title: Quarter Candy

summary: Like people, some candy is worth more than others. —featuring Haymitch Abernathy and the Donner twins. For Cee.

word count (without a/n's): 5549


Like people, some candy is worth more than others.

.

It's finally stopped raining, so of course six-year-old Maysilee Donner wants to go outside. "Come on, Mira. Let's go to the playground."

Her twin sister sighs. "But Maysilee, I was reading…"

"You can read any time!" Maysilee insists. "Come on. Mom and Dad won't let me go alone, so you have to come with me! You're supposed to listen to me anyway, Mirabelle. I'm older."

"By two minutes!" protests Mirabelle. But she knows it's a lost cause, when Maysilee's using her full name and glaring like that. Maysilee almost always gets what she wants, when she pouts and glares like that. If all else fails, her twin sister also knows how to cry on command. She almost slams her book down on the table and sighs. "I'll go with you."

"Yes!" Her sister grabs her hand. "Mom, Dad, Mira and I are going to park since it stopped raining! Bye!"

The next thing she knows, Maysilee is splashing in the puddles that have formed in the gutters while Mirabelle tries not to get wet. "May! You know I hate getting wet! Don't splash me! Eek!"

Maysilee, of course, ignores her. Mirabelle runs around as Maysilee chases her, hands full of water. But Maysilee finally gets tired and says, "Fine, have it your way! Stay dry and be a fun-sucking stick in the mud!"

"So long as I'm a dry fun-sucking stick in the mud," she mutters. She makes her way to the swing set, which is the only part of the playground that is far away from the gutter so that she can ensure staying dry. Frowning at the wet seat, she takes off her coat and primly sits on it. She's hardly swung for a few seconds when someone else enters the playground.

She immediately recognizes him as Haymitch Abernathy. He's from the Seam and in her class. He's the boy that's always standing up to the teacher and not doing assignments and making comments that get him in trouble like, The Hunger Games are stupid and useless and just an evil way the Capitol tries to get revenge on us for something that happened almost fifty years ago. Of course she recognizes him.

He sees her on the swing and immediately begins glaring so intensely that it makes her squirm uncomfortably, the way Maysilee's does. "Get off my swing."

"I-I was here first," she stammers. "It's not your swing."

He grunts and sits down and mutters something under his breath like townies ruining everything.

"Okay," she says. "If you really want it…" She begins to get off when suddenly Haymitch stops her.

"What do you want in return?" he asks.

"What?" she splutters, flabbergasted. "Nothing. I, just, think you look, well, kind of like you want it more than me?"

His eyes narrow, and he stares at her suspiciously. Mirabelle wonders why Haymitch is so, well, distrustful all the time. She gets off the swing and begins making her way to the slide.

"Really? You're giving me the swing. Why?" he asks, his tone distrusting. "Tell me."

"No, really! It's just a swing… take it!"

With that, she rushes off. That had been odd. She'd known Haymitch was proud, but not that… weird.

She goes back to Maysilee, who is no longer alone in the gutters. She's crouching on the pavement with some chalk and drawing images while another blond-haired child laughs along. Mirabelle recognizes her as Annabel Maycreek. The three of them all draw together.

Later she learns that there was a mine accident earlier today. There were many casualties, but the only one that sticks in her mind is Keven Abernathy.

.

Ling-a-ling.

"I'll get it," says Mirabelle, heading to the front counter.

"Thanks," answers Maysilee, who is in the back storage room applying nail polish with Annabel, who claims to be their (but is really more Maysilee's) best friend.

She goes out front and puts on her customer-smile and peers over the counter to see a tiny little boy with a gap-toothed smile staring longingly at the candy display. A tiny little Seam boy. Mirabelle sighs inwardly. It seems as if she's always the one who gets stuck with these awkward situations.

"I'm sorry, were you going to buy anything?" she asks, as gently as possible. She's not supposed to allow customers without money to crowd around their counters and stare at their displays, but she really just hates turning around the little Seam boys. If she had it her way, she would give them some of the dollar candy. But she supposes that if she did that every time, they would be completely out of candy.

"No, he isn't," interrupts the irritated voice of Haymitch Abernathy. "Come on, Conner. And don't touch the displays."

