mgowriter's notes: I had a lot of fun doing this for Catching Fire, so here we go again!

Some improvements this time around:
1. The official citation: Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3). New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
2. I used the first edition, hard cover version of the book for reference. Chapter numbers will now be included as well as specific pages, so people with different versions will at least have a general idea of which part of the book I'm referencing.
3. If given a choice, I would read the specific pages cited in the actual book first, but in case of bronchitis, you really don't need to reference the book to enjoy this story.

This chapter's reference in Mockingjay: Chapter 2, pages 21-26


Chapter 1: Real or Not Real?

He pushes against the crowd, a mob of Capitol citizens rushing by in all directions. He feels a sharp jab in his ribs as someone surges past, but his eyes never leave their target. The woman in the electric yellow dress stands ahead of him, just out of reach.

He calls out to her, but she can't possibly hear him through the frantic screams of a thousand people running for their lives. She pulls further away with the swell of the mob, almost out of sight.

Two men in white uniforms appear from behind her. Peacekeepers. Their appearance sends a chill through his body. He's paralyzed with the thought of losing her.

She finally turns around as they catch up and grab her by the arms. The look of horror on her face is unmistakable. "Help me," she mouths the words, "please."

One of the Peacekeepers knows he's watching, and smiles in his direction. His face is too familiar.

"Haymitch," he says with amusement. "Why don't you come help her?"

The Peacekeeper is in front of him, holding him down with an iron grip. "Haymitch." He feels his shoulders shaking but can't break away. "Haymitch. Can you hear me?"

. . .

"Can you hear me?"

Haymitch wakes with a start. His hand automatically reaches behind his pillow, but even as he's doing this, he remembers his knife has been taken away. It changes trajectory and he grabs his assailant instead. In the same swift move, he propels himself out of bed to pin the other man to the floor.

"Haymitch! It's me, Plutarch. Haymitch, stop!"

He pauses. The voice is familiar. He looks down at the other man, whose face has turned an unhealthy shade of red.

"You're sitting…on my lungs," Plutarch says as he wheezes for air.

Haymitch jerks backward. He hits the foot of the bed and pulls himself up. He's drenched in sweat. The gray, District 13-issued shirt clings to his body. He doesn't remember drifting off to sleep.

Plutarch dusts himself off from the floor. He peers closely at Haymitch.

"You look terrible. They tell me you haven't been eating."

"I haven't been hungry," Haymitch replies. He presses his fingers against his temples. "Why are you here?"

Plutarch clears his throat. "We need your help. District 8 is getting hit with heavy fire."

"I told you I'm done with that," Haymitch says without emotion.

"Katniss is doing much better," says Plutarch, changing tactics. "She's up on her feet. I thought you might want to know."

Haymitch sneers at his words. "She thinks I betrayed her and had Peeta captured. She'll cut out my throat the first chance she gets. I have the scars from the last time she tried."

Plutarch's gaze automatically shifts toward Haymitch's neck, where the marks from Katniss' attack in the hovercraft have begun to fade.

"Why are you here, Plutarch? A man can't even get some peace while he's in detox?"

Plutarch clears his throat. "From what I understand, the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have all but disappeared. The latest report suggests you're doing this to yourself." He pauses, trying to formulate his next words. "Effie…she was taken, Haymitch. There's nothing we can do."

Haymitch swerves angrily to meet Plutarch's gaze.

"She wasn't taken. I gave her up to them. I told her to trust the rebel base in the Capitol and it was raided. She trusted me, and now she's in the hands of the enemy."

"No one could've seen that raid coming," Plutarch replies. "It's done. You can't go back and change it. Now you have to decide what you're going to do. You have a gift, Haymitch. You're the best strategist we have. You can help thousands of others who are fighting for the same cause as Effie was."

Haymitch remains silent.

"I want to show you something."

"Leave me alone, Plutarch."

"First, a video, and then I'll leave if it's still what you want."

Plutarch moves to the opposite wall and pushes a button. A television screen appears. He pushes another button and a video begins to play.

. . .

"So you hold on to your wish. And that last night, yes, my wish was to save Katniss."

Haymitch snaps his head up at the sound of Peeta's voice. He stares into the screen. It's really him. Peeta, sitting next to Caesar Flickerman in front of a backdrop of a ridiculously large Capitol seal.

"When did you get this?" he asks Plutarch.

"They broadcast it this morning."

Haymitch frowns as Peeta continues to speak. He looks perfect. He's dressed in an expensive, tailor-made suit. His face glows with each change in expression. With a flash of his hand, it's apparent that every fingernail has been prepped, primed, and manicured. He's well fed, overfed, even. Something is very, very wrong.

At Caesar's mention of Katniss, Peeta propels himself out of his chair and leans into the interviewer.

"She didn't know, Caesar! Neither of us knew anything expect that we were trying to keep each other alive!"

Caesar swallows to retain his composure. He quickly changes the subject. Haymitch tries to take in every pixel of the screen. Any detail can help them determine where the interview was held.

"I don't know what Haymitch knew," says Peeta.

Haymitch refocuses his attention on the younger man.

"Could he have been part of the conspiracy?" Caesar presses.

"He never mentioned it."

"What does your heart tell you?"

"That I shouldn't have trusted him, that's all."

. . .

Haymitch can't say he's surprised at the words, but they still pack a punch to his gut. So Peeta hates him, too. Another name on the list.

The conclusion of the interview doesn't surprise him. Peeta calls for a ceasefire because even as a prisoner in the hands of the Capitol, he's trying to protect Katniss.

"Has she seen this?" he asks Plutarch.

"Yes, in Command this morning."

"Then she's going to be your Mockingjay."

"She hasn't agreed yet."

"She will," says Haymitch. "She'll do anything to save him."

And what are you doing to save her? A small voice asks inside him.

"Snow just made his first move," Plutarch says, sensing his opportunity. "You can lay here and blame yourself for the rest of the war, or you can help us win it. The sooner we do, the sooner you see her again."

The image of Effie from his dream reappears. Come back to me, she whispers. The familiar words send an involuntary shudder through his spine. Promise me you'll come back to me.

Haymitch turns to Plutarch. "We do this my way, or we don't do it at all. And I expect us to look out for each other. I trust Coin about as much as I trust Snow right now. Understand?"

Plutarch nods. "I hope this means you have something in mind?"

The scowl never leaves Haymitch's face, but a tiny lift of the corners of his mouth betrays him. "Snow wants to play? I guess it's our move."