Are you surprised? An update two days in a row!

I must have got caught up in the excitement of Effie's birth and all of your reviews motivated me to update this chapter earlier instead of waiting till next week. So, thank you very much for the reviews :)


Chapter Thirty-Four

Haymitch never thought the day would come when both Felix and him would be making a trip together to purchase items for his children; items that Effie had requested and listed out just before he left for the Capitol. They were certainly an odd pair, two men browsing through the aisle, arguing about infant clothes and mittens. Haymitch had entered the shop with a steely determination to purchase whatever clothes that were meant for newborn with as little fuss as possible but his mistake was in bringing Felix along. Felix had insisted that they pay careful attention and consideration to the make and design of the clothes.

"We wouldn't want the children to be dressed in drabs, do we?"

"I have an idea," Haymitch began. "Here's some money. Get everything on Effie's list. I'll be outside."

The second meeting with the Council after their adjournment the previous day was scheduled for that afternoon. It had started off without a hitch. Since he knew what he wanted to get across, Haymitch paid more attention watching the faces of each of the Council members, his eyes occasionally flickering to President Paylor, gauging their reaction to each new point that he brought up.

"Essentially, with the facility, what the law is doing is to treat women like – "

The door to the meeting room flew open. Haymitch broke off, glancing over his shoulder to see Fulvia rushing into the room. She headed straight for him. Plutarch shot his wife a disgruntled look at her audacity to interrupt an important meeting.

"What?" Haymitch asked out of the corner of his mouth. His eyes scanned the Council members before him.

"There's a phone call for you. It's urgent. It's coming from District Four."

"It's probably Annie. Tell her I'll call back once I'm done," he whispered.

Fulvia shook her head. "It's Johanna Mason and she said if you don't come to the phone, she will release a very compromising photo of you from ten years ago. I don't know what that means but she sounded like she meant business."

"I'm in the middle of a – "

Fulvia pursed her lips together and squeezed his biceps. "She was right. You would be difficult. I really don't want to do this but it concerns your wife."

XxX

Haymitch paced the space in front of the receptionist's desk. The place was small and cramped and Haymitch was pacing in a dizzying circle. Fulvia stood to the side, not wanting to be caught in Haymitch's path. He had the phone receiver pressed to his left ear with a finger jammed into his right to filter out the noise in the office.

"Say that again," he requested, more out of the need to process what Johanna just said than anything else.

"Your wife called. Just, barely five minutes ago. Annie thinks she's in labour. I heard Effie was having contractions. Something about five minutes apart. Listen Abernathy, I don't know much about being pregnant, okay. Annie told me to inform you. And from what I gather, you're gonna be a father real soon. Excited?" Johanna cackled over the phone.

"Effie's in… WHAT?!" he exclaimed. "Jo, stop fucking joking around. This isn't funny. I was in a meeting and you pulled me out to joke about my wife being in labour?"

He heard Johanna grunt over the phone.

"Annie! He wouldn't believe me," he heard her shout and then she was back on the phone with him. "Talk to her yourself if you think I'm joking."

Johanna sounded annoyed. Haymitch tried to call her back but she had already handed the phone over to Annie.

"Hello, Haymitch," the woman greeted. "Johanna was being serious. I was on the phone with Effie when she timed her contractions."

Haymitch pulled at the collar of his shirt. It felt like he was choking suddenly. His palms were sweaty so he wiped it on his pants.

"There has to be a mistake. She can't be in labour, Annie. She's… I don't think she's even anywhere near her due date."

"I know this is a bit surprising, Haymitch, but those contractions, they are not Braxton Hicks. You need to be with her. Quickly."

"But the meeting…"

Annie was silent on the phone.

"He is worried about the fucking meeting? Are you serious, Abernathy?" he heard Johanna say. She must be listening on the other extension in Annie's house.

On the phone, Annie sighed. "Johanna, please hang up."

She waited until they heard the click of the phone before she started speaking again. "This… This is not something I can help you with, Haymitch. I'm sorry. You're the only person who knows where your priorities lie."

Annie was right. There was only so much Annie could do to help them both. They were lucky Effie had the sense to call Annie when she was in pain or she would never know that she was in labour. He should have been there. Haymitch could only imagine the panic Effie must be going through at the moment.

He swallowed hard. His eyes scanned the office, drifting towards the door where the Council and the President was waiting for his return.

