Haymitch’s sole companion throughout the reaping is scotch, the cheap piss-colored kind from the Seam that he (of course, of fucking course) prefers over the Capitol’s golden, ribbon-wrapped bottles that cost more than half the District’s houses put together.
He believes there’s some sort of poetic ring to that, when he’s feeling particularly melodramatic and depressed. When he was a child people called him spoiled, because he lounged under the sun like a cat and popped berries in his mouth like he’d seen a peacekeeper’s daughter do, her face tipped up towards the sky.
(Years later, a vast array of cut throats and broken bones and dead children later, he laughs at the thought.)
His tributes: a short boy and a tall girl and he knows their parents, dirt-poor shadows that stare with dead glass eyes as the kids are ushered away. Haymitch is there and he isn’t there, but it’s all the same to anyone who might care enough to look.
His tributes: they might as well be dead already.
He’d very much like to spend the train ride in peace and silence, curled inside the cracks of his own drunken misery, but there’s an agitated escort with a voice like a scalpel that insists, you must be with them while they go through the other Districts’ tributes, you must, you must, you must --so he does, plopping down on the couch good and sober, and he even manages to give his kids (not his, god, not his) an encouraging word or two. The boy smiles up at him, wobbly and thankful and Haymitch’s nails dig into his palms, pressing white crescent marks into the flesh.
It’s all very usual, all very horrible. Teenagers, terrified or triumphant, careers and not-careers, until they reach Four and the cameras still, the world halts for just a bit. There’s a boy with a smile that’s too big and hair that’s too bright and he’s waving because the cheering crowd is too much, too loud, too everything they haven’t seen in years, the announcers are already excited, oh, would you look at this young man--
Haymitch reaches for a bottle, before he realizes he’s left them hidden away under the bed.
Poor little bastard, he thinks.
“Kid’s already a fan favorite, huh,” he says.
It’s been three weeks and Haymitch’s done it all: gagged and heaved after watching a boy’s leg being hacked clean off, rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders after watching another getting stabbed through the heart. He drinks and he does not drink, he talks to those who talk to him and waves to those who hate him, he allows himself to forget to smile at parties.
There’s champagne, which makes things mildly tolerable.
This is a celebration. Finnick Odair is the youngest victor in history, and Haymitch laughs a little into his glass, watches the liquid swirl around, bubble-sweet. His feet are still steady on the ground and his mind is working too fast, too clear, the numbness not nearly enough, not yet--
There’s a man sliding next to him, swathed in something bright, sea green, sheer. His smile is large and charming and measured to the millimeter, and it takes Haymitch an entirety of three seconds to reconcile this image with the blood-spattered face from the arena. The man is a little kid.
Haymitch almost takes a step back, an animal’s birth instinct, but manages to stop himself before it gets that far. The boy leans against the bar, long and sinuous. It makes something catch behind Haymitch’s teeth, makes him wish for something stronger than champagne.
“Odair,” he says, a little cold, a little rough. “Congratulations. Absolutely stunning victory.”
The smile falters for the space of half a breath, but it might have been a trick of the light. Finnick tilts his head to the side, offers a winsome arch of his eyebrow. “Thank you. This means a lot, coming from you. Your Games are sort of legendary in Four, you know.”
“Are they.” There’s a swarm of girls around the corner, bursting with nerves and excitement, giggling amongst themselves as they cast sideways glances at Finnick’s back. Haymitch swallows, sets his glass down with a muffled thud. “Well. Nice meeting you, kid.”
Finnick blinks. “I’m not a kid,” he says, with something sharp laced around the words, but his smile widens still like it’s a joke, little dimples blooming just at the corners of his mouth. His teeth are too white. Haymitch remembers him driving that ridiculous trident into a girl’s belly, the sound it made as it came back out.
“No,” he says, and this time he does turn away. “No, I guess you’re not.”
There are times when Haymitch feels like he’ll choke on his own heartbeat, but mostly his chest is a cavity, bled clean and empty. Tonight he feels like he’s ready to kill somebody (he always feels like he’s ready to kill somebody, he has for over a decade, but he likes not to think of it too much lest it become real), but he’s in a half-lit bathroom and he’s very, very consciously not moving a single muscle, avoiding his own reflection in the silver-framed mirror.
“Hey, kid,” he says, and fucking god, he’s really forgotten how to do the soft, soothing voice thing.
Finnick Odair has his golden head bowed over a toilet, shoulders quaking and spine rippling under painted (naked, always naked these days) skin. “I’m not--“
“Yeah, I know. I know.” Haymitch feels awkward and mournful and altogether furious, but it’s possible that’s he’s just very drunk. It’s Odair’s sixteenth birthday party, and alcohol is overflowing. “I get it if you’ve had too much cake, teenage chocolate binge and all, but I really need to pee here, you know.”
