Since leaving District 12 and the company of one Haymitch Abernathy, Effie Trinket had found herself rather . . . lonely, if that was the proper term one would use for the feelings she felt. She refused to let it bother her, though. Her first year after the rebellion had been spent in his company, in his home, and for a while Effie had been the happiest she'd been in a long time, even if she was cooking and cleaning like a domestic little wife. She hadn't minded. Haymitch had needed her and they somehow made their relationship work.

Then the drinking had returned, heavily, and she came second in his life. He'd all but forced her out of the door with his drinking, and since then she had left and not looked back to District 12, nor Haymitch Abernathy. For the past eight months she had spent her time in the Capitol, helping finish rebuilding and getting people settled. Even if she was no longer an escort – she really had no desires for any other job – she still lended her help where they accepted it.

Now, Effie couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia when she stepped off the train and onto the platform, suitcase in tow. She'd been invited back to District 12 several times since her departure, but this was the first time she had found herself truly wanting to return. Katniss and Peeta were getting married, and while she hadn't had a hand in planning it, she had been invited none the less and Effie was not one to turn a wedding down – especially one that involved her former tributes.

"Effie!"

She looked over and offered Peeta her brightest smile as he crossed toward her and embraced her in a tight hug, one which Effie returned happily. He was taller than she now, especially since she had gotten rid of her stilettos quite some time ago, deeming them impractical. The Capitol fashions that had once been in were starting to fade, and Effie herself had returned to some sense of normal looking – her natural, honey blonde hair fell down to her mid-back, and her eyes shone through their normal green. She had shed the bright Capitol clothing in favor of a simple, yet stunning spring dress in the shade of sky blue.

"How are you, dear?" Effie said, pulling back to look at him, hands resting on his arms. He gave a crooked grin.

"Good. Yourself? How's the Capitol?" He asked, reaching around to grab her luggage for her. The pair began to walk as Effie explained her work to him. Along the dirt roads from the station toward the Victor's Village they walked, Effie chattering away at the same time a rock was settling itself in her stomach. If she could get through this visit without speaking to or seeing Haymitch, the better and safer everything would remain.

However, things would clearly not go in her favor.

They approached Peeta and Katniss' house, which was just inside the village. As Peeta moved to open the front door for her, it flew open and Haymitch came stomping out, running directly into her. Effie bristled and straightened, though her small height and frame was no match to the bear of a man that stood before her, scowling and grumbling.

"Good to see you too, Mr. Abernathy." She managed to get out politely. Perhaps interaction with him wouldn't be as bad as she first thought. His face screwed up in minor confusion and as he paused, taking the time to recognize her without her Capitol couture, she realized he didn't reek of alcohol as he once had, an d actually looked like he'd attempted to look relatively normal. His hair still stuck out in a variety of directions though – Effie had become convinced that it just simply would not lay flat.

"Effie." He said and instantly her heart slammed into a stuttering pace against her chest. Damn that man. It infuriated her how simply by saying her name he could practically make her swoon like all the pretty heroines on television. Effie Trinket was not a damsel in distress, damn it.

"If you'd kindly step aside, Mr. Abernathy, you're a bit in my way." She said suddenly, not meeting his gaze as she stepped around him and inside, practically towing Peeta along. At least, she'd intended to. A hand wrapped around her wrist and stopped her in her tracks. She whirled nostrils flaring and eyes filling with a terrible anger.

"Get your hands off me. Now." She demanded.

"I don't even get a proper greeting, Princess?" He inquired and she jerked hard, attempting to free her wrist. He had been prepared to her retaliation, however, because his grip increased. Not enough to hurt, but enough to keep her rooted to the spot. Perfect. The last thing she wanted was to be having this confrontation on the front porch of Katniss and Peeta's home. This was supposed to be a relaxing trip!

"No, Mr. Abernathy, you don't." Effie scowled, and was vaguely aware that Katniss had drifted into the open doorway, watching. A faint flush crossed her cheeks and she wished for once that she did indeed have the white powder makeup covering her face so no one would see it. She'd struggled to keep herself together at the name 'Princess', remember very well the number of times he'd used that to address her during the time they had spent together.

He studied her a moment and Effie again tried to pull away in frustration. He relented and released her wrist with the arch of a brow. Effie simply glowered at him, trying her hardest to look upset and angry with him. And she was. After everything, he deserved the anger she had once unleashed on him, the night she had left District 12. She saw something flicker behind his eyes and for a moment she thought it might be regret or remorse, but it was gone in another instant as he turned and crossed the road to his own home.

Naturally, that would not be the last time Effie encountered Haymitch during her stay.

The evening after the wedding was when she next ran in to him, as much as she had tried to avoid him throughout. The ceremony had been lovely, Katniss had looked beautiful, and Effie couldn't have been happier for the two in love. The looks on their faces – she was jealous, almost, that they could be so happy while she could not. It almost wasn't fair.

"Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes, sweetheart."

Effie's heart fluttered and her stomach flipped as she lifted her gaze up to look at Haymitch from where she was perched in a chair at one of the outer lying tables in the field where the reception was being held under the soft starlight and the glow of paper lanterns. He looked somewhat handsome with his hair combed back and –surprisingly – dressed in a suit. She was almost proud.

"Please don't call me that." She replied flatly, taking a sip of wine from the glass in hand. The emerald dress she had donned for the occasion was pretty, she had to admit herself, but it was nothing exciting, at least compared to the Capitol dresses she'd gotten rid of some time ago.

"What?"

"You know very well what, Mr. Abernathy." Effie continued stiffly, refusing to look at him. He gave a grumble under his breath before his hand was on her arm and pulling her up from her seat. She gave a cry of protest, but barely had time to argue as he propelled her away from the others to another secluded part of the field, clearly making sure they would not be overheard. It was dark and she could barely see where she was walking.

