Minds and Hearts
"The Revolution was affected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people" - John Adams
Haymitch wasn't getting any younger, and maybe the best explanation for his agreeing to let the woman write his biography was that he wanted to have some say in how the world remembered him if it remembered him at all.
"You don't know how much this means to me, Mr. Abernathy," the young scholar gushed. "Just meeting you is such an honor, but writing your biography borders on amazing!" Her toothy grin and rambling adulations both irritated and intrigued Haymitch. He wished he was the man she appeared to believe that he was.
"Yeah, yeah. Let's get one thing straight right now, Freckles, I am no hero."
Clarice almost fell from the porch step when Haymitch Abernathy called her 'Freckles!' Yes, freckles dotted her face, a fact that was evident every time she looked in a mirror and did not require any further emphasis. It had been years since anyone had made fun of her freckles. Was Haymitch Abernathy making fun of them? Should she be flattered that he gave her a nickname or insulted by the one he chose? And what of this denying that he was a hero? To Clarice, Haymitch Abernathy certainly was a hero and always would be.
"So you've got some kind of advanced degree, have you?" Haymitch asked her as he leaned on the porch railing. He did not sound convinced that having such a degree represented anything positive.
"Yes, Sir. I have a PhD in history," Clarice explained.
Haymitch smiled mischievously.
"Actually, you have two PhDs don't you, Freckles? One in history and one in psychology?"
He crossed his arms smugly, proud of catching her in what he considered a lie.
"Yes. But I thought the one in history was more relevant to writing this book," she deflected.
Haymitch smiled again, took a few steps towards the door, and stopped.
Clarice watched, wondering if he had changed his mind about letting her into his private world. But to her relief, Haymitch opened the squeaking front door of the house and gestured with his arm for Clarice to come inside.
"Well, you can check that psychology degree right here at the door, Freckles, because I don't have any interest in being analyzed even if the person doing the analyzing did graduate from the Capitol's best university, twice."
Clarice admired him, always had. Boundaries established early have the greatest meaning though, and she decided to set some as she entered the old victor's house.
"Let me get something straight with you also, Mr. Abernathy," she began quietly. "I am honored to meet you and write this book, but I have no intention of being abused in this professional relationship of ours." Clarice felt her back straighten involuntarily as she finished stating her ground rules.
Haymitch smiled one more time. What Clarice didn't know was that she was the twelfth historian who had attempted to write Haymitch's biography. Several of them had not made it past the front porch because Haymitch ordered them off his property for being generally annoying.
"Certainly, Freckles. No problem," Haymitch agreed.
I like this one, Haymitch thought. Maybe she can actually put up with me.
"I'm not going to talk about that," Haymitch maintained as their interview progressed.
"You have to talk about your something, Mr. Abernathy. You've already said you won't talk about your relationship with Katniss Everdeen or Peeta Mellark."
"They're married, you know. She doesn't go by Everdeen anymore."
Clarice looked at him impatiently and sighed. In the Capitol women didn't change their names when they married, and she could not understand why a strong and self-assured woman like Katniss Everdeen would. Why would she want to give up her identity even if she did love Peeta Mellark and want to become his wife? Clarice didn't think she'd ever marry, and she supposed that a woman willing to change her name as Katniss Everdeen had must have dreamed of marrying her "prince charming" all her life.
"Katniss Mellark then," Clarice corrected. "And what do you want to talk about, Mr. Abernathy?"
Haymitch's heart lurched in his chest, and he hoped his anxiety didn't show on his face. He worked hard to maintain his façade of indifference, but answering her question would require him to let her see him for who he truly had been and who he really was.
Haymitch felt a weight on his shoulder. He thrust the knife in his hand forward with all the force he could muster, which wasn't much. With the movement an excruciating pain seized him from the middle of his body, and he started to double over. But even that proved agonizing, and a moment later he stilled every muscle as his body tried to release the pain with a long involuntary moan.
