This is a one-shot I wrote while trying to sort out my thoughts for another fic.
Bit of a fluff, ahead!
Disclaimer: Not my characters.
Effie sat alone on the edge of the veranda, her legs swinging gently and her hands tucked under her thighs. She watched the star lights twinkling in the skies above, heard the sound of an owl hooting in the distance and felt the cold wind blowing gently against her skin.
The peaceful silence was broken by sounds coming from the very man Effie was waiting up for. Haymitch staggered up the gravel pathway, a bottle swinging dangerously between his two fingers as he cursed and swore unintelligibly.
Effie sighed, Here he comes. In a rare act of kindness, Haymitch had offered her his home after he found out that her own was destroyed when the rebels stormed the Capitol. Effie who was at that moment feeling extremely alone, lost and afraid had agreed to it and had thanked him profusely. With her hand wrapped in thick bandages, and her knees wobbling from weeks spending her time curled up in her cell, she had wrapped her thin arms around Haymitch's shoulders and wept in gratitude.
Haymitch had patted her back awkwardly and came to collect her from her room the next day to board the hovercraft that would take Haymitch, Peeta, an unstable Katniss and herself back to District 12.
Effie watched him from where she was sitting. She laughed silently when Haymitch stumbled over a piece of rock and in a fit of rage born of his drunken state, picked it up and hurled the stone as far as he could manage.
A sound of a window shattering as the stone crashed into it could be heard ringing in the dead silence. Effie winced, thinking of the compensation they would have to make the next day.
"You broke someone's window, Haymitch. That's just rude," Effie told him without a hint of anger in her voice.
He turned towards the sound of her voice, his eyes searching wildly in the dark until it landed on her. He raised his hand in acknowledgement and walked unsteadily on his feet. He lowered himself beside her and lay half of his upper body down on the veranda, his legs planted firmly on the ground. Haymitch closed his eyes and folded his arms on his stomach.
Effie wrinkled her nose as the smell of alcohol permeated her nostrils. "You smell, Haymitch. Did you fall into a barrel of whiskey?"
"Funny, sweetheart," he replied, his eyes still closed.
Effie glanced at him and her eyes were drawn to his hands. She curled her fingers around large palm and brought it close to her face.
"Did you get into a bar fight? Your knuckles are all bruised," she asked, her fingers gingerly touching his knuckles. She heard him hiss in pain and when she turned to look at him, she found him looking at her intently.
Effie blushed despite herself. It always made her uncomfortable when Haymitch looked at her that way, intense and almost fascinated. Lately, when he thought she wasn't looking, Effie had caught Haymitch studying her features, barely batting an eyelid.
"Yeah," he grunted.
Releasing her hold on his hand and letting it fall on her lap, Effie turned to inspect him for signs of any more injuries.
He had a cut on his left eyebrow and it was bleeding slightly, the blood seeping into his hair, matting the already incorrigibly dirty strands of blonde together. The corner of his lips was bruised, but those were the most serious injuries he suffered, having other minute lacerations on his skin.
"Shall I send you to the healer?"
"Not this late at night. You do it, since you're here. You know where the first aid is," he said his words slurring a little.
"Well, just so you know not to expect me to always patch you up after a rough night. The next time, I'll bring you to the healer."
"Whatever," he mumbled, closing his eyes once more.
Fortunately for Haymitch, Effie had taken the liberty of taking on the massive task of cleaning and organising his house ever since she moved to his house three months ago. That of course meant that she knew where certain items were stored, not taking her more than five minutes to return with the first aid kit.
As she cleansed his wounds with antiseptic, starting with his knuckles, her curiosity got the better of her and she asked, "What were you fighting about?"
"If it's not important then you shouldn't be fighting," she reprimanded him, wrapping his hand in a crepe bandage, the elastic material securing a sterilised cloth over the abrasions on his knuckles.
"Did you fight over a woman?" she teased him, chuckling at that the thought. No answer was forthcoming from him and for a moment, Effie thought he might have fallen asleep.
"I did," he admitted.
