give a turds chance with a fly's tongue what you thought, you selfish little puke. It was my business, not yours. No, idiot, she has no idea and it just served your twisty little knife up on a gold platter to her. Of course I do. More than you will ever understand, but it doesn't matter. It isn't returned and I won't be as smarmy and manipulative as some people we can name."

There is a long pause and I hold my breath in stillness, trying to understand this end of the conversation.

His voice is low and mean, calmly cutting. "Well if humiliating her was your goal, your plan worked like a charm, dear boy. Give Annie my love. And my deepest sympathy. She's going to need it." The phone is again slammed down with too much force.

I slink quietly in the room and lean on the door, as soundlessly as my hunter feet allow. He turns and sighs. "Shit," he mumbles, meeting my eyes and wilting with disgrace.

"Thank you for yelling at him for me. I liked the one about turds. Now I think we better call Effie, she's probably been crying all night." I say with a knowing grin.

His face gets a very stupid, confused look. "Why would we call her?"

"Haymitch, if it's not Effie you love, then you should tell me. We need to do some damage control or you may lose her forever to his lie. He made it sound like we have, you know. I don't think one shower and a single kiss equal all he implied. I'm better now. You need to sweep her off her feet before someone else does. Effie was always good for you." I say with a genuine smile.

He has the strangest look of betrayal on his face. It seems to physically hurt him that I have figured him out. "Oh, hell…" he shakes his head and laughs at the ceiling as if he's losing his mind. "Katniss, It isn't Effie. It never was."

I shrug. "Ok, then who is it? Haymitch you need to go there. Right now. Today. You need to worry about you, just once. Please. I swear I'll be fine. I'm kicking you to the curb."

He smiles sadly, "It won't work for me, sweetheart."

"You're handsome and you kiss like a God. Why on earth do you think it won't work?"

His eyes fill with tears and a smile flickers off and on as he looks at me shaking his head. "Because I don't need to go anywhere, sweetheart. You see, I brought her here with me."

I blink in astonishment. He could not have just said Peeta's words to me. He could not have said that. He could not mean to say that Peeta knew before I did. "That's why you kissed me?"

"Math was never your best subject."

"You love me? Am I always the last to know?"

"It would appear so, sweetheart." His voice is hoarse. He glares at me, waiting for my reply.

I think about it all for a moment, the dots connecting, twisting and tacking me back to the world in a rush of amazement, gratitude and desire. "How long are you going to make me wait for the next kiss?"

"As long as it takes to know you want one."

"Now who's bad at math? Kiss me and if I like it enough, maybe I will let you give me another shower."

He rushes to me as if I am about to faint and there is such confusion, love and pure terror there on his face, I laugh. His stomach contracts, as if sobs are trying to bubble from his chest instead of happiness. I give up and stand on my tiptoes trying to reach high enough to kiss him instead.

"Sweetheart?" he says again before devouring me like Katniss pie.

Haymitch and Katniss. We no longer find being abandoned and exiled in District Twelve much of a punishment. Peeta gets another call a few days later, this time from the emotionally unavailable one. Haymitch walks Johanna down the aisle and I wear a suit, not a dress, after all, I am the best friend.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

Still my favorite pair -please review