This is my submission for Day 7 of March Prompts in Panem- Choose Your Own Adventure. Here is the link to the song that inspired this: wwwdotyoutubedotcom/watch?v=Pg8Z69B6RFQ

Disclaimer: The Hunger Games and all the characters in this fic are the property of Suzanne Collins. 'I Loved Her First' belongs to 'Heartland' and was used purely as inspiration. I make no money off of this. XD

Enjoy!


He wasn't particularly sentimental.

Heck, he'd made good and sure to fry most the neurons responsible for sentimentality with white liquor decades prior.

A necessity of survival as far as he was concerned.

However, call it whatever anyone liked, as he watched the teenage couple - aged beyond their years by suffering and adversity, most three times as old never had to face - swerve to the soft music of the fiddle; he couldn't help but reminisce his first real meeting with the girl. This girl with the dark locks, who now clung to the boy with eyes the color of the sky - the barely-man who had hours earlier become her husband - as if he was her only tether to reality in the middle of that makeshift dance floor on the lawn in front of their houses in what was once known as the Victor's Village.

He scoffed inwardly at the nauseatingly epodic way his own psyche decided to portray that last thought. Of course, he was her anchor as much as she was his. They were both screwed up in the head, likely beyond repair. If they didn't keep each other sane, one or the other would end up elbows deep in blood and a whole investigation would have to take place just to figure out what or whose blood it was.

Taking another swig of his glass (Effie had graciously sprung for some really high quality booze for the auspicious occasion), he shook his head derogatorily, snickering at his own caustic humor before his eyes settled once more on his dancing kids and he found his mind inexorably drifting again to that long ago memory.


It'd been a Sunday afternoon. He'd been making one of his rare ventures out of his home. He loathed leaving his home. Not that he especially cherished being holed up in the prison that was a house four times too big for a single man, left to ruminate over the horrors he'd caused and was yet to wrought. Nevertheless, he was in semi-livable purgatory of alcohol-induced oblivion he'd worked at for a good decade in that house. He'd found that was far preferable to the recriminating, accusatory sneers he received from everyone upon leaving the gilded cage, by far.

There'd been a singular reason for his being splayed on the floor of the Hob, his upper body reclining against Ripper's stall, far too sober for his liking.

He'd run out of booze. An outrage he'd prodigiously been working at remediating when his buzz was snuffed by a raucous at the entry to the warehouse, which caused his silver eyes to snap open and unwittingly seek out the source.

"Guess who wanted to meet everybody?"

The voice was far too masculine for the singsong intonation it held and, even though there was an obvious undertone of mockery to it, it possessed an entrancing quality that made it impossible not to indentify its owner.

Even though Haymitch couldn't get a proper look at the hunter from his prone position on the floor, the reaction of the other Hob occupants confirmed his preliminary assumption soon enough as they huddled around the man. It also helped that he seemed to move further into his field of vision along with the crowd. Though, the people surrounding him didn't allow for a good look at what he was there to showcase.

He'd shrugged and closed his eyes again. He wasn't an idiot. He could gather whatever it was from the commentary.

He wasn't particularly interested anyway. He was just part of the scenery of this district, after all. Like the disgusting coal dust that covered and darkened everything.

"Ugh! God, Everdeen. Poor girl's got nothing of her mother in her, does she? She's all you. I feel sorry for her having to grow up with your ugly mu-"

The Victor hadn't been sure what caused his eyes to shoot open to refocus on the scene playing out before him. It could have been the sound of flesh impacting flesh or the fact that everyone around seemed to gasp in conjunction. But, something in that twisted part of his mind told him it was more likely than not the fact that the person who had just been accosted was guffawing so hard while gripping his sides, he looked like he could barely breathe.

