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Once a Team, Always a Team

Chapter Text

The sun slowly peeks over the treetops, casting a misty golden light over the woods, and the newly rebuilt town of District Twelve. Two years have passed since the revolution, and the entire town District is silent in the earlier hours of a cold winter morning. In the Victors' Village, the rising sunlight awakens a large gaggle of geese in their pen, causing annoyingly loud honking to awaken the only three residents of the Village. A woman's voice bellows"Haymitch! Get up and sort your goddamn geese out before I kill them all and cook them!"

Across the front lawn from the pen, the owner of the geese is slumped on his porch swing, a bottle of some alcoholic substance by his feet. He's blissfully unaware of the racket his geese are making, his greasy black hair shielding his eyes from the light. He doesn't stir until a hard smack across his face jolts him awake. He jumps up, swinging a sharp and deadly knife around as he comes to his senses. He blinks in the morning light, the young woman's scowl finally registering. "What are you doing now?!" he roars.

"Your geese are making a racket again!" the young woman snaps. "I came to wake you and have you deal with them, because you'll be livid if I do what I want to do with them. Shut your geese up, then go take a bath."

"Why do I have to take a bath?" Haymitch asks, his voice verging on a whine.

"Because if Effie catches you drunk, unwashed, in a pigsty, and raising geese, this won't be a celebration of winning the war, it'll be a funeral for the nation's drunkest mentor," the young woman hisses.

"Aww, not Effie!" Haymitch complains loudly. "Why's she gotta come?!"

"Because you invited her, halfwit," the young woman scoffs. "You shouldn't have invited her if you didn't want her here."

"She should know my drunk voice by now," he huffs. "Everyone knows I say stuff I don't mean when I'm drunk."

"Well, you have about three hours to shut your birds up, clean your house, have a bath, and brush your teeth," she tells him, smirking a bit.

"Why do I have to clean my house?" Haymitch asks petulantly. 

"Because you offered to let her share your bed," she chuckles. "You might want to hide your dirty magazines, and change your sheets."

"Katniss, why didn't you offer to have her stay with you?" Haymitch whines. "She would have preferred that."

"We did offer," Katniss chuckles. "But Effie wanted to stay with you, bless her. She said it'd be nice to spend time with you, especially now that Peeta and I are official."

"You two made it official, official?!" Haymitch yelps, deciding to deal with the Effie thing later. "Why didn't you tell me?!"

"You were passed out drunk," Katniss says with a shrug, tossing her own dark curls over her shoulder. "Anyway, you'd better get busy, your girlfriend will be here soon."

"She's not my girlfriend," Haymitch scoffs. "We're not teenagers."

"Fine, friend with benefits, sex toy, cuddle buddy, lover, fiancee, secret wife, whatever you want to call her," Katniss mocks, smirking. "She'll go mad if she finds out she's staying in a dump with a drunk."

"She should know that already, to be fair," Haymitch says. "After all, I'm apparently the one who invited her."

"Well, she's going to expect a bit of cleaning," Katniss tells him. "But don't worry about feeding her, Peeta's baking now."

"Too good of him," Haymitch growls snarkily.

"I know," Katniss sighs, electing to ignore her former mentor's surly attitude. "You have under three hours, now get your horrible birds under control, and your house. A bath wouldn't go amiss, we can smell you from across the road. And I think your toothbrush is lonely, it might like to get reacquainted with some toothpaste and your teeth."

With that, she stalks off back to her own house. Haymitch lifts his middle finger at her, cursing her name as he goes to feed his geese.

Three hours later, Haymitch has cleaned his house, hidden his magazines where even Effie's prying eyes won't spot them, changed his bedsheets, taken a bath, washed his hair, cleaned his teeth, put on freshly washed clothes, and even put on deodorant. He's feeling quite proud of himself, he's even successfully silenced his geese. "Haymitch?!" 

The Capitol accent pierces the air and almost deafens him. "Just go right in, Effie," Peeta's voice tells her, the sound floating in through the open window.

"Isn't the door locked?" Effie asks, her voice a lot less shrill when she's not calling out for him.

"He never locks it," Katniss tells her. "I've never understood that, because the man sleeps with a knife, and he's the most paranoid guy I know."

Haymitch takes this as his cue to walk outside. "Well, I'm glad I know your opinion of me, Katniss," he says smoothly, a smirk on his face. "I thought I heard a Trinket for a minute there."

"You did," Peeta says, then gently nudges Effie in the ribs.

