Disclaimer: Not mine. Suzanne Collins' work. Miaow.

A/N: Hey everyone! Just a little Catching Fire one-shot here. Sorry my Hayffie output hasn't been as vigorous in the last week- exams are looming for me so most of my attention is (unfortunately) diverted to revision. Working on another chapter for The Poster though hopefully! The name of this fic is from a track from "The Life Of David Gale" soundtrack by Alex & Jake Parker. Listened to it a few times whilst writing this it's a beautiful and devastating piece. . . I think it works as a title knowing what happens to their characters, particularly Effie.

SO, after that warble, let me know what you think. x x

Spoilers for Catching Fire; I think this works in terms of the chronology of the book- just before Peeta gets to Haymitch's to persuade him to let him go into the arena.


Almost Martyrs

This Quarter Quell is going to be the best Games ever, a once in a lifetime event!

Think of the victors, all in there together!

The arena is going to be fantastic. . . I just know it!

Her head started to spin, the whole room rotating around her. She'd had to dismiss herself, her face drained of all colour as she struggled to walk in a straight line down the Halls of Justice corridors. The ache in her heart was the worst though; she'd never felt anything like it- Effie was struggling to breathe as if the pain was pressing at her lungs.

No. . . they couldn't . . .

*0*0*0*0*0*

He dropped his phone. Staring at it for a few seconds before picking it up again and slamming it back into the cradle, throwing it aggressively to the floor. Haymitch tossed his hair out of his eyes, his head crashing to his hands.

He looked up, staring up at the blank television screen gravely, President Snow's grotesque face still flicking in front of his eyes. That 75 envelope. No. . . he wouldn't. . .

He was still for a minute, silent with shock like the rest of the country, before standing up with a roar, destroying everything he could lay his hands on- bottles crashing, furniture colliding into the wall.

A violent knocking at the door made him freeze; his eyes darting around as he waited for the second round of knocking. He looked at his hands, cut and bloodied- he'd never been one for nostalgia.

Breathlessly, he scrambled through his kitchen to his door.

Haymitch threw it open, hair dishevelled, expecting to see Katniss or Peeta. His eyes widened in surprise as Effie bowled in; she herself looked a little out of sorts- her eyes shining, little make up and her clothing askew as if she'd put everything on in a rush.

Dressed predominantly in black, Haymitch realised he'd never seen her in the colour before. She looked striking- pale face, red lips and darkness. The angel of death had come to his door. Slender fingers plucking at the papers; accent curling in the air.

"Effie?"

She didn't say anything, brushing past him and standing with her back to him. She never came to his house if she could avoid it.

"Did you see it?" He muttered.

He saw her head bob in a numb nod. Her lack of speech disconcerted him. She didn't move, no cascade of words- as quiet as an Avox. Where were the schedules? The timings? What was the plan?

What on earth were they going to do?

He thought of all those weddings dresses yesterday; their masquerade continuing behind a girl in ivory, gleaming under the glare of the Capitol. A girl who was truly of red- of fire. A girl made to be of blood. He could feel his stomach curdling; bile rising in his throat.

"It's your Capitol, sweetheart." The statement was laced with more malice than humour.

He could hear her sniffing, and he felt rage burn further up inside him. How dare she. "Save your tears for when we're dead, Effie." He practically barked. But then his own heart flinched in regret. His emotions were causing havoc; he dragged his hands down his face.

She swung round, locking eyes with him, and he felt like someone had thrown a rock at his stomach. Effie had cracked, and everything was pouring out.

"How could they-?" Effie felt the words catch in her throat; the force of it making tears burn at the back of her eyes.

She looked at him desperately, and he'd never seen so much emotion in her eyes. She looked lost, like she realised she was drowning. The water was coming up to her chin and she was sinking.

He immediately regretted his earlier words. She did have a heart, Haymitch realised; she just hadn't quite worked out how to use it yet.

"They've probably been planning it for years. It only helps to drive us further into the ground after Katniss' display last year."

Effie bit her lip, blinking furiously- her eyelashes damp, "You're all supposed to be safe."

The Games had always been an honour for her. Something special, something to be proud of.

Now she felt what they felt.

"You lot are all I have, you know?" She admitted, letting out a teary laugh, "I know I shouldn't be crying, I . . . I'm not the one lined up to go in there, but I just. . ." Her voice peetered out.

He saw her place her hand on her own chest, clutching at the material as she closed her eyes, breathing deeply as she tried to retain her control.

Haymitch walked over to her, gently placing his hand over her small, soft one. He saw her jaw jump when she looked up at him, wide eyed.

"You feel that Effie? It hurts doesn't it? When you realise that the world isn't fair, that life will come back and kick you once more for good measure."

