She shouldn’t be here, she knows that she shouldn’t be here, but sometimes she just feels so cold. And this, whatever it is, makes her feel alive.
Katniss nearly laughs out loud at the idea that this is what makes her feel something, anything.
“What’s so funny, sweetheart?” Haymitch asks. He tops off her glass of white liquor before taking a swig straight from the bottle.
“Nothing,” Katniss says. She picks up the glass and downs it in one go, the burn heating her up from the inside, setting her on fire. That thought does make her laugh. Haymitch raises an eyebrow and she laughs harder. “I’m the girl on fire again!”
Katniss stands up and starts to twirl around, imagining that dress from long ago. She had been a bit unsteady on her feet even then, and now after several glasses of white liquor she barely makes it around twice before she falls, laughing, into Haymitch’s lap.
Haymitch grunts his disapproval when she hits his lap, but he doesn’t make her move. He never does. Instead he wraps an arm around her back to keep her from tumbling onto the floor.
“I think you’ve had enough of this,” Haymitch says, taking another long pull on the bottle and setting it out of her reach.
“You’re probably right,” Katniss says. She shifts around until she’s straddling Haymitch’s lap and tilts her head back, watching the ceiling spin. “I think I’m drunk.”
“Join the club, sweetheart,” Haymitch says, his voice rough.
His voice, low and dark, sends a thrill through her and Katniss leans forward and presses her lips to his. Haymitch doesn’t respond at first--he never does--but after a moment he slides his hands into her hair and pulls her closer. Close enough that their teeth clash and Katniss tastes the familiar coppery tang of blood. The taste makes her frantic and she pulls wildly at his clothes, pulling up his shirt and getting her hand onto his hot skin.
This too is like fire. His bare skin against hers makes her burn even more than the white liquor.
Being with Haymitch is raw and wild. He was never gentle with her before and he isn’t now, which is exactly what she wants. What she needs. They bite and claw and mark each other, creating scars to replace the ones that were stolen from them.
When she is with Peeta, it is about love. He is gentle with her and she loves him for it, but sometimes she needs something darker. With Haymitch there is no kindness, only truth. They both see the darkness in each other and take what they need. With Haymitch she can find her fire.
Hours later, she wakes from a drunken doze to hear Haymitch calling Peeta. Soon Peeta will be here to take her home, tend her scratches, and put her to bed. Tomorrow she’ll wake full of guilt, but no longer cold and numb. It is worth the exchange and when the fire goes out again in a week or a month she will seek this out again. She always does.
Katniss has always known that Peeta is the best of them. He doesn’t judge her for this, for needing more than he can give, and he doesn’t hold it against Haymitch either. They are all broken beyond repair, and sometimes survival isn’t pretty. They all know that more than most.