Haymitch looks around, then his eyes land on his former escort. Gone are the bright wig, the colourful makeup, the garish outfit, and the crazily high stiletto heels. In their place is soft, honey blonde hair that falls to her shoulders in subtle curls, creamy white skin with a sprinkle of freckles across her nose, a sky-blue dress that rivals her eyes, and soft blue flats. She's holding two large suitcases, and a small smile appears on her face. "Hello, Haymitch," she breathes, her accent taking a step back as she gazes at him. "You look... Exceptional."

Haymitch is lost for words. "Who are you and what have you done with Effie Trinket?" he asks. 

"I am Effie, silly!" she giggles, the sound almost believable. It clearly has Katniss and Peeta fooled. Not Haymitch, though. He's got quite practiced at spotting the differences between her real laugh and her fake one. "Now, I do believe a hug is in order."

She drops her suitcases without a second thought, flying at him for a hug, and for a split second, he amuses himself with the thought of her being the only person to make running full tilt at someone look ladylike and dignified. He catches her in a move he's practiced well over their years of working on the Games together, picking her up around the waist and hugging her tightly. "Well, hi to you too, small stuff," he chuckles. "How long are you here for?"

"Only a month," she sighs, burying her face in his neck and inhaling his unusually clean scent. "Just as long as the celebrations are going on."

Haymitch nods, then puts her down to hold her at arm's length, studying her. "You look..." he starts, then falters a bit, unsure of what to say. She looks much younger than he'd expected, but knowing her, she'll have done something to make herself look younger.

Effie blushes a little, enchanting Haymitch that bit more. "I believe ridiculous is the word you're looking for," she whispers, a bit embarrassed at her own looks. "District Chic is the current in thing, but I just don't think it suits me."

"Don't be stupid," he tells her, rolling his eyes. "I was going to say pretty, y'know, now that you don't look like a clown parrot that got mauled by a cat in a thorn bush."

"You have such a way with words and back-handed compliments," Effie giggles. The sound is more genuine this time, but it's still a little bit strained, so Haymitch makes a plan to ask her about that when they're not within earshot of Katniss and Peeta. "Now, you wouldn't happen to have any tea, would you? The service on those trains has declined severely in the last two years, they don't offer you refreshments any more."

"I have tea, sweetheart," Haymitch tells her with a smirk. "You know how to make it."

Effie huffs "I'd reprimand you for your appalling manners, but you're a lost cause," then turns on her heel.

"Where d'you think you're going?!" Haymitch yells as she grabs her suitcases. "You literally just got here, and now you're leaving?!"

"No, Haymitch, I am coming inside," Effie tells him gently, as if he's a precocious two year old. 

He rolls his eyes. "I hate you," he tells her bluntly.

"The feeling is mutual," she replies coolly. "Where should I put the cases?"

"Where you want," he says. "I don't care, as long as you don't sleep in the goose pen."

"Oh," she sighs. "So the children weren't messing with me? You really have geese?"

"Yeah," he says. "Gotta have something annoying around, right? You never normally come to visit me, so I have to have them bug me, or nothing'll get done."

Effie sighs softly, then looks around for a way to switch the topic. "I love what you've done with the house," she says.

"What?" he asks. "I haven't done anything with it."

"Yes, you have, it's clean," she says. "When I was last here, it was filthy."

"When you were last here, it was the day of the Quell reaping," Haymitch reminds her. "Since then, you've been missing in action."

"I've been in the Capitol, consoling my family," she says. 

"What do you mean, consoling your family?" he asks, his eyebrows narrowing together. "After what happened to you, shouldn't they be the ones consoling you?"

"No, because I didn't tell them," she says quietly. "That would be adding stress to them. My older sister lost her only child to the bombs, and she needed me. She and my parents were, and are to this day, devastated. I only came this year because they are finally healing."

"And what about you?" he asks, the question almost a growl. "Are you healing?"

"As best I can," she deflects, her eyes not meeting his. 

"By that, you mean that you've let the wounds fester, right? You've just let yourself suffer on behalf of everyone else," he growls. His voice has darkened considerably, just like it always does when he thinks of her in pain. "I bet you haven't even spoken to a therapist, have you?"

"I've been too busy for that kind of thing, Haymitch," Effie says, then looks at her suitcase. "May we go upstairs, please? These cases are hurting my arms."

Haymitch takes the cases from her and leads her up to his room. He deposits her cases on his bedroom floor, then asks "How come you won't talk to your family about what happened to you now, then? You said they're healing, why can't you talk to them?"

