mgowriter's notes: Thank you so much to everyone that has followed this story from the beginning. I feel like we've been on a year-long journey together and your support means a great deal to me!

If you enjoyed this story, please also check out my other Hunger Games story, Catching Fire: The Story of Effie and Haymitch.

I'm thinking of doing this again for the first book in the series, so stay tuned for more!

Finally, this chapter's reference in Mockingjay: Chapter 27, page 387.


Chapter 14: A Kitchen Full of Baby Geese

Effie stands outside the familiar door of the house belonging to the Victor's Village without recalling the car ride from the train station. Her insides are twined together into a ball of nerves. A wisp of spring wind flutters through her hair as she nervously adjusts it behind her ear. Walking around in public without a wig still requires getting used to.

The pale yellow sundress that she wears is a thorough departure from anything else she owns. A seamstress from District 8, now working at the Capitol, convinced her that the simple garment would be appropriate for the occasion. Her holographic stilettos are the only accessory she refuses to give up. Looking down at them, she gathers enough courage to knock on the door.

"It's unlocked," a faint voice sounds from the back of the house.

A crate of empty liquor bottles guard the doorway where she sets her suitcase down. The wide entryway is just as she remembers, messy, but not unconquerably so. Glass bottles of all shapes and sizes serve as the main decoration.

"I don't have time for any lectures today, Peeta," Haymitch's voice is unmistakable from the other end of the house. "The train's going to be here any minute, and I've got three cases of premium Capitol liquor waiting for me. If for some unfathomable reason you and Katniss are conspiring to make me miss the drop off, you can forget about any goose eggs for the next month."

Effie walks towards the direction of his voice. As she enters the kitchen, a soft chirping noise from the next room peaks her curiosity.

"Peeta, are you listening? It's not going to work."

Haymitch stalks into the kitchen from the opposite doorway, pulling a shirt over his body.

The sight of Effie halts him in mid-motion, with one arm wrangled through the shirt. Behind him, a litter of five baby geese follow closely in single file.

Haymitch blinks several times, and quickly finishes dressing himself.

"Effie?" his voice catches itself in a whisper.

"Hi," Effie says with a small smile.

"What are you doing here?" he asks in disbelief. "Is everything okay?"

A gosling chirps at Haymitch from below, trying to get his attention. He scoops up the ball of fur into his hand to quiet it down.

"I'm…this is sudden, I know. I'm here to stay. If…that's okay."

Haymitch's heart skips a beat with her words, but he doesn't allow himself to show it. He places the gosling on the table. Two years, seven months, and twenty-three days. He has lived through every one of them with the hope for today.

"Are you…sure?"

Effie nods, searching his eyes for an answer.

Haymitch approaches her carefully. He has imagined her face millions of times in the sleepless nights since they were together last, but he's forgotten the small details; how the tiny streak of green in her left iris reminds him of the garden behind his childhood house, how the small wrinkle between her eyebrows only appears when she's nervous and concentrating at the same time, how beautiful her naturally blond hair looks next to her porcelain skin. The pastel dress she wears filters sunlight coming in from the window. Standing in his kitchen, she's glowing with beauty.

"I can touch you?" he asks hesitantly.

Effie nods again. Working with Dr. Aurelius to overcome the damage that Javlen caused has been the hardest thing she's done, but it has finally paid off. Today is the test. Today, she will fall into his arms like she used to, and still dreams of.

Haymitch's face lights up. He picks her up, and with only a moment of hesitation, kisses her on the lips.

"I can't believe it. Tell me I'm not hallucinating from drinking too much of Greasy Sae's homemade rum. She could never get the Ripper's recipe to mix correctly."

"You're not hallucinating. It's really me."

"Effie Trinket, you're the most stunning thing I've ever seen."

Effie blushes. Her hands hold tightly onto his. For the first time in a long time, she doesn't feel the need to push herself away. She looks down at her sundress.

"You think I'll fit in here?"

"I don't think you'll ever fit in," he says with adoration, "and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Multiple baby geese on the ground begin to squeak up at them, unhappy that they've been ignored for so long.

Effie looks down at the furry animals. "You raise…geese now?

"Don't let the cuteness fool you," Haymitch replies, looking down at the goslings. "They're a bunch of troublemakers, the whole lot of them. Their mother was run over by a wagon, and they sort of imprinted on me."

Effie smiles. "Well they're a smart bunch to pick you. I always knew you had the right heart."

Haymitch stares into her eyes, amazed that he's really standing next to her. "And I always knew you'd come back with it."