The weight grew lighter and moved to his face, running down the side of his cheek.
"Don't worry. They'll patch you up."
That's right. He was "safe," having been pulled from the arena by a hovercraft. How long ago was that? Minutes? Hours? Days?
Haymitch pulled his eyelids apart just enough to see the blurry image of his mentor, Rainey.
She loosened the knife from his hand, and he saw that it wasn't a knife at all but his token, a small oblong necklace that belonged to his sweetheart, Selena. Only in his fuzzy mind could it be mistaken for a knife.
Selena had given him the necklace when she visited him to stay 'goodbye' at the justice building, but they had never said 'goodbye.' At first Selena had intertwined their fingers while the shock of being chosen in the reaping slowly rippled through him. As the realization that he would be dead in a few weeks hit him, she wrapped her arms around him tightly. Neither of them was foolish enough to believe that Haymitch had a chance to survive the Hunger Games. No matter how smart or strong Haymitch was, merely being from District 12 meant the odds were not in his favor.
Selena stood by quietly as Haymitch held his mother and brother in his arms. Nobody asked her to leave. When Haymitch's mother fainted Selena fanned her with a piece of paper until the peacekeepers could carry her outside to get some air. Then without hesitation Selena returned to Haymitch's side.
"I'll take care of her," she told Haymitch, and he could tell that Selena meant what she said.
When all the things he hadn't said and done flooded his mind, overwhelming him with regrets, Selena was there beside him. Most of the regrets couldn't be remedied in the waning minutes of this 'goodbye,' not with his mother passed out, his brother panic-stricken, and his father long dead.
"Selena, I want you to know that I've dreamed of us being together forever, and if I have any control over what I'm thinking when the time comes to leave, then I'll be thinking of you." Haymitch told her honestly.
Selena knew he was talking about dying, not leaving the train station bound for the Capitol. She wanted to be strong for Haymitch but a troublesome lump began to form in her throat. She didn't want to imagine what the next few weeks would be like for him or for her.
"I hope you have a happy life, a husband who truly loves you and a family if that's what you want. But will you do one thing for me?" Haymitch whispered, "Will you close your eyes?"
Selena shut her eyes obediently, causing two large tears to roll down her cheeks. Anything for him right now, anything. And his request had been so simple. She only wished he hadn't seen her cry.
"No, no Sweetheart," Haymitch explained. He placed his hands on either side of her face and gently wiped her tears away with his thumbs before kissing each closed eyelid solemnly. His own eyes closed reverently as his he touched her, and he wondered why this moment felt so incredibly intimate.
"When it happens," he continued, his voice trembling, "whatever it is that happens to me, I want you to close your eyes so you don't see it and don't remember me that way."
Selena couldn't bear it anymore. Her eyes flew open. She let her grief go, raking her fingers down his chest and pressing her lips against his frantically. They spent whatever time they had left that way, and when the peacekeepers finally pulled them apart Selena screamed for him.
"Haymitch! Just come home, and we can be together forever. And I won't need to close my eyes. Just come home."
But she did need to close them. When the insides of him spilled out from the wounds the career tribute inflicted she hid her eyes, her face, and her head in the folds of her skirt. If she could have Selena would have run from the viewing. The nearest peacekeeper granted her some mercy by not requiring her to look at the screen again until Haymitch "won." Then he roughly pulled her up by her chin to feign compliance with the mandatory viewing.
The phone at the training center hit the floor with a thud. Haymitch stumbled backwards and caught the bed with his hand. The rest of him slid down the side of the mattress until his rump finally hit the floor. He'd just lost everything that mattered to him, and he knew his life would never be the same.
"Haymitch! Time to go. Where are you? You can't be late for this interview." Rainey called to him. Haymitch already had a reputation for being a bit rebellious, always thumbing his nose at the Capitol even in these early days of being a victor. And he hadn't played the game the way the Capitol had intended in the arena.