"Choose wisely, that is all I can say. Finnick was not by my side when I gave birth and I would do anything to have him there. But he never had a choice unlike you. Finnick had a war to fight but if things were different, he would have been there to welcome his son into this world," Annie paused. No matter how much time had passed, it was still difficult for her to talk about Finnick. "You could always postpone the meeting, couldn't you? These are your children and they're only going to be born this one time. If you miss this, you will never get this chance again."

"I know," he agreed. Haymitch exhaled slowly. "Months ago, I made a promise to her. I told her I would be there when she gives birth. She'll be barking mad if I break it. Is she alright, Annie? Was she doing okay when you last spoke to her?"

"She should have called her doctor by now. I'm not sure how she would be getting to the hospital. Katniss and Peeta are not at home. You really should get back to Twelve."

XxX

The moment Annie hung up, Haymitch tried calling home.

"Come on, come on, answer the phone," he muttered, rubbing his forehead in distress.

If he could just get a word in with Effie to assure her that he was coming home as soon as possible and that he would be there just like he said he would, he was sure that would calm her down slightly. Haymitch dialed twice more, growing increasingly frustrated as each ring went unanswered.

"Haymitch, Haymitch," Fulvia called out his name, laying a hand on his arm. "If she's in labour, I don't think she would be in any position to be walking to the phone to answer it."

Of course. Why had he not thought of that?

Haymitch nodded in agreement. "I have to get home. The meeting… I can't do that. You have to tell Plutarch what's happened. Reschedule it, postpone it or … I don't know. I need to get to Effie."

"Go," Fulvia smiled in understanding. Her hand was on his back, pushing him out of the door. "I'll tell Plutarch. He could probably speak on your behalf, anyway."

"Tell him not to screw it up," he shouted over his shoulder, making a run for the elevator. "And thank you!"

"Haymitch! Up the roof! It's faster by hovercraft."

Haymitch screeched to a halt. He threw her a grateful smile before turning on his heels to the staircase, taking two steps at a time to the roof top.

"And good luck!"

XxX

Effie made a mental note to thank the neighbor who lived across Victor's Village. After she had called Dr Bell and was told that it was indeed labour contractions, Effie had walked out of the village and went to the first house she saw. She saw a dirty pickup truck on the drive way and nearly laughed in relief. In less than fifteen minutes, she was already at the hospital.

That was three and half hours ago. She had been in labour for three and half hours, possibly longer since the pain had started since the day before, and Haymitch was nowhere to be seen.

"Where is he?" Effie demanded. Her face scrunched in pain as another wave of contractions hit her.

Peeta wiped her brows with a clean cloth. "He's on his way," he said. "I'm not just telling you this to make you feel better. I made a call to Plutarch's office."

"He'll never make it in time, Peeta. The train ride take a full - "

"He's coming here by hovercraft," said Peeta.

He glanced behind his shoulder at Katniss, silently asking if he had reached yet. She shook her head at him.

"Call Plutarch again. Please, Peeta. I will not deliver his children without him here!"

Giving her hand a squeeze and promising to be back with news of Haymitch, Peeta rushed out of the room in search of the nearest phone. Katniss took his place, sitting on the chair next to Effie's bed.

"You can't force yourself to keep the babies inside, Effie," Katniss said, letting the older woman gripped on to her hand as another contraction hit her. It was coming on more frequently now, each contraction lasting much longer than before. "If it's time, it's time with or without Haymitch."

"I'm… I'm okay…" she exhaled loudly. "They need to wait for me to dilate fully, right?"

Katniss nodded. They heard footsteps approaching the bed. Effie exchanged a glance with Katniss. The hopeful look in her eyes told Katniss all she needed to know. Effie wanted that to be Haymitch. When the curtains parted and they saw that it was her doctor instead, Effie's face fell. Effie was quiet as Dr. Bell examined her.

"I can feel your baby's head, Effie. 10 cm dilated. Your baby's ready to see the world."

"I can't - " she breathed out, shaking her head at her doctor. Effie turned to the younger girl. "Katniss, I can't do this without him."

"Don't think that way, Effie. I know you can do this. You have to."

She was interrupted by a knock on the door. Extracting her hand from Effie's grasp, Katniss went to talk to Peeta. He was no longer allowed in as they prepared Effie for childbirth.

