The old grandfather clock in the parlour chimed loudly. The unwelcomed deafening sound reverberating throughout the house woke him up from his sleep. Haymitch hated that clock. Effie had brought it over from her apartment in the Capitol when she moved in and had thrown quite a fit when she caught Haymitch dragging it out of the back door in an attempt to get rid of the offending item.

With his face pressed against the pillow, Haymitch counted the number of chimes silently in his head. Ten - should probably get up. The house was quiet save for the quaking of his geese. It wasn't such a strange occurrence. He was used to waking up to an empty house despite having Effie moved in just shy of six months ago.

She had probably gone off somewhere in District Twelve. He noticed how she could hardly stay put at home, preferring to spend her time outside doing something, refusing to slow down and stop moving. Effie was a familiar face in Twelve. The locals were used to seeing her around when she visited Haymitch before she relocated permanently. After a long, difficult road over a period of several years, they finally managed to somehow forgive her for her past transgression against their children; now they treated her as one of their own. And it was that acceptance that finally made her moved in with Haymitch to Twelve.

Haymitch went down to the geese pen and saw that the in the distance, the Mellark's house looked empty. He wondered where the kids had gone off to. With a sigh, Haymitch sat on an old three legged stool to watch his geese, bringing a bottle of whiskey to his lips every once in a while.

It was past noon when he heard the front door open. He knew who it was even before he heard her voice.

"Haymitch," Effie's voice sliced through the silence that had cloaked the house. "Hay – oh there you! Why are you not ready yet?"

"Ready for what? Are we going somewhere?" he scrunched his face, trying to recall if Effie had mentioned anything the night before.

"Haymitch," she huffed impatiently, "I told you yesterday, didn't I?"

"I remember nothing, Eff."

Still, he got up and followed her to the bedroom where he finally noticed the pressed suit Effie had hung outside the wardrobe. He had missed it that morning, bleary from his lack of sleep and irritated with that absurd clock. He raised an eyebrow at her.

"No," he shook his head, "too fancy."

"It's not too fancy where we're going."

"And where are we going?"

"Somewhere. You trust me don't you?"

He sat on the edge of the bed, refusing to give in to her. There was no way he would willingly wear that suffocating piece of garbage. He much preferred his rather laid back style of dressing – the button down shirt and pants. Effie had already taken off her blue knee length dress she wore from that morning and was holding up a two piece orange dress, one that he had no idea she owned.

She glanced at him briefly, "well, aren't you going to change?", she asked, before turning towards the full length mirror he had mounted on the wall solely for her benefit. Effie held the top blouse next to her own body, turning this way and that to see how she would look like.

He walked up silently behind her. His hands roamed her back as his fingers expertly worked on the clasp of her bra. He unclasped it and pushed the strap off her shoulder. Haymitch dropped a kiss to her shoulder as his arm snaked around her waist and pulled her back to him. Meeting her gaze in the mirror, he whispered huskily against her skin, "I'm not, but I can be persuaded."

Effie shuddered and her skin prickled in response. His hand glided up her ribcage to cup her breast, the other gently resting on her waist.

"We don't really have time for this," Effie tried to tell him even as she tilted her neck to the side, an unconscious gesture for Haymitch to continue his ministrations.

"You underestimate how fast I can go," he nipped her ear lobe gently. "Persuade me in five minutes and we'll see if I'll wear that suit."

It was a challenge and it worked beautifully. Effie disliked being challenged. She hated the implication that she may not be able to rise to the expectations. Turning around in his arms, she ran her hands over his toned chest, undoing the button of his shirt slowly from the top.

"I think I can persuade you in less," she told him, tiptoeing to give him a peck on his lips. It was a distraction because the next thing he knew, her hand had slipped past his boxers. The grip on her waist tightened instinctively and Effie smirked.

She went one step further. After the stroking and painful teasing Effie dropped to her knees in front of him and pulled his pants down. Haymitch gasped and bit on to his clenched fist as his hips buckled at the feel of her lips closing around him.

"Effie, no – oh lord," he exhaled, trying hard to control his breathing.

As he looked up, his eyes caught sight of them on the full length mirror. Haymitch's hand shot out against the wall to steady himself as Effie continued doing extremely pleasant things to him. From their reflection, he watched the movement of her head. He couldn't see her face because her back was to the mirror. Haymitch watched himself tangling his hand in her hair and he found himself enthralled at the sight of them. The way things were going, he was fast losing the challenge. He eyed the suit briefly and tried to convince himself that it was worth it. It had to be worth losing this to her.


"I can promise you so much more when we return," her eyes flickered teasingly to look at him, applying her lip gloss in front of the mirror.

Haymitch was struggling with his black tie when Effie had spoken. He paused, distracted. "Now?"

"When we get back, Haymitch," she repeated.

She smiled at him rather smugly, proud that she had managed to make him put on the suit. He looked handsome with that white fitted shirt tucked neatly into the waistband of his pants. When she had bought that shirt, Effie had bought it one size smaller on purpose. She loved seeing the garment stretched out across his chest when he moved his arm to reach out for something and it also accentuated his physique.

"Wish you'd shaved," she muttered quietly, her hands working deftly to fix his tie.

"Nah, you like me like this," he smirked, touching the stubble on his cheek. He brushed the lock of blond hair and attempted to tuck it behind her ear but the way she had put up her hair made it impossible to. His hand fluttered uselessly to her bare shoulders before moving to her back where more of her skin was exposed. He fingered the zipper and pulled it lower before Effie moved back, away from him, and shot him an amused look.

"Later," she mouthed.