Once the taller man had taken a deep gulp of air and wiped his eyes with his shirtsleeve, he was finally able to venture out, "What was that? Did you actually think you could get a hit in at me left-handed while holding a week-old kid with your functioning arm? How much sleep is she letting you get, Spruce? I mean, I've been screwing around with you since we were six and you've never actually tried to hit me. To be fair, that there could hardly be classified as a 'hit', but still… "

The shorter Seam man had run his hand through his hair, sending his friend an aggravated glare before looking down at the bundle he held and cradling it closer before responding. "Okay. So, maybe she has a very healthy set of lungs on her… and way too much energy… and we can't figure out why she doesn't like to sleep for more than thirty minutes at any given time…" He'd paused here to send a withering glare at his so-called friend before continuing defensively, "but at least she's not a two-year-old who's so pretty no one can tell if it's a she or a he."

Letting out another healthy laugh, the older man had slapped his friend congenially on the shoulder, probably a little harder than friendship dictated. He'd looked down at the little girl in the blankets as he scoffed out an amused, "Anyone who's ever changed my Gale's diaper's knows he's more than enough of a he to make any girl very happy some day, my friend." He'd cocked his head toward the babe in the man's arms and added, conspiratorially, "Betcha, even your girl here will be pining for him once she's old enough to know what's what." He'd punctuated this with a wink that made the other man cringe in disgust, jabbing him in the ribs with his elbows with as much force as he could muster, considering it was his dumb side.

Haymitch had looked on as the hunter rolled his eyes at his still-chuckling friend, pulling the baby up so she was face to face with him. He'd moved away from the crowds for some privacy, apparently not noticing the drunken Victor on the floor.

"You don't pay attention to that idiot, Hawthorne, Katniss," he'd cooed softly to the baby, who seemed to respond by gurgling nonsense to their drunk audience of one. "You're my girl. No boy's ever going to be good enough for you, you hear. He'd have to brave heaven and earth and he still wouldn't love you as much as I do. You're my girl."

"Can I-" Both Haymitch's and the Seam hunter's attention had diverted to the left and behind as a there'd been a clearing of a throat and the man tried again. "Can I see her?"

'Oh, this should definitely be special', the not-quite-drunk-enough Victor had mused as his bloodshot eyes lighted on the baker. This had been well worth venturing out of his self-induced reclusion for.

The atmosphere in the entire warehouse seemed to grow thicker as the Merchant man had stepped closer. Haymitch had always known one of this man's kind was an aberration in the Hob and Seam folk didn't take particularly well to having their kind infringe amongst them. However, this particular man he also knew to be a one of the few Hob regulars of his cast.

He'd never been sure why he came there so often. He'd had his suspicions, of course. After all, if the love of your life ran off to a part of your district that was forbidden to your kind, you'd likely try to at least catch a glimpse of her every now and then in the marketplace, wouldn't you?

Therefore, that was not the reason for the tension that had suffocated the air in the building. There was history between these men… history they both tried to move beyond, but it was tangible nonetheless.

Everyone present at that moment knew it.

Unsurprisingly, however, with an easy smile borne of the pride he'd been feeling at the moment, the Seam man shifted the girl in his arms so that the blonde could get a better look. Then, to the shock of everyone present, offered sincerely, "You can hold her if you'd like. I'm guessing after two of your own, you're probably better at handling one of these than I am."

With a mirth that glinted in the azure of his eyes, the baker had gently removed the baby from her father's arm, cradling her gently in his own muscled ones. Haymitch couldn't help noting the longing way he'd appraised her as Hawthorne came up from behind them. "Aren't you about to be blessed with your third, too, Mellark? I saw your old lady a few days back. She looks about ready to pop."

The shorter man had shot his friend an outraged, incredulous glare over his shoulder at his astronomical lack of tact, to which the older man had only shrugged pathetically. Hawthorne had never been particularly good with words. The Victor had to suppress a snort from his vantage point on the ground.