Effie stopped cleaning his wounds, surprised at that piece of information. She felt a twinge of jealousy at this unnamed woman whom Haymitch was fighting over for. She racked her brain for any woman in District 12 that Haymitch might have mentioned in passing or whom she had seen Haymitch talked to or came in contact with.
She came up with nothing. She bit her lip, deep in thought. Well, I haven't been here long enough to know everyone in District 12.
"Well, I hope she was worth all these bruises you suffered and blood you spilt," she said with an edge in her voice.
Haymitch flinched as Effie accidentally applied more pressure on the cut on his eyebrow than she intended.
"I think she is. Worth it, that is."
"Come on, let's get you to bed, tough guy."
He shook his head. "No, I like it here."
Effie frowned in disapproval. "Your back will be sore if you lie there any longer."
"I like it here," he repeated.
"Well, if you're so stubborn, suit yourself. But don't come and complain to me tomorrow," she huffed in exasperation.
He smirked at her and as she made to stand, his hand curled around her wrist forcing her to sit back down, her legs dangled over the edge of the veranda. At the same time, he had manoeuvred himself so his head was lying on her lap. The length of his body stretched out before him. He opened his eyes to look at her, shifting to find a comfortable position.
"This doesn't feel so bad," he said smugly at her. Effie swallowed the lump in her throat. This felt intimate, it felt right. Effie wasn't sure what to do with her hand, and she unconsciously began to brush back strands of his hair from his forehead.
"What's her name?" she asked softly.
"The woman you were fighting about."
"Oh," Haymitch wrinkled his eyebrows and answered, "Can't remember."
Effie gave a soft laugh. "First you lost the fight, now you can't remember her name, even though you claimed she was worth it."
Why do I sound so bitter? Effie cleared her throat.
"I didn't lose!" Haymitch cried out indignantly.
"Sure you did, Haymitch. If you had won, you would have brought the woman home, wouldn't you?"
"Maybe she's already in my home," he mumbled, studying her.
Effie's whole body tensed, her hand that was brushing his hair stilled mid air. Finding her voice, she managed to get the words out. "You were fighting because of me?"
Talking to Haymitch could prove to be quite a challenge for the uninformed. He didn't talk much and information had to be pried from him slowly and delicately.
"They were saying horrible things ... about you." His tongue darted out to wet his lips and he averted his gaze. "I tried to ignore it, you know. Pretend I didn't hear them. But...It got worse as they drank more. I couldn't just... I couldn't just sit there and let them say all those things."
"What did they say?"
"Better you not know," Haymitch sat up and ran his hand through his hair. He grabbed the bottle of liquor he had brought home from the bar and brought it to his lips. Effie missed the warm pressure of his head on her lap.
Gathering her courage she said, "Since it's about me, I want to know. What did they say, Haymitch?"
Whatever they said, it must be serious if Haymitch could lose his temper and get physical like that. Haymitch looked at her and after awhile, he spoke.
"They said that you got off lightly. You should have been imprisoned from crimes against..." he cleared his throat. "Against humanity. For all the children you Reaped. For being part of the Games."
"That's not all, is it? You wouldn't have... fought with them over something like that."
He shook his head and stared ahead into the distance.
"Please, Haymitch, what did they say?"
"What's the point, sweetheart? I tell you all this and where you're gonna run off to? You can't hide behind your ridiculous colourful big bright wigs anymore, can you? Leave it."
They sat together side by side, on the veranda in contemplative silence. Haymitch got up once more to rummage in the kitchen cupboard. He came out with a bottle of wine and a glass. He poured the red wine for her and drank straight from the bottle.
Effie sipped hers slowly.
"They said the only reason you're alive was because of me. That I probably brought you home with me to ... warm my bed."
Effie clenched her jaw and shut her eyes. Even though she was not living in the Capitol anymore, it seemed that gossips and the hurtful lies they spread were prevalent nearly everywhere.
"I gave him a solid right hook in the jaw. Think I might have broken it. He deserves it, though. Guy's a blithering idiot. As if I would do such a thing. I mean this is you we're talking about. Effie Trinket. Why would I even-"
Effie stood up and all but ran from the veranda. She hurried up the stairs to her bedroom and slammed the door, breathing hard and trying to choke back her tears.