"Please?" Conner begs. "Oh, pretty please, Haymitch? Just one piece. I just want one jawbreaker."

Haymitch sighs and runs a hand through his hair. Turning to Mirabelle, he points at a giant jawbreaker and asks, "Is that quarter candy?" She nods nervously, heart beating too fast. She's been awkward around Haymitch ever since that incident at the playground nine years ago. Haymitch pulls out a quarter and practically throws it onto the counter.

"What color do you want?" Haymitch asks Conner.

"Green, please!" exclaims the younger boy, grabbing the round, hard treat. "It's so big!" he exclaims excitedly as the pair leaves. Haymitch rolls his eyes, but Mirabelle sees him smile.

She watches the pair retreat and puts the quarter in the cash register, humming to herself. She made Haymitch Abernathy smile.

"That wasn't quarter candy," says a voice from the doorway. Maysilee.

Mirabelle turns around. "So? He doesn't need to know that. I'll take it out of my own piggy bank."

"That was dollar candy, Mirabelle. You're not supposed to give discounts, especially not to Seam boys," criticizes Maysilee, blowing her pink nails dry.

Mirabelle frowns. She hates it when Maysilee acts like she's all big and mighty. They're twins, for heaven's sakes, and only two minutes apart! "Maysilee, his eyes were about as big as those jawbreakers, and he was so skinny!"

"Are you sure you didn't do it just because it was Haymitch Abernathy?" interjects Annabel, joining Maysilee at the doorway with a coy, knowing smile.

"N-no." But she's blushing.

Annabel laughs in her soft, sweet way. Maysilee glares.

"Don't do it again."

.

She hates how Maysilee's always the better twin. The clever one, the popular one, the adventurous one, even the pretty one, which may seem impossible since they're identical twins but really isn't when it comes to Maysilee Donner.

Contrary to popular belief, they are not joined at the hip, they are not best friends, they don't complete each other's sentences—in fact, sometimes, they hate each other.

(Except around Reaping times. There's something about mutual chance of death that always makes them reconcile.)

"H-here you are," a stammering voice and the smell of cookies jolts her out of her thoughts. It's the baker, Adam Mellark. Oh right. She's at the bakery, with Annabel and Maysilee.

"Thank you," says Annabel in her soft, gentle voice, receiving the cookies. She smiles at the baker, and Mirabelle refrains from rolling her eyes as the man turns tomato red.

"He likes you," teases Maysilee as they leave the bakery. Annabel offers a frosted cookie to both of them, and they take it. They're for surviving another Reaping—the 49th came and went without a hitch.

Mirabelle waits for Annabel to deny it like she always does when Maysilee points out that half the boys in the school are in love with her, but Annabel only looks down and says, "I know."

If Maysilee's surprised, she doesn't show it. She only smirks. "And…?"

"And nothing," answers Annabel. "Look, I don't really… Adam's sweet, but really only that. If you know what I mean?"

Mirabelle doesn't. She says nothing and focuses on her cookie, like she always does when the conversation turns to boys.

"Yeah, I guess," says Maysilee with a shrug. "So you like the bad boys, huh? Maybe even Seam boys. Boys like Everdeen? Or Abernathy, like Mira here likes?"

She hears her name, and her head snaps up. "May! I don't. He's a Seam boy…"

Her twin sister shrugs. "Okay, maybe you're right. Seam boys and Town girls never work out. Unless Annabel here begs to differ?"

At this point, everyone's blushing except Maysilee herself, who's laughing. Mirabelle pouts. Maysilee's so good at making other people flustered. Maysilee laughs. Annabel blushes. Mirabelle seethes but she can't think of a good enough comeback.

.

Reaping Day. Quarter Quell.

"Have you seen my pin?" Maysilee asks.

Mirabelle shrugs. "Which one?" Maysilee has a lot of pins—hair pins, clothespins, bobby pins, whatever.

"My favorite," she answers. "The golden mockingjay one."

"On my dresser," Mirabelle automatically replies. She remembers that Annabel had been admiring it.

"On your dresser?" Maysilee asks. "What's it doing on your dresser? Mirabelle, you know you're not allowed to touch my things! Especially not my favorite pin!"