The baker, on the other hand, either did not care or could not be bothered with acknowledging the crudeness of the Seam man's description of his wife's delicate condition. A hopeful smile had simply spread across his features as he continued to gaze appreciatively at the infant in his arms. "Yeah. We're both hoping for a little girl of our own." He'd ventured a quick look up at the two men to add, "Not that I don't love the two boys I have or would mind another, really." Then he'd stared down at the little girl again, bringing a finger up for her to latch on to as she'd gurgled in contentment. "It'd just be nice to have a little girl for a change in a house full of boys."

Before passing the baby off to her father, the baker had ventured one last statement, almost too quietly for anyone but the man it was addressed to and, of course, the drunk at their feet, to hear. "She has her mother's eyes."

When the Seam hunter had arched an understandably perplexed eyebrow at the blonde, he'd elaborated just as tacitly, "I mean, the irises are the same color as yours, of course. But, the shape… she has doe-shaped eyes like her mother- very big. She's so beautiful. Congratulations, Spruce."

With that, Haymitch had watched as the baker walk away. When he'd looked back at the Seam hunter, he'd been narrowing his eyes at the baby in his arm, scrutinizing her tiny face. After a moment, a humongous smile had split his features and the Victor saw him turn to call over his shoulder, "Hey Jasper, she's not all me, she's got her momma's eyes. And if your boy ever comes anywhere near her…"


The sound of shattering glass brought Haymitch back to the present and he looked to his left to find Delly Cartwright giggling as she stooped down unsteadily to collect the broken shards of a goblet from the grass. A Seam kid he'd come to know as Thom over the past several months was already grabbing her arm to keep her from the foolhardy endeavor. She was obviously tipsy. She'd just as likely slice an artery as clean up the mess.

He shook his head at the scene before turning his attention back to the dancing couple on the dance floor, whose attention had also been drawn by the clamor.

Katniss was scowling and Peeta was chortling at his childhood best friend. "Delly, let Thom help you. No, Delly. Don't pick that up, it's sharp. Delly, Thom's only trying to… okay… Oh, that's not right."

When the kid broke out laughing nearly hysterically, the old Victor ventured a look to his left and found the strawberry blonde had somehow tackled the much larger Seam boy to the ground and was trying to forcibly kiss him. After about five seconds of it, Thom gave up fighting her.

Furrowing his brow in disgust, Haymitch rolled his eyes away toward the dance floor, where they landed on his own kids.

"Oh, for crying out loud! I didn't come out here to see all of you try to figure out if you've still got tonsils or not!"

At the sound of their mentor's outburst, the eighteen-year-olds on the dance floor begrudgingly pulled their conjoined mouths apart, Peeta lightly nipping and pulling at Katniss' lower lip as they separated.

The heated look he sent her caused her indignation at the old man who'd just broken up their moment to surge and she turned emblazoned steel at him as she spit, "Then go home and take a nap or feed the geese or do whatever, Haymitch. This is for us- not you. This isn't for you!" She punctuated the statement by threading her fingers in the hair at the nape of Peeta's neck, forcibly bringing his mouth down to meld with hers.

Even from his vantage point, Haymitch could see the moment the kiss deepened into something out of Katniss' control from the surprised sound that emerged from somewhere in her throat and the way the boy's arms wrapped vice-like around her waist.

The old Victor snorted, raising his glass in a mute sign of approval at the scene.

'Atta boy… That's how you gotta love her… Hard, fast and without relenting.'

Then, looking down at his glass, the next thought came from the back of his mind somewhere. What he would love to tell someone if he were still around for the telling…

'Well, Spruce, we found her the kind of boy she deserves. The kind that will love her, regardless. We found him years ago, you and me, or at least the ideal of him- we just never knew it. He will never love her as much as you did. Heck, he may never love her as much as I do- certainly not the same way. But, that's alright. We know the truth and that's all that matters…

We loved her first.'

Fin


A/N: I know, I know. This isn't technically an Everlark. But, I "technically" loathe writing Everlark fics and I was really inspired by this prompt to write If you liked it...

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