Effie barely had the strength to keep herself upright, much less walk without the help of the young man currently holding her by the waist, half carrying her from the building that had been her prison for quite some time. She'd lost track of the days inside it, too consumed by pain and a blinding numbness. Clearly the once bright and stunning beauty had seen better days – at the moment she was covered in wounds, had lost quite a bit of weight, and her golden hair had been lopped off at awkward angles that made it stick out in every which way possible. She felt ugly, abused, pained, and nothing else. Everything had finally taken its toll on her, she knew as she limped from the building and out onto the semi-chaotic streets of the Capitol. The young man helping her was saying something, but she barely heard him.
" … Ma'am?"
Effie's gaze flickered up to him as she readjusted the way she stood, feeling suddenly very exposed in the thin, sheet like gown she'd been thrust in the moment she'd been ripped out of her Capitol wear, about the same time they'd started chopping off her hair into the spiky mess it was now.
"Yes?" Her own voice was foreign to her ears and harsh on her tongue. Her throat was hoarse from screaming, begging, pleading – anything to make them stop the horrific torture that would likely plague her the rest of her years.
"Is there someone we can try to find for you?"
Someone. Effie almost laughed. Her parents were gone, she knew, and she had no other relatives to speak of. She had no-one, so she merely shook her head at the young man and proceeded to attempt to rebuild some sort of emotional shield around herself to block everything and everyone else off. She'd been rather good at them, but the piece around her refused to be built back up. She was broken, completely shattered, numb inside. Nothing felt right. She wanted to rip her own skin off, pull out what was left of her hair, and simply be left to die on the street. Her chipped and broken nails, once bright yellow and diamond encrusted, dug into her palms, threatening to bring blood to the surface. What was one more wound?
Her gaze flickered around the street, at the mingle of Capitol citizens and everyone else from districts across Panem. They were together, as one, and while Effie knew the war had been won against the Capitol, she was not aware of the costs. Having been kept locked away from the sunlight, from everything, she'd been left in the dark about everything going on in the outside world until the young man just minutes ago had opened her cell door and brought her out, along with the few others being held in question. Most looks in about the same shape she was and it made her ill just thinking about the horrors that had been inflicted on them all. The Capitol had turned against its own citizens in one final effort, which had clearly failed.
Someone draped a blanket around her shoulders as she stood on the street corner, uncertain of what else to do. Others were filtering into a central building but Effie found that going inside nearly frightened her. She was alone, and having been inside for so long now she just needed to be outside in the fresh air. While it was really nothing but fresh at the moment and instead stank with something she didn't even want to know, it was better than the musty room she'd called home for a while now. The blanket dragged the ground as she walked silently along the street, limping still, at least able to support most of her own weight. Everything hurt, she began to realize as the numbness wore off only to be replaced with sharp tingles of pain. How she wasn't dead she'd never guess.
Something warm touched her face and she looked up, smiling faintly at the sunlight that had started to come through the clouds in the sky. It warmed her bruised, broken, exposed skin quite well and she felt encompassed momentarily, unaware of just how much she'd missed the sunlight. The warmth, the fire – she paused; Katniss. She had to be here somewhere. Katniss and Peeta and – another pause and she felt every part of her body seize up at once as she looked around and caught sight of the one person she did indeed have left in this world.
"Haymitch." She croaked with as much of a voice as she could muster, though it still wasn't cooperating as well as she would have liked. He had been walking along the center of the street, talking with some man beside him, and hadn't heard her in the slightest. She took a step toward him but her leg very nearly gave out on her and she had to stop, or otherwise she would have face-planted the pavement. Damn it, she thought to herself as she tried to fight her own body not cooperating, but found it only made it worse. Searing pain shot through her and it managed to bring her to her knees. Haymitch had continued on, not noticing the broken, fragile little Effie Trinket on the sidewalk, barely able to move.
This angered her slightly, enough for her to pick up a tiny bit of rock on the ground beside her and launch it at Haymitch – her arm protested violently at the action, but she had hit her mark, right in the back of the man's head. He scowled and rubbed the place where he'd been hit, turning.