"Annabel was looking at it! She's the one that left it there!" she says defensively. "Why do you always blame me? And why do you care if I touch your stuff? You touch my stuff all the time!"

"Girls, girls, please don't argue," interrupts their mother, poking her room into their room. "It's Reaping day."

The twins exchange guilty glances.

"I'm sorry," they blurt out at the same time. Because they both have the same fears—the fear of being Reaped, of losing their friends, of losing each other… Even if they argue all the time. Annabel would probably describe it in a nice way like, "It's good you argue. You balance each other."

"There are my girls," says their mother approvingly. She steps toward Maysilee and pins on the little mockingjay. "Stay brave. The odds are in your favor. There's no chance you'll be Reaped." She also hands them each a bag of candy—jawbreakers, licorice, fruit drops, mints, chocolates, sticks of gum, and lollipops. She mentally calculates that it's worth at least ten dollars. It's their Reaping tradition. They never get this much candy, not even on birthdays. "No chance," their mother repeats.

None of them really believe that, but they all smile anyway.

.

No chance. Right.

Her twin sister sits, stony-faced and brave, on the velvet couch in her brown sleeveless dress, blue eyes brighter than they've ever been, the golden pin twinkling on her chest. At that moment, Mirabelle thinks she gets what people mean when they call Maysilee the pretty one.

"Don't die," she says.

Maysilee smiles. "Hey, of course I won't."

"I'm serious, Maysilee." She's crying, and Maysilee watches her, so much more mature, and Mirabelle feels ashamed. She runs into her sister's arms.

"I should have volunteered," she stammers out in between the tears.

Suddenly, Maysilee pushes her away. "Don't you dare say that, Mirabelle. You'd only end up killing yourself, and then I'd never forgive myself."

"I'll never forgive myself!" she cries.

"Yeah, well, suck it up then!" Maysilee shoots back. They're arguing again. They shouldn't be arguing. They both seem to realize this simultaneously, and they look down.

"Okay," says Mirabelle. "But you have to win then. I know you can. I'm serious."

"I am too," answers Maysilee. "And I'll prove it." She takes off her pin and gives it to her. "This is yours. Give it back to me when I come back."

"That's ridiculous, Maysilee!" She shoves the pin back. It's too special, given to Maysilee as a gift from their grandmotherbefore she had died. (Maysilee had always been the favorite.) "You need it as a token."

"I don't need a token," insists Maysilee confidently. "This is for you, Mirabelle. Give it back when I come back. Because I am coming back."

She takes it, willing her hands not to shake. The last of her tears have stopped, and both faces are dry. Brave. Courageous. Confident. If her sister is strong enough to do this, then the least Mirabelle can do is be strong with her. She smiles. "Promise me."

"I promise."

.

Once she's outside, every bit of strength she had garnered from her meeting with Maysilee simply drains from her, and she almost collapses. She can't collapse. She still has to make it home, yes…

"Hey!" exclaims a voice. She looks down. She had forgotten to look where she was going.

"Oh. I'm sorry," she mumbles, looking down. It's some little Seam boy. Wait. Not any Seam boy. "You're Haymitch's brother," she says.

He nods. "I'm Conner. You're Maysilee's twin sister."

She nods. There's the label again. Maysilee's twin sister. "Yeah. Mirabelle."

"I know that too," he says. "And I also know that you gave me dollar candy that time."

Her eyes pop. "How? Does your brother know too?"

The little boy giggles. "If Haymitch knew, he'd kill me! He doesn't accept discounts or anything. Too proud. I'm not supposed to either, but…" He shifts anxiously from side to side.

"It's okay," she says. "I understand. You deserve some candy." She suddenly remembers the bag of candy that she got in the morning and picks out a green jawbreaker—the one she knows he likes. "It's a gumball. Quarter candy," she tells him, because saying it's a gumball will be easier on his pride, she thinks. Seam children are so odd.

Conner takes it and laughs again. "Don't lie. It's dollar candy. It's a jawbreaker! I'm not like Haymitch, you know. He can't tell the difference between quarter and dollar candy. That's why he still doesn't know." Seeing her frantic expression, he smiles. "Thank you, Mirabelle. It's really nice of you to try to do that." He licks the jawbreaker, and an expression of bliss appears on his face. "But really, you don't have to pretend it's a gumball. I'm smart enough to know the difference, and I'll accept candy either way!"

