It was windy that day, and freezing cold, and now they had to argue, didn't they? Because she would never really get what he was talking about.

'I can't love you Effie,' he yelled, furious that it was taking so much time for her to understand this. He tried to convince himself that she wasn't getting it because she was a Capitol bubblehead who wore too much make-up than was sensible, and cared more about the state of her nails than the feelings of other people, but it wasn't working. Because he knew, after everything that they had been through, that she wasn't like that. At least not anymore. The brief months she had spent within the grasp of the Capitol and the Peacekeepers, and what had been entailed within that time, she had kept firmly to herself. But he knew she shared the same nightmares as he did.

His voice faltered at her expression, and he noticed, for rather the first time, that her innocent naivety was gone. When they had first met, he had described her as the most sinfully cheery and irritating human being (if he could call her that - "colourful vulture" had been his other term to describe her), and she had carried the sparkle of ignorance in her eyes, and the dash of positivity in her step. She always smiled, even though her lips were painted bright pink and rubbed off on her pristine white teeth at times. He used to despise her - she was everything that the Capitol stood for, and she didn't seem to care about condemning two children to certain death. But now she was changed.

The wigs and make-up and silly high heels and that awful, screeching laugh was gone. Her hair, it turned out, was blonde, a sort of natural, honeysuckle blonde, and she was pale as it was, let alone without the powder. And the glint in her eye that had kept her so alive was gone. So he didn't know how her green eyes seemed to dim even further as he yelled.

'I've been through this before, and every time, it goes wrong. It's not that I don't, but I just can't love you,' Haymitch reiterated, desperately trying to make her realize that what she was saying was impossible. He ran his hands down his cheeks, now almost stubble-free, and then turned away from her as she remained silent as a stone statue, not even moving to breathe properly. He hoped she was still breathing. 'I just...' he faltered, '...Last time. With...' But he couldn't even say her name anymore. He couldn't even remember what it was. That horrified him.

The silence was horrific. All Haymitch could hear was the sound of his own heart pumping painfully slowly, and the short and shallow breaths Effie was taking behind him. It could've last a decade. All of this was his fault. He didn't want her to love him, and he didn't want to love her, but after the war, everyone had been just so screwed up in the head for a while that he had allowed this to happen.

Plutarch hadn't allowed a rescue mission just to retrieve one shallow-minded escort when everyone had been back in District Thirteen, and Coin had agreed, even though Haymitch had volunteered to go single-handedly and fund the whole thing. We can't risk losing you, they had told him, we can cope without Miss Trinket - if we don't have you, then we don't have the Mockingjay. He couldn't blame Katniss for what happened; the poor kid had been through enough, with the arena and then Peeta's hijacking. But he always wondered what life would have ended up like if the rebellion had never happened.

He would be happily out of his face by now, in his own house, in his living room, drinking away the guilt and terror he felt when sober, and dreading the coming Reaping. Instead, he was outside in his back garden, completely stone-cold sober, with the woman he had once despised. He didn't know what he felt about her now. All he knew was that her proposition would never work. They couldn't be together - they were both damaged, and that made the both of them dangerous. And two dangerous people could not be in a relationship because they would destroy each other.

'I...I just though that...after you rescued me...' Effie finally muttered calmly, although tears were hanging from her eyelashes and a sob was echoing in her voice, and Haymitch audibly sighed. That had been a mistake. When everyone was celebrating the victory of the rebels, Haymitch had been flown in to the Capitol to assist with bringing Peeta and Katniss (after her trial of course) back home, and that's when they had found Effie.

She had been inside Snow's mansion the whole time - in some underground bunker which sounded cool, but really wasn't. There, Haymitch and some rebel leaders who had accompanied him there, found the place where Peeta, Johanna and mad Annie Cresta had been tortured. And that's where they found a barely living Effie Trinket, who had probably had the worst time of all of them.

Her hair had been cut off in ravished chunks, which had fallen oddly around her face. There were two white lines down her face - tear stains - against her dirty skin, and she was blotched with bruises and burns. All the way down her left arm, the skin was blistered and black from where they had damaged her with fire, and down the other arm was probably the longest scar Haymitch had ever seen. She looked skinnier than he had ever seen her - and that was impressive; a few years back she had gone on some Capitol diet and lost over half her body mass - and severely malnourished. She looked, to all intents and purposes, like a small child. And that had ripped him apart, and out had come the compassion.

He had taken her home. And he had looked after her. He had sobered up for her, paid someone to clean his house for her, he had borrowed some of Katniss' clothes for her, and he had given up half his life for her. He loved her. And on one night, when she screamed and tossed and turned and yelled (like he still did on occasion), he had clambered into bed with her and held her. And he had whispered that he loved her. Because he did. He kissed her on the temple and stayed with her, and she slept the whole night through with her in his arms.

But it had been irrational. And he couldn't hurt her, like he knew he would. He could count the amount of girlfriends he had had on one hand, and the amount of them who had been murdered on the other. He couldn't let Effie become another statistic, another finger on his hand. Although there was no Capitol, no Peacekeepers, to hurt her now, there was still him. And he would probably end up hurting her more than the two combined.

'Well you thought wrong, didn't you sweetheart?' he asked scathingly, refusing to turn around, and he heard her choke back her tears before realizing that he had been too harsh in that sentence. He immediately turned around, and tried to entwine his fingers in between hers, but she jolted her hand back. Regretfully, he looked down into her eyes, which looked like they were engulfed in fire. He deserved what was coming. He closed his eyes, bracing himself for the yelling that he had endured once before during the 70th Games.