Haymitch wondered if that's why his family had just been killed. He certainly knew that their deaths were no accident. Everyone in District 12 would know that, perhaps even the whole country.
"Just a minute," he snapped.
"No way; let's go!" Rainey, never one to respect boundaries or personal space burst into the room just as Haymitch buried his face in his open hands and drew his knees up to his chest.
"What's gotten into you, boy? We have a job to do."
"They killed them, all of them! Even Selena," He moaned.
"Who? What are you talking about?"
"You know who," he said angrily, hating the Capitol more with every syllable he spoke. "They killed my family."
Then Rainey understood. She'd seen this before. The Capitol would take everything that still mattered to a victor if he stepped out of line for a moment. Rainey hadn't warned Haymitch at this early stage of his life as a victor, and now she knew she should have.
"My family, Freckles. I'd like to talk about them. Especially my brother," Haymitch answered. "He never got to make his mark on the world."
Clarice laid her pencil down on her notebook. Perhaps she could still crack the defensive walls Haymitch had been maintaining during their interviews. So she listened hopefully and carefully.
"He was eight years younger than me, so when I was reaped at sixteen he was eight years old."
Clarice's gut tightened uncomfortably when he said the word "reaped." Being a history scholar she intellectually understood the processes involved in conducting the 75 Hunger Games that had taken place, but she'd never actually met a tribute. The few of them that still lived kept to themselves, especially Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and Haymitch Abernathy. To imagine the man sitting before her at sixteen being taken from his home and placed in an arena to kill or be killed made bile rise into Clarice's throat.
Outside the window Clarice caught a glimpse of Peeta Mellark dodging geese while making his way up the path to his house. He limped just a little; something she'd never noticed when she saw videos of him on television. Those videos had to be twenty years old now. A young girl ran out of the house, his daughter. She met him on the path and talked excitedly. Peeta grabbed her hand and swung their arms together enthusiastically until they reached the house.
Haymitch noticed Clarice's distraction but continued with his story. When the Mellarks went inside Clarice turned back to Haymitch.
"Done admiring the scenery?" Haymitch asked.
Clarice sighed. There was no sense arguing with Haymitch Abernathy. She'd learned that already. "Yes, thank you."
"You should respect him far more than me, Freckles. Far more."
Clarice said nothing. Maybe in some ways Peeta Mellark deserved respect that Haymitch Abernathy didn't, but Peeta Mellark hadn't meant to start a revolution. That much she knew from the historical record. Haymitch Abernathy had.
The room was dimly lit and especially dirty with coal dust. About ten men were gathered there, all miners. They were anxious to hear what Haymitch had learned about the political situation in the Capitol during the games that year. Haymitch was still focused on the tributes he and Rainey had lost, a fourteen-year-old girl and a sixteen-year-old boy. He'd tried so hard to prepare the boy for what he'd face in the arena. In the end, the boy ignored Haymitch's advice and ran for the weapons of the Cornucopia at the start of the games. He fell moments later, a victim of a well-trained swordsman.
The girl had lasted much longer, hiding from everyone. Haymitch suspected that nobody bothered to hunt for her since she was not considered a threat. She ended up dying of thirst, unable to locate water again once her dehydration reached the point of disorientation. Rainey said she was proud of the girl and that she'd died honorably for a fourteen-year-old.
"The girl was terrified of the weapons and the other tributes, Haymitch," Rainey told him after the girl died. "She certainly didn't want to be found because she feared what they'd do to her and didn't want her family to see her beg for her life. The girl was going to die, and all of us knew it. She knew it. From her perspective, dehydration was actually one of the best ways that it could have happened."
Haymitch didn't understand Rainey's complacency. He wanted their tributes to be victorious. Being the winner was the only victory Haymitch could fathom. But the miners wanted to know about the President and any rivals he might have.
"Did you hear any rumors, Haymitch? Is anyone trying to oppose Snow?" they asked.