"Because they are healing. I cannot set them back with anecdotes of things that will horrify them," she tells him gently, then steps closer to him. "Come on, let me enjoy being with you. We only have a month together, after all."

"Did you get a job?" he asks, wondering how her life in the Capitol really is.

"No," she admits. "I have been looking after my family, of course, but I don't have a real job."

"Do your family still need you?" he asks.

"No," she sighs. "They are moving on, like I said. It's been a horrible, long process, but I'm glad that they're moving on."

"Then what do you have in the Capitol that requires you back after a month? Boyfriend? Fiance?" he asks. "Girlfriend?

"None of the above," Effie sighs. "Nobody's interested in me, not after what happened went public. I just think that after a month, you'll be sick of me."

"I'll be sick of you after an hour, Princess," he chuckles, closing the gap between them to hug her close to him. "Doesn't mean I want you back in the Capitol, though."

"We can see how this month goes," she compromises. "You'll regret saying I can move in if you're willing to kill me at the end of the month."

"I'd have no trouble kicking you out," he jokes.

"I am aware," she laughs. "Okay, now, let me enjoy being with you again. I've missed you."

She doesn't give him a chance to respond, pressing her lips to his with a tenderness he hadn't known she possessed. It's not their first kiss, not by any means, but it's the first that hasn't been full of hate and fury, and Haymitch thoroughly enjoys it. It scares him that he likes it, but nowhere near as much as his ideas on why she's kissing him. He knows he'll have to ask her about her experience before the celebrations begin, and that is not a conversation he's looking forward to.

Chapter Text

Three hours later

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Haymitch stands from the sofa and looks at Katniss and Peeta. "Well, thanks for dinner, kids, but Effie and I had better head back. If I don't give those geese their food, they'll break out of the pen again," he says, knowing that Effie will be horrified if the geese escape.

"Those horrible pigeons escape that pen?!" Effie demands, her eyes widening to look like bright blue plates stuck on her face as she imagines the geese attacking her. "Haymitch, you need to build something more secure! Those things will eat us!"

"Not likely," Katniss scoffs. "We've got a better chance of eating them."

"They are evil, Katniss!" Effie squeaks. "Why, just two hours ago, one of them honked at me and tried to chase me away!"

"He just liked the look of you," Haymitch protests, defending his goose.

"It thought I was its dinner!" Effie squeals. "Those birds hate me."

"I hate you, but you don't think I'm going to eat you," Haymitch chuckles.

"I did when I met you," Effie tells him.

"Urgh!" Katniss groans.

"That's... Dark, Effie," Peeta mutters, pulling a face. "Especially for you."

"Those demons Haymitch keeps as pets hate me," Effie tells them. "And regardless of what you say, Haymitch, they will eat me, and they will enjoy doing so!"

"You might taste good," Haymitch says casually. "Who knows?"

"Who wants to?!" Katniss asks, a bit green.

"My geese, apparently," Haymitch snorts, eyeing the Capitol woman with something akin to ridicule glinting in his eyes.

"Eee!" Effie squeaks in fear, shuddering at the very idea. "No!"

Haymitch rolls his eyes, then he's struck by her earlier remark about thinking he'd eat her. "Wait, you thought I'd go all cannibal on you?" he asks.

"Yes," she replies, looking extremely innocent. "I did think that."

"Why?!" he asks, not entirely sure if he wants the answer.

"Because you glared so hard at me for thirty seconds, then you looked at me as if I was a big, juicy steak," she says, then blushes. "And you licked your lips. I honestly thought I would wake up to you eating my insides."

"You have dark fantasies," Haymitch replies, looking disgusted. "And here I thought you being an escort was the most disgusting thing you've ever dreamed of."

( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) 

Effie jerks backwards like she's been slapped, her cheeks turning red, and her eyes wide with hurt. Haymitch, Katniss, and Peeta have about a second to glimpse the tears in her eyes before she blinks them away and stands up. "Well, I do believe you said something about feeding your vile geese, Haymitch," she says coolly, masking the hurt with an indifferent tone and a glazed look in her eyes. "Peeta, Katniss, thank you so much for the delicious dinner. You simply must let me return the favour tomorrow evening."

"Um," Katniss gulps, not sure if her former escort can cook.

"Sure, Effie, that'd be nice," Peeta says smoothly, then reaches to hug her. He whispers into her ear "Don't let Haymitch get to you, we both know he's horrible nearly all the time."

"I know," she whispers, giving Peeta a gentle squeeze. "I'm well used to his hateful comments."

