Okay, so this took me about five days to write and it is MUCH longer than I originally intended. Like 10,000 words longer.

Mostly, this started out as a fic to try and delve into Effie's mind because I hate how she is portrayed in the novels. I think that Katniss especially doesn't give her enough credit.

This is, through Effie's eyes, most of the events of Catching Fire. It definitely turned out to be more of an Effie/Haymitch piece than anything else, but my overall goal was to define her as a dimensional character instead of just a tool for Collins's plot advancement and comic relief.

Oh, it's also kind of dark, due to my adherence to canon.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or events and dialogue that parallels Catching Fire.

There was a heavy feeling in her stomach as she sat the train to District Eleven. A cool, almost-not-there breeze seemed to blow lightly against her powder-covered face, the chrome doors reflecting her pumpkin-orange wig.

Effie Trinket glanced out the window of the dining car, absently flipping through the new issue of a Capitol fashion magazine. Silence buzzed in her ears in an unwelcoming way, making her aware of the fact that she was quite alone.

The magazine currently in her hands depicted a picture of Katniss and Peeta, post-victory. The article discussed their romance, speculated on their future, and even questioned rumors of engagement. She couldn't help but read it, despite the fact that she knew very well that she and Peeta were not always "gazing at each with the intensity of a thousand burning suns."

In fact, from what she knew they rarely talked. Except on camera.

But Effie had seen each of them only briefly. The Victory Tour had kicked off, but the Victors were nowhere to be found.

She crossed and uncrossed her legs in the booth. Her tight skirt made it a little bit difficult to sit comfortably, but as soon as she found a decent way to sit contentedly, it became apparent that it was un-ladylike.

It also didn't help that she was overly full from the succulent meal a-la-Capitol they had all feasted upon not a half-hour ago, hence the heavy feeling that settled in her stomach.

The sun was starting to set as she threw the magazine onto the other side of the plush bench, propping her feet up as well. She slipped her feet out of her heels, rubbing them against the softness of the cushion.

Just as her eyes were about to flutter closed, the door opened from across the dining compartment. A soft whoosh shifted the air enough to startle her, and she jumped, slamming her sore feet back into her shoes and standing up stiffly.

"Oh," he said, "didn't mean to interrupt your beauty sleep." Haymitch always sounded bitter when he was sober. He started searching around the counter for something—hard liquor, probably. Effie silently grabbed her magazine and started for her room.

She was almost to the sliding door when Haymitch stopped her.

"If you believe half that shit is true," he said in a low voice, gesturing to her magazine. He was crouched down now to look through lower cabinets. "You're definitely as stupid as you look." The last half of his statement had a pleasant tone, despite his words. Effie looked down only to see that his source of temporary contentment had come from the discovery of a wine bottle.

"I'll have you know, that I don't appreciate—"

"Yeah, whatever, save it sweetheart," he said sarcastically, brushing past her and walking down the hallway ahead of her. She started after him, but said nothing.

He was almost to his compartment when she opened her mouth. "I'll have you know I don't believe any of this is true," she said to him sharply. He stopped on his heels and turned back toward her.

"And that's definitely why you're reading it. Because you don't believe it." He rolled his eyes.

"No, Haymitch," she said harshly, "And you're really one to judge people, with that bottle of wine in your hand."

Haymitch seemed taken aback at her sudden attack, but he recovered quickly, waving the bottle of wine in front of her face. "But you see, I am an alcoholic. You can judge me all you want, sweetheart. I don't give a damn. Think what you want, Trinket, but to me you're always that Capitol figure."

Effie held his stare for a long moment, nothing but ice flowing from one set of eyes to another.

"Now," Haymitch began, "I'm going to go to my room and get drunk. And you, Trinket, are going to go attend to your schedule and read your Capitol trash."

Indignant but unwilling to fight, she hit his shoulder hard as she strut past him, entering her room and praying for silence as she took off the frills and make-up and wig to get ready for bed.

Before turning off the light, she opened the window in her compartment and threw the magazine out the window.

The small electronic device fits smoothly into the palm of her hand as she reads the rest of the evening's schedule. Her hand is unsteady and she keeps fidgeting in her emerald green dress. This evening her dress is long and her wig is bright and blonde, pinned in the back with an embroidered comb behind her ear.

But she stumbles slightly as she walks, still speaking, "…and after the ceremonial dinner there is a cocktail hour." Without thinking, she tosses her palm device onto the couch, a few feet away from her.

"And then, thank goodness, we can all get on that train and get out of here."

The entire team that represents the District Twelve Victory Tour stands in front of her. Katniss and Peeta both are staring at her with strange looks and Haymitch just sits on the couch, staring at the floor, but it's Cinna who breaks the awkward silence.

"Is something wrong, Effie?" he asked.

She feeds them all some bullshit story about being treated poorly, manners and all. And even though that they buy and it is mostly true, she knows that it isn't really. Nothing had happened to her and no one had said anything. It was what wasn't being said.

She even mentioned the run-in she had had with the Peacekeepers. She doesn't mention that she had been looking for the missing members of the group.

Haymitch and Katniss and Peeta were keeping something from her. She was used to being left out of the loop, but at an important moment like this, when she knew that any stupid actions would reflect badly on the entire Twelve team, she wanted to be involved.

It was their impression of her, just as Haymitch had said last night. She was just a Capitol figure to him. And to everyone else. She bit her lip as they arrange their entrance into the dinner ceremony.

At dinner, her plate is full of delicious food, but her silver fork only picks at it. She is in-between Haymitch and Portia, and neither of them is particularly concerned with talking to her. Haymitch nurses his classy drink, and she knows that if cameras weren't in the room that he'd be content with drinking it in one gulp.

She dances with the mayor of Eleven and the district escort, who is a rather handsome Capitol man with a golden rose pinned to his lapel. She stares at it while they twirl around the bright room, and he fills her in on Capitol gossip. Being the escort of a winning district does require devoted time and effort, and Effie should be surprised to learn what she has been missing out on.

Except she isn't.

Haymitch cuts in after her feet start to become sore. She frowns at him, but her body language insinuates otherwise as they pick up where she and the escort left off. If she was honest with herself, she can't even remember his name.

"Bored, sweetheart?" she can smell the liquor on his breath, and she focuses on that to distract herself from her lack of impunity at the moment.

"No," she says through her teeth. "Just wondering what is so important that you and Peeta and Katniss can't bother to tell me."

Haymitch wrinkles his forehead and shakes his head.

"If it was really that important, you would know. After all, you're not just some Capitol figure, right?" The bitterness that courses through her veins makes her want to stomp on his foot, but she keeps her cool.

"It doesn't help when you're in a hostile environment," she says icily. "Plus, the fact that you made it necessary for the Peacekeepers to tighten security by disappearing earlier made it harder for me to figure out information the normal way."

"The normal way?"