"Is there anyone in contact with District 13? Did anyone mention them to you this year?
He had few answers. Every year he learned more about the Capitol and the political situation there. He'd discovered that his teachers in school had mostly taught half-truths and lies about the Capitol, but most of them probably believed what they taught. Haymitch was one of the only people who regularly left the district, and he felt an obligation to tell the miners what they wanted to know. Still, these secrets could kill. He warned the miners even though he doubted the words of an eighteen-year year-old boy would deter them.
The woman was probably around ten years older than him. She didn't possess the usual type of beauty that personified a Capitol politician's wife but she was striking in her presence and intelligence.
"Sit down, Mr. Abernathy. Don't be so formal. We'll get to know each other quite well tonight. No sense in formalities now," she said.
Haymitch looked down at his shoes and thought of home. It wasn't much of a life, but at least he had control of where he went and who he spent his time with there.
"Want a drink?" she offered, smiling and holding out a glass of golden liquid.
"Yes, thank you." Haymitch said to be polite.
He took the glass and then wondered if he should drink it. He had no idea what it contained and asking would be rude. Besides, she could easily deceive him. What difference did it make anyway? He had to do and say just about anything she wanted. Though his family was gone, there were still things that mattered to him. He'd grown to care for a woman here in the Capitol. Though they hoped their relationship was a secret to everyone but Rainey, Haymitch could never be sure. His home mattered also, and the Capitol could make District 12 suffer because of him.
The politician's wife wielded power. Her husband was a rival of President Snow. Haymitch suspected this meeting represented some kind of bribe. Perhaps the politician's wife had asked for him in payment for some favor to the president, maybe even a betrayal of her husband. It staggered the mind that he, Haymitch Abernathy, a Seam boy from District 12 destined for the coal mines before his unfortunate reaping, could be desired by a woman like this in any way. Perhaps it was his lack of sophistication that made him interesting to her.
"Why me?" He asked.
She knew what he meant.
Tilting her head and smiling wryly, she answered him. "Because I like intelligent men, and you are smarter than President Snow and my husband combined. You just don't know it yet."
She stood up, her sheer and flowing dress draping her sides and arms. She reached her thin fingers out to touch the hand that held his drink.
"Yours is the kind of intelligence that could change everything."
"You'll only endanger her further by seeing her, Haymitch," Rainey argued.
"What am I supposed to do? Erase her from my life? Never even say 'goodbye?' I love her." Haymitch countered.
"Yes! If you truly love her and want her to live then that's exactly what you do. Do I need to remind you of Selena?"
Haymitch's hatred of the Capitol threatened to suffocate him. He couldn't escape it.
"We'll get word to her," Rainey told him sympathetically. "She'll know you didn't just desert you, that you are protecting her."
"Why do they take everything from me?" a broken-hearted Haymitch asked his mentor.
"Because they can."
Haymitch retched into the toilet for the fourth time that morning. He couldn't believe he'd been so irresponsible. His tributes were depending on him now that Rainey was gone, but he'd never been lonelier. Liquor seemed to be the only remedy for his misery. He'd learn to be alone; he knew that. Never again would he let anyone into his life only to have them killed or hurt because of him. Then again, two teenagers were probably about to be killed because of him, because he was such a pathetic excuse for a mentor. Haymitch shook his head sadly, a mistake that sent him back to the toilet again.
He finally dragged himself out of the bathroom, dressed and made his way to meet Effie Trinket and the doomed tributes. Both he and Effie knew there was no hope for them. The girl possessed little common sense, though she was more athletic than some tributes Haymitch and Rainey had mentored in the past. The boy was thin, lanky, and weak. He'd been starving when he was reaped. As he and the boy reached the hovercraft platform the boy looked at Haymitch with the sincerest expression and said, "Thank you for everything."
"No sense in thanking me, boy. I haven't done anything." Haymitch's nausea returned, and he wasn't sure if it was the hang-over or the boy's ill-placed gratitude that caused it this time.