This is you we're talking about. Effie Trinket.
Haymitch's words replayed itself in her mind over and over like a broken record. Effie Trinket.
"Effie? Effie?" Haymitch knocked on her door. "Open the door! Why'd you run off like that? Look, ah... Damn it, Effie, open the door, will you? Stop hiding in there."
"Go away, Haymitch. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
There was silence. Effie waited for Haymitch to reply something sarcastic, or hear his footsteps fade away but there was only silence. She pressed her ear against the door and jumped back when she heard the sound of a bottle crashing against the tiled floor. She hastily yanked the door open.
"Ah. Knew that will get you to open the damn door," He strode into her room uninvited and sat gingerly at the edge of her bed.
"You'll dirty my bed linen," she chided him while inconspicuously trying to wipe away her tears.
"Change it, then. Surely you don't need me to teach you that," he raised an eyebrow mockingly at her. "Need another bottle. You have any in your room?"
"No, unlike you, I don't stash alcohol in here." Effie sat facing his side profile on the bed.
"Look, sweetheart, if you bother about every single damn thing that people say about you, you'll go batshit crazy. Just... just ignore them. Like me, see. I don't give a damn. The entirety of Panem used to laugh at me, called me a useless drunk but what do they know about me?"
"They're talking about you, too. It's not just me. They're saying that you are... you know..."
"That I'm sleeping with you? Well, you and I both know that's not true so I don't see why we should bother much about it," he shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm not drunk enough for this. You sure you don't even have wine in here?"
"No, Haymitch, I don't. Why are you looking at me like that?" she hit his arm with her pillow.
"You don't look pretty when you're all sad like this. I like it when you're angry. You've got this... sort of look in your eyes. Think of me, eh and you'll get angry soon enough," he said patting her knee.
Effie blushed a bright crimson red. Haymitch had never commented on her looks other than to insult the colour of her wig, or the brightness of her clothes or how she looked like penguin - waddling about in her high heels. Ever since her rescue from the Capitol, she had shed her Capitol attire and Haymitch had not made a single comment about her appearance save for that instant.
"What you said just now, that I'm Effie Trinket, I don't know who I am sometimes. I felt like back at the Capitol, I had to dress up and follow the latest trend to fit in because to do otherwise would have been folly. I get so caught up with everything that I sometimes forgot to stop and think about what I want and who I am. Well, I suppose I was Effie Trinket the Escort back then. And now... I don't know who I am or what I'm supposed to do with my life."
"You can be whoever you want to be now. Do whatever you want to do. What do you like? You can visit District 4 and swim in the oceans. Or, ask Peeta to teach you how to bake, though I wouldn't recommend it; might burn down his house. You've got all the time you need to figure it out."
Effie smiled at his efforts. "If I had known that you are this nice and sweet in the middle of the night, I would have stayed up more often to talk to you."
Haymitch frowned. "Now, don't go around thinking that I'll always entertain you -"
Haymitch faltered as Effie stretched and press a soft kiss on his injured eyebrow. "Thank you for standing up for me at the bar," she whispered. "Go to sleep, Haymitch, it's late."
"What about this one?" he asked, pointing to the bruise at the corner of his mouth. Effie's eyes sought his, wondering if he was being serious or merely teasing her. Effie saw him raising an eyebrow in challenge, his lips curled in a smirk.
Never one to back down, she leaned forward slightly and planted another kiss on the bruise. As she moved back, Haymitch turned his head to the side and captured her lips with his. His hand came up to cup her cheek, holding her in place.
Her eyes fluttered closed. She felt his tongue trailing against her lips and slowly her lips parted. He tasted of wine and whiskey and assortment of other liquor all mixing into one. He nibbled on her bottom lip and Effie's hand gripped the front of his shirt. As the need for air threatened to overwhelm them, they broke the kiss; both of them breathing heavily. Effie had a smile on her face.
"Yeah," Haymitch nodded, "Definitely worth it. Goodnight, sweetheart."