"Let go of me!" She whirled and jerked away from him. "What is your problem, Haymitch?"

"I could ask you the same thing, sweetheart." He drawled and Effie's upper lip curled. "No note?"

"You were drunk off your mind and held no interest in me any longer, Haymitch. You didn't deserve a note, and you don't deserve any other explanation from me more than that." Effie snapped at him, folding her arms across her chest.

"You're lucky I'm even speaking to you now. If you expect you can waltz up to me and sweep me off my feet like nothing ever happened, you're dead wrong." At the last word, she defying poked him in the chest. He caught her hand and pulled her closer. Effie didn't protest, knowing his grip was stronger, but glared up at him with a fiery gaze.

"Listen here, Princess. I -."

"No, I don't want to hear it." She cut across him. "I'm done with your apologies, Haymitch. I listened to them for a year and you finally broke my last straw with you. I'm done." Effie pushed against his chest in an effort to get him away, but he pulled her with him. She scowled at him. "Let me go."

"Not until you listen, dammit!" He yelled.

"I don't want to listen to anything you have to say, Haymitch!" Effie yelled back. No longer was she the fragile little thing she had once been. After the war she had grown stronger, more confident in herself and more confident in standing up for herself, as she was doing now. She wouldn't have it.

"You don't deserve me, Effie Trinket." He growled quietly, glancing over his shoulder at the laughter and music behind them. "And you damn well know it."

"So you drove me insane and out your front door because you think I don't deserve you?" She scoffed. "Of all the stupidest things I've ever heard – you're a real hero, Haymitch, and a big, fat, idiot!" Her hand came into contact with his chest again, slapping it. He caught that hand as well so that both her wrists were in each of his hands, the edges of his fingers brushing scars that had been inflicted on her during her imprisonment. He traced one lightly as he studied her closer.

"We all make mistakes, Princess." Haymitch shrugged at last and a frown crossed her face again, brows furrowing. She made to pull away and he let her.

"You made the wrong one. You want me back and you just can't stand it without me, is that it? Save it. I've heard it from you before." She scowled at him. Haymitch snorted.

"Mighty big ego you got there, ain't it? Calm down for cryin' out loud."

"No, I will very well not calm down! I've spent the last eight months living a perfectly lovely life without you in it!" Effie snapped back at Haymitch, who chuckled.

"You've missed me. Otherwise you would have walked away from me by now." He mused, stepping toward her, but not in a menacing manner. "I can see it in your eyes, now that you're not wearing those stupid contacts. And you're blushing. Your body betrays you, sweetheart, so you can't hide anythin' from me." He smirked and closed the distance between them so they were standing toe to toe. Effie silently cursed her body for reacting the way it did, the way her heart rate had suddenly increased. Damn it and damn him and just damn everything now.

"Don't do this, Haymitch. Please. I can't." She whispered, lifting her hands again to push against his chest once more, but didn't put nearly as enough effort into it as she should have. She wanted to hit him, to punch him, to beat him until he was black and blue and more, but she refrained, knowing that would do no good for either parties involved. Anger bubbled beneath her skin still, but her body continues to betray her. Blasted man, making her fall in love. It wasn't fair. Why couldn't she have something normal for once, like Katniss and Peeta (well, normal now)? Why couldn't have shee fallen in love with a normal man and gotten married and had children and all that stuff ages ago?

Because ages ago she'd still known Haymitch Abernathy, since the first year she had started as escort. He's been far more of an alcoholic then, but he had changed – she could see that now as he stood before her. But how was she to know it was a permanent change and not just something to lure her back in? She had missed him, terribly so, and after everything they had been through together – her crawling in bed with him with their shared nightmares, the days they had spent sitting on the front porch just talking, or playing chess during rainy days, the geese in the back garden they had fed most days together. It brought back memories that made her heart clench tightly around itself. He still had part of her heart, and always would, she knew. The Princess from the Capitol had fallen in love with the Beast from District 12, and there was simply no going back.

"Damn you." She said as he drew closer, breath fanning out across her face. It smelled strangely of peppermint rather than the whiskey she was familiar with and she found it was a nice change, although she did miss the faint smell. It was simply just something part of him she had grown used to and associated with.

"Language, Princess. It's not nice." He murmured and claimed her lips with his own. Effie nearly melted in his arms then and there, her body and heart betraying every part of her mind that was still determined to be angry with him. Her fists curled within the fabric of his shirt possessively, his own hands coming to rest on either side of her face as he deepened the kiss. Effie felt every emotion that had been missing the past eight months poured into the kiss. Gods how she'd missed this.

When he pulled away and pressed his forehead against hers, Effie inhaled sharply.

"I hate you."

"No you don't." He retaliated with a grin. "I've suddenly changed my mind about pushing you away."

"I noticed." She breathed, pulling away to look up at him again. "Haymitch, I won't do it. Not again."

"You won't have to, Eff. I'm sorry."

She gave a trill of a laugh then, shaking her head at him, hands resting on her hips.

"Haymitch Abernathy apologizing to me? I never thought I'd live to see the day." She giggled and he nudged her, and suddenly everything seemed . . . nice. Perfect even. As if a day hadn't passed between them. He wrapped his arms around her waist and crushed Effie to his chest, and this time, she did not protest. He may not have been perfect, with how he had a tendency to pass out on the couch and be crude and rude, but Effie loved him despite it all. They were dysfunctional by all means of the word, but somehow it worked. Almost perfectly.

"Now that one disaster's over, how about a dance, Princess?" He offered his hand. "Can't promise I won't step on your toes, though."

Effie smiled, a bit brilliantly really, and slipped her hand into his.

"I wouldn't expect it any other way."