"It's not true what they say about you," the boy went on, "That you don't care about anybody but yourself. You care. And when we are gone you will be sad. You have a lot to be sad about, Mr. Abernathy. District 12 doesn't understand you."
What a pity the Capitol is about to kill this boy, Haymitch thought. They rob themselves of such good people with their cruel "Hunger Games," yet they keep people like me around for decades.
"Well, thanks for saying that. I wish you the best in what you are facing." Haymitch patted the boy's bony shoulder.
The boy's face was expressionless as he turned towards the hovercraft.
Five days later Haymitch watched a career kill the boy. Her sadistic ways made her a favorite in the games, and she took nearly an hour to kill his tribute. Haymitch hated her and hated the Capitol even more.
"There's tension in District Eight as well as District Four. They're ready," Finnick told Haymitch, urgency in his voice.
"You're impatient. Nobody is ready," Haymitch told him dismissively. They walked along the deserted streets to the designated location of the meeting, a meeting for people like themselves who planned to make things happen.
"How long do you think we can keep up this charade before somebody finds out how many of us are encouraging discontent?" Finnick asked.
"As long as it takes," Haymitch answered. He tipped his hat at two women passing them in a car who waved enthusiastically, trying to get the victors' attention.
"You really ought to indulge your fans a bit more, Finnick. Those girls were not waving at me," Haymitch told him.
"I'm off duty," Finnick quipped.
Haymitch shook his head at the younger man. "No, you're never off duty. You have to make them believe that you buy into every bit of this non-sense."
"You don't," Finnick accused.
"My situation is a little different. I'm a hopeless, helpless drunk. Remember?"
"Well, the hopeless part might be right, but you're not helpless. They're such idiots, Haymitch. They put us in a contest where only the ones able and willing to fight can survive. Then they make us hate them even more with all the things they do to us after we 'win.' So much for wealth and prestige for the rest of your life, huh? Sometimes anonymity is a blessing if you ask me," Finnick mused.
"They just make us hate them more," Finnick continued, "and then gather us together every year, so it's possible for us to commiserate about how much we hate them. It's only a matter of time before we do something. Don't they realize that?"
"I can't argue with the 'they're idiots' part, but I think that you often underestimate what we're up against," Haymitch told Finnick, "If we do something, which is a big 'if,' we're all likely to end up dead. We'd have to have the districts behind us, probably all of them and not just a few. We're not ready, even if Coin thinks we are. She's wrong. We need something to rally the people, something that touches their minds and hearts."
"Maybe we should stop for today," Clarice proposed.
"Why, because we aren't getting anywhere?" Haymitch asked.
"I get the impression that a million thoughts are going through your head, Mr. Abernathy, and you only tell me a small fraction of them."
Smart girl, Haymitch thought.
"That's not my intention, Freckles. Some things are just hard to say."
Clarice began to pack up her things. She was staying with Hazelle Hawthorne and thought of her home as a refuge. Even though Mr. Abernathy wasn't being that sarcastic today she felt it was time to leave. Haymitch looked sad, and she wasn't sure what she'd do if he actually became emotional.
Clarice felt like she should be more professional than this. After all, she intended to discover Haymitch's life story, but she had expected a more victorious and less tragic tale.
"I'm sure they are hard to say, Mr. Abernathy, and I don't blame you at all for having difficulty sharing some parts of your life story with a stranger."
"Awww, Freckles, you do have a heart."
She rolled her eyes. There it was again, that element to his personality that made her want to run for Hazelle's house.
"There's one more thing I want to tell you before you leave today. This time, I'm going to tell you pretty much everything that runs through my head," Haymitch told Clarice.
She stopped packing. "You're sure about that?"
"It's about Peeta and Katniss," Haymitch told her, his heart pounding.
