This story skips around with time. Just an fyi.

Collins owns THG.

Effie Trinket is twenty-one and living.

Two tributes with vacant eyes blankly stare at her as she babbles on and on about everything there is to know about anything that is Capitol. Haymitch watches their unyielding indifference as her pink mouth moves as fast as the train, zipping toward the Capitol.

He shouts at her to shut up, and the kids take to their rooms without another word. Effie just stares at him icily, and he can feel the despondency that followed his empty laugh.

"If you think anything you say or do is going to make a difference sweetheart, you're in the wrong place."

It's really the only thing he says to her for a long time. She was just another escort. After these games, she would realize that she would never be able to deal with his drunkenness and bitter lifestyle and then request a transfer—which would then be denied.

In the coming days, the tributes would gain some level of respect for her. Maybe it was pity. Haymitch didn't become concerned with their opinions when both of them would be lying dead on the arena floor in forty-eight hours. Claudius Templesmith is silent during the rush to the cornucopia as always, but he feels something stir inside of him when the girl—he can't quite remember her name—is immediately killed by a rather fierce looking Career.

The boy drowns the next day.

She chokes out a sob, pulls her knees to her chest, muttering oh God, oh God against her skin, senselessly. There's a split second where Haymitch feels like he's obligated to comfort her, but he decides against it. She had to learn, and she cries silently.

They're sitting in the apartment with nothing but each other for company, except Haymitch considers the half-empty bottle of rum to be his companion. For all of her crying and bitching, he shoves the half-drunk jug into her tear-streaked face. He doesn't say anything, just expects her to take it and shut up.

She does. And she doesn't give it back, and he sits on the couch staring at the wall, his buzz letting up just as her drunkenness sets in. So he finds another bottle.

She has an air about her that is relinquished in her drinking. Her pink, plump lips suck around the end of the bottle, her neck tilted backward to gulp sips that made her choke and cough. Gray eyes dart back and forth towards her, towards her mouth and the bottle that is so attached to it.

It's sickening and in his conscience he knows it's just disgusting, but they're both repulsively drunk. He knows himself well enough by now to understand his anger and despair that permeates his sarcastic tone when she attempts to slur her words at him. Maybe he thought that she'd be a happy drunk, that she'd still be her normal, bubbly self.

She isn't.

He doesn't even notice when she turns her head, looks at him morosely, eyes drained of the innocence that comes with being a Capitolist. "I can't," her voice echoes softly in the empty room as her well-manicured hand reaches out to grasp his unshaven face. She continues softly, staring into his eyes, "It's not the same when you know them." Effie's voice hiccups in the darkness as Haymitch eyes her suspiciously and shrugs her touch away; and she stumbles off the couch and makes an attempt to stand up straight.

Her sad eyes sweep over his sprawled figure as her heels click away against the cold floor, tears glistening off her perfect face as she trips over her own feet.

Maybe he should have offered to help her to her room, but instead he falls asleep on the couch with the burning imprint of her warm hand on his face. It's not until he wakes up with a pounding headache that he realizes she was the first escort to ever sympathize with the tributes.

Her opal-stained dress gleams on her pallid color, and aside from her blush, she is a vision in white.

Through all the heavy liquor, his eyes just barely trace her outline dancing with someone important—a gamemmaker, a victor? Underneath his lashes they spin in circles with the music flowing from the corner and he wrinkles his face in his hands. Maybe as a vain, sympathetic gesture, the Capitol holds a gathering for the fallen—no, murdered, he thinks firmly—and the mentors and escorts and other unimportant people attend. Haymitch is the only victor by himself, preferring the unobtrusive bottle to dancing with haughty murderers.

Effie Trinket serves as a highlighted example as to what these charades, these games, have disturbed in their wake. Maybe five years ago her figure had a more defined curve at the hip, and her neck had definitely not been as hollow, though now a large diamond necklace is laced tightly to her milky-white throat to hide any vicissitudes.

Then again, five years ago she had not been an escort, and he could sit through these Capitol events with nothing but a drink in his hand and the usual cynical, acerbic thoughts rambling through his fucked-up head. But she walks with her head held high with her wig tightly pinned to her real hair, and he thinks it's unfair for her to look the way she does when she dresses up children to die.

But she does, and Effie bears no semblance of the atrocities that are—quite literally—reaped beside her.

"Sitting alone doesn't bode with trying to make friends," she sing-songs, taking a seat next to him at the otherwise empty table. He doesn't remember when she sat down.

"You do realize makeup won't fix your stupidity, right?" he sneers at her, sipping the last of his glass.

Effie rolls her eyes, taking a drink from her own glass. Her blue eyes dip over the rim of the crystal, sparkling with the thrill of something. Silence wraps its buoyant ways between them, though he can't say he minds. He belches loudly and maybe bile rises in the back of his throat, but he just rolls his head back onto the wall, bemused by her disgusted expression.

"Alcohol won't make your problems disappear," she tells him icily, standing up and turning to go.

"Accurate." She stops at his words. The back of her dress has a long dip with translucent lace, and his eyes trace the contour of her spine, studying the design that is her skin. He's sickened by his inability to find her unattractive.

Exposed, creamy shoulders shrug as her long arms are tossed up into the air in abhorrence, but her face is red with some kind of anger that is so typical Effie. Her plump lips open harshly, dulling any kind of charm that had previously allured him to her silent form.

"You're insufferable," she hisses. "You're an angry, self-absorbed, drunken fool—"

"Also accurate," he mocks her, raising his empty glass. She's silent for a moment, and he jumps the opportunity to take the offensive. "You're just a Capitol whore who has a flair for the dramatic and the inability to hold her tongue." Her blue eyes narrow, but her mouth stays in a line. But maybe they weren't, his vision wasn't all that accurate after is fifth drink.