"Sneaking around, gossiping, you know," she says, leaning up, "the Capitol way."

His face looks as if he had bit something rather sour, and he forcefully dips her as the rest of the dancers do to their partners. It's harder than it needs to be. She winces, but gives no other indication that his vice-like grip is hurting her.

"You don't want to know everything, Trinket. If you did, trust me, you'd regret it." His eyes flash with some kind of sadness or flicker of sentiment. "You don't want to be like me." He's recovered.

She feels something pull at her stomach and it burns her inside, but she quells it with her mouth pressed in a thin line and her expression gilded. "You think you hate the Capitol because you think we think we're superior—"

"You do," he interrupts insistently.

"—but the truth is I don't understand why you think that living your life like a caged animal makes us superior. If anything, we have less freedom."

His eyes reflect anger and some kind of curiosity that is overshadowed by resentment, but he speaks calmly, albeit sarcastically. "Living in the fear of your children being thrown into an arena to be murdered is definitely the definition of freedom."

She bits her lip. "Okay, not what I meant."

"Whatever," he spits, "I'm tired of this. You really want to know what happened today, the reason we're not telling you everything?"

She glances over her shoulder before she nods, and is face-to-face with Haymitch's mouth. For a moment she is scared that he is going to kiss her as he bends his chin towards the cusp of her ear. His breath tickles her neck as he whispers.

"If I'm not too drunk after this, I'll tell you when we get back on the train."

Effie is in momentary shock of the closeness of his mouth to any part of her body. Bad manners, she wants to chastise him. But even as she's looking at him now, she knows she can't. Not in front of all these people.

They're lucky no one has overheard the conversation they'd been having. She couldn't risk drawing attention to them. Of course, everyone thought she was just a Capitol figure and that he was just a drunk.

Maybe they were right.

He is too drunk that night, as he stumbles onto the train in front of her. She sees that he gets into his compartment alright, but after that she doesn't linger. She goes to her own room, undresses in front of the mirror.

There are two, barely visible scars on her chest. Both are from plastic surgeries that she now regrets. Washing her face roughly, she takes a look back in the mirror without her blonde wig. Her regularly dark brown hair hangs from her head, and she scrutinizes her bare body.

Without crying, she slips into her nightdress and turns off the lights. She doesn't sleep. Her thoughts float from mockingjay pins to the Peacekeeper that prodded her with his gun. Her eyes drift closed after the tiredness of a restless mind.

When she dreams, she feels Haymitch's lips brush the base of her ear.

And she wakes up sweating.

In the course of the rest of the Victory Tour, she doesn't talk to Haymitch at all. In her mind, she's far too busy and preoccupied with the schedule and the overall hastiness to even think about him.

In reality, she knows that those are just excuses.

But as the tour goes on, she starts to notice a few things. First, Katniss and Peeta are sleeping in the same room. She can't bring herself to think that what "trash" she had been reading was actually true, so she brings it up to Katniss. Maybe she's lying when she offers to be less open about it, but Effie doesn't care. Maybe they were finally in-love for real, and that would only mean one less thing to worry about on this damn tour.

Another thing that creeps into her head is noticing the amount of time that Haymitch spends talking to Capitol officials at the ceremonies. He's actually drinking less. If she wasn't scared of their previous encounter, she might have teased him about it.

For all the things that she is able to interpret, she can't quite figure out what exactly he is talking to them about. They seem almost exclusive, and at the same time they sit out in the open, welcoming practically anyone who wants to join their conversation.

Maybe he's making friends.

But then again, she knows him better and he has a look on his face that she's seen before. She can count on her hands the number of times he's talked to Sponsors about sending parachutes to Tributes. His face reflects the "I'm trying to kiss ass so hear me out" expression.

It's right after the ceremony in One that she realizes that she might be drunker than he is.

"They call me a drunk," he laughs as she stumbles down the corridor of the train. She doesn't even counter his remark because she knows she's drunk.

And she'll be damned if she becomes one.

The night that they attend the Victory Ball at President Snow's mansion, she knows that she won't be able to avoid him any longer.

Everyone saved their best apparel for this occasion, as it was the classiest place on the tour and the only area of Panem that had attendees to match it.

Her dress was tight just below the bust line, and then it let out, pink and sparkly and ever so Capitol. Haymitch had on a nice suit, despite many protests to Cinna and Portia. She had glanced over at him once or twice during the evening, but he never cut in to ask to her dance and she was grateful.

Over by the food table, Plutarch Heavensbee is talking lowly to Haymitch, showing him something on his wrist. A watch. She sees Haymitch meet her eyes for a moment, and she looks away. The next time she notices him, he's drinking by himself, and she sees that Plutarch is dancing with Katniss.

She thumps her foot and checks her watch.

By the time they are getting ready to leave, it takes two Capitol workers to get Haymitch onto the train and into his room. She doesn't even have a chance to talk to him before she needs to start reminding all the others that this is still a tour, despite the fact that everyone was journeying to the Victors' home district.

They are all tired and ready to stop listening, which is why she is brief. She's left standing alone in the main compartment before she decides to leave.

She stops at his room, just to check on him, she tells herself.

The door is unlocked, and she walks in to hear retching noises and the smell of vomit permeates the room. Following his sick noises, she finds him leaning against the toilet, head pressed into the bowl and hands clenching the sides. When he looks up to see her, sweat is beading on his forehead and his eyes seem blank.

"What do you want?" he asks, breaking away from the bowl.

"I just came to check on you, and I find that you're in your normal state," she says coldly. He eyes her suspiciously before she is ready to turn on her heel and leave.

"Trinket—Effie," he mumbles, dipping his head back into the toilet for another retch. "Bring me some water," he whispers, his voice raspy from his vomiting.

She did stop, but she doesn't turn around and nod until he adds, "Please."

Running back into the main part of his room, she finds an empty glass and fills it up with water from the sink. He's just leaning against the wall when she returns, looking pathetic. He doesn't even really look that drunk.

Picking up her dress, she sits on the rim of the bath and hands him the glass as he takes it and swishes it around in his mouth. He spits it out into the toilet and flushes. His head hits the wall again, and his face looks tired and sick and miserable.

Without thinking, she runs her well-manicured hand through his matted hair, watching his eyes open in surprise at her touch. "Why do you do this to yourself?" she whispers softly, wiping his forehead with a towel that had been in his hand.

He just laughs softly, shaking his head.

She sighs and takes her hand away, watching him. In all their years together as escort and mentor, she had never seen him like this. Sure, she's watched him drink himself to sickness, but never had she actually watched the after-effects it had on his body.

"You can't do this forever," she said sternly. "Eventually your liver will give—"

"That's the idea sweetheart," he smiles weakly.

"Well, did it ever occur to you that you're being selfish?" she asks, unsure of her own words.

"How?" he asks. "Not a single person on this damn planet wants me. I'm not letting anyone down."