"I thought you'd decided that you weren't going to talk about them?" Clarice asked, her eyes widening at the thought of hearing more about the Mockingjay and her husband. She was certainly still star-struck.
"Well, it's important. I think I have to."
"I was completely drunk at the Reaping ceremony that year, and I didn't pay much attention to anything until we boarded the train."
Effie called my name, that sing-songy voice of hers echoing through my alcohol-induced haze.
"Come and meet the tributes, Haymitch. You have a job to do!" she scolded me.
It was easier to do as she said than argue in my current condition, so I went with her. That's when I got my first good look at Peeta and Katniss.
I knew Peeta was merchant class, the baker's son. Though still poor and without much food for most of his childhood, he was in better physical shape than most of my past tributes.
I recognized Katniss from the hob, our not-so-subtle black-market. She traded meat, berries, and plants to the vendors there. I'd occasionally see her when I went to buy my liquor. Because of what she traded I knew that she had to regularly defy the peacekeepers to go into the forest to hunt and gather. Knowing how to use a bow and arrow were rare skills among those in the outer districts. Plus, Katniss' father was among the miners who sought me out every year to discuss Panem's future without President Snow. Most amazing of all, she'd volunteered for her sister. Volunteers from the poor, outlying Districts were unheard of, and that alone captured the country's attention before they'd learned anything else about Katniss Everdeen. It captured mine as well.
But the clearest evidence of the promise of my two tributes that year came from Peeta. At the first opportunity, he came to me and explained that he'd had feelings for Katniss for a long time.
Then he said, "I want her to survive the games and get back to her sister. Her family needs her. Protecting her is my goal in the games. I have no intention of trying to win." When I questioned his approach to the games he told me, "Haymitch, just help me protect her. Surely in twenty-some years of mentoring you've learned to grant a few dying wishes. It's what I want! I want to protect her! Help me find a way to get her back home!"
And I had learned to grant a few dying wishes, Rainey taught me how.
Though he had completely shocked me and I'd never had a tribute that cared more about his district partner than himself, I agreed to help Peeta hatch a plan to protect Katniss. When we reached the Capitol I told Plutarch, the senior game-maker turned rebel, that we had a tragic love story on our hands…something that could capture the hearts and minds of the people. Who in the districts wouldn't be moved by these two young people trying to survive? The boy, desperately trying to save the girl at the expense of his own life. The girl, trying to win against all odds so she could return to the sister for whom she volunteered. People were hardened to kids dying in the games, but not to that.
Plutarch didn't believe me at first, not until after the tribute interviews with Caesar Flickerman when Peeta announced his crush on Katniss to the whole of Panem. Then he understood. Peeta was charming and endearing. Because he cared for Katniss, suddenly everyone did. And everything went as planned for a while…that is until I started to wonder how in the world I could watch one of them die.
Clarice stared at Haymitch for a moment. "You let them in," she said.
"Yeah, I did." Haymitch paused and cleared his throat.
I worked day and night trying to secure sponsors and get messages to Plutarch. Between us, we did everything we could to put the odds in their favor, but the careers were amazing that year. Cato, in particular, was a force to be reckoned with.
When Cato wounded Peeta's leg, I tried to accept that Peeta was going to die. I told myself that this was what he wanted if he had to die, to do everything he could to save Katniss before leaving this world. Nothing could convince me though. So I went to Plutarch, and I pleaded with him to use our resources to try to save Peeta as well.
He thought I was out of my mind.
"Haymitch! I thought the plan was to focus on the girl? We've been focusing on the girl all along. All three of us, including the boy."
"Push Seneca for a rule change!" I pleaded.
"You're crazy! It's never been done before. He'll suspect something."
"No, he won't. Tell him this is how they can produce the most amazing Hunger Games ever. Tell him to think of the drama. It's great entertainment."
"And it will keep your boy alive, at least for a little while longer? Don't torture him Haymitch. He's dying. Let him go. He's gone well above the call of duty as her district partner, and without his knowledge he's also done a service for his district and country."