Her dress swooshes as she moves through the space between them, and he extends an arm that he thinks will keep her away, but their height difference is misjudged. In one drunken motion, his hand knocks into her hair—surprisingly hard for its soft appearance—and he can hear the pins snap. The blonde wig topples to the floor.

Haymitch looks at her, but she can only look around to see who else is aware of her "inappropriate" state. There's two Effies blurring in and out of each other and—God, he's just so drunk. But he does remember how her hair, her real hair, tumbled out from the snapped clips.

The lighting in the room was dim, but the specks of fluorescence reflect off her dark hair. It's so ordinary, so average that he almost laughs out loud. Except when his eyes meet hers, for a fraction of a second he can see a human being looking at him. Her frost-blue eyes diverge from the natural hue of chocolate-brown that spills over her shoulders.

He swallows dryly, but recovers fast. "I would've thought you were blonde."

She slaps her hand across his face.

"Do you want to sleep with me?"

Her query suspends in tight silence, his gray eyes sizing her up as he sets his drink down onto the coffee table.

"What?" He tries to sound sincere, but in reality it leaves his tongue in an incredulous tone, though he regrets it. Immediately she turns a tumultuous shade of pink, although he has a sense of dread in his stomach.

"Never mind," she breathes, smoothing her skirt. "Forget I said anything—" she stands up "—completely inappropriate—"

Maybe his lips are rough and uneven, but she doesn't pull away when they brush hers. For a few seconds it's testing waters, uncharted and ready to go. Then it's unbridled ire and animosity and everything that makes up their nonsensical connection. It isn't love—it might be lust, he can't count out the fact that he still finds her attractive despite her principles.

Mostly it's loneliness.

Afterwards, they lay on the couch with a light coverlet between their skin, matted with sweat and shame. The Sixty-Eighth Hunger Games are half-over as they watch, expressionless and silent. One girl from District Six is beaten to death with a club, and just before she dies she whispers something, a prayer.

Effie turns to face him; her hair (brown and wonderful) covers his exposed shoulder lightly, tickling his skin.

"Do you believe in God?"

"Do you?" he shoots back quickly, wanting to avoid any after-sex discussions. Her breath against the nape of his neck is the only response he gets, her heart beating steadily through the small sheet. He can hear it. Or feel it. He doesn't know.

"I might," she murmurs quietly, though her tone indicates hope. He doesn't look at her, can't bear to.

"I'd agree with you, but we'd both be wrong."

She breaks up with a boyfriend she'd had for a couple of months right before the reaping.

They sit on the train alone, not knowing where their tributes are. Not really wanting to know. The girl was twelve and the boy was a month shy of sixteen. Effie can tell by Haymitch's empty gray eyes (along with the amount of alcohol his flask holds) that the boy would never see seventeen.

"Not getting married then, eh?" he stirs from his drunken inertness, not really listening when she had been recounting her breakup. She considers his words before talking again.

"I don't think," she says. "I didn't love him."

He snorts at her. There was a silence where he deliberated if she was capable of love, or if she was defected somehow. Like him. But he watches as she gazes out the window at the passing trees and terrain and knows. Those icy blue eyes could melt a man, thaw him from the inside out.

"The boy," she says, not taking her eyes off the window, "he has a girlfriend. And she'll never see him again."

He's reminded of his own girl, but he pushes those thoughts away as soon as they make their cameo. Maybe it was that little bit of information that would give him the urge to attempt to train the boy, to actually learn his name. But it will prove to be useless because he'll get himself killed within the first two hours.

But right now Haymitch doesn't know that, and he redirects his useless thoughts. "Love doesn't suit you," he says to her.

"It's the fall," she tells him. "I'm afraid of heights."

She stumbles into the room with a handbag and a scarf, dressed in a loose-fitting white gown that can't hide her normal skin, her naked collar bone. She's got dirt under her fingernails and no makeup beneath her eyes, but she looks distressingly beautiful in the dust-filled room inside the house in the Victor's Village.

His eyes scrape over her bare skin before she walks toward him. There are freckles on her shoulder blades that he can see even when he shuts his eyes hard and fast. Her bones seem to stick out, but a shallow ribcage formed behind the white-laced fabric that hits her above her boney knees. Even her face is hollowed, but her eyes aren't.

They look like they don't even belong on her face, and that's when he can't bear to look at her anymore. Dusty linen awaits them upstairs, but they don't make it that far and end up on topmost stair, sitting in the mouth of the carpeted hallway.

His lap cradles her softly as his fingers slide the straps back from her shoulders, producing more freckles and more skin and it's lovely and plain and so normal. Except when more of the dress comes off there is something. Lots of somethings.

She tries to protest or to say something, her voice struggles from her throat as he shakes his head.

"I know." It's all he can say. All that he really thinks is necessary. Because he knows what she's afraid of.

They are dark and some might've run deep, and he feels them softly with his fingers (which are anything but soft, but she doesn't complain). Some of the tissue has turned them pink. In other places, like under her left breast, it's red and infected-looking.

Her blue eyes meet his, but he just nods understandingly. Maybe if their situations were different and they weren't trying to forget a war that had ravaged their bodies so unbearably, he would have held her and told her that this was meant to be beautiful—to be a part of her.

Except that would have been lies and she would have known it. Her once-beautiful form now has its own map of lines and roads and highways, pink tissue that he traces with his fingers and lips. He knew better than she did what these were.

They lined his stomach and right arm, but she didn't linger with his. Most of them were indiscernible anyway—locked deep within the layers of his nightmares, trapped and screaming for escape. For the first time, she can relate to him on a level she wishes she couldn't.

In the hours of the morning, they lie on the floor and navigate their own scars.