Dousing the Flames

The shards of glass shattered everywhere as I put my fist through the unprotected window. Despite the fortune bestowed upon the victor's village, none of us had bothered to invest in a security system. Somehow I think we silently dared somebody to try and break in, to try and steal from us, or kill us. After the games, we no longer slept, no longer let our guards down; I pitied the fool who tried to sneak up on a victor.

I brushed the jagged pieces of glass away from the windowpane and crawled over, landing in the kitchen of Haymitch's house. Tonight, the nightmares had been worse than usual, the mutts had plagued my restless mind this time. The screams and the cold, lifeless faces of the fallen tributes still haunted me and with the quarter quell announcement, they seemed to become even more vived in my dreams. The announcement had hit me harder than I'd let Peeta know. It was a way for the capitol to get back at us, to prove that we really would never be safe. I wouldn't let them win though, I would make sure that Peeta made it out of this alive. He had taken care of me last time, but now it was his turn.

Haymitch's kitchen was a mess, not that I expected any better from a man that spends less than ten percent of his day actually sober. Dishes filled the sink and rotting food lay out, making me want to retch. I needed liquor tonight though; I needed the numbing distraction. I had only gotten drunk on one other occasion, just after we had gotten home from the games. It was just after they released us from the hospital, they had a huge bamquet in our honor, another publicity stunt. I kept seeing Rue and my mind kept replaying the spear piercing his fragile body. I downed nearly two bottles of wine. Even Haymitch was impressed by my abilty to hold my liquor.

I had never really liked the stuff though, I didn't enjoy the prospect of my senses being dulled, but now I couldn't take it any longer, I needed something to take the edge off.

I rustled through Haymitch's top cabinets without any success, I looked through the pantry, the icebox; everywhere I could think off. I stopped and cursed to myself, this was Peeta's fault. Since we had gotten back, he had taken it upon himself to reform Haymitch. He would come over here occasionally and dump all of his liquor and raid all of his stashes. He'd even gone as far as paying off people at the hob from trading with the smelly old drunk. I racked my brains for any clue as to where the sneaky bastard would hide it, when I remembered visiting Haymitch's house for the first time after we had gotten back.

The entire house reeked of whiskey and beer, Haymitch's two preferences. He had never really had a taste for vodka or any of the frillier, capitol drinks (not that he wouldn't drink them per se). I stepped around the discarded dishtowels and assorted piles of clothing that littered the floor. Come Wednesday the entire place would be sparkling for a few hours, as the capitol provided a cleaning service for the victors to keep up appearances.

"Looking for something, sweetheart?" Haymitch cackled from the corner of the room. I jumped at the sound of his voice, I had failed to spot him coming in.

"Just wondering where your sorry ass was." I replied smartly.

"Katniss, Katniss, Katniss," he slurred, "When will you ever learn to play nice with others?"

"When others learn to stop pissing me off." At this, Haymitch let out another croak of laughter.

"You know something, honey? I used to be just like you. Then all this bullshit came around and I decided not to bother anymore. Not to bother fighting them, it's like a fly bighting on an elephant's ass. We're just a minor annoyance to snow you know that, right? We ain't ever gonna make a difference. That's why I've got my wonderful sock drawer to allow me to hold on to just an ounce of my sanity. Or at least a pint." He belts out another set of laughter over his little quip, but it sounds hollow.

I study his sunken eyes and mussed up clothing, wondering what brought this little tirade on. Haymitch loves to bellyache and bullshit, he rarely allows anyone to see past his rough demeanor. I form the words carefully in my mouth as I feel dull anger rising up inside my chest, "No, Haymitch," I say softly, "I wouldn't have given up."

I turn and walk towards the door, coming here had been a mistake, as my hand reaches the handle I hear his sullen voice behind me. "You will, hun, we all do in the end."

I shudder at the memory, despite its usefulness; I still cringe at the thought of Haymitch's words. I need to get to that sock drawer fast, I can't take much of this thinking anymore; it's maddening. I shuffle through his drawers and eventually find one filled with rolled socks. I feel around for any bottles, but nothing but soft cotton greets my fingers. I let out a grunt of frustration and bring my fist down on the drawer. I stop at the hollow sound it emits. Carefully, my fingers probe the edge of the drawer, finding a small notch in the woodwork. I stealthily pry open the false bottom to find a plethora of bottles.

Not really caring, I grab several and stuff them in my pockets. I had these pants tailored with extra large pockets after the games. They were useful for storing weapons, just in case. Paranoia was another side effect of the games, I had an entire cabinet back at home dedicated to weapons and supplies, I never wanted to feel that helpless again.

Haymitch would be furious when he returns home, but at this point I'm past caring. I pause in the kitchen and rip off the cap to a small brown bottle, quickly pouring it down my throat. It burns and chills at the same time as it slides down my windpipe, giving the world a dull buzz.

"Katniss?" The gentle voice in the doorway startles me. I turn to find Peeta staring at me with questioning eyes. He looks around at the torn apart kitchen, taking in every detail. "They were bad tonight weren't they?" He says softly, his gentle blue eyes seeing right through me. I hated when he did that, he always had the ability to make me feel vulnerable.

At the same time, I love him for it. He's the only one who understands what happened in that arena. Haymitch has permanently banished any of his time in the games from his memory with booze. Maybe I'll do the same. I take another long, healthy swing out of the bottle.

"So what if they were?" I spit. Alcohol tends to make me even more confrontational than usual.

"Katniss, you can't do this to yourself." His baby blues seemed to melt me and I felt him breaking through. I couldn't let him and I steeled myself up yet again.

"Sorry we aren't all Saint Peeta! The tortured artist, painting away his problems every day." I punctuated each statement with another sip from the bottle. He knows I'm just trying to hurt him; he's far to patient with me.

"Is it the Quell, Katniss? We're all worried about it, you know. You can talk to me."

"Maybe I don't fucking want to." I snarl. I go to take yet another gulp when I realize the bottle is empty. I throw it up against the wall where it shatters into tiny little pieces. I watch the glass tinkle to the floor when I suddenly feel my knees buckling beneath me. In an instant, Peeta is at my side, cradling me in his arms. I can feel tears biting at my throat, but I steel myself against them.

"It's okay to cry, Katniss." He whispers into my hair. I know that he is right and unwillingly I feel the hot tears slide down my face. "let's go home." He says softly.

"I can't" my voice sounds pitiful, even in my own ears.

"Then back to my house, I'll take the couch."

He scoops me up in his arms and carries me the brief distance between Haymitch's house and his own. I've always admired his strong physique; he never fails to amaze me with his strength. Soon he lays me down on his comfortable queen bed. I have a matching one at my house, but somehow his seems so much better, so much more inviting. He tucks my hair behind my ear affectionately and this small action makes me want him.

I act before I can process what exactly it is I want to do and my lips are on his. It feels so right and so inviting. The alcohol courses through my veins, making any possibility of stopping out of the question. He pauses when we are down to our underwear, holding me at arm's length, "Katniss," he begs with a pained expression, I know that he won't be able to stop. That, if I let him, this will go farther than anything either of us has ever experienced. This prospect appeals to me and I silence him with a kiss that seals our fate.