"Who the hell - ?" He paused, eyes narrowing on Effie. "What the hell's your problem, sweetheart?" He snapped at her, clearly not recognizing her. Effie's face screwed up into a scowl as she put her hands on her hips, casting the blanket aside.
"I see your manners have still not improved, Haymitch." She rasped out, voice louder than before and he paused again, eyes narrowing further. He seemed to recognize her, because he closed the distance between them in two long strides. He made as if to hug her and crush her to his chest but paused once he saw just how injured she was. A low growl escaped his throat and Effie raised a trembling hand to his face, resting against his cheek.
"I've missed you." She smiled weakly. He returned it briefly, reaching up to brush hair from her face. His thumb traced a barely healed cut along her cheek briefly and she saw his eyes narrow in frustration in anger. They closed briefly as if he were trying to school his temper, for which Effie was quite proud. Taking the opportunity to do so, she leaned up and kissed him briefly, hands moving to rest against his chest. That opened his eyes and he gave her favorite crooked grin.
"You look like hell, sweetheart." He said and she trembled, hardly able to contain it any longer. Tears threatened to spill over her eyes and down her face, and that they did a few seconds later as she stood there, trying to formulate words.
"I …" She struggled to get it out. "Haymitch." His named seemed to be enough for a moment. Pain be damned, she wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in his chest, inhaling his scent of burning wood and whiskey, a combination she never knew she could miss so much. Words were hardly enough to describe how much she'd truly missed him, as it had been thoughts of him that had gotten her through her torture. She was staying alive for him, keeping her mouth shut for him. Everything for him. Toward the end, everything in her life had been for him. Ever since the beginning it should have been for him. But that didn't matter now. She was alive, he was alive, and normalcy could finally come and sweep them away into some semblance of a normal life. It would take a while for her wounds to heal completely, but she would survive.
"I love you." She whispered suddenly against his chest, her voice back to its hoarse tone since she'd started crying. The realization had hit her just then that she did indeed love Haymitch Abernathy and there was simply no denying it. Perhaps she'd liked him before, yes, but her mind had somehow completely jumped over that into love. The strange tug at her heart she felt with him, the concern that washed over her face whenever he was hurt. Effie was very much aware that she simply couldn't function without him in her life anymore. She was in love with him.
"You didn't have to. Didn't know loving me was bad enough to make your cry, though. I'm insulted." He said and Effie made a little noise between a laugh and a sob, a noise she had never made in the entirety of her life. She could count the time she'd cried on one finger, even, and Effie again found that she didn't care. To hell with it.
"Haymitch Abernathy, I love you and I have just been through hell for you and all you can do is make a joke of it?" She blubbered, pulling away from him a moment. He looked momentarily frozen until he realized she was making a joke of it too, or at least trying to. He gave a crooked grin.
"Well, if that's the case, I can just keep on with my walk and let you stand here … ."
"Don't." She said, suddenly gripped with a paralyzing fear. Her fingers clung to the fabric of his shirt, afraid he might suddenly make true on his word and leave. She couldn't bear the thought of it. Now that she had him in her sights, she had no intentions of letting him leave it. He chuckled softly and brought his hands up to peel hers away from his shirt.
"I'm not goin' anywhere, all right? Calm down." He said, shaking his head at her. "I love you back and all that, if it makes you feel any better and will stop you from making holes in my shirt."
Another little laugh/sob noise escaped her lips as she wrapped her fingers in his, suddenly aware of how much larger he was compared to her. His hands could completely encompass hers. Warmth filled her face again and she looked down, seeing the sunlight had returned and was causing shadows to cast along the ground. Theirs was together, side by side, the shadows' hands intertwined as well.
"Please stay." Effie said, looking back up at him with a slight pleading tone in her voice. "I don't want to be alone." He nodded and pressed a brief kiss to the bruise that had bloomed across her forehead.
"Come on. Let's get you to a hospital, Princess." He muttered, and without another word picked her up as if she weighed nothing more than a feather – which, in Effie's calculating, she didn't at that point. Her back and everything else in her body protested at the movement and contact and she tried to block it out by biting on her lip, hard. Her head found Haymitch's chest as he carried her toward another building, and for the first time in a very long time, she felt safe.