Despite his words, gruff and harsh, his touch was big and warm. His loneliness drew him to her. Part of him wanted to be furious with her- how had she not seen it before? All those innocent children taken from their homes, everything they knew and made to savage each other. . . it had taken this to make her heart hurt. . . for people she cared about to be in the firing line.

People she cared about.

Her voice came out higher than normal, her Capitol accent strained as she tried to hold back the tears, "I can't watch any of you die. I'm not pulling your names out of that bowl, I won't."

Haymitch felt shock seize him, and he grabbed her hand urgently, twisting it off her chest as his voice come out in an urgent growl, "No, Effie you must. You have to. Regardless of what you think, you have to do it. I promise you, it will be the last time you'll ever have to do it."

She shook her head softly, her voice broken to a whisper, "You can't promise that."

The heart break on her face shattered him. He didn't know where this emotion had come from on both their parts; they were falling to pieces along with everything else around them.

He nearly told her everything he knew. He wasn't prepared for this Effie; she wasn't part of the plan. She was a Capitol fairy, supposed to flitter off when it all got scary.

Effie cared so much more than he realised. He didn't think she'd realised until now either.

But he would go where he was needed- arena or not.

He could feel her breaking under his touch, her hand shaking, his voice was quiet, "They'll be fine, sweetheart. I'm going to go in there if I can help it, Katniss is going to come out the other side like before. Peeta will be safe."

"No, you don't understand-" Her other hand reached and grabbed hold of his shirt, like he was going to vanish in a second.

"-I can't change this, Effie. I don't want this either."

"Please listen to me, Haymitch-" He saw a tear spill from the corner of her eye as she tried in vain to blink them back.

"If I'm needed in there, I'll go-"

"I can't-"

"Effie-"

"I can't watch you die!"

She was crying now, tears silently streaming down her face. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, a lump forming in his throat. It all made sense.

"Effie. . ."

He tried to grab her other hand, but she drew back, hiding in her shell. This woman overcome with emotions she'd never experienced before; never let herself expose. The colourful painting of the Capitol had been taken down; she could see nothing but dirtied, blank wall underneath. The illusion was gone.

"You. Out of everyone, I-" She couldn't look at him; couldn't finish her sentence.

She gulped, her voice small, "Please don't make me do it."

He stepped forward, grabbing hold of her arms firmly, his eyes bright and anguished. Effie had never seen them so blue.

"Effie. You have to. You have to pretend like everything's fine. Be the escort you always were. It will keep you safe."

Her lips parted and he saw something dawn in her eyes, her breath captured in her lungs; her voice was barely a whisper, "You're leaving. Whatever happens you're not coming back, are you?"

His eyes were locked with hers, and they couldn't lie to her, "Whether I'm in that arena or not, I won't be here."

"Can you win?"

The ambiguity of her question trapped him, he could only answer truthfully, "I hope so."

Vulnerability swamped her, "Will I ever see you again?" She whispered.

He couldn't answer her that. He truly didn't know. Haymitch didn't want to think too much about what was coming . . that way madness lay.

Effie pressed her quivering lips together, nodding as she squeezed her eyes shut, pulling away from him again. She didn't want to know what he was doing; whether he'd be alive by the end of it all.

There was warring conflict in her gaze, "Ok. . . I'll do it." She barely breathed.

His body visibly sagged with relief, and his hands slipped from their grip on her arms down to claim her hands; she tried not to react, "Thank you, Effie."

"I'll be safe, won't I?"

"Yes. You're a Capitol citizen, just. . . pretend we never had this conversation."

"This never happened?"

"Yes."

He saw something dance behind her eyes- a moment, a chance. Before he knew it she'd gently pressed her lips to his. His heart jolted; his hold on her hand tightened immediately, the other one tugging at her hip.

Effie pulled away after a few seconds. She couldn't give any more of herself now, not when she suspected what was coming- that she might lose him, "That didn't happen either then." She whispered, her breath tingling on his lips as her mouth quirked up mischeviously.

He wanted to taste her again. Soft strawberries and Capitol spice. Madness did indeed lay that way. Haymitch tried to shake her from his future; he couldn't afford to have hopes, and he couldn't afford to have her haunting them. Another face swimming in his mental morgue.

She watched the panic register behind his eyes, and he didn't think she'd ever looked at him so softly. Effie touched his cheek gently; giving him a weak smile. Her eyes sapphires like her Capitol jewels. . . they would take her and crush her to pieces. She must hide.

He could hear Peeta yelling his name outside, growing louder, his worn shoes hitting the ground at an irregular pace.

"Put your mask back on, Effie." He said, trailing his finger along her lightly powdered jaw. She knew what he meant, and she tried to paint the illusion back into her eyes.

Because it had to be done. For him, for herself, for Panem.


A/N: Thanks lads and ladies. Hayffie for now and forever! *Needs a Hayffie salute* Minx x