A beat, and Haymitch isn’t quite sure what to expect next. Cashmere would have frowned and playfully swatted at his arm, Brutus might have bared his teeth, others would burst out crying. And Finnick, he just laughs, hoarse and choked and a little gross, because he still has vomit smeared down his bronzed chin and Haymitch finds he doesn’t really care. They’ve all seen worse.
“Sorry,” the boy says, flushing as he scrambles back to his feet, muscles coiled in something like embarrassment, something like quiet defeat. He lets a long exhale out through his nose as he reaches for the paper towels, and his mouth stretches into a smile like stitches, wide and precise. And then it deflates, a hot air balloon, and Haymitch can’t help it--
“I think I should be flattered,” he says, a faint sneer around the words, even if there’s no real heat it in. “The great Finnick Odair doesn’t even bother to keep the famous, irresistible charm turned on for me. I think I might be special.”
Finnick stills, swallows, looks at Haymitch and straight through. “Yes,” he says slowly, “yes, you are.”
(The thing is--
the thing is, Haymitch wants to drive a fist into the mirror and let the shards cut him, or maybe he wants to shove the kid’s face into it. Perhaps the glass will get stuck in the side of his perfect tanned throat and kill him. Perhaps Finnick would thank him.
Haymitch doesn’t know what he wants, but he still has a liquor cabinet that’s impressively well-stocked and he should say, “Finnick, you can stop by my apartment later and drink as much as you want,” perhaps he should say, “Finnick, let me help you”.
He won’t, he won’t, because the kid still has to pay for that trident of two years ago, and the kid already has a waiting line, and the kid will be getting fucked later tonight and Haymitch knows, he knows--)
“All clear, you can pee now,” Finnick says airily, and he looks tired and old and his shoulder brushes Haymitch’s as he heads to the door.
“Come on,” Finnick’s saying, low and choked and urgent, “come on,” --or maybe it’s hurry, hurry, hurry.
They’re always like this, wrapped up and coiled around a sense of impending catastrophe, kissing like they’re being chased and it’s funny, it’s somewhat funny, because they are, aren’t they?
But Haymitch keeps his lips tight together, wraps a hand around Finnick’s wrists to stop them. “Slow down,” he says, whispers, “hey, slow down.”
Finnick pulls back, mouth half-open on a word he does not speak. He really does look ridiculously beautiful like this, limned in moonlight and hair an unapologetic mess.
Haymitch likes him better when he’s fully clothed, for reasons they’ve both agreed not to let weigh between them --but for this, for this he can’t help but make an exception, feel his insides thrum and sputter like a lovestruck idiot’s.
But it is not love. He tells himself this, repeats barb-wire words like a home movie on continuous loop until it’s burned into his retinas, stuck across the planes of his skull. This is not, this is not.
Finnick’s lips curve at the corner and Haymitch’s gaze is drawn, fish to the hook, moth to the flame, every trite metaphor he can think of is true. “What’s wrong,” Finnick says, and Haymitch is thankful he’s not using the patented Odair Seductive Whisper, “what’s wrong, Haymitch, are we no longer up to snuff? Need to take things slow and steady as we get older?”
Haymitch very pointedly rolls his eyes. “Fuck you.”
“Mm, yes, that’s the point.”
“Finnick--“ there are lips on his neck, fluttering kisses down to his pulse point and a soft bite against his collarbone and Haymitch is horribly, painfully hard, but-- “Finnick, wait. Wait.”
He hears a sharp intake of air, a bird shot down mid-flight. Something clenches in Haymitch’s stomach as Finnick sighs into his skin and looks up at him through feather-bright eyelashes, and it’s heavy, pressing down on him. Finnick has a hand on Haymitch’s cock, stroking softly, lazily, a gentle tease. “I thought you wanted me,” Finnick mutters, too quietly. He doesn’t sound offended. He doesn’t sound heartbroken. He doesn’t sound like anything.
“Fuck,” Haymitch says, manages to bite down the ‘kid’ before it leaves his mouth. There’s not a single person in this goddamned country who doesn’t want you, he almost says, but that’d be a bullet between the lungs, that, that is the exact reason he doesn’t think he can do this.
Finnick is smart; he might be just a touch too smart, and he knows how to kill a man in ten different ways with his bare hands but he also knows Haymitch, he knows what he’d find if he were to look inside Haymitch’s skull.
