I watch the boy as he watches her. Watch as his eyes follow her as she walks out of the dining car.
It kinda breaks my frigging heart.
I know the last few weeks had taken their toll. At first I could see it in their eyes, in the way they carried themselves. In the way they wouldn't eat, or join me in making fun of Effie. The victory tour was killing them in ways the games couldn't.
It wasn't long after 8, though, that I caught the change. The way their bodies unconsciously shifted towards each other at any of the public events, how their eyes would lock as we sat around the table while they would pretend to eat, and I guzzled my liquid dinner. How their hands would eventually find each other, fingers interlacing, as we mindlessly watched Capitol television in between Districts.
Shit if the kid hadn't won her over.
She was still a grumpy little snot, narrowing her eyes at anything she didn't like. But she'd…softened or some crap since she had seen Rue's family, and witnessed the execution of the old man. I guess I can attribute that to the boy. He always seems to bring out the best in people. Except, I think ruefully as I look into my empty glass, me.
He catches me staring, and shrugs.
"Nothin, kid. Got anything to tell me?" I eye him warily. I don't need him spilling his guts, but I guess if he wants to talk a little, I can listen for 5 minutes. Or two. However long it takes before the need to refill my glass overpowers me.
"Is there something you'd like to know?" he asks carefully. He knows what I want to know, and he wants me to ask it. Damn, this kid is going to be the death of me. I sigh. I guess the sooner I bring this up, the sooner I can get it over with.
"What's happening with you and her?" I ask bluntly, tipping my head in the direction she walked off in.
"Nothing," he replies quickly. Bullshit.
"C'mon. You gotta be honest with me. If things have changed between the two of you – for the better – then that's a good thing. Remember Snow's little warning?" I remind him. He sighs, and I know he's being all gentlemanly or some shit. Doesn't want to ruin her reputation.
Too late for that, kid. Snow's gunning for her anyway.
"Look, all I'm going to say is we're….in a good place. Or as good a place as any," he replies. I grin at him, and stand, making my way over to the buffet and perusing the options before selecting the usual and refilling my glass. If that's all I can get out of him, it's better than nothing. It's on the record now.
"Well, whatever you do, don't knock her up," I joke, raising my glass to him. He rolls his eyes, and pushes himself out of the chair.
"Shut up Haymitch. God, sometimes you can be such an ass." He shoots me a dirty look – I don't know why he bothers, with those baby blues, it can barely pass for 'mildly disappointed' – and walks down the same corridor that she went down not ten minutes before. I watch him go, then look at my pocket watch. Too early to sleep, but….
I throw back the remainder of my drink, and make my way down the opposite corridor, knocking on the first door on the right. It takes a moment, but the door is flung open.
"Oh. It's just you. I thought you were the attendant with my beverage," she huffs when she sees me, then turns around. At least she doesn't slam the door in my face. I follow her in and close the door behind me, leaning against it. She's not wearing her wig, which means for once I see her fine strawberry blonde hair. She's not wearing her make-up, which means she looks like a 35 year old woman should, not a frigging painted doll. She's wearing a silk dressing gown, rather than a stomach sucker and stupid shoes, which means she's actually walking for once, not trotting.
"What do you want Haymitch?" she asks shrilly. Ah. You can take the Capitol out of the girl, but you can't do jack about the voice.
"Just thought I'd give you a bit of an update on our favourite tributes." Her eyebrows raise, and she takes a seat in the armchair by the window. She motions for me to continue. "Just got confirmed what we suspected. They're on."
"Oh, Haymitch. Can't you make it sound at least a little romantic?" she complains. "They're two young people obviously in love-"
"I wouldn't necessarily go that far."
"Two young people obviously in love," she continues, glaring at me, "who, despite my disapproval of their sleeping arrangements, are making the most of a lovely opportunity to spend time together."
"And put on a show for the Capitol, and The Beard Collective." She rolls her eyes, but I can see a grin tugging at the corner of her mouth.
She hasn't decided whether she likes my nickname for Snow, and his group of Gamemakers, most of who seem to have inherited Crane's penchant for absurd facial hair. I think I've almost won her over with it.
"Either way. I suppose it is good news, what with Snow's visit and all. At least now no-one can question their affections. It's certainly obvious to see."
We've had these nightly catch ups since the victory tour started. By a stroke of luck, Effie discovered her room wasn't monitored at all by the Capitol, and it had given us an opportunity to speak freely without the worry of being caught. I'm pretty sure some of the staff on the train are suspicious that we're having an affair, but I'd rather them think that, than realise we're practically committing treason within these walls.
Though I'm sure Effie would disagree.
I push myself away from the door, and grasp the doorknob. "Well, I'll leave you to your little soap opera then," I tell her, looking at the program playing on her projector screen and snickering. She flushes, but has the dignity not to retaliate.
"Good night Haymitch. And remember, do not sleep late. We have a big, big day tomorrow." I grin as I close the door. The woman never changes.
I walk through the dining car again, and head towards my room. I'm surprised to hear muffled conversation behind Katniss' door, and don't even consider it intruding when I rest my ear against it.
"I just want this over, Peeta," I hear her say.
"I know. We only have a 2 more districts to go, and then the Capitol. After that, we're home again, and we can do what we want." I hear a mumble, and a giggle, then a rustle. I start to step away, not wanting to hear what I think I'm going to, when she speaks again.
"I want to. So bad. I want you, Peeta, so much I can hardly stand it. But it… it disgusts me thinking the Capitol could hear us. Or even watch us. We're not even sure what kind of surveillance they have on here!"
"Yeah, I know. And you know I don't mind. I've loved you since I was 5, Katniss. That's not going to change in a matter of weeks." They're silent for a few moments, and I can hear the soft sounds of their kisses.
And I'm out. I don't want to hear that shit.
But maybe I'll do sweetheart and the boy a favour.
I wonder if Effie would be willing to give up her room sometime on this tour.