"We can save both of them if we can convince Seneca to change to the rules to allow both of them a chance to win."
"And in trying to save the boy, the girl will die with him! You're too close to these kids, Haymitch. Think of the bigger picture. We only need one of them. A tribute and her martyred love is even better than two tributes in love. Trust me."
Part of me believed him, but I couldn't stop myself from struggling to save them both. The revolution didn't need me, after all. Nobody needed me. So I went to Seneca Crane myself and told him that I knew how to make this Hunger Games the most popular ever through a rules change. I used the recent unrest in District 11 to convince him, telling him if they couldn't scare the mob, to give them something to root for…to give them Katniss and Peeta…together…in love with each other…as a receptacle for all that restless emotional energy. It worked.
I don't think Seneca believed they could both make it to the final two, and I suspected if they did Seneca might reverse the rule change, as he eventually did. He had a strange glint in his eye. Yet I was glad I'd met with him. At least they'd have a chance. And I prayed I wouldn't jeopardize the budding revolution and that my intentions were really as honorable as I thought they were."
"Oh, they were, Sir. I can tell that," Clarice interrupted.
Haymitch picked up on how enraptured in the story she was. Perhaps he'd been right to assume that this story had to be told.
So I watched as Katniss found Peeta and attempted to care for him after the rules change, and I tried to gather the resources to buy some antibiotics.
Finally, Finnick approached me, "Coin wants to try to save Peeta. She thinks he's the better candidate for meeting the needs of our cause. So District 13 will provide the funds for anything he needs."
I breathed a sigh of relief while Finnick informed the game makers that I'd secured the funds for some antibiotics. When Finnick walked back to me with his shoulders slumped and his characteristic smile absent, I knew something was wrong.
"They want to make the medicine Peeta needs available only at a feast to increase the drama. Sorry, Haymitch," he told me.
In the end, all they would allow me to send was sleep syrup.
After she was cut by Clove, I didn't know if Katniss would make it back to the cave. She was losing a lot of blood, but I hoped she would get back to Peeta. A thousand scenarios collided in my head. The worst one was them dying separately, missing one another and alone. The thought of it gave me shivers, and I knew then that even if both of those kids died they had started something. They'd touched the hearts and minds of the people already, and when they kissed a bit later I actually heard the crowd outside cheer.
Later when Seneca took away Katniss and Peeta's hope by changing the rules so they'd have to try to kill one another, I knew they wouldn't play that game. Not Peeta anyway. When Katniss pulled out the berries, my heart nearly stopped. And I knew that if somebody as hardened as I was could be moved by the loyalty of two sixteen-year year-old kids that the whole country could be. For a moment I thought I'd lose them both, and I literally sobbed when they were both announced as winners.
I set my sights on protecting them from everything I could for as long as I could. They'd given us what we needed, and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to repay them in kind.
Clarice shifted in her seat and folded her hands in her lap, looking uncomfortable from what Haymitch could tell.
"But you couldn't. Right?"
"No. Obviously I failed at that. I mean, everybody knows what happened to Peeta and how Katniss reacted to that."
Haymitch paused again.
"And you think you're not a hero…because you think you failed them?" Clarice asked, crinkling her nose with disagreement.
Haymitch looked at her, very seriously. Then a smile crept across his face.
"Freckles, you weren't supposed to analyze me."
Haymitch politely refused to talk anymore that day, and Clarice understood. She walked slowly to Hazelle's house, thinking through everything that he'd told her. She didn't even notice Peeta Mellark stacking wood on the wood pile behind his house until she almost ran into him.
"Preoccupied?" He asked, stopping to look at her.
Peeta Mellark was nearing forty, Clarice supposed, but she still thought of him as the very young man in the historical videos she'd seen so often.
"Yes, Mr. Abernathy is very interesting," Clarice answered.
Peeta chuckled, "that's certainly true," he agreed. "I see he hasn't chased you off. He's chased off many others."
