There may not be rules against this, but it’s certainly ill-advised and not a little screwed up. But acts of desperation are very rarely sane and as he backs her up against the wall, she can taste the scotch on his breath and he can taste the fine wine on hers. She tears at his shirt and rips, finding the buttons too difficult. She’s stronger than she looks. He lifts her up and carries her to the couch, their lips and tongues never once separating.
They’ll move this to the bedroom later, after they’ve watched the day’s recap and found the rest of the liquor. But for now, a child’s life has been snuffed out and this is the only thing that makes any damn sense at all.
“Why do you wear so much makeup?” Watching Effie paint her face is morbidly fascinating and he can’t look away.
She turns to look at him around the ajar bathroom door. “Why do you drink so much?” She shoots the response effortlessly, like she’s had it in storage for years and only now has a reason to use it.
Haymitch merely lifts the bottle in a mock toast; she wins this round. “Continue,” he says. The sheet falls to his waist, a subtle reminder that he needs to start the process of making himself halfway presentable soon.
They’re scheduled for an interview with Caesar about the fallen tribute and if he can’t be sober, Effie has informed him that he at least needs to wear pants.
It’s a relief when the other tribute dies a day later. 12 isn’t a district that ever has a hope of winning, barring an act of God or spontaneous ingenuity on the part of the tribute, and the longer the kids stay alive, the worse their deaths. Haymitch knows this from first-hand experience; as the days inside the arena creep toward double digits and beyond, all the tributes become desperately violent. Effie knows this from years of watching the Games; when she was a little girl, she refused to watch any footage after day nine.
They give one final interview, in which Effie is tedious and Haymitch is drunk. Neither one of them says anything worth listening to and they try not to be embarrassed for 12 as they walk back to their luxury apartments and pass by screens that show the deaths of both tributes from every angle possible. Haymitch sneaks off into a liquor store and Effie rolls her eyes for the benefit of the pedestrians that crowd the Capitol sidewalks. She smiles and signs a few autographs but keeps her head tilted slightly downward to hide that the light doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
They don’t need to be seen in public again until the end of the Games.
Even when they have a tribute who outscores all of her opponents, they don’t allow themselves to think that this year might be different.
At four in the morning, even the most exuberant of Capitol residents have trickled off to bed and the air in her room is eerily silent, no longer punctuated by the shouts and cheers of the crowd outside. But that doesn’t mean she can sleep. She hears a quiet murmur from the main room that doesn’t quite sound like Haymitch drunkenly talking to himself. She slips a robe over her shoulders and pads barefoot across the plush carpet to investigate.
He’s sprawled on the couch, a half-empty tumbler of scotch in one hand and a remote in the other. The television screen flickers, tuned to a channel playing a 24-hour live feed of the arena. Everyone’s asleep or trying to rest; no ambushes tonight. He pushes a button and the channel changes to a clip show that repeats every hour.
“What are you doing up?” she asks, tying the robe around her waist. She shivers, though the room isn’t cold.
He taps the remote on the back of the couch and frowns at the television. The highlight reel switches from Cato to Katniss, showing her placing flowers over Rue’s body. “She’s winning,” he says. This is as close to pride as his voice ever gets.
Effie raises a sleepy eyebrow.
Haymitch doesn’t respond. He only shifts, propping his feet on the table instead of the couch, and pats the cushion next to him.
She sighs and sits down and allows him to drape his arm around her shoulder and pull her closely. This is the longest they’ve ever had both tributes stay alive.
The only thing on television is footage of the Games; even the shopping channels have devoted their late-night slots to Games coverage hosted by mediocre personalities in desperate need of a new job.
Effie falls asleep with her head on Haymitch’s shoulder. Between interviews and sponsor meetings, Haymitch gives her no end of grief about it the next day.
Haymitch begins to pitch an incredible love story and Effie begins to realize he isn’t as dim as she once thought. He spins a tale that even she believes, and she’s seen the two children together away from the cameras and flashbulbs and microphones.
They sit side-by-side on the couch, though Haymitch slumps rather than sits, and watch as Katniss and Peeta share stew in the relative safety of a cave. The camera lingers on the two tributes half a second longer than is comfortable before the footage cuts away to another part of the arena.
If this were any other year, the television would be on mute and the apartment would be littered with bottles and clothing and half of the bed would be on the floor.
Effie’s eyes settle on Haymitch but before she can say anything, he turns and kisses her, catching her off guard. For the first time, it’s out of hope.
Both can’t survive, but at least they might escort only one silver coffin back to District 12 this year.
A subtle change settles over them during the Victory Tour.
Publicly, he’s still the drunk and she’s still the debutante. Even the most thorough gossip columns don’t report a single line indicating that anything is amiss. The only notice they receive that Katniss has picked up on the change is a slightly-elevated eyebrow during dinner on the trip to District 10.
Effie doesn’t needle Haymitch so much about his appearance anymore and Haymitch doesn’t intentionally use the wrong fork all the time.
She’s thrown in jail and he’s in the middle of a revolution and this is exactly the kind of desperation that drove them together the first time. Nothing else makes a damn bit of sense.
But because they can’t, because the desperation without end threatens to drive them insane, it turns into a spark of hope. Neither one of them sleeps well at night, but the only reason they get any sleep at all is the thought of the other.
He knows that she’ll be okay, even in prison at the mercy of the Capitol, because she is Effie and she will survive to tell him to get a haircut.
She knows that he’ll be okay, even in the midst of a violent rebellion, because he is Haymitch and he will survive to ask her which one is the soup spoon.
There’s a minor scandal in the Capitol when Effie chooses to move to 12 after the dust settles. He’s impressed (and not a little proud) by her handling of it: she simply tilts her head and blinks, her long eyelashes all attitude and sass, before stepping on the train.
He meets her in their car and gives her a hard time about the quantity and color of her belongings. She tells him to straighten his tie. The train shudders to life and takes off.
They don’t look back.