Only if For a Night

By WildPomegranate

And I heard your voice
As clear as day
And you told me I should concentrate
It was all so strange
And so surreal
That a ghost should be so practical
Only if for a night

~Only if For a Night, Florence + the Machine

XXX

Bourbon is a broken man's best friend.

"If only I could be this philosophical when sober," he said wistfully. He was holding a bottle over his head in one hand. He etched that sentence into the ground with his fingernail, over and over again until dirt covered his fingers.

He stopped and took a nice, long drink. Above him, the stars were changing color. They went from white to blue in seconds.

"'Bourbon is a broken man's best friend,'" he read, the words slurring together as he said them. "That sounds about right, doesn't it?"

"Men aren't broken unless they think they are."

"Hahhh!" His laughter boomed into the night. There were green stars above him now. "Sweetheart, you don't know how right you are."

She frowned. He could make out that much, in between her translucent white skin and way his world was swirling.

"Put the bottle down, Haymitch."

"Nahh."

"Don't be stupid, put it down."

Turning away and closing his eyes didn't help, because she'd still be staring right at him. "Well, I don't want you to leave," he drawled.

She groaned. "You never learn," she muttered. "There's no reason for me to stay if you don't listen."

"Look—"

"I'm tired of this, Haymitch." She reached forward, cupping his face in her hands. She was so close to him. It felt like she was there, and he could practically smell the honey scent that he associated with her. "Stop drinking. Please, fight. Fight for them."

He snorted. She'd never get it, would she?

She kept talking. "Stop trying to make yourself believe you don't care about them."

That made his laughter stop.

"Katniss—" he took another drink, "is not a nice girl. She's as unpleasant as me, which is saying something."

"But you still love her. Don't you?"

Bourbon is a broken man's best friend.

"Read the caption, sweetheart," he whispered. He feebly pointed a finger at the inscription in the dirt. "And then reevaluate how much you can expect from me, especially in the way of protecting two teenagers."

The bourbon had long done its desired effects—now, he was fighting to keep it down. Wait, actually. The alcohol was doing much more than threatening his stomach. As the real world blurred by the second, the girl in front of him only became more vibrant. She could've very well been alive, and not the rotting corpse she really was.

He pulled her into him. "Why d'you do it?" he asked.

"Hmm?"

"Visit me. I don't get it." Now the stars were pink.

She pointed behind her shoulder. "Read the caption, sweetheart," she deadpanned. "You're the one visiting me."

He mildly took a glance in the direction she was pointing at.

Oh. Right.

"'Here lies Maysilee Donner—Tribute of the 50th Hunger Games,'" he read. He read it again. "God," he groaned, "What a gloomy tombstone."

He'd never seen it in sunlight, but he figured it would be a weathered, dusty grave by now. But by drunken night, it was beautiful. It was always a polished marble (sometimes granite) that seemed to glisten. Tonight, it glistened almost as much as the sky.

She took her hands in his. Her eyes were sparkling, and in a literal sense. "Promise me," she said, "That you'll keep them alive."

"I miss you, May."

"Haymitch, I'm serious. You kept them safe last year, you can do it again." Her grip on him tightened "And I don't want you to see me anymore."

She was seemingly radiating at him. She'd been dead twenty-five years—all that was left of her was bone and dust.

Ridiculous, he thought.

"You honestly expect me to say sober—"

"Yes."

He didn't say anything, not because he didn't have anything to say, but because words were becoming harder to form with every swig he took.

Another drink. He was long past his limit. He kept drinking anyway.

"Focus, Haymitch. Fight for them. Fight for me." She gulped something back in her throat. "You're the only one left that remembers me, anyway."

"That's . . . that's not tr—"

"Not true?" She laughed starkly. "I'm just another dead tribute, I'm one of thousands. We don't matter anymore."

"Well, that's ridiculous," he managed. God, his head hurt like hell.

"It's true."

So many stars. So many colors.

His body was starting to fight against him. Too much bourbon, way too much.

"If you don't give it the best you've got, then Katniss and Peeta will just be two more dead tributes."

He wondered how much dust covered Maysilee's tombstone by day.

"But you have a chance to change things. Katniss is that chance. Keep her alive." She glanced him over. "Keep yourself alive, damnit."

"I was planning on it," he said gruffly. His voice was gone.

"Planning isn't enough." She crossed her arms. "Swear it."

"On what?"

"Someone important to you, someone you love, I don't know—"

He could always tell when their time was almost up, because Maysilee's features would start to swirl together. There was so much glitter, so many stars, and all the while he couldn't stop thinking about the dust and cobwebs that he couldn't see.

I swear, I swear, he kept thinking. I swear it on my family's grave, on your grave . . .

"God, Maysilee." He reached out and put threw his hands around her, desperately holding on to the disappearing image. "Stay with me. I miss you."

And then, it happened like it always did. She was gone. She left in a haze, leaving him to fall back onto the ground, the broken man's best friend pulling him under.

What a shame that the best of him could only manifest itself in the form of another person.

Fight for them. Fight for me.

You're the only one left that remembers me.

He'd fight, alright. And he'd do it for the dust. He'd fight for them—all of them.

He'd fight for her.

XXX

A/N: Interpret this fic as you may, there's more than a few things going on here, heheh. This is written for Starvation Forum's Monthly Prompt Challenge; this month's prompt was "dust." I hope you guys enjoyed, I had a blast writing some HaymitchMaysilee. My muse, as always, is the second coming herself—Florence Welch.

Thanks for reading! I love you all~

xx Nina