What he braced himself for didn't come. Instead, he felt the slight pressure of Effie Trinket's lips upon his own, closing the gap between them that held so many unspoken words. He hadn't kissed, or been kissed, by anyone in twenty six years. And he never thought it would be Effie Trinket who changed that.

He didn't know what to do. So he threw everything to hell and kissed her back. He could feel her tightening her grip on his lower forearm and he gradually raised his free hand up, and brushed her hair backwards, stroking it gently, the feeling of it sending shivers up his spine. He brushed his callous hand against her frail cheek, and then down her arm, running his fingers against the imbedded scar which would never disappear. He clutched her wrist and pulled away from her, but did not leave within two inches of her face.

He placed one hand on either of her cheeks, and bent his knees a little so he was on her level. He hadn't been drinking, and so the stench of alcohol was not on his breath, and he was glad that she didn't seem repulsed by him anymore. No, he thought, I want her to be repulsed. I have to let her go, she's not safe with me anymore.

'Effie, listen to me sweetheart,' he whispered, a voice any louder not being required, and his usual sarcastic phrase not being used in a vicious way for once, 'The life that you want with me just doesn't exist. We could never get married, we could never have kids. Just being with me won't stop your nightmares, trust me, no one can help.'

'But you did Haymitch,' she breathed back, a single tear slipping down her cheek and spreading across her dainty lisps as they pursed together. 'That night, when I was screaming and you clambered in with me. I didn't have nightmares. That's the only night I've slept the entire way through since you found me. I don't care about getting married; I don't need to have kids. I just want you.'

He didn't know how to counteract that. He was beginning to feel claustrophobic, even though he was the one who had pulled her this close. Instead, he curved around it. 'Effie, I can't make you happy.'

'You already have,' she replied, slowly lifting a hand and placing it on top of one of the one's he held to her cheek. 'I love you. You're the only person in the world who I have left. Please-' her voice cracked noticeably here, '-Please don't send me away.'

The torture had toughened her up though. In the past, whenever a tribute had died, or whenever someone had actually thought to dye their hair brown, Effie had cried and cried and cried. Maybe they had destroyed her tear-ducts or something, he didn't know, but he knew that she wasn't crying properly anymore.

'Do you love me?' she asked nervously, although she diverted her eyes from the grassy ground to staring into his. The hands on her cheeks began to tremble, and she saw a battle going on inside of him. He was gagging to tell her the truth, but he was doing this for her - not for him.

'No Effie, I don't.'

She actually smiled. 'I don't believe you.'

He let the corners of his lips upturn for a brief moment as well. 'No, you're right, I don't...not love you. I do. But I can't. And you know that,' he explained passionately, his brain now just begging her to leave. He could not become any more attached. Because he had to let her go. She was young, he was old. She was beautiful, he was a beast. She was healing, he wasn't. All he could see was differences. 'We're two different people. We're too different from one another. I can't hurt you Effie. I care for you too much.'

'Oh don't go all noble on me Haymitch Abernathy,' she hissed, a warning sign alerting him he was in trouble now. She pulled herself free of his embrace and took a step back, her foot sinking into the muddy grass. She was freezing and she wanted to go home. But this was home. She couldn't leave now. 'I love you. Do you need anything more than that?'

He groaned out loud. 'I need you to be safe Effie. I can't let you die like the rest of them!' he shouted, his temper beginning once more.

'I'm stronger than you give me credit for!' she shouted back, her old Capitol accent making a faint return, 'I survived three months of torture! I think I can deal with what you can throw at me!'

'No you can't Effie, you really can't,' he replied sadly, a tear springing to his aid as he thought of his first girl, who Snow had brutally murdered, and then the tribute who he had convinced himself would live so they could be together, who had also been brutally been murdered by Snow. His track record wasn't good.

Effie was beginning to falter right now. She had prepared arguments in her head for days, knowing that this conversation was going to have to come up at some point, but he seemed so impassionate about everything that he said that she couldn't help but doubt herself. It was true, he probably would hurt her - after his entire life, he still slept with the knife which she had almost been on the receiving end of a few times, and when things went wrong he got angry - but she was strong now. She didn't hide behind a mask. She didn't wear stupid clothes. She didn't hide her pretty face with a cake load of make-up. She didn't allow herself to be ruled by wrong. She didn't allow herself to be influenced by evil things and corrupted by guilt. She was Effie Trinket, and damn him if he didn't realize it.

'I'm going to put this to you straight,' Effie began, reeling Haymitch back in as he tried to edge away from her, 'Now listen here bucko.' She was trying to sound confident, but both she and Haymitch sniggered at the last word. Putting aside words as he smiled at her - something rare and very handsome - she could not help herself. She grabbed the middle of his tie, and yanked him in and kissed him again. Soon enough, his strong arms found her waist as they embraced in his back garden.

Well, their back garden.

'It'll be dangerous, living here with me. Being with me,' he muttered afterwards, slightly breathless, in a last ditch attempt to convince her to flee. She smirked. 'So is crossing the road.'

As they walked inside, her small fist wrapped like ivy within his own, he pressed his lips to her temple and whispered, 'What am I going to do with you sweetheart?' Effie turned to him and, with a small smile upon her cheeks, she whispered, 'We can help each other. Heal each other.' Haymitch beamed quietly, and tightened his grip on her fist, now sure that he was never ever going to let her go again. They could discuss things properly some other time, because for now, she was safe; they would be alright.