"And Peeta and Katniss don't need you?" she asks, looking at him like she's won.

"They can take care of themselves," he tells her. "Or maybe you've forgotten that they won the games."

She doesn't say anything, just stays silent, running her fingernails against the marble bath.

A sigh escapes his mouth, and he leans over the toilet again. She grimaces, but he doesn't throw up. Instead he turns back and looks at her.

"I've lived through my games, and I've watched twenty-four afterward. I know what it's like to have a thirst that's unquenchable. I've got experience in watching people you know die. I've killed people. Kids. And the only thing I haven't done is died. But when I think about what I've done, I feel like I might have. Part of me anyway."

She stares at him sadly, but he doesn't hold her gaze. He throws up again. She fills up another glass of water and continues to sit beside him. A few moments of silence go by, while he sits and fights the urge to vomit again.

She's about to leave when she decides to ask him something. "What were you talking to Plutarch about tonight? And all the other Capitol people? You've been talking with a lot of them at all the ceremonies."

He coughs before he answers, but he shakes his head. "Don't worry about it."

"You never tell me anything," she says bitterly. "That night in Eleven you were too drunk. I'm so sick of being the only person on here who doesn't know what's going on!"

He sits up straight suddenly. "Listen," he tells her. "The fucking prep teams have no idea about anything. It's a game to them. You think Portia and what's her face with the weird—"

"I'm not talking about them," she says loudly. There was a moment of silence where they both looked at each other. Then she continued. "I mean…you and Katniss and Peeta…all three of you know what's going on all the time. I think Cinna knows a lot too, or he wouldn't be so quiet all the time. But you all treat me like I'm some idiot who can't handle anything drastic or real."

There was a pause. Haymitch got to his knees so he was eye-level with her, and she wrinkled her nose at the pungent odor of vomit and liquor that pierced her noise.

"You want to know so badly?" he whispers loudly, "Fine. When the Capitol got pissed that Katniss or Peeta didn't die, they decided to play a game. They sure as hell aren't going to kill them and create martyrs, but they are threatening them, blackmailing them."

She looks at him. "I know that."

He rolls his eyes. "Then what the hell are you complaining about? You know as much as any of us know at this point."

Effie knows he's lying. Maybe normally he'd be better at it but for now, his half-drunk, half-hung-over state is hindering his ability to do anything. She narrows her eyes as she stands up.

"Well, thank you for your unprecedented kindness and truth," she sneers as she makes her way towards the door.

"Don't expect it every time," he tells her as she leaves.

She didn't expect anything from him. Not anymore, when he had a death wish and the ability to see it through.

The celebration in Twelve was the most jubilant ceremony by far, but she knew it was because there was no resentment there. No animosity, no hard feelings. Their children had returned, safe.

There was an empty feeling in her chest as she watched the dancing and the laughing; even Katniss seemed to be enjoying herself. For a moment, she wished she had a different life. It was a fleeting wish, but she could feel the envy as she watched these people, all so happy.

Most of them had next to nothing.

A sour look may have appeared on her face to mask her jealousy, but it was only a mask. Acting had become part of her everyday life, and this was really no different. But Haymitch had noticed her, and probably decided that it was their peasantry customs that had made her so offended.

Bad manners, she can hear herself saying.

"You know, they don't serve alcohol at this ceremony because it's supposed to be a wholesome family environment," she tells him as he takes a seat next to her. The outline of his body becomes more visible in the dark, her eyes straining to see him.

"That's why I bring my own," he says quietly.

She glances down, and sure enough, there is a small flask in his hand, and she doesn't have to lean in much to smell it on his breath. He shrugs when their eyes meet and just takes another swig.

"May I?" she asks, reaching out to the flask.

"I don't think so," he says, pulling it out of her reach. "I'm not about to get you drunk."

"I've been drunk before, Haymitch," she insists, angling her hand to grasp the flask.

"I know," he smirked. "I've seen it." There was a pause. She remembered that night after One. It wasn't more than four days ago. It hadn't been a pleasant drunkenness. But she had been drunk before that and before that and before that.

He stands up and offers his hand to her, and she looks up at him curiously before taking it. "If you want a drink, I'll give you one," he says gruffly, pulling her off the makeshift stage. She had been sitting there most of the night.

The thing about the Victors' Celebration was it was actually a happy occasion. Everyone tried to forget that another games was coming soon—a Quell, no less—and focus on the fact that their tributes had returned alive.

It was also the longest celebration. Despite it being the middle of winter, the celebration moved with the warmth. The sun went down and most of the people took the food into their houses, shared it with their neighbors. These people were genuinely happy for the moment.

"Twelve isn't usually like this," he tells her, reading her mind. They started on the path back to the Victor's Village. Katniss and Peeta might already be back. She glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone noticed that she was walking back with Haymitch.

"These people are only happy because they've got food. In a few days, when it's all gone, they're going to remember what it feels like to be hungry. And they'll go back to being their miserable selves."

Effie didn't say anything, just kept following him. It was truly dark now, and there were no lights on the road back to Haymitch's house. He made a sharp turn to the right and she followed him, only to realize they were already in the Victor's Village and this was his house.

"Here," he said lowly, shoving a bottle into her hands. She fumbled it momentarily but regained her composure. She certainly hadn't expected him to be so rude to a guest in his house, but before she lectured him on manners she bit her tongue.

He wouldn't listen to her anyway, there really was no point.

Uncorking the bottle, she smells it before taking a small sip. Whatever it was, it burned going down. The kind of burn that she wanted to feel right now. Somewhere in the room, he flipped the lights on and her eyes squinted from momentary blindness.

They drink in silence. It's not uncomfortable, it just is. Mostly she sips away at her tall bottle, feeling herself growing fuzzier as the glass becomes clearer. She takes a seat at the table and props her shoes up, and he eyes them, scrutinizing her outlandish fashion.

"God," he rasps, "you look fucking ridiculous, Trinket." It might just be the alcohol talking. But she can't take it anymore.

She had her gold wig on tonight with a plush pink and white top, complete with a high-waist black skirt that matched her black heels. She looked average compared to her Capitol wear at best.

She slammed the bottle onto the table. "You really shouldn't be so rude to a guest you invited into your own home, Haymitch."

He scoffs and rolls his eyes. "You wanted a drink. I got you a damn drink. You're no longer welcome here."

"Please," she holds up her hand, "I wouldn't dream of staying in this pigpen any longer than necessary."

Well, that was true. It smelled absolutely awful in here, a stench that would probably never be washed out. And dirty dishes piled into the sink while empty liquor bottles adorned ever surface like an ornament.

He doesn't even look at her. Just takes a seat at the table and takes another swig of his flask.

In her mind, she feels like leaving in the best option. But she watches as he swallows the rest of the hard liquor in that tiny container, and watches again as he just takes out an even bigger bottle from a cabinet above the table.

