His right hand was planted on the wall beside the phone, his left hovering over the device just like it had been doing for about a week now. He'd been an unpleasant mix of really drunk and really sober alternately, and couldn't quite figure out which he was in at this moment. Regardless, here he was again, trying to pick up the receiver, forgetting about trying so damn hard not to care. But pride was a hard thing to overcome.
He'd been climbing the walls these past few days. Sure, he'd been without her for this long before, had lasted much longer, even. But before, he'd always had the unspoken promise of a return. And now, he wasn't so fortunate.
For the sake of his own sanity, he was finding it helpful to blame people.
He had blamed her some days, blamed himself on others, and even blamed Peeta on occasion. It depended on the day. Today Peeta was his scapegoat. Because, really, if the boy hadn't off and died, maybe Katniss wouldn't have been so self-destructive like she had been for the last few months, bringing Haymitch down with her. It was Peeta's fault that she was acting this way, acting blindly out of anger and grief, and it was Peeta's fault that the only one left to take it out on was Haymitch.
But as he stood there half-slouching, supporting himself against the wall, he knew that Bread Boy couldn't really be blamed for losing his brainwaves to the Capitol's perfected torture techniques. But losing him had been too much. Too much for either of them. If only Peeta had never insisted on loving the girl, if he'd just gone into that first arena and never come out... Maybe if he had never loved the girl at all, hadn't asked Haymitch for advice, hadn't come to him for every fucking little thing in between the Games and the Quell... Maybe Haymitch would've never had to think about the girl like that.
But who was he kidding? He'd thought highly of her since the day she first volunteered for her sister. He was fond of her feistiness in training. They had connected on some level, gained a new perspective of each other, through their communications during her first Games.
And he couldn't deny it, that scene on the beach during the Quell had made him jealous. Lover Boy finally living up to his name, and Katniss acting on pure instinct, nothing forced.
He loved that about her.
And when she was his Mockingjay. Being her only lifeline during those life-or-death propo filmings, it made him feel close to her again, even if their chances of survival were more dire than ever before. He learned to appreciate her fight, her constancy, when over and over he was on the verge to losing her, truly, if not to the Capitol then to sadness or morphling or herself. He'd really only ever been on her side through it all.
But after all was said and done, maybe something inside of him thought she needed to be continually challenged in order to bring out the best in her.
But that's not what he was doing to her right now, what he had been doing to her for the past few months. Somehow, he was breaking her. Wearing her down. And he hated that, after all she'd been through, that she could possibly let him be the ruin of her.
Letting his forehead slam into the wall, Haymitch's hovering hand gave up, trailing down the wall in defeat.
He couldn't do it. He couldn't pick up the phone. Not tonight. Not when he was still obsessed with scapegoats and old memories and fucking fondness. Something in his chest twinges at the word. He sinks to the floor, ready to wait out another day, praying for the sight of her just so he can explain, say he's sorry.
If words were his thing, which they hadn't been in a long time.
He's staring at her. She's in her Mockingjay wedding dress, and she's spinning, spinning, real flames emitting from the lower folds of the fabric. She's engulfed in them, dancing in them, and he's not sure if she knows it's real fire or not. She's standing on the roof of that hospital, the one from that round of propos, but she's alone this time and not dressed for battle. Somehow he's still on the other end of her earpiece, can communicate with her, can hear her breathless laughter as she twirls. But this time, he can also see her. Not on screen, like he sometimes is able to during filming, but in person, through the jittery windshield of a hovercraft. He grips whatever his hands are holding tightly, so close to telling her she's burning but then he realizes. He, Haymitch, is manning a blaster, a huge air-propelled gunning operation, and is standing at the helm of the machine, his hands on the hip-high, orange-and-black heavy-duty triggers that have just sent huge fireballs hurling towards his Girl On Fire on the roof of that building. He looks up from his hands just in time to see six fireballs zoning in on her, her face turning to him, her eyes finding his and opening wide, wondering, pleading, asking...
And the building that she's standing on, it explodes.
Haymitch awakes, finding himself on the floor next to the telephone, a harsh beeping coming from the receiver lying in his lap. He stares down at it, tears spilling over the rims of his eyes and rolling onto his crumpled shirt.
His head tilts back until it thunks against the wall, hand dragging the hair out of his face as he snorts in an attempt to reclaim the snot threatening to follow where the tears have already gone. He runs a hand across his nose regardless, sniffing again and opening his mouth slightly so he can breathe. He closes his eyes in an attempt to stop all forms of liquids to stop exiting his body via his face, trying to bring himself back into the present.
She was fine, she had to be, just like she always was. She had to be. She only lived a few houses away. Haymitch would've heard if anything had happened, right? But then again, he was never a light sleeper...
Haymitch's eyes spring open. The phone is still beeping in his lap. Picking it up, he moves his rough fingers up to where the neck meets the listening head. Finding the switch, they finger it a while before pressing it down. The phone clicks off. When he lets go, a dial tone replaces the urgent, blood-pressure-raising beeping. Haymitch felt immediate relief.
He closed his eyes once more, falling into a slumber.
Six orange globes began floating lazily before him. It was almost like he'd been staring at the sun too long, except there were far too many suns represented to be that. Haymitch blinked his eyes, trying to get the sunspots to go away. But when he refocused, the sunspots were moving at light-speed, hurtling towards some large bird, almost like a heron, on top of a …
There was a flash of light. An explosion. But everything had stayed quiet for Haymitch, he was simply floating backwards, landing against a wall that he continued to slouch down in slow motion. Before him there was just orange, so much orange, and flames, and sparks in the air. And then there were feathers. Black and white, floating lazily through the sky of orange that engulfed him.
With a snort, Haymitch pushes himself off the ground, blinking, blinking, but suddenly everything is dark. Everything looks like his house in Victor Village.
It is, it is, he thinks, but his hands fly to the phone, pulling up the cord until the receiver was juggled into one hand his other flying to the dialer.
Four-eight-one, five-one-six, two-three-four-two…
And then the slow constancy of the riiing, riiing.
He held onto the receiver with both hands. He didn't have words to say to her if she answered. Somehow that didn't matter. He just needed to hear her, needed to know she was alive, that she was fine, that she was…
There was a pause.
Then, "It's Katniss. I don't know how you got my number but I'm busy and I don't want to talk. Leave a message if you have to." Beep.
Haymitch was silent. His mouth opened, but he was silent. It wasn't her, but it was comforting, somehow, just to hear her voice, even if it was a recording.
He swallows, closing his eyes.
"I just wanted to hear your voice." He whispers it.
And then he hangs up.