"He's not going to be here in another hour and a half at most. Plutarch confirmed the hovercraft left the Capitol about three hours ago. How is she? Can she hold on and wait till he's here?"

Katniss threw him an exasperated look. "No. She can't wait that long."

XxX

Haymitch entered the cockpit although there were signs that expressly prohibited him from doing so.

"Look, can't you make this thing fly faster?"

"No, sir. Please get back to your seat."

"That's bullshit right? I'm pretty sure it can go faster than this."

"Sir, I am going at maximum speed for you. Any faster and I would put us all at an unnecessary risk. I heard you're going to be a father soon. Trust me, you would want me to get you there safely and in one piece."

"Where's the damn phone in this plane?" he growled, the frustration was growing by the minute. He felt so helpless and he had no news of Effie since the hovercraft took off.

After placing calls to different places, he finally managed to procure the number to the hospital in Twelve. "No, my wife's at your hospital. She should be at the labour ward or something. I don't know exactly where she is, alright? That's why I'm calling. I just need you to tell me if there's any way I could talk to her. Her name's Effie - Effie Abernathy. Do you need me to spell it out?"

His knees bounced rhythmically, fingers tapping the side of his thigh when he was put on hold, waiting for someone to get back on the line. Haymitch had expected the admin staff he was speaking to or some nurse who could update him on Effie's status to answer the phone. Instead, to his relief, it was Peeta on the phone.

"Haymitch?"

"Peeta?! Peeta, how is she?"

"Look, where are you? Forget that, it's not important," the young man said. "You need to get here quickly. She kept asking for you."

"Can you pass the phone to her?"

"I can't, Haymitch. I'm not allowed in anymore. She's not alone, though. Katniss is with her. She'll stay with Effie until you're here."

"Has she given birth yet, do you know?"

"She hasn't."

He let out a breath in relief. Haymitch leaned back against the seat, breathing deeply to calm himself.

Maybe I could still make it in time, he tried to assure himself.

XxX

Effie had a death grip on the mattress. The pain was astronomical and it did not help that her anxiety was mounting with each second that Haymitch was not there.

"I will kill that son of a bitch," she growled. She rarely ever cursed and even Katniss couldn't help but smirk at that. "I will kill him! Mark my words, Katniss."

"Just breathe in and out, Effie. That's right. You're doing okay."

"I'm serious. I'm going to…" she inhaled sharply. "… stab him if he so much as show his face around here!"

"Yes," Katniss nodded. She was afraid to disagree with Effie at the moment. "I'm sure you would. I don't doubt you but let's focus on the matter at hand first."

Effie wanted Haymitch there but she also wanted to wring the life out of him if and when he showed up. She must have confused Katniss with her conflicting emotions because she could see Katniss glancing helplessly at Dr. Bell.

"You're doing a good job, Mrs Mellark. Just keep talking to her."

"I'm never going to have… sex with him ever again! Not if it leads to this. I'm never letting him anywhere near – oh god, this hurts, Katniss."

Katniss turned beet red at the mention of sex between the people she had considered as her surrogate parents. If Effie noticed that she had made Katniss uncomfortable, she ignored it. Effie focused on her breathing. Perhaps that would take her mind off the pain.

In and out. In and out.

One. Two. Three.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Without warning, Effie burst into tears and Katniss pushed her chair back in surprise at the sudden change in emotion.

"I want Haymitch. Please, please get me Haymitch. I can't do this. I don't know how to give birth. Please, Katniss. Where is Haymitch?"

"Effie," Katniss spoke softly. She brushed Effie's hair back, squeezing her hand in encouragement. "Forget Haymitch. Just focus on yourself and your twins. You're about to meet your children. Nobody knows how to give birth. Sure, we read about it but the reality's a bit different, isn't it? Just listen to your doctor and when she said push, you push. Trust me, Effie. It will be alright. I promise. When you hold your child in your arms for the first time, it will all be worth it. Chins up, Effie."

"Effie, I want you to focus on your breathing and listen to me," Dr Bell asked, pushing her knees apart. "Everything will be alright. Ready?"

Effie squeezed her eyes shut and nodded.

"Don't let go of my hand, Katniss."

"I won't, I promise."


Alright, I tried to do as much research as I possibly could on childbirth, labour pain and giving birth to twins but I've never experienced all of these before so if there are anything that is not accurate, please forgive that mistake.

You'll meet the babies soon enough. Please review. It will mean so much to me. See you next week!