Instead, she pounds both of her fists onto the table.

"Dammit," she says loudly. "Dammit Haymitch, how can you always take the easy way out?"

He snorts. "You think I have it easy?"

She gets an incredulous look on her face, unable to control her anger anymore. "You get drunk every night; you're barely awake during the day. You live in a house that seems to have an unlimited supply of alcohol, and you get to be babied by the Capitol for two weeks out of the year!"

He shot up out of the chair, poking his finger below her neck sharply. "Those are two weeks where two children from this district get murdered every year. And more children from other districts. Fuck you, Trinket. You go and survive in an arena and calmly watch as others go through the same thing.

But the difference is you know they aren't coming back alive."

He steps away from her, and she thinks he might reach for the bottle but he retracts his hand.

"So you feel guilty for living?" she asks, not quite understanding his half-drunk speech.

"If I would have died in that goddamn arena so many things would be better."

A bitter silence seemed to fall on him, and he leaned against the table, not quite looking at her but not quite looking at the floor either. In a small span of time, she had gone from being so blindly angry at his rudeness to feeling sorry for his own self-pity. She set her bottle down on the counter and stepped closer to him.

"You do know that that's not true," she whispers to him.

He shakes his head. His eyes meet hers. "You'd have a half-decent mentor. And those kids wouldn't feel as helpless as they actually are with someone who would care."

"But Haymitch," she starts, placing a hand on his chest. "You helped Katniss and Peeta win. You made up for everything last games. You brought two victors home."

"And now they're both in more danger than they were when they were in the arena," he says softly. Then he chuckles. "I'm an expert at fucking things up."

She doesn't know what to say. He stares at her hand that is still resting on his chest. An awkward silence fills the space between them, until he whispers the truth.

"Those were my last games as a mentor," he tells her. "Peeta and Katniss are mentors now."

In her mind, she knew that was reality. Maybe she had pictured all of them mentoring for the next games. Then she immediately dismissed that thought. There was no way Haymitch would stay if there were two other people capable of doing the job for him.

A new feeling settles in her stomach, and she looks at him uneasily. "What?" he asks, a slight laugh in his tone. "You're not going to miss cleaning up after me."

A joke.

She did laugh and nod, but something just didn't feel right. They had been working together for almost fifteen years. It just didn't feel right to break this, whatever this was. In her own foolishness, she had let a few tears escape her eyes, and she turned away to keep him from seeing.

"Are you really going to cry?" he taunts her. And she hears him taking a sip.

She turns back around. "I'm sorry," she apologizes. "This is so inappropriate."

She knows that she's put him in an awkward position, crying like this. He probably had no idea what to do with a crying woman. So she smiled meekly through her clouded eyes as he just watched her.

"Trinket—Effie," he says. She sniffs dramatically and he rolls his eyes. "You're just upset that you missed your chance with me."

It's a joke.


She laughs lightly and meets his gaze and then she knows that maybe he wasn't joking. "What?" she whispers. "I could have any man in the Capitol. Why would I want you?"

He narrows his eyes. "You sleep with one gamemaker and you think you're a big shot."

"I actually had a relationship with Seneca Cr—"

"He was sleeping with you for your last name, Effie. He didn't give a damn about you. And you didn't love him either, don't give me that shit," he adds, noticing her mouth opening to counter him. She stares at him for a while before silently nodding.

"I know."

"And he's dead anyway, so it's not like it matters."

This is news to her. Or maybe it wasn't. She can't remember all the information she had heard at all the ceremonies over the past few weeks. There were drunken memories and the only thing she actually remembered was the misery she had seen in Haymitch's eyes after the party at Snow's mansion.

And then she feels guilty for not reacting to Seneca Crane's death like any rational human being would. But then again, she was nothing close to a rational human being. She dressed up children just to watch them die. She was half in-love with a man who spent more time drunk than sober.

And she was crying over the fact that she was potentially getting better mentors.

The part that made her the least bit rational was moving closer to him. The trace of liquor on his breath got stronger as she twisted her arms around his neck, not really caring to see his reaction. His eyes echoed surprise, but he stood glued to the floor, his hands still grasping the edges of the table.

"What are you…Effie," he breathed as her lips stood a hair away from his.

Her name rolled off his tongue, and she lost all sense of rationality.

It's not perfect; it's not fireworks-worthy. It's a kiss and their lips touch and their tongues tangle. His hands come to rest on her hips just as hers touch the sides of his unshaven face. He nips at her bottom lip, gauging her reaction and judging how much farther to go.

And then he's breaking away but she's still leaning forward and it's all so confusing until he starts speaking. "Effie, Effie, you're drunk," he tells her.

Her face is flushed and she's still slightly in shock, but she has enough sense in her to talk. "I am, but that doesn't mean…it's not like—"

"You don't want this," he tells her quietly, eyes looking the other way.

"But I do," she says, half crying half hiccupping. This seems to further his argument, but she doesn't care. "I'm drunk," she whispers, "not impossible."

And he looks at her for a long time before he kisses her again. This time she tossed her body weight into his chest, and he backed against the wall as she shot up to wrap her legs around his waist. His hands clutched her firmly, and she held on with white knuckles.

One of them groaned, she doesn't know who, as his lips moved across her face, back behind her ear. His burning breath tickles her skin, and she clutches his shoulders tightly. He switches their positions swiftly, pressing her against the wall in a manner she would never consider gentle.

Her hands held on to his neck, fingers tracing his collar. But his moved on to her face, brushing his hot palms against her cheekbones, her neck, her wig. For a second she thought that he might reach up and remove it, but he is either too drunk to take it off or content with it staying on.

His tongue flicked out against her collar bone, and she forgot how to breathe.

In her mind, white hot light was racing fast as his knee pressed between her legs.

He sighed into her mouth as he stumbled away from the wall, still holding her up. They succeeded in clambering up the stairs into one of the spare bedrooms—less messy, he had decided. She went for the buttons to his shirt and he let her fall on top of him.

Tumbling onto the dust-covered bed, she kissed her way down his neck to the exposed chest that now revealed scars and old marks, from his games. She tries not to focus on them because this is about gratification and need and sex, not about love or security.

At least for her.

He touches her sides, lightly trailing his fingers up her blistering skin. She's down to a bra and her skirt, and as soon as his shirt is off he can feel her heart hammering against his chest. It's a new feeling, a weird one. She looks up at him for a moment before she kisses him again.

On his own terms now, he flips her over, crouching on all fours over her half-undressed body. She watches in fascination as he lowers his lips to the corner of her mouth. His tongue trails back to her ear. It flicks against her earlobe and—God—his breath makes her squirm. She can feel one of his hands attempting to unclasp her bra.