Peeta hugs her tight, then strokes her hair before giving Haymitch a man-hug, which has both Effie and Katniss smiling. Peeta whispers "You'd better be sorry for what you just said to Effie. She just wants to move on, and you referring to her former career isn't helping."

"I know that, boy," Haymitch growls. "She'll get her apology, you can stop worrying."

"Okay," Peeta murmurs.

Effie extends her arms to Katniss, a silent question on her face. Katniss goes over, unwilling to miss an opportunity to get a hug with Effie after two years of being separated from the only woman left in her life. "You stay strong, okay? If he gets to be too much, come back here, Peeta and I will put you up," Katniss whispers.

"Thank you, dear," Effie whispers, though she knows she won't do any such thing.

Katniss then hugs Haymitch and whispers "If you're nice to her, she's nice to you. Don't threaten to set the geese on her."

"I wasn't gonna," Haymitch chuckles. "Poor geese don't deserve to have their feathers brushed."

Effie pouts, then sniffs "As if I'd make a poor hairbrush go near those revolting things! I only brush your hair because you're too complacent to do it yourself!" Haymitch flips her off, smirking at her. Effie arches an eyebrow at him, then smiles at Katniss and Peeta. "I will see you both tomorrow!"

With that, Effie leaves the house and crosses the road to Haymitch's house, letting herself in, despite the geese honking at the supposed intruder.

Haymitch returns home to find Effie already in her nightgown, her hair brushed and braided, her cheeks pink, and her eyes rimmed with red. "Princess?" he asks tentatively, not sure if she's going to be angry or not.

"Yes?" Effie replies quietly, her voice soft and her accent less obvious than before.

"Are you still mad at me?" Haymitch asks quietly.

"Who said I was angry?" she asks, her voice softening to fondness. "I was hurt by you saying that I am more disgusting now than I was before, but I have been more hurt before."

"You never did say anything about what happened to you," Haymitch tries, aware that she may just shoot him down for his words.

"No, I didn't," she sighs. "I do have my reasons for it, of course. I... I won't burden you with it. It's my issue, I will take it to the grave."

"You don't have to, Effie," Haymitch says gently, scared that she'll change the topic. "Just tell me the basic outline if you can't say more."

She studies him with a critical eye. "Why are you so interested, Haymitch?" she asks suspiciously. "It's not like you to want to know things about me that are not on the surface."

"You're my..." he starts, but falters. Friend is too innocent a word. Lover is too intimate. Girlfriend is just plain childish for two full-grown adults.

"Escort," Effie sighs. "That is what I am to you, and I fear that it's all you'll ever think of me as."

"No, Effie, you're my... I don't know, but you're definitely more than an escort," he tells her, at a loss for words.

"Maybe, if we're labelling our convoluted attempt at a personal relationship, we could use the term friends," she offers. "I know it barely scratches the surface, but on some level, I think we are friends."

Haymitch sighs, then nods. "Friends. Well, you're my friend. I think that's a good enough reason for me to ask about you, because it's pretty damn clear that nobody else is going to, and you need to get it off your chest," he says, then sits on the bed. "Are you gonna get under this duvet? Your night dress isn't that long, and you've got goosebumps on your legs."

"Are you looking?" she teases, but gets up from the vanity stool and gets under his duvet, instantly sighing at how comfortable his bed is. "Are your sheets clean?"

"Fresh on this morning," he tells her proudly. "Especially for you."

She smiles and leans forward, kissing his cheek. "I am truly flattered. Thank you," she says gently, then leans back. "Get in your night things, Haymitch, come join me. It really isn't that warm."

He does as she tells him, then wraps his arms around her small frame. "Okay, come on. You need to talk to someone, and nobody else has thought to offer. Talk to me, Princess," he murmurs gently, his fingers stroking gently against her throat.

"You mean about what happened during interrogation?" she asks quietly.

"The whole thing," he says. "What they did to you. Just an outline if the details are too intense for you."

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She nods, then takes in a deep breath before murmuring "It started off with questions. Just a lie detector, and simple questions about you, the kids, the other victors, the Games, the Gamemakers, the war, my allegiance. It was all going well, because I could answer most of them, but when they asked where my allegiance was, I lied and told them that it lay with Snow, instead of you and the kids. That's when it all kicked off. They left me for ages in black nothingness. There was just no light at all. Then they blindfolded me without me even hearing them, and when they took it off, I was in a room with such a bright light that my eyes burned. I could only scream with the agony of it, and they laughed. They started questioning me again, beating me with wooden clubs, and insulting me. I cried and cried, but they wouldn't let up. I don't know how long that went on for, but they locked me back in the dark again. I could feel them watching me, and I know they could see me, even though I couldn't see them. I would fall asleep in there, and I'd wake to the feeling of their hands on my body. They'd taken my clothes, you see, and I was unshielded. I protested it to start with, but they wouldn't stop taking liberties."

