pity for ghosts
this is the way the world ends
not with a bang but a whisper
t.s. eliot

The worst thing about being alone is the pity.

He sits with one leg stretched and the other bent across his thigh, sprawled across the armchair. They told him to wait in the room on the left, but he said there was no need.

And there wasn't, really.

He watches the room on the right with narrowed eyes, people flitting in and out faster than he can follow, and he finds himself hoping that she'll come to see him off, at least, but she doesn't, of course she doesn't, she wouldn't, and he's suddenly aware of how alone he really is.

It seems like ages before everyone finally leaves (and he feels a sick pang of satisfaction at their fright when the peacekeepers usher them out), and the last girl out of the room is Maysilee herself. She's pale, but surprisingly, dry-eyed, and she approaches him, satin ribbon in waves of glossy golden hair, her dress blindingly white.

"You want a candy?" She asks, palm extended, and at that moment he can already picture himself slitting her throat out in the arena, her white dress torn to pieces, her body maimed. Because she isn't offering candy half so much as pity, and he'll kill himself first before he accepts anyone's sympathies.

"How old do you think I am?" He replies snarkily. "Five? We're both going to die in the arena, and no amount of candy's going to change that."

She shrugs, and tells him she'll see him on the train.

He swallows.

(Or he attempts to, at least – you can't swallow resentment.)

She slides into the seat beside his at the table, picking up her fork and eating daintily with the utensils. He stops trying on the third dish, tearing at a buttered roll with his hands.

"They're pretty flowers," she comments, reaching out to touch their petals.

"If you're lucky, they might place them on your grave," he mutters under his breath.

"If I'm lucky," she echoes in a hollow voice. The fork clatters onto her plate, and she leans back in her chair, face basking in the light of the chandelier, hair tumbling down her back.

He shrugs, reaches for another roll. "What do you think they do with the forgotten tributes?"

It's rhetorical, but she answers anyways; says it so quietly that it almost gets lost in the vibration of the movement, the train speeding along the tracks. Her head is half-inclined in his direction, her eyes a sea of neon blue.

"They forget them."

He finds her crouched over the toilet, hugging its porcelain side with her hands, vomiting over and over again, her hair (so nicely done) thrown carelessly to the side, damp with sweat. He's momentarily shocked into silence and he stands there with his mouth dry and his tongue between his teeth because Haymitch Abernathy is not equipped to deal with these things.

She lets loose a sob when she notices him, wipes her mouth on the back of her hand. The glitter streaks across her face as she wrings the tears from her eyes. She struggles to get up, staggering under the weight of something invisible, her interview outfit wrinkled, drops of blood stark against the cream tiles.

"Tell them I'll be there in a few minutes," she says, voice shaky. "I'm fine," she affirms, touching the side of her cheek with her hands. "I'm fine," she repeats, shaking her head. She moves to the sink, tucks away stray strands of hair into her updo, wipes the glitter (the tears) (the shame) away.

The girl in the mirror transforms before their eyes.

He is silent, for a moment.

"No," he says churlishly. She looks up, tube of lipstick still in her hand, the painted smile half-done across her lips. "You're not."

He turns and walks away, the stiff collar of his dress shirt choking him into oblivion. It's supposed to be not okay, he wants to tell her, grab her by the shoulders and shake her, but something tells him she already knows. It's okay to feel like everything's lost, like all hope is gone, like you're going to die. That's what they want. To drive us mad.

And it's a sick twisted game they play, he thinks, because it isn't what happens in the arena so much as the psychological stuff before it that haunt them until the day they die.

There's a certain irony in the arena being somewhat like a paradise because it's really anything but.

She will die here, is the first thought that comes to mind. She will die in the first few days, if not in the bloodbath, she will drown in its false beauty and her wish of being buried in these flowers will come true.

Every cannon that goes off, he doesn't look at the sky – he doesn't bother (he doesn't want to know), he thinks, this could be hers.

Half of him doesn't know why he cares.

She was just another stupid girl from town, after all, and he was just another stupid boy from the Seam. If they grew up, having escaped the clutches of the Reaping, she wouldn't have spared him a second glance. Even if she did, stories of town girls and seam boys and town boys and seam girls – they always ended in tragedy.

But they're not.

And he is wrong.

She appears like an avenging angel with her dart gun in hand. The career's arm wrapped around his throat loosens its grip, and the corpse falls away with a thud. He touches the bruises left on his neck and gets to his feet.

"Haymitch," she says, lowering her weapon.


Their hands clasp together, her fingers dusty with pollen, petal stains on her palm. The stench of flowers lingers in the air, sweet and heady and filled with poison.

And from that moment forward, they are bound.

She gets a bunch of candies, tied together in a fancy little pouch with pull strings. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's from her family, and that it must have cost a fortune, even coming from the wealthier merchant side of town.

She places one in his palm, and in her own. "Don't bite it," she commands him, before tipping her head back and placing it between her lips. "Suck on it. It lasts longer. The taste. It's all about your perception of things, you know? You might be hungry, but your taste buds convince you that you aren't, even if you're on the brink of starvation."