His liquor-heavy lips place openmouthed kisses all the way down her neck, and she knows that she's being loud but she can't bring herself to care about anything other than thought of his hands going there and— oh God there, too. The pads of his fingers are uneven and calloused, touching her uncovered breasts as his lips taste her taut stomach.

Not long after he's got her down to her panties while his pants hang from his sides, half undone. It's like they're teenagers, really: Making out in secret, hoping no one catches them. He's kissing her again. But it's too slow. And she tries to communicate that to him, pulls his hair, and grinds against his obvious desire for her.

But it's no use.

He continues to languidly kiss her and she can't do anything except kiss him back. It's not that it's not wonderful and amazing, because it is. It's just that she feels that this turning into something that she can't let it become. She's in Haymitch Abernathy's bed, practically naked, and wanting to fuck.

"Haymitch," she whispers breathily as he blows hotly into her ear. He just breaks away and looks down at her, holding her gaze. It's so scary that she almost sits up and bolts out of there. But she's not that much of a bitch.

He doesn't say anything, just looks at her. She speaks, tentatively. "Aren't we…you know, going to?"

In an instant she sees his eyes go from something she's never seen before to absolute anger. She looks away quickly. When she looks back, he's no longer leaning over her, but sitting on the bed, hunched over. His elbows are resting on his knees.

She takes this as silent instruction to leave, and she gathers her clothes before she heads out of the room.

When she gets back on the train, it's almost three in the morning. She just goes to her compartment and turns the shower on. The temperature goes to a searing hot temperature, and she just sits down, unable to think and unable to really process what just happen.

Or what just didn't happen.

It's weeks later until she even lets herself think about him. She's in her apartment in the Capitol and there's so many things that are starting to be different. There is a frenzy about the upcoming Quell, and of course, the wedding.

Frenzy wasn't the right word.

She has been waiting to get her new palm device for days before she hears of bad weather in District 3. And she can't order any new clothes from the trendiest designers in the Capitol. And because she's now an idiot, she knows it isn't a hurricane that's keeping District 4 from sending in seafood.


It's starting.

So when she has to return to Twelve for Katniss's wedding photo-shoot, she's careful to take notice of any sign of uprising. It doesn't seem to have spread this far. Or maybe there just aren't enough people to be willing to risk their lives. Or their children's lives.

She was avoiding Haymitch on purpose while she was there, but he seemed to be trying to do the same thing. One morning she did see him walking in from the Seam, but it was only for a moment. His eyes met hers and she turned around and went back inside.

It was easy to just boss people around, to take it all out on being the Capitol figure. It was harder to pretend to be happy.

Getting on the train to go back home seemed to be more of a relief than anything else. She didn't need to pretend when she was in her own element. Suddenly she was glad that Haymitch wouldn't be returning as mentor. She doesn't think she can face him.

But there are worse things than hiding, she discovers, as she watches the photo-shoot from her Capitol television. It leads into the Quell announcement, which makes her heart go numb and her brain go into overdrive.

"On the seventy-fifth anniversary as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors."

There are a lot of feelings on reaping day.

She just prays that she'll die and never have to pick a name.

His name rules off her tongue in a way that makes her think she might cry.

Peeta's volunteering shout almost brought her to her knees.

Haymitch looks pissed.

She digs her nails into her palms to avoid a reaction.

After they watch the recap of the reaping, Haymitch gets up to leave. She wants to call out to him or grab his shoulder or something.

She feels bad.


So she makes awkward comments and tells Katniss and Peeta that she's going to sleep. Really, she leaves the compartment and she feels like she needs a drink. But she knows Haymitch is giving up his share of alcohol, so she can too.

Stopping by his door, she sees that it is ajar and peeks into the compartment, seeing him sitting on the bed. His head is in his hands, and he seems like he's shaking a little. Maybe it's from the lack of liquor but somehow she thinks this is different.

She tiptoes in and he looks up and immediately he snorts.

"I'm really going to need a drink if I have to talk to you, Trinket."

So he was back to calling her by her last name. Fine.

"Are you alright?" she asked, taking a seat beside him. He scooted away from her.

"Wonderful," he says through clenched teeth. "Get out."

"If you're still mad about what happened on the Victory Tour—"

"Dammit!" he says, interrupting her train of thought. "I've got to keep one of those damn kids alive again and they're going to be facing a hell of a lot tougher competition than last time! And you're worried about some goddamn fucking kiss?"

She winces as he gets closer to her.

"Go to hell," he spits. She stands up, and looks at him in the eye.

"I can handle your insults, Haymitch," she says sternly. "But if you think for one minute that I'm that self-absorbed, then you need a reality check. I thought I was the bigger person, seeing that you're the one that is mentally unstable and all. I can see that acts of charity aren't welcome in your case."

"I'm not a charity case," he says gruffly, going over to the cupboard to grab a bottle of wine.

"I thought you were staying sober," she scrutinizes him.

"Plans change," he sneers. "The longer you stay in my room, the drunker I'm getting tonight."

She looks him over once before leaving. When she gets to the door, though, she turns around to say something.

"I'm glad you're not going back into the arena, you know."

It was a stupid thing to say, after she had just chastised him for his drinking. But she finds that she doesn't care as she slams the door behind her and heads to her compartment.

After the opening ceremonies, he flags her down. She had been amicably chatting with important Capitol people, but she didn't know any of their names and frankly didn't entirely care.

"We need to make friendly with District Four," he tells her, his arm casually resting on his shoulder as he led her away from the well-dressed Capitol citizens.

"I'm sorry," she said, backing away from his touch. "I wasn't under the impression that you were speaking to me again."

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Alright, Trinket, I thought you would have put on your big girl pants now and bitched at me for not being professional. But calling me out for being juvenile? Stop being a Capitol bitch."

She swallowed hard and looked at him sternly. "Fine, we'll keep this professional, Haymitch, if that's what you want."

"Mr. Abernathy to you," he winks playfully. She doesn't find it funny. Last night he had been ready to kill her with a glance and all the sudden he's…flirting? She doesn't know what to make of it, so she just smiles and walks with him to meet Peeta and Katniss at the elevator.

Right now, Haymitch was right. Katniss and Peeta were a priority.

As per their new treaty, she and Haymitch had agreed last night that neither Katniss nor Peeta really needed any kind of coaching at this point.

Instead, she had lined up the whole day to talk to potential sponsors with Haymitch. But when she walks into the large convening room, he's nowhere to be found. She even goes down to check at the bar.

She doesn't look for Katniss or Peeta. They can be left to their own devices. She attempts to go downstairs to have a talk with Plutarch Heavensbee or even another Capitol escort.

There is nobody.

Deflated, she returned back to the twelfth floor. By then it was almost dinner time anyway. She was surprised when the prep teams showed up for dinner, but not Haymitch. She didn't bring up his absence, and the others seemed to accept the fact that he was probably drinking in a bar somewhere.

