It takes her longer than she cares to admit when she finally noticed that the looks had turned from drunken lust into something else entirely. Still drunken, to an extent, and lust remained in the equation, but he certainly wasn't looking at her with that predatory sheen any more (as much).
It unnerved her.
But Effie was fine with being unnerved-it was just another way to overcome weakness, and the sooner you can manage that, the sooner you can go back to being fearless.
At least, that's what she had told herself one night on the train ride to District 12-back to pick another pair of kids to send to the games, the dark spot inside her ever growing, silent at all times until she set foot on a train.
She had overindulged in the whiskey that night, and though the makeup had covered her indiscretion, she hadn't been able to brush her teeth properly due to her new colouring regimen (it was all the rage back in the Capitol-she was going for blue), and he had noticed.
Well, no-he always smelt of booze, but she saw that look in his eyes when they (she, more like) exchanged pleasantries, giving him a feathery kiss on each cheek-that lingering suspicion that was unfortunately revealed on the train when he made a direct bee-line to the drinks cart, finding the decanter a finger lighter than usual.
Maybe a finger or two. Or five.
It was their first night after the games began and the tributes they had sent in were amongst those in the bloodbath at the cornucopia. Haymitch had sworn at the screen, gulping down more booze while she took delicate sips from her flute. For that year, their job was done, and as the rest of the support team filtered out to go home or to other viewing parties, it was just the two of them left behind on the sofa.
That was not when she noticed. (though she should have if she had looked)
No, that was the first night they slept together. It was sloppy and uncouth, but Effie could hardly expect anything else from the drunken lout, could she?
This went on for years, actually. She would take her share of the whiskey on the train, and when their tributes were methodically killed off (one year it had seemed so close-the girl, Mar, she got to the final three, and then with an unexpected sandstorm, had suffocated to death), they would sleep together when everybody else left.
One evening on the train during the Victory Tour, slowly making their way back to District 12, she notices. It's been tense, but the galas have been divine and Effie has been doing her best to smooth over any ruckus caused by the pair winning, while she's fairly sure Haymitch has had his share in sowing seeds of discontent. The victors are in their rooms, and Effie mimics his sprawl on the sofa, easing her heels off with a sigh.
"You'll kill yourselves walking in those one day." His voice rumbled into his tumbler and there was a beat of silence as they both realised where they were, and what exactly they were doing, what exactly they were celebrating.
They both ignored it and she accepted a glass from him, settling into the plush pillows behind her. As the train passed another field in silence, Effie thought about how strange they must look-Effie Trinket and Haymitch Abernathy, both sipping on some whiskey, feet up on the coffee table, settled into silence.
How domestic, she mused, letting her thoughts drift, wiggling the soreness out of her toes.
She's not sure how it started, but suddenly her feet are being lifted and placed in Haymitch's lap, the tumbler set aside for once, and her feet are receiving the most delectable foot rub she's ever had from a man. His fingers are strong and controlled-beneath the sighs bubbling out of her throat, she dimly thinks of how he's been holding back on her in the past as he traces a line up her arches.
But somehow, the combination of this...intimate act coupled with the whiskey in her system, those stunted emotions from that black spot started bubbling to the surface-her guard let down, her references mixed up, her worlds colliding, Effie can no longer think as she starts to choke on dry sobs, forcing their way out of her body.
Startled, he asks if she's ok, and Effie nods, confused.
"I'm afraid…" she's inarticulate, grasping at straws, and that's when she sees it, that look, and it is just not something she wants to acknowledge or deal with right now.
Deep breath, dear, that's it.
"I'm afraid I lost track of the time," she finally (weakly) comes up with, lightly bringing her legs back under her, readying herself for a swift departure to her room. "I've got an early appointment," lie lie lie-the pair have settled into breakfasts together on this trip, starting the day with Effie's peppy chattering and Haymitch's brooding silence. "and I really must get some sleep before it."
More lies. After a look like that from a man like Haymitch-well, Effie isn't afraid to admit that during the times when he's tucked away in District 12 she quite enjoys her unsavory dreams of him-nor is she afraid of her own kind feelings towards him, but a look like that from a man like Haymitch Abernathy scares her.
"Stay." He commands, and like a pink obedient poodle, she can't help but let her manners win out and sits down again. "Effie…" he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He looks her in the eye, shifting to fully face her-she mirrors this action, years of finishing school lessons drilled into her.
"Haymitch," she replies. It's only polite to respond when talked to, after all.
She briefly wonders if this conversation might be happening because they have yet to sleep together-once Katniss and Peeta were declared victors, neither of them had had the time or inclination to carry out their yearly tradition-nor the need, when she really thought about it. Living tributes meant living children, her black spot a shade lighter.
"Effie, I-I need to know something." He finally comes out with.
"Please-do ask. I'll do my best to answer." She gives him a smile, but it's weak.
"Effie, the whiskey-it's for them, isn't it?"
He isn't normally this…shy with his words, but she quickly figures out what he's doing-she's seen the look, and now he's testing her, seeing if he'll allow himself to continue to feel this way for a Hunger Games escort.
And it's because they're on the train, and it's because she's cradling that liquid amber in her hands, and it's because of that recently destructive black spot that she nods yes. Yes, it's for them.
"It is. Yes." And that's all she can say, because otherwise it's a slippery slope into just erupting out of her, the black spilling everywhere, ruining everything, forcing her to acknowledge it.
"Ok." He says, shooting her a grin so small she'd never have noticed it normally, taking another swig from his tumbler.