“No,” he says, and this time it’s firm, solid, and he places a hand on Haymitch’s chest. His fingers splay, not over Haymitch’s heart --but close. “No, don’t --just don’t think about that. Don’t do this to me, Haymitch. I’m here, with you. I want this-”
“I want you-“
“And I want you,” Haymitch says, maybe sharper than he intended, but as they slowly break apart he feels something go a little cold inside him. “We… we’ll do this. But not now, not like this. We… we’ll do this on our own terms.”
For a second he thinks Finnick looks like a wounded animal, something broken and half-wild, but he isn’t, he isn’t.
It might have been an eternity, but Finnick eventually leans into him, cheek resting on Haymitch’s shoulder, and he’s warm and soft and all of his twenty years and he’s achingly, terribly human. “Yes,” he breathes. “Yes. We will. Thanks, Haymitch.”
They kiss again, later that night. It’s slow and spectacularly messy, and they mock each other brutally for it. They drink. Finnick laughs. Haymitch laughs. They’re not fine, but it’s fine.
four (and a half).
Finnick falls in love, because he was always bound to fall in love. Haymitch only wishes that he’d found a safer, saner way to do it.
They’re in the Capitol, though, even when they’re not, and these things don’t exist, not really. To the Victor the spoils, as they say, even though lately, Haymitch will scoff at anything fucking philosophical.
Annie is a slight girl with great blue eyes and a smile that’s so sad and so genuine it makes Haymitch want to scream. Finnick holds her at a distance and smiles precisely at the cameras, his eyes like surgical steel; he won’t tell Haymitch he spends every second night on his knees to secure sponsors for her, and Haymitch is good at pretending not to know.
In Haymitch’s apartment, Finnick holds two fingers to his mouth like he’s missing a cigarette, elbows on the windowsill as he stares out into nothing. His reflection on the glass is a ghost, pale and weathered, and the city lights spread out around, drowning him in artificial gold.
“She won’t make it,” he says, a dry monotone that slides off the walls and wraps like a noose around both their necks.
And Haymitch, Haymitch has his own tributes, and it’s early enough that his brain is still filled with nightmares and he’s definitely not drunk enough for this. “You’re a good mentor,” is all he can manage, and he looks stubbornly away as Finnick makes a low choking sound in the back of his throat, a thing caught between a laugh and a sob. “You are, and she’s smart. Quick on her feet. She has a chance.”
Finnick swallows down nothing, and Haymitch’s eyes fall to his throat as it moves, and he just wants to punch something, he just wants to drink and go to bed and maybe not wake up again. Maybe.
(When Annie does make it, when they drag her out of the arena, a tangle of cold limbs and drenched hair --Finnick's there, and when he leaves the hospital room he bangs at Haymitch’s door until he almost breaks it down.
“Here, kid,” Haymitch says, resigned, and hands him a bottle of something dark and expensive.
And, after: “Finnick,” he starts in a voice that carries a hundred things with it, because the timing’s shit but it’s also the best, because Beetee has already jammed the signal in this apartment, because Finnick looks like he wants to die and Haymitch wants to kill someone for him, “Finnick, if you decide to do this, you’ll never be able to walk away. We’re probably going to get ourselves killed.”
“Yes,” Finnick says. He’s only half conscious but still strangely, frighteningly present. “Yes.”)
Finnick breezes into the room just after the parade has officially concluded, long and sharp and wicked, smiling his brightest, most shark-like smile. Haymitch thinks he looks more dangerous than he has in years, and the Capitol has noticed, too --secretly, he’s proud.
“I’d missed this,” Finnick says, sprawling down on the blood red couch, half naked and shimmering. A dozen pair of eyes are on him, some narrowed, some hateful, some knowing. “All those people, cheering your name.”
Haymitch shoots him a smile of his own, a crooked curl of the mouth that’s more grimace than anything else. “I’d forgotten how fucking annoying you can get, Odair.”
“Thank you, Abernathy.” Finnick reaches for a glass of scotch, and his whole body glints and reflects under the tawdry lamplight. “I met your tributes, too. Such a lovely couple. It’s all so sad, truly, that they didn’t even get to have a proper wedding.” Somewhere in the sidelines Johanna scoffs, and Finnick shoots her an affectionate look, quickly masked by a wink. “Really,” he presses on, gaze sweeping over the room, over people he’s known for years, over people he may have to murder, “really, that Katniss girl is something, Haymitch.”
Haymitch just bites down on his tongue, keeping his gaze to his own drink, and he’s glad, he is, because Finnick does like Katniss; it’s a good thing, liking the girl you’ve agreed to die for.
Finnick’s smile widens, falters and steadies again. He throws a careless arm over the armrest and Haymitch thinks he looks feline, horrible, beautiful, a mess. All those things, and maybe a little more. “Cheers, Haymitch,” Finnick says happily, lifting his glass.
Haymitch tips his head. “Cheers, kid.”