Clarice couldn't say she was surprised by that, not now that she'd spent some time with Mr. Abernathy.
Peeta leaned over to pick up yet another log and place it on the woodpile. Wood chips and bark littered his sweater, and his hands were covered with heavy work gloves.
"Can I ask you a personal question?" Clarice inquired of Peeta.
"Sure," he answered. "That doesn't mean I have to answer it, does it?" Peeta joked. Apparently Peeta Mellark shared Haymitch Abernathy's affinity for teasing young historians.
"What do you think of him?" Clarice asked Peeta.
Peeta looked thoughtful, casting his eyes to the side. Then he took off his work gloves one at a time, and Clarice realized he might actually answer her question. Peeta turned back to look at her.
"Well, you know my parents and brothers died in the bombing of District 12, right?" He began.
Clarice nodded. Of course she knew that.
"And now my 'family' consists of Katniss and our kids," Peeta continued.
Clarice nodded again, wondering where this conversation might be leading.
"And Haymitch," Peeta finished. "He's part of our family."
"Oh," Clarice said. She hesitated, thinking about whether or not she should share her thoughts on the matter. "I don't think he understands he's that important to you," she finally said.
"I know," Peeta confided. "We try, but Haymitch just can't believe that we love him that much. I'm not sure exactly why. It doesn't stop us from trying to show him. Maybe someday…"
"I hope so," Clarice interrupted. The thought of Haymitch Abernathy not understanding the Mellarks' true feelings for him made her sad. She'd never had a research subject touch her quite like Haymitch Abernathy had. Even his prickliness had become endearing to her.
Peeta sensed Clarice's discomfort.
"You know what our kids call him? They call him Hay-May." Peeta explained. "He's just like a grandfather to them."
Clarice imagined Peeta and Katniss' kids trying to get a grumpy Haymitch Abernathy to play outside with them, to chase the geese with them.
"And you? What do you think of him?" Clarice asked Peeta.
Peeta shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He looked down at his hands, which nervously fumbled with his work gloves.
"What can I say?" He began. "I owe Haymitch my life. I owe him my relationship with my wife. And without any of that I wouldn't have my children. He just doesn't see all that, and nothing I've ever said or done has convinced him."
Then Peeta looked up a Clarice, and Clarice knew he was trying to gauge whether or not she understood.
Clarice suddenly felt more comfortable with Peeta Mellark. What Peeta said about Haymitch made him seem like such a real person to her, not a historical figure. "Maybe I can convince him," she told Peeta.
"I hope so," Peeta said quietly before Clarice resumed her walk to Hazelle's house.
Months later a package arrived on the train addressed to Haymitch. Peeta brought it to the old man's house along with some soup and bread because Haymitch had taken a bad cold. When Haymitch saw that the return address on the package was Clarice's he placed the package on his bedside table.
"Aren't you going to open it?" Peeta asked.
Haymitch reluctantly took the package in his hands again. If he didn't open it then Peeta might. Inside Clarice had carefully wrapped a copy of the biography she'd written of Haymitch. Haymitch turned to the first page, and Peeta watched as he rolled his eyes.
"Damn. Freckles, why'd you have to go and do that," Haymitch said under his breath.
Peeta picked up the book and read the words Haymitch had just read.
"The author would like to dedicate this work to Haymitch Abernathy, a man who won the Hunger Games, but lost everything he loved by doing so. For years, he remained hardened, biding his time while watching the young tributes he was forced to mentor die. Finally he met two young tributes who he knew could touch the minds and hearts of the people of Panem. The consequences of his opening his own heart again to fight for them were far reaching and helped to set all of Panem on the path to the freedom. Personally, they also set him on a path to gain the admiration of those who would be closest to him in the years to come."
Peeta squeezed Haymitch's arm affectionately as he handed the book back to him.
"I think it's perfect, Hay-May" Peeta told him.