The sun is starting to set as she returns to her room, taking her makeup off and undressing into her night clothes. She removes her gold wig, letting her brunette tresses fall down her stiff back. She leans against the wall in the shower, idly thinking of the inevitable coming of tomorrow.

She's lying on her fluffy, plush bed when she hears Haymitch's voice outside in the hallway. So he had returned.

Momentarily forgetting about her current appearance, she opened the door to see him close his. Taking in a deep breath, she went over to knock on his door. Surprisingly, he opened it right away and then his face fell into shock.

"Holy hell," he laughed, "I didn't recognize you without all that shit on your face."

She blushed furiously, and silently reprimanded herself for giving him this easy target. But she hushed those thoughts in her brain and walked into his room, closing the door behind him.

Maybe she was going to yell at him for ditching the entire schedule today, but she never found out because his hand brushed against her face to tuck her hair behind her ear.

"So this is what your hair actually looks like," he murmurs more to himself than her. He seemed fascinated by this new discovery, and she takes advantage of his vulnerability to announce the reason she came.

"Where the hell were you this morning? And all day for that matter?"

"I didn't know it was my job to explain to you what I do every hour of every day, sweetheart," he says, the spell between her hair and his brain apparently broken.

She sighs, and then sits down on one of the chairs beside the dresser. "I didn't come here to start a fight," she says, crossing her legs. The silk robe she's wearing hits her mid-thigh and she can't decide if crossing her legs makes it too short for appropriateness when she realizes that it's Haymitch and nothing really matters with him when it comes to manners and clothes.

"Well, why did you come here then?" he muses. "It's not for a booty call because you're too under-dressed."

Her mouth falls open. "How dare you insinuate such a—such a—"

"I was drinking all day," he says blankly.

"No you weren't," she says. "You aren't drunk and I checked the bar."

He smirks but doesn't say something right away. His eyes flicker to her legs and suddenly she does feel self-conscious. Suddenly his expression changes.

"Effie," he says softly, "I can't tell you."

"I don't see why not."

He squats a little, so he's eye-level with her. "Remember that night on the train?" She raises an eyebrow. He gets more specific. "After President Snow's Victory celebration?"

She nods slowly.

"You asked me something. And I know you know that I lied, but I'm telling you now that I lied to cover up my own ass."

"What are you even talking about?" she asks, confused and totally lost. She remembers asking him about Plutarch Heavensbee.

And then suddenly, that name rings a bell. She couldn't find him today. He was with Haymitch.

"Whatever you are talking to Plu—"

Suddenly he's kissing her to shut her up. It's hard though, and it doesn't feel real. Her eyes had shut quickly but now they reopened. He met her gaze and then pretended to trail kisses back to her ear.

"Don't say anyone's name," he whispers hotly into her ear, "they could be listening."

He pulls away from her and stands back up. She's a little dizzy, but now that she understands a little bit more, she is less offended by his actions. But still. Kissing is not uncharted territory and the last time it happened, they both ended up in bad places.

She chanced a look at him, only to find his gaze was on her.

"You really do look beautiful," he whispers.

Scared and unwilling to navigate through these dangerous waters, she stands.

"I'll see you tomorrow for the interview."

It's not a question. It's a statement. Somehow she knows that he'll actually be there this time. Whatever he and Heavensbee—and whoever else, God who knew how big this was—were planning, it didn't sound like something that would be good to know.

When she settled in her bed that night, she wasn't thinking of the games. It wasn't Katniss or Peeta on her mind. God the only thing she could think about was the fact that he had called her beautiful.

By the time she woke up she had forgotten completely about it.


It enveloped everything.

Haymitch had been standing next to her one minute, and the next she was swallowed by an inky blackness. She could hear the metallic sound that the Peacekeepers' shoes made against the shiny floor, pounding away as they blindly groped in the darkness.

She wants to call out, to see if he is still there, except she can't. It's too hard to find her voice when the last thing she remembers using it for is hiccupping a suppressed sob. All the victor's joining hands…that was the last thing her eyes had witnessed.

Finally the lights turn back on, and Haymitch isn't anywhere to be found. Portia and Octavia stand near, and she wanders over to them before men in Capitol uniforms come into the hallway, telling them to leave.

There's confusion and strange feelings, but she obeys orders, pushing her way through the mob. It's practically like an arena—No, nowhere nearly as bad. Her feet ache from pushing through the dense crowds as she shoves and is shoved back to her apartment.

It occurs to her that she never said goodbye to Katniss or Peeta.

That weighs on her heavily as she tosses and turns that night, dreading the morning.

By the time she arrives at the top floor to the apartment, Haymitch already has a bottle of wine open. But he's not drinking it. She picks it up curiously from the table and brings it into the sitting area, where he is slouched on the couch, with a guise of abhorrence pressing his features as he glares at the television.

Gently, she prods his knee with her hand as she takes her accustomed seat next to him.

They are alone.

He grunts throatily, acknowledging her presence at last. "Are you hung-over?" she asks finally.

He shakes his head. "I wish."

In her mind, she can't think of any worse state for him. Maybe the halfway in-between state of drunkenness and hangover is worse. It's possible he means that. But she glances at him, an arms-length between them. And she knows.

He has people in that arena. It's just over two minutes until the tributes are in pushed into the tubes, as the countdown indicates in the corner of the screen. Maybe he wanted to drink, but felt like he'd be insulting their soon-to-be memories.

"This must be so hard," she whispers softly, staring at the side of his head.

Haymitch doesn't even turn to look at her. He just motions that at the timer in the corner, and she can't take her eyes off of his somber sate. But then he sits up straight.

"Katniss and Peeta send their goodbyes," he tells her, looking at his hands. "Last night, I saw them one more time, and they…they told me to tell you that."

She nods silently, and slips her heels off and curls up into the couch.

"This doesn't feel real."

"It's real for them," he says, gesturing his thumb up to the television. There are less than thirty-seconds now. "It's real for all twenty-four of them. And they've lived through it already."

They won't live through it again.

His unsaid words hang between them uncomfortably, and she scoots closer to him.

The games begin.

Later that afternoon, they return from a meeting with the District 4 mentors. The allied sides stuck together, arranging for a rather costly spile to be sent to the oblivious tributes. The water was all around them, they just didn't have access to it.

Effie found it ingenious, really, when Haymitch had figured it out. She was the first to suggest that the arena was shaped like a clock, but for some reason Haymitch seemed to either be unsurprised by this information or he already knew.

All those talks with Heavensbee had to have led somewhere.

They're both exhausted and their tributes are hydrated, so they eat in silence and each have a glass of wine. The television is turned on twenty-four seven, but she can't stand to see the stare on his face when they recap all the deaths later that night.

Before the deaths are publicized, she creeps into her bathroom to get ready for bed. Maybe it's because he's seen her without all her Capitol attire before, and that's why she's suddenly okay with coming out into the couch area in nothing but a slip and a silk robe.