"They didn't...?" Haymitch asks, protective fury rising in his gut.

"No, never," Effie whispers. "They definitely came close to it, but no. I will detail it some other time, this is just so that you have an idea as to what happened back there. But the general outline, up until they captured Peeta, Johanna, Annie, Enobaria, and Portia, along with Portia's prep team, is that. After that, they would whip and electrocute me in front of Peeta and Johanna for them to give information. Johanna laughed at them and said that if I didn't know, after however many years of sleeping with you, she definitely won't. Peeta kept pleading with them to stop, and he kept telling me how sorry he was when he couldn't stop them. That broke my heart. I eventually stopped screaming when they tortured me in front of our boy. I couldn't take seeing him hurt. After they were liberated, the guards just left me to rot in my cell. When they remembered that I was there, they'd force water down my throat, then push rotting bread into my mouth and make me eat it. Then I was abandoned again. I was essentially blind for so long, that's why I screamed so when you got me out."

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Haymitch clutches her close, pressing gentle kisses to the top of her head. "Effie, I'm so sorry. I should have had you stay with me," he whispers. "I shouldn't have let you leave the penthouse."

"They would have come and evacuated me," she whispers, then tilts her head back to kiss him gently. "Please don't be sorry for what happened to me. It wasn't you who did this to me, remember? You rescued me. You saved my life."

"I could have brought you with me to Thirteen," he mutters. "I could have fought, I could have protected you. You wouldn't have needed rescuing if I'd had the common sense to protect you."

"At the time, I was nothing more to you than a sexual outlet," she whispers. "I know we didn't go the whole way, not like we wanted to, but you still relieved a lot of sexual frustration on me. Frustration in general, in fact. I do not blame you for what happened. I trusted then, and do to this day, that you only did what you believed to be the best thing to do. You always do, after all. So please, please, please don't beat yourself up over it."

"You suffered immense trauma, and you're worried about me," he scoffs disbelievingly. "I don't get you sometimes, Princess, always worrying about everyone else while you let your own problems eat away at you."

"Until I came here with all of my nonsense, I had nobody to turn to. I was sure that you and the children wouldn't ever want to know, and I refuse to ever tell the children," she sighs, snuggling against his side. "I wouldn't have told you, to be honest. I much prefer not distressing you."

"I'd be more distressed if you didn't tell me," he says. "I need to know, Eff. If I'm gonna be livin' with you, I don't want to trigger your bad memories."

"Then for tonight, we should sleep," she says. "I will discuss more with you tomorrow evening."

"Deal," Haymitch whispers, then helps her lie down before sliding down next to her and pulling her close to him, wishing he could take all of the pain, bad memories, and nightmares away from her and make her feel better again, hating that she's suffering. "You go to sleep, Princess. I've got you."

She smiles and presses her nose to his chest. "Yes, you have," she whispers, sliding her arms around him. "Goodnight, darling."

"'Night, Eff," he murmurs, kissing her forehead as she drifts off to sleep.

Chapter Text

A shrill scream has Haymitch blindly reaching for his knife in the dark, until the scream sounds again. He changes his aim to grab hold of the switch to the reading lamp next to his bed. He presses the switch and blinks at the bright light before his eyes adjust and land on the screaming woman next to him. He remembers her in a second, then scoops her up, shaking her gently. "Effie! Effie, wake up!" he hisses.

Effie screams "Stop it! Please, stop! I promise you, I know nothing! Please! Oh, God, please stop! Stop this!"

Haymitch shakes her harder, then grimly accepts that he has to do something he's never done before, at least not without the threat of death over his head. He tenderly kisses her cheek while she screams and whispers "I'm so sorry, Princess," before he smacks her face with all of his might.

The pain shocks Effie awake, and she jolts with a wail. "No!" 

Haymitch wraps his arms around her, kissing the rapidly darkening red mark on her cheek as he clutches her. "Princess, it's okay. You're safe now. You're home," he whispers, petting her.

"H-Haymitch?" she asks softly, shaking violently. "W-where are we?"

"We're home, we're in Twelve. You're safe, Effie," he whispers, clinging to her.

"Why does my face hurt?" she asks, hugging him back.