They arrived at the Justice Building within half an hour. He wanted to ask what they were doing there but was distracted by Effie tugging on his hand towards the function room. The Justice Building had been transformed after the Rebellion to suit the needs of the community. It was a place where they hoped the community could come together to celebrate happy occasions as a society, to bury the previous horrors of standing under the hot sun as a whole for their children to be picked and sent to the gallows. There had been wedding ceremonies, baby showers and all sorts of celebrations held at the Justice Building since the past several years.

There was a spring to her steps as they walked down the hallway to the function room. Haymitch didn't suspect anything and was following her blindly, as he attempted to loosen his tie with one hand. Effie threw open the door in her excitement and Haymitch staggered back in surprise.

"Happy birthday!" the people in the room shouted.

He turned towards Effie, "it's my birthday?"

"You make planning a surprise party so much easier because you don't remember your own birthday," she smiled, giving him a light kiss, "you never suspected a thing, too!"

He stepped into the room, looking pleasantly taken aback. Haymitch smiled sheepishly. In all his years, he never had a party thrown for him. Why would he? His family couldn't afford it and subsequently, as a Victor he spent his birthdays drunk out of his mind with a random woman or another. Eventually, he found that his birthday was no different from any other days he spent inebriated and it blended into the background over the years.

Haymitch rubbed the back of his head, feeling slightly uncomfortable and out of place. He hated parties; it reminded him too much of the Capitol. But Effie would have thought that this was exactly the way to celebrate a birthday – extravagant and loud. He wouldn't mind them spending their time together. At home, preferably, drinking wine with her curled around him. But for her sake, and the effort she had put in, he kept the smile on his face.

She nudged him into the centre of the room where he saw his closest friends in attendance. There was Plutarch with a plate of cake - "Don't worry this isn't your birthday cake! – Katniss and Peeta, Annie, Johanna and a few other men he had socialise with at the bar. Hearing Plutarch's comment, Peeta had been quick to assure him that the birthday cake was safe.

"Oh, I get a cake, too," he commented dryly.

"Of course, you do. What's a birthday without a cake?" he heard Effie chimed in. "And Peeta's cake is beautiful."

That would explain the reason Peeta and Katniss' house was empty that morning. The two of them together with Effie had probably been busy making sure everything was in place. True to what she said, the cake was beautiful, not that he would admit it. When Peeta brought the cake out, Haymitch had propped his hand on his hips and shook his head. It was shaped like a whiskey bottle and frosted carefully with practiced hands.

"Never had a cake before," he told Effie, "and if you ask me to blow out candles, Eff, I'll send you back to the Capitol."

One thing he would admit was that the party was nice. It was a small gathering, nothing as fancy as the parties he had attended before at the Capitol. They drank and talk, spending the night catching up on each other's life and the development happening all over Panem, they ate and dance although Haymitch dance reluctantly after much cajoling from Effie. It was a good celebration especially since Effie said nothing about the number of glasses of whiskey he drank that night. Johanna's voice rose above the music as she threatened Plutarch with bodily injury should he stepped on her foot once more. He could hear the crowd laughing at the pair. His hand held Effie's close to his heart as they swayed gently to the music and over Effie's shoulder, Haymitch saw Annie cutting the dance short, saving Johanna the pain of dancing with Plutarch.

As the night grew, his old friend became unsteady on his feet. Plutarch drunkenly announced that it was time for a group photo. Haymitch groaned when he saw Plutarch took out a camera from his pocket. He tried to escape, moving stealthily towards the front door but he wasn't quick enough for Effie. She saw him and grabbed his wrist, pulling him back towards her.

Turning around in his feet, Plutarch aimed the camera at the pair.

"Hurry Haymitch, smile," Effie instructed. She put her arms around his waist and rested her head against his shoulder. He looked down the top of her head and inhaled the smell of her shampoo. Haymitch wrapped his own arm automatically around her torso, drawing her closer to him. There were a lot of things that Haymitch kept to himself, things that he never told Effie because he felt too foolish. He never mentioned how he thought she fit perfectly next to him; that without her heels, she was the perfect height for him to put his arms around her shoulders; that when she laughed, he felt funny where his heart should be.

He wanted to believe that he was one of the few people who really knew her. Right now, Haymitch knew that she was delighted over how the whole event had turned out. It was a small wonder why she was so eager to persuade him into the damn suit. He smirked knowing that if he had stood his ground and refused to change, it would jeopardize her plans.

The smirk was still in place when he looked up at Plutarch as the camera went off. He blinked at the bright flash. In his disorientation, Effie untangled herself from him and looped her arms around his neck, with a silly smile plastered on her face. His hand gently held her waist as he tilted his head slightly to the side, leaning forward to kiss her lips after making sure that no one was looking at them. The rest of the group were too busy trying to figure out how the timer on the camera worked, determined to have a group shot before the night was over.

"Happy birthday, my love," she spoke quietly.

"Don't forget about that "later" you promised me earlier."

She laughed and buried her face in his chest. He held her tight and looked out towards the group of people he called friends, deciding that perhaps it was time he stopped shying away from those people. No one was threatening to kill his loved ones any longer. It was time to embrace the life he had been given. If he had learnt anything today, it was that he wasn't getting any younger.

"Later" never came because much to his annoyance, Plutarch was in no state to return back to the Capitol on his own. Effie, nice and kind as always, had offered for Plutarch to stay the night at their home.

There is actually an accompanying picture for this Fic. You could see it on my tumblr (allonsysilvertongue). Been wanting to write something based on that picture & finally found the perfect occasion. This fic is also inspired by the fact that today's Woody Harrelson's birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!