Maybe that's why he doesn't comment on it.

They watch more. Intuitively, they both understand that this silence is okay because, really, there is nothing to be said. She doesn't talk about Seeder's death and he doesn't bring it up.

"I hate this," he says suddenly, throwing his empty glass to the floor where it shatters.

An Avox will come and clean up the broken shards later, she thinks, not bothering to bitch him out for his lack of manners. It doesn't matter at this point. Even if one of their tributes survives the games both of them will probably be executed for something stupid. Manners didn't manner, clothes didn't manner.

What did?

"What?" he looks at her stupidly.

She must have said that out loud.

"It's true" she says, speaking defensively. No one from either of the prep teams have been around in the apartment today and neither of them say anything about because they're afraid to wonder.

"Not you," he says, looking at her. The intensity of his stare causes her to redirect her own, but when she flickers back, his eyes are still on hers.

"You won't be punished for this, Effie. You don't know anything."

"That doesn't mean they won't try to see if I do," she counters.

And for the first time, she realizes the trouble she could be in. She knows that he sees her inventing scenarios in her mind. A billion different options run through her head in the span of a second, but she doesn't get the chance to express them.

They turn back to watch the screen, hearing what Claudius Templesmith is saying but not entirely listening. He gets up and starts for his room, and she watches him go. Maybe the Capitol will come and take him away tonight and she'll wake up completely alone.

That thought scares her so much that she finds herself standing outside his door within seconds.

He's laying facedown into the bedding, and she just comes over and lies down next to him. They don't talk; they don't touch. Right now, Katniss and Peeta could be dealing with a sudden attack from the Careers and she can't even bring herself to think.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him roll over to face her. Light reflected off the knife he constantly slept with until there is darkness—he must have a remote in his hand, and she hears his breathing, shallow in the night.

A beat passes.

It would be so easy just to turn over, to push herself against his body. It was so much more toned after training for the Quell he would never take part in. She thinks about it, is actually half-way between acting on it when his breathing evens. He might be feigning sleep, but it didn't matter.

She closed her eyes but all she could see was the clock-shaped arena. Worry filled her brain as she tossed and turned, fearing she would annoy Haymitch to the point where he would make her leave. He seems like stone though, and his breathing is so shallow that she can scarcely hear it.

After what seems like hours, her eyes start to stay shut longer, and she finds a comfortable position where her knee is brushing against the back of his leg. He doesn't wake. She drifts slowly away…

Her hands are in his hair but her lips hover over his, and in the darkness their breath meets instead of their eyes. All he's doing is breathing: over her mouth, down her neck, brushing her forehead. His lips barely trace her upper lip before she's pushing her tongue into his mouth.

It's slow. And this time it's about comfort. It's a security measure.

Tomorrow when she wakes up, the guilt will settle in. Their tributes are battling poisonous fog, mutated monkeys, and one of their allies will sacrifice herself. But for the moment, she can only focus on his lips, moving up and down her face, her neck, and eventually her bare skin.

It's just so easy to fall into this sense of coping. Maybe for him, at least. For her, it's the only thing she can understand. Last year during the games, it had been so on-edge and frightening. It was too tense to sleep. Now all she wanted to do was to be away from the television, to not know what was going on. He slipped his hand between her thighs and she was grateful for the fact that she didn't have to watch everyone's skin blister open in the Capitol-engineered fog.

He never said her name. The only source of noise that surfaced from his lips was a groan here and a moan there. She squirmed but couldn't talk.

It might break the spell.

Their clothes never fully come off, and eventually she falls asleep on top of him, breathing softly into the crook of his neck. When she wakes up in the early morning, he's already gone.

Cold sweat drenches her skin as her eyes fly open fiercely, reacting to the darkness with a whimper. She reaches out across the bed and the tips of her fingers brush an unconscious form that she knows to be Haymitch.

Thank God, thank God, thankgodthankgodthankgod. She isn't alone. He grunts something incoherent, but she lies still and pretends to be asleep. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembers the knife that is gripped in his right hand.

She doesn't know how much time they have left together, but she knows that they have to talk.

If for nothing but to say goodbye.

Effie wakes up in the morning early, but Haymitch is already gone. Lazy sunlight splashed through the clear windows, yawning at the curtains. She quickly throws on her robe before wandering out to the television, where a few members of the prep teams are watching.

Octavia fills her in on the poisonous fog and mutant monkeys, but the tributes aren't even awake yet as she staggers into the shower and dresses appropriately.

Haymitch isn't watching with them, and she expects that he's probably convening with whoever else is involved in this scheme they're trying to pull off. No one mentions his absence, though, and she is grateful because she's not sure what she would say.

It's not until Finnick receives another parachute full of bread that Effie realizes Haymitch must be with the District 4 mentors. Maybe he was even talking to other sponsors, as Katniss receives ointment for her wounds that she sustained in the fog.

She isn't sure if she feels relieved that her tributes are actually getting gifts from sponsors or if she's angry that Haymitch is doing this without her.

Hour after hour passes and she jumps every time the door to the apartment opens, thinking it could be him. It shouldn't surprise her that he doesn't return. But in her mind, she wonders if he could be gone. Removed from their lives.

It is mentioned that Cinna is missing, but everyone seems too preoccupied with the actual games to be concerned about a stylist.

Suddenly, Effie feels guilty about missing Haymitch.

A hand on the back of her leg startles her.

It takes her a minute to gather her bearings, to realize exactly what is going on. Sleep had caught her sometime after the televised moment of Katniss and Peeta. Her eyes strain against the sudden light as she looks him.

Faster than she thought possible, she's got her arms around his shoulders. Her vice-like grip is so powerful that he actually takes a few steps backwards to regain his balance. After a short pause, his arms circle her waist and she looks at his face.

"I didn't know…" she started, looking at the floor. "I thought maybe Cinna…and then you…"

Effie is unable to string coherent thoughts together, and Haymitch nods, sighing heavily as he moves both their bodies to sit down on the bed.

Then she worries about the tributes.

"They're not, you know, hurt or…" She can't even finish that sentence.

He shakes his head almost violently. "No," he says firmly. "No, they're fine. Sleeping, in fact."

A glance to the clock shows only a few hours have passed since she had fallen asleep. His unshaved face echoed stress and unruliness, but he seemed sober. His breath didn't even have the tiniest trace of alcohol.

"Why are you here, then?" she asks, suppressing a yawn. Her mind is more on edge than her body, alert to every move he's making.

He snorts. "You're the one in my room." It almost sounds like a laugh.


She can't entirely recall if she had intentionally come here or not. She had removed all her Capitol apparel and make up in her own room, but somehow found it rational to sleep here. The look on his face at the moment seemed to be requesting an explanation.