"I'm sorry, Eff," he whispers. "You weren't waking up, and I couldn't leave you alone in that state, I had no choice. I'm so sorry."

She softens in his arms, becoming as soft and pliant as warm butter. "Oh, Haymitch," she sighs. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. You woke me from my own personal hell. Thank you."

"You're bruised," he whispers, self-loathing settling somewhere deep in his stomach. "I hit you too hard."

"You did what was necessary. It's not your fault that I bruise like a peach," she whispers. "I don't mind it."

"I hurt you," he murmurs, feeling worse for it by the second. "I promised you that you'd never feel pain like that again, and I hurt you."

"Stop," she orders, her voice quiet and full of something Haymitch doesn't want to admit is love. "Enough of that. You did what you had to do to wake me. I don't mind a little bash for that. You heard me screaming, and you came to my rescue. I am not upset by it. You helped me. Please stop beating yourself up over it."

"You're too generous with me, Princess," he murmurs. "You're too good for an old drunk like me."

"I'm not," she whispers back. "I am happy with you. You make me feel loved, and you make me feel safe. I know I'm safe with you here. I am at home when I have you."

"What's that meant to mean?" he asks, inhaling the scent of her hair, relishing the sweet scent of cherry blossoms and vanilla.

"When I am alone, where ever I may be, whenever you're not there, I feel lost. Like I'm missing my purpose. It's a horrible sensation, like I don't know what I'm doing, or where I'm supposed to be. Everyone else laughs, they think I'm crazy. Funny little Effie Trinket, with her endless schedules, her hundreds of overstuffed address books, her multiple post-it notes everywhere, her many alarms and scheduled calls, her thousands of calendars, planners, and event books. They don't know that I do it because if I don't, I won't get anything done. I only don't need them when I'm here, where you are," she says, her voice turning bitter as she talks about how people mock her, only to soften as she talks about being with him. 

"People mock you?" he asks, the urge to kill anyone who hurts her feelings rising up again. It's just as strong as his urge to kill people who hurt her body is when that arises. "Sweetheart?"

"Yes," she admits. "They do. They mock me for my organising, they mock me for my obsession with showering, for my apparent obsessive compulsion to clean, and for constantly forcing myself to work when I fall sick."

"How often do you get sick?" he asks, worried for her health.

"Quite often," she admits, her eyes dropping to her lap. "I spend more time being told to go to hospital than I do to get work done."

"Why haven't you gone to hospital?" he murmurs, stroking her hair.

"Because I am afraid of them," she whispers. "Anyone else, and I say I haven't got the time. I trust you enough not to mock me for it. I'm sure you understand my fear. I am afraid of going into a hospital. If I ever need to find comfort, you are the one I call, because you're the only true friend I have."

Her eyelids are drooping, and Haymitch is sure she wouldn't be saying this if she wasn't exhausted, so he shifts, positioning her next to him and allowing her to lie on his chest, then whispers "Have you been feeling unwell here?"

"No," she whispers. "I get stress-sick. I am always stressed because I am never safe, I'm never happy, and I'm always lost. So I get ill a lot."

"Why do you think you feel better now?" he asks, curious about her mind.

"I am at home," she responds. "Home is where the Haymitch is. And since you are here, this is my home, I'm safe here, I'm happy here. I am not lost. That's why I feel better here."

Haymitch ponders this for a second, then opens his mouth to say something, but it's no use. She's fast asleep, curled up next to him, her head slumped on his chest. He pets her, staying awake for as long as he can to watch her. He doesn't even notice as he falls back to sleep himself, his mind being blissfully empty for once.

The loud honking of geese alerts Haymitch to sunrise, as it has every morning for the last year. He stretches out, then he's smacked in the face by a wriggling little something next to him. He looks down at the mass of golden hair on the pillow, then the previous day's events, and the previous night's experience with her, come flying back to him. He blinks a bit at the wriggling woman in his bed, then suddenly remembers how little alcohol he's consumed because of her, and the consequent lack of a headache. He rolls his eyes, then turns onto his side, wrapping his arms around Effie's squirming form. She lets out a content sound, then burrows against him, only letting out a satisfied squeak when she's tucked under him like a stuffed toy. Haymitch smirks at her, petting her hair and wondering why she's so okay with him holding her when she has internal debates with herself when it comes to people she knows. She'd even debated going to have dinner with Katniss and Peeta, mentally preparing herself to hug them all through the day, and all through the dinner. Haymitch had spotted the look of apprehension in her eyes with the kids, but he'd noticed that