She's met with an urge to hug him. Maybe because he's so small and smiling so wide when his brother is probably going to die. "Th-thank you," she stammers out.

.

Annabel comes with cookies, in her soft, kind way. They've gotten into the habit of watching the Games together. They were never quite close, but they both care for Maysilee.

"Adam gave the cookies to me," she says when Mirabelle protests. "I didn't have to pay a cent. I also brought some birdseed. For Maysilee's canary."

It's the first day of Maysilee's actual Games. Not the day of the chariot rides, or the training score revelations, or the interviews, but the actual Games. The Games in which she could die at the bloodbath.

But Maysilee wouldn't. Maysilee promised. Maysilee gave her the pin, and Annabel the canary…

They feed the canary together, which is still in Maysilee's room despite the fact that it belongs to Annabel now. Annabel insists that she's only pet-sitting until Maysilee comes back, and of course she will. The bird looks a bit glum, not quite as yellow and chirpy as usual. They say canaries in coal mines predict deaths.

No, she can't think that way. She's not even the real one in the Games. She has to keep hope.

Annabel hands her a cookie. She gives Annabel some raspberry gummies from her bag. She wonders what Maysilee did with her bag of candy. Had they let her take it to the Capitol? Or had it just been taken away, like everything else?

.

Eventually, watching the Games (sort of) gets easier. As Maysilee survives day after day, pulls amazing clever tricks out of her sleeves, and begins a tentative alliance with Haymitch Abernathy, it seems as if, yes, maybe everything will work out.

She tries not to be jealous. She's not jealous; it's completely wrong for her to be jealous when Maysilee could die out there. But she knows Maysilee. Maysilee resents Seam children, much more than she does. She wouldn't accept an alliance, no matter how desperate, unless something about her had changed. Thinking of what Conner told her about Haymitch, about how Haymitch didn't accept help from anyone, she thinks that perhaps Haymitch has changed too.

She watches as they change like that together. She watches as they exchange glances and barbed remarks that just scream of suppressed love (so the commentators are saying). She watches as Maysilee falls asleep under that falsely beautiful tree, and Haymitch keeps watch—or rather, watches her. Maysilee.

Somehow Mirabelle just knows inside that sometime in those Games the two of them have gone ahead and fallen in love against all odds even though one of them is going to die.

So yes, she's not jealous; it's completely wrong for her to be jealous when Maysilee could die out there. But Maysilee is the pretty twin—the one that came out for the interviews in a short blue dress with her hair curled that couldn't possibly be her twin. (She'd even checked in the mirror for sure. She doesn't look half as pretty as her twin sister.) Maysilee's the one that's there sleeping as Haymitch watches her because he loves her, and she's pretty sure that Maysilee loves him too.

Who is she to speak? She's at home, eating cookies given to them (but really just to Annabel) by Adam Mellark and feeding the slowly-dying canary and polishing the beautiful Mockingjay pin. So yes; she's not jealous of Maysilee. And she's certainly not jealous because of the Most Ridiculous Reason in the World.

.

And then Maysilee dies, and Haymitch wins.

Not quite like that. When she thinks of it like that, it sounds simultaneous, as if it occurred all at once. Maybe it did; maybe it didn't. It's kind of blurry. Watching Maysilee be killed by birds, forcing Annabel out of her house, crying and eating too much candy, watching Haymitch win.

She rewatches it in her head. Over and over again. Maysilee breaking off the alliance. Haymitch at that cliff. And then Maysilee screaming, dying. Haymitch holding Maysilee's hand as she bled out. And then Haymitch going hollow and winning the Games.

It's not fair. Maysilee Donner—the pretty twin, the favorite twin, the one Haymitch loved, dead at sixteen years old. Where does that leave her?

.

The canary dies the next day.

.

Her head hurts. Her heart hurts. Her everything hurts.

But she has to work at the candy shop because if she doesn't manage the counter, who will?

It's been two weeks since Haymitch won. That means around two weeks since Maysilee died, give or take a few days.

So of course everything hurts.