"I doubt you've ever even been in that situation." He eyes her sceptically. But sweets are a luxury, something that can easily be removed from your lifestyle, and he pictures her gaunt and starving, living off their merchandise, the only food they have.

(He imagines it's not too far off from what she looks like now.)

It's sour and it's sweet and it's tangy and it makes him think of better, happier days and even after the candy is gone, he clings to it.

He runs his tongue along his teeth, and he might just be tasting victory.

The victory is bittersweet.

(But mostly bitter.)

She shivers in her sleep.

It's one of those nights where it's his turn to keep watch – on everything else; he has to keep reminding himself, not her. And still, she shivers, and he can't seem to turn away. He drapes his jacket over her sleeping body and he can't help but wonder if it's shivers of the cold, warm enough as it is at night, or if it's her thoughts and her dreams that make her.

He brushes a lock of hair away from her face and she suddenly stops, face younger and peaceful and relaxed in sleep. She shifts over onto her side, away from him, and her eyes flit open.

"I can't sleep," she announces, voice muffled. "I couldn't stop thinking about Myrcella. What's going to happen to her if I don't come back. I mean, her health's fragile enough as it is."

Maysilee flips over to face him, head propped up by her elbow. In a smaller voice, she says, "I don't think dying's half as bad in the sense that you lose your life, more so in the fact that you leave behind the people who love you and make them suffer."

"Then you're foolish to think so," he replies curtly, folding his arms across his chest uncomfortably.

"I know," she whispers, and feeling suddenly irritated, he's about to tell her that if she doesn't want to sleep he's going to and she can be the one keeping watch, before he hears the sound of her soft breathing minutes later indicating that she's no longer awake. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair, wondering if tears will be shed when he dies.

Probably not.

Her scream rips through the air, tearing apart his world, ringing in his ears.

They haven't even separated for five minutes and the elasticity of the bond is drawing him back in.

Find her, find her, find her, he repeats in a mantra, stumbling over rocks and elevated ground, his head a whirlwind mess, and he's tearing at branches in frustration because even though he's running with all the strength left in him it isn't nearly fast enough.

Then he finds her and his heart falls to his stomach.

She lies in the grass, pink feathers strewn across her chest, her throat slit open in a bright red smile.

"The birds," she struggles to say, as blood leaks out of her throat, seeping out of the cracks in her wound. Her hand touches her throat, drenched in a glove of crimson red, and he wraps his hand around hers, fingers intertwining, locking them tightly. He nods, showing her he understands, that he's here.

"I don't – I don't – I don't want to be forgotten," she confesses, words mashed together in a flow of words with no separation left between them, no breath to keep them apart. Her eyes meet his, fiercely bright, tears pooling at the corner of her eyes. Her lip trembles. Her hand wavers. He doesn't think of a response until the strength slowly leaves her, bit, by bit, and the vibrancy of her personality fades.

The shot echoes in the air and he closes her eyes.

"No one does," he speaks to the dead shell of a girl.

He doesn't know if she hears.

There's really no use in winning when everything about the victory is hollow.

It is a dead boy that travels from district to district, with empty words and a heart of stone. Haymitch Abernathy has long gone. There are some that look at him with hatred, others with anger. But most look at him with pity, the emotion he once so very much loathed. Now he can't even bring himself to care.

"Why didn't you warn me?" he yells at the shadow of the dead girl. He throws the bottle of wine at her and it hits the window, shattering into pieces. The plum-coloured liquid stains the carpet and drips down the window like rain.

I don't think dying's half as bad in the sense that you lose your life, more so in the fact that you leave behind the people who love you and make them suffer.

She regards him with mournful eyes and says she did.

Stop it. He slides to the ground, backed up against a wall, hands tearing at his head, like he can somehow rip the memory of her away. It doesn't work. He gets a replacement for the liquor the next day and keeps on drinking, downing and refilling his cup until he can no longer see properly and she becomes a blurry haze.

I don't want to be forgotten, she whispers into his ear.

Well, maybe she's happy now.

They storm down the door of his house in Victor's Village, all within the next fortnight.

Silent and decked in white, they could be ghosts, but he knows better. He knows ghosts. He's seen them. He is one.

They take his girl (wait, his wife now), his mother, his sister, and drag them down to the yard.

And then they beat him bloody. He can hardly feel it in his drunken stupor, but the blows keep coming, at his arms, at his legs, at his chest, his stomach, his face, his eyes, until the pain is vivid and colors are exploding behind his eyes.

"Stop, you'll kill him," he hears a cry, (he can't differentiate between who it is anymore) until he hears three gunshots and all that's left is silence and the collective sigh that blows over in the wind after death.

They leave him there, on the ground, and he vomits, a mixture of blood and tears and wine and helplessness, feeling so utterly alone. Maysilee stands in front of him, feet bare, in a white dress, waiting, and he vomits again, and again, until he has nothing left.

Here are your flowers, he tells her.

Here are your flowers.

a/n: reviews are love. all comments appreciated~ :)