"I wanted to make sure that if you came back, I knew," she whispers. "I didn't know…"

It almost seems like he's pushing away from her, and instantly she's mad. It's so unfair. He gets up and crosses the room, his hands resting on the top of his head, his eyes looking at patches of carpet on the floor.

"Effie, you need to stop worrying—"

Suddenly she's standing near him, looking up into his Seam-gray eyes. They were so hauntingly beautiful, so achingly human, that she almost looks away. But she keeps her focus, and he appears intimidated, at least giving her a chance to speak.

"I slept in here last night too," she starts, her voice solid. Of course, that had been of her own free will but that isn't important right now. "And this morning I woke up and you were gone. Tell me for a minute, Haymitch, one goddamn minute, that I'm supposed to sit here all day like a model citizen and pretend I don't know anything about what the hell is going on."

She's got his full attention now.

Sucks in a breath. Continues.

"You're mysterious, you're being elusive, and you're usually just an ass. But now you're confusing and I have no idea what to expect. Should I plan on you not coming back to the apartment? To just accept that fact that you've either left or the Capitol got to you first?"

His hand covers her mouth before she gets to her next statement, and he's pulling her into the bathroom and turning the shower on. He drags her inside, where steam and hot water mix on their clothes. She stops struggling after realizing the uselessness of it. He's so much stronger after that training.

This is the only place they won't be overheard.

Suddenly she's not sure if she wants to know what he's going to tell her.

"I can't tell you," he says quietly, and she almost can't hear him over the sound of the water hitting the tiles. "I'm not putting your life in that kind of danger, Effie."

She looks away from him at first, but as soon as she looks back she's caught in his eyes. It's so hard to look away and it hurts. His hands grip the insides of her wrists tightly, and she wishes that it wouldn't stop. That he won't let go.

"Haymitch," she whispers.

He doesn't reply.

His hand is against her wet face, and his thumb is tracing small circles across her warm cheek. She leans into his touch, the effect prickles down her neck, all the way to her toes. Effie steps closer to him, and she knows that now there might be no turning back.

She's self-conscious as he stares at her, although he thinks that her face is beautifully aged, and her natural brown hair clung to her face in some places, matted in straggling threads in others.

And when he kisses her, she feels beautiful. He doesn't have to murmur it against her dripping-wet skin or whisper in her ear. All he can think is where to put his mouth, how long to leave it there, and every few seconds he breaks away just to stare at her face.

Slow, languid kisses make their way down her cheek, onto her exposed shoulder, forcing a small moan from her parted lips. He cupped her breasts, firm in his hands, and felt his way down her torso, stopping to lift her nightdress away from her skin and sliding his warm fingers around her belly.

Something in her tightened, and she played with his disheveled hair she had between her fingers. She loved the way his breathing hitched every time she moved her fingers along his ear.

His fingers caressed the underside of her chin.

Her pink lips were just resting against the skin of his neck, and he could feel her irregular, ragged breaths that were puffing out of her slightly parted mouth, just brushing his collar bone. He thought he heard her mumble something incoherent, so he lifted her head up with his shoulder.

Her eyes bore into his for a stretched moment. He whispered her name.

She could hear her heart pumping empathetically between the little fabric that was left on her body and his chest. He pressed into her, pushing her against the shower wall, his lips devouring her neck. Soft moans and sighs escape her mouth, making him grunt, apparently satisfied.

Quickly, Haymitch lifted her arms up to take her out of her soaked nightdress. She removes her own underwear, and all the while he shimmies out of his own clothes. They lie discarded on the bathroom floor, forgotten and unwanted.

He leans down to her bare chest, sliding his tongue between her breasts. She arches her back against the wall, unable to keep herself under her own direction any longer. He enjoys having this effect on her, and he continues all the way down to her belly button and even lower to where he met with her hip bone. He looks up at her, her soft gaze melting into his Seam-gray eyes. She prods him to continue, the heat still burning between her legs.

Haymitch slides his fingers along the inside of her thigh, making her tremble with desire. He continues meticulously, aware that he was making her squirm to the point where he feared her knees might give out. She giggles when he kisses her lower legs, but she sighs the sweetest sigh when he touches her heat, and it makes him want to take her right then.

They are mostly a wet mess of heavy sighs and low groans as they fumble with each other. He forgets the reason he brought her here in the first place and she doesn't want him to remember. When they finally do come together, it's a moment of shaky hands and shared breath.

She doesn't ever want it to end.

In the moments afterward, he becomes aware of the fact that one of them shut the water off. Or maybe someone in the Capitol did, but it didn't matter.

Effie was shivering slightly, and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back towards the bedroom. They skipped over their wet clothes and fell onto the bed, a mixture of wet skin and sweat. Rain pounded against the windows, leaving a thunderous silence in their wake.

She lay supine, still lit by sporadic flashes of lightning, looking sexier than any woman he had ever seen. He wrapped his arms around her naked form as they hid underneath the soft covers of the bed. Effie watched as his eyes started to flutter shut, curiously touching his unshaven face for the hundredth time within the hour.

"What time is it?" he asks suddenly, speaking coherently between them for the first time in a while.

She leans back to catch the clock, which she relays to him while looking at it. When her face returns to the same level as his, his eyes haven't recovered from her message. They're big and round and—scared. She bites her lip, and then she feels her own eyes start to water.

"So this is it," she whispers, touching his face softly.

Haymitch looks away, doesn't answer her.

She can't tear her eyes away from him, but more than anything she wants to out of spite. It was time to go, to leave, to die, she didn't know. Whatever he was a part of, it was bigger than her and the—the, whatever it was between them.

Love. Lust. A sick combination of the two.

"Effie," he murmurs quietly, rolling closer to her, "you have to be careful. They aren't going to care if you're a Capitol citizen. They're going to know that I'm part of this…this rebellion."

The word rolls off his tongue and she knows there's no going back.

It was going to be even more difficult, after this. The Capitol would know Haymitch was part of it soon enough. And when they figured that out…how would they punish him? As if reading her thoughts, he picked up on her idea.

"They'll know about this, about us," he gestures between them. "They're going to come for you."

She nods silently, too numb to really think about it.

They lay in silence for a few more minutes before he rolls out of bed and starts to dress in clean clothes. The rain is still coming down outside, and she focuses on that as she hears him buckle his belt and put on his shoes.

He comes over to her before he leaves, leans down and kisses her softly.

"I don't regret it," she says against his hot mouth. "Even if they break my fingers or whatever, it's worth it."

It might just be the most lovesick thing she's ever said, and it almost might have been the most sadistic thing he's ever heard. Almost. But she's surprised when he shakes his head at her, kissing her one last time. It is too short, and when he breaks away, he doesn't linger near her because she knows he'll never leave.

Haymitch stops at the door, turns to face her and she sits up. "They'll do more than break your fingers, sweetheart."

She looks at him sadly. "Stay safe."

"Stay alive."

And he's gone.