At least it's a slow day. If it was a day full of customers and business and looks of pity, she's not sure she could cope. Or maybe hectic would be better. Then she wouldn't have to think.

Ling-a-ling.

She looks up, and the first thing she's hit with is the scent of alcohol. She looks up and sees olive Seam skin and bloodshot red eyes.

Haymitch Abernathy.

"I want candy," he slurs.

An extremely drunk Haymitch Abernathy.

He walks towards her and repeats, "I want candy today, sweetheart." He giggles. "Ha, sweetheart, in a candy shop, Mays."

She can do nothing but stare blankly. Not only is he drunk, he's calling her Mays. Maysilee. "What kind of candy?" she asks, trying to treat him like a normal customer even though the entire situation is anything but.

He slaps a hundred dollars on the counter. "As much as this can buy, Mays."

"I'm not Maysilee," she whispers. "And we don't really take bills that large…"

"Ha, who would?" he responds, ripping the money right before her eyes and throwing it over his shoulder. "Worthless, worthless, worthless!" He takes out a five dollar bill instead. "How much can this buy, sweetheart?"

"A-a bag of dollar candy," she stammers out. "What do you want?"

"I dunno," he says. "Conner's the one that knew his candy. Why don't you get me that stuff he always likes? Maybe I can share later! Except, you know, he's dead!" He laughs manically and hiccups.

Seeing Haymitch and smelling the liquor fumes and thinking about deaths makes her head and heart and everything hurt more. She picks up the money and puts it in the cash register and absentmindedly fills up a bag with green candies. "H-here you go."

"Thanks sweetheart," he slurs. "This'll go well with the vodka."

He's still laughing manically as he leaves, and she's still clutching her head.

Later, she realizes that she hadn't given him a bag of green jawbreakers—dollar candy—like she'd planned to. She'd given him a bag of gumballs—quarter candy, by accident.

.

Haymitch comes back the next day, smelling even more strongly of alcohol. "I want more candy," he demands, slapping another five dollar bill on the counter. "Finished off the bag last night. Goes really well with my drink." He hiccups. "Get me the exact same thing, sweetheart."

She stares at him blankly for a few seconds and wonders why he's really here. "O-okay. The exact same thing?"

"Exact same thing!" he repeats. "Are you deaf? I want those green candy things!"

"But that's not—" she begins, feeling guilty about the previous day.

"Shush!" he exclaims, putting a figure on her lips. She feels herself blushing because no boy has ever touched her lips before.

"But—" she begins, but Haymitch isn't having any of it.

"Don't give me that attitude! They said I won, didn't I? I should at least get my candy, Maysilee!" He hiccups again.

So she gives him the bag of cheap green gumballs and takes the five dollar bill. But inside she's thinking about how she used to give Haymitch's brother dollar candy for a quarter and thinks about how now she's giving him a bag of quarter candy for five dollars and how wrongwrongwrong the situation was—is.

"Thanks, Maysilee."

Wrongwrongwrong.

.

And then Haymitch comes to visit again the next day. But this time he's sober.

He leans on the counter. "Hey, you're her twin, right?" he asks, his breath fanning on her face. It still smells of alcohol, but at least he isn't stumbling or hiccupping or calling her Maysilee.

She nods.

He laughs. "Must suck. Sorry about that."

She's not sure whether to be horrified and slap him or laugh along with him.

"You should come with me tomorrow to a party," he says after that.

"P-pardon?" she asks. Did he just—

"Yeah. Jaren's birthday party or something. Since I'm a Victor, I should party, and you're a Victor now too, aren't you Mays?"

"I—pardon?"

"Good, good." He seems to be talking to himself, as if he's somewhere else. "You better come. Bring the candy. Here's your money. The usual candy, okay? It goes best with the alcohol. Don't even try to bring anything different. It's tomorrow. I'll pick you up."

What?

.

Haymitch doesn't come the next day.

She doesn't know why she's disappointed. After all, she didn't expect him to actually come to pick her up (he was obviously not in the right state of mind), but for some reason, she'd prepared a bag of green gumballs anyway. He had given her five dollars. Like a promise.

Her head hurts.

In fact, Haymitch doesn't even come the day after. Or the day after that.

