"Haymitch, we have something to tell you."

The voice that announces this is female, and blunt as the backside of a rifle. It feels like one too, jolting me out of a nice, post-bender slumber. Just like always, even after forty years, my arm swings out, knife at the ready before I realize where I am and who is speaking. But there's no call for knives right now.

Even hung-over it doesn't take long for me to figure out what this is about. I've been expecting this for awhile.

It's, I dunno, maybe nine in the morning. Effie went back to the Capitol yesterday. Knowing me for sixteen years, they should know better than to wake me up this early on a day like this just to tell me something that I already know. Even if they don't, I'm over fifty, and have been, despite my wishes for peace and quiet, doling out grudging advice for a decent chunk of that time. Advice on subjects I don't even have experience with, like marriage, domestic disputes, and owning a business. I deserve some kind of rest.

After easing my grip on the worn knife handle, I roll onto my stomach and bury my head in my arms. It's not likely, but maybe they'll get the picture and save this for a more humane hour. Unfortunately, lying in this position is getting increasingly more difficult every year. Probably would be significantly easier if I wasn't developing such a gut.

Who cares? I've earned it.

A none too gentle kick knocks me onto my side. She's not fooling around today. Must be nerves. This is what the foreseeable future is gonna be like. Her nervous, all the time. Great. She's just a scintillating ball of sunshine and moonbeams when she's nervous.

I sigh and look up at them. They're not even kneeling even though I'm on the floor. Well, she never kneels down to wake me up. Usually it's worse than this, with a bucket of water or something. Kid always kneels though, even with the leg. He's got some sort of respect. Not that I would, if I were him. But I guess that's what makes him so damn special. He's rubbing her back like he always does, trying to be encouraging or some nonsense, but I can tell that she wants him to stop because it's distracting her from what she's worked herself up to do. I'm wondering how long it took them to stop bickering and agree to come over here. My guess is at least three weeks.

Too bad for them I picked up on the entire point of this visit two and a half weeks ago.

He's smiling, and she's scowling. I know they're adults. Over thirty. Despite what some might think, I have actually kept track. But when they do this, stand here with these expressions plastered on their faces, they look sixteen again. She's glaring at me like she ate a rotten squirrel and I forced her to do it. Kid's bouncing on the balls of his feet, but he doesn't even realize he's doing it. Actually, forget sixteen. He looks about five, almost bursting with eager excitement.

I suddenly feel strange, knowing why they're here. Knowing how they managed to get here. It's a foreign emotion. I don't recognize it. It's not bitter and burnt out, or drunkenly uncaring. It's not sadness or horror. It's definitely not sardonic amusement. It's not even the gruff concern for their general well-being that I try to keep hidden as much as I can.

But I don't have time to figure out what the hell it actually is, because Katniss' mouth opens again. Apparently they decided she's the one who'll do the telling.

Perfect. This makes it so much more fun.

"Look, just make sure the kid doesn't call me 'grandpa.'"

Her mouth hangs open in surprise. The boy barks out shocked and, I might add, relieved laughter before she turns to him, her scowl transforming into more of a snarl.

I chuckle and roll over.

Time to go back to sleep.


You might want to read "The List" and then "The Good Wife" before you get into this, to further understand how everyone got where they are. But, as always, you shouldn't have to for this to make sense. – sc