AN: I've been dying to put Haymitch and Katniss into some kind of Wild West/ western cow town setting since Katniss can be such a hard-ass dust warrior and Haymitch loves his liquor. Here is what my little plot bunny brought me...
**DISCLAIMER: I OWN NOTHING**
***not the hunger games not the wild west and definitely not the joe nichols song that this is slightly based off of!***
She Only Smokes When She Drinks.
She comes in with her cow hide spats and weather-bleached shirt, sits at the bar and yanks her tie of ribbon loose from around her neck. I'm wiping glasses as usual, because when is a bartender not, and she sits right in front of me, per usual on nights like these. Asks for a drink.
I don't pry, just slide the whiskey and water across the bar to her, my eyes wondering if he's why she's here. Her features silently confirm. I look away.
So it's one of those nights. She sits at my bar swigging away, and I'm pretty sure my eyes are betraying me as I lean against the back counter and watch her sadly.
"Haymitch," she finally breaks the silence, pulling out a cigarette, "can I have a -"
"Need a light?"
The voice comes from the young buck on the next barstool over from her, and sounds a little too forward to be simply offering up a favor. She blinks up at him. I can see she's not going to refuse it, why would she, but she can be so lost in her own world that sometimes I worry about her. Especially in situations like these. Because as the cowboy sidles up to her and she leans in placidly towards the flame for the light, I can tell he thinks he's getting lucky tonight.
I watch like a hawk as the scene plays out before me. She closes her eyes, inhaling the tobacco and making the fire stay put on the end of her cig. Her eyes flit open and she draws back, barely looking at the guy through the smoke she blows in his direction.
"Thanks," she deadpans.
"Any time, sweetheart," he grins lopsidedly at her, gazing her down.
She barely even notices. She's slouched over the bar now, both hands gripping her drink. Just gives me a hare of a glance when he speaks to her.
I almost smirk. I know what her look was saying. She only allows herself to be called 'sweetheart' when it's me saying it. And only then because it's done with sarcastic hellishness.
But this guy doesn't take a hint. In fact, he flicks me a glare that clearly says, step off, old man. Now my gaze darkens, and my grip on the latest bar glass is tightening.
This cowboy better not push his luck too hard, or he's got another thing coming for him.
So yeah, I'm concerned, but this is not to say that Kat can't take care of herself. By all means, she can take care of herself better than half the grown men I know. But being that she ranched with me for a year a couple back after she got off from a bout with our county's version of Hell's Angels, I feel a kind of responsibility for her. Or something.
This girl, though she'd never let you know it, she's only human; and she's having a bad night. I can tell because she's smoking, and she only does that when she's having problems with Lover Boy and she doesn't know what to do about it. Hell, he's probably been going on about starting a family again. Lover Boy can't seem to understand that she's just different, has been a victim of too many injustices to put trust in things that normal people do. I've been many things to her over the years; a trainer, a bartender, and even now and then - on nights like these - a therapist. Or maybe a friend. A shoulder to lean on at any rate. So yeah, maybe I'm allowed to feel concern right now.
I feel like maybe I should just warn this barstool-leering cowboy, tell him that he can pick any other girl in this bar and he'll get his wish. Yeah, this is that kind of place, but she sure ain't that kind of girl. But I take one glance at Katniss, who's got a dopey grin on her face and is sipping at her whiskey while eyeing him down, I decide to let it be. She's a big girl now, doesn't need my protection.
So I turn my back, let what will happen happen. I can hear their chatter as background noise, no girlish laughter, of course, but again, that's just not Kat. So I don't worry about it.
Until I hear a resounding slap coming from her direction.
I turn just in time to see a red-faced Katniss drop a flattened hand. The cowboy pushes right up off his stool, for what I don't even want to think about, before I lunge over the bar and grab him by the rawhides. "Please respect the lady, else I'm gonna have to escort you out of this establishment," I growl, shooting pistols at him with my eyes. He yanks himself out of my grip, straightening his leather vest.
"Whatever you say, old man," he growls, smoothing his hair and fixing the angle of his hat. "Bitch doesn't deserve me anyway," he mutters as he turns to leave.
Woah, now. You can't just call my Katniss a bitch and get away with it. I'm about to jump the bar and throw some fists when a shot is fired. Everyone in the saloon goes dead quiet, turns their gaze to me. Or to Katniss, I should say, since she's the one holding the revolver. The cowboy has turned to his right having just heard a bullet whiz by that ear and lodge itself in the door frame not a foot from him.
"I'm sorry, what did you just call me?"
"Nnnothin', ma'am," I almost guffaw at the way he's stuttering, "I just-"
"I believe what you mean was 'married woman', you piece of filth," she growls out in her most threatening tone, tilting her gun to let the glint of her ring glimmer in the low light of the bar. Ah, yes. This is the sharp-shooting, hot-under-the-collar Katniss I know well. And hey, she's sticking up for Lover Boy's existence for once. Not that she's actually married, just shacked up with the guy and only wears a ring when she hits the saloons.
He utters a quick "yes, ma'am" before speeding out of there like a bat outta hell.
The whole place resumes its noise, and I turn to look at Katniss. She still has murder in her eyes. I break out into howling laughter.
She plops back down on the barstool, defeated, and sheds a tired glance in my direction. "Shut up you old bastard."
"Married," I get out. "That's a good one."
She looks at me in that I've-had-enough-of-you-and-of-this way before her fingers move to her left ring finger and twist like mad at the simple gold band there.
I give her a hard look. Oh, come on, sweetheart.
"I need a draft," she orders me. "Tall and dark."
I turn to the tap and pour her our largest mug of the house brew. When I slide it her way, she takes that band between her fingers and lets it go right above the mug. With a little plop! it descends, and we both watch it sink to the bottom.
"Looks like I'm gonna have to drink it out," she says emotionlessly.
"Well, shit," I say, mirroring her tone.
She puts a two-spot on the bar. "Well pour yourself one. I'm not drinking alone."
So I do, and we lean across the bar, not saying anything, but letting our silences conspire with one another for us. Until she finally speaks again, "Besides, the drinking was always your thing, anyway."