Then, exactly a week from when he'd promised to come pick her up, he reappears.

"Let's go to Jaren's party. It's at my house, so you can't make some excuse about how you don't know where it is. Do you have my candy?" he asks, demanding. He's not only drunk but also carrying a bottle of liquor.

"You were serious?" she asks timidly, reaching for the pre-prepared bag.

"Uh, yeah!" he yells loudly. Mirabelle wonders if her parents can hear him. "Just because everyone else I love is dead, doesn't mean I'm going to neglect the people I have left! Come along now, sweetheart."

"The store—"

"Is not important," he interrupts, shooing off her complaints. "I'm Haymitch Abernathy, a Victor, and I do as I please." He grabs the candy from her and shoves it in his mouth. "Let's go, sweetheart."

"Wait!" she exclaims. She calls for her parents in the back that she has to go and makes sure that she hears footsteps approaching the counter before Haymitch drags her away.

.

They walk to Victor's Village together. Mirabelle's in a state of shock and confusion, and her head hasn't stopped hurting since the canary died. She's confused, and everything's bleary and surreal. Haymitch stuffs gum in his mouth and takes out of his pocket a bottle of morphling. He shakes it and pours some into his mouth carelessly, small drops of liquid splashing onto his shirt. When he notices her staring, he offers her a bottle and asks, "Want some?"

"What is it?" she asks, even though she's perfectly aware that it's a potent Capitol drug.

"Not as good as alcohol," Haymitch explains. "But together…" He simulates an explosion. "It's like, life." He smiles and seems almost sober as he says the next line. "It'll help with, you know, the losing and the headaches and everything."

"No thank you," she replies, because she's not resorting to drugs.

(Yet.)

"Your choice," he says with a shrug. "You know, I never paid you back for giving me the swing."

Her mouth drops open. She doesn't know what to say. She's not witty and good with words like Maysilee is. So she asks the first thing that pops into her mind.

"How is it that you always smell like alcohol, and yet you're still walking in a straight line?"

Haymitch erupts into laughter. "When you're me, sweetheart, your tolerance for alcohol is amazing. I think the morphling helps balance it out. That made no sense. You just don't get drugs, sweetheart." He pauses. "Anyway, I didn't have a lot today."

She wonders how much a lot is for Haymitch Abernathy.

.

She's not sure how much time has passed.

Her head hurts.

The party is pretty much the biggest party District Twelve has ever seen. People are everywhere in the mansion—Seam kids, Town kids, everyone. When Haymitch throws a party, he does it well. Speaking of Haymitch, she has no idea where he went. He'd disappeared a while ago. (A minute ago? An hour ago?) Something about getting more liquor.

"There you are, sweetheart," slurs a very drunk Haymitch. "I've been looking all over for you."

"I don't like it here," she tells him. It's true. She wants to go home, although she's not quite sure where home is anymore. Just not here, not now. The house smells too strongly of alcohol, the lights flash too brightly, the music plays too loudly. Her head hurts.

"I don't either," he answers.

"It's your party, isn't it?" she asks.

He laughs. "You think I threw this party? I guess I sort of did. I gave Jaren a thousand dollars and told him to throw the best party he could dream of. Who knew he was such a party animal? The things people will do… but I had to get rid of the money somehow, because it was just there and there and there…"

"I'm not quite sure I understand," she replies.

And then just like that, he kisses her. Her first. He tastes like alcohol and mint gumballs, and she pushes him away.

"I'm not Maysilee," she tells him—because she has to be honest, get it out of the way; she can't pretend that she doesn't see the way he looks at her the way he looked at her twin sister and how he calls her sweetheart in that voice he only ever used with her twin sister.

"I don't care," he answers—in that voice, with that look. His eyes are dark and cloudy. "I never paid you back for the swing."

He kisses her again. She kisses back.

.

The next day she wakes up in her own bed, and she's not quite sure if everything that happened the day before was a dream.

On her bedside is a fresh package of morphling.

Not a dream. Real. They'd really gone to the party.

She blinks once. Something still feels surreal. Something's missing.

Her headache's missing.

She laughs. She feels happy. So happy.

.

She tries to pretend for a little while that they—she and Haymitch—have a normal relationship.

She tries to pretend that he doesn't come into her sweetshop everyday drunk asking for a bag of dollar candy, and she gives him a bag of quarter candy.

He's so… odd. Drunk and loud and crazy. But he loves her. And he makes her headaches go away. He fills the empty void that Maysilee had left in her heart and makes her feel whole again.

She ditches more shifts than she should and has her parents man the counter. Haymitch takes her to his mansion at the Victor's Village.

"You make it seem less big and empty," he tells her one day, kissing her.

She tries to pretend. And after a while, she's pretended so much that she's made it real.

.

This goes on for maybe a week, although it feels like at least a month. They have a routine—Haymitch says he likes routines; he likes knowing what to expect. Every morning, he'll come and pick her up, offering her a five dollar bill and asking for a bag of gumballs. Even when she puts a sign on the gumballs labeling them as quarter candy, he shrugs and pays the same price. Routine.

Then they'll make their way to the Victor's Village. Once, he'd taken her on a tour through the Seam—his old house, or at least the burnt remains of it. But he says he doesn't like it there. Too many memories. He doesn't really like it in his new house either—still too many memories—but he says that she really does help him form new ones.

They kiss a lot. Haymitch isn't one to talk. She thinks she understands. They don't need to talk sometimes. There's a lot that's understood without talking.

(Like the Hunger Games. Like whatever happened to Conner. Like Maysilee.)

He tastes of alcohol and mint. She thinks she loves him.

.

"Why do you stay with me?" she asks one day, between kisses. It's been now ten days since they've been together—secretly, of course, although she's sure that her parents suspect. Haymitch says something about how the Capitol is always watching him, and they don't want him to be happy, so they keep it secret.

"You make it hurt less," he answers, cutting off her other questions with another kiss.

"I love you," she whispers.

He kisses her harder. "I know. I loved you too." Pause. But something's wrong. Past tense.

And then he murmurs under his breath, "Maysilee."

It's as if her heart has stopped beating, and the headache and heartache and everythingache is back, with that one word. She pushes him away.

"I'm not Maysilee." She's told him this before. She'd thought he'd really understood and not cared when she'd told him. "I'm not Maysilee," she repeats.

"I know," he answers, trying to kiss her again.

She pushes him away again. "No, really, you don't know; you don't understand. I'm not Maysilee."

"What's the difference?" he asks with a shrug.

Suddenly, everything feels wrong. She can't exactly put her finger on why she's so upset, but she is upset, and her head is hurting again. "I'm giving you quarter candy," she blurts out, because she is not good with words and never was and never will be.

"So?"

"You think it's dollar candy, but I've been giving you quarter candy all this time!"

"What if I don't care?" he shoots back.

"That's just the thing! You-you don't care!"

"What are you trying to say?" he asks.

"I don't know," she whispers. She's not sure of anything anymore, not sure of what she's trying to say or what she should be saying. She only knows that everything feels wrongwrongwrong and her head and heart and everything are throbbing again.

You make it hurt less, he'd told her.

I love you, she'd told him.

It's all wrongwrongwrong.

"So what if I don't care?" he repeats. "What if I don't know or care for the stupid differences that are always there? Do you think I'm stupid? I know you're not Maysilee, for God's sake; do you have to rub it in that she's dead, and I can't make you turn into her no matter how hard I try, and you're—" He breaks off, breathing hard and running a hand through his hair. "Maybe it's better that we end this—thing. We should—end it. You're lucky I don't love you. They'll kill you."

"What if I don't care?" she asks, searching his eyes for something—anything. But she sees nothing. Her head and heart and everything are more than aching now—they're screaming—breaking—in agony.

"It's not that easy, sweetheart."

He walks away, and that's the end of it.

.

Like candy, some people are worth less than others.


For Cee. Happy birthday! I'm sorry this is so bad. I felt like annoying you. No, I was lazy. c:

Love for Estoma for beta'ing. (I noticed you beta'ed Rachel's too. You're just the go-to girl for everyone, hm? I thought I was special.) But yeah, I do apologise if it seems that I've disregarded so many of your comments! I don't really have an excuse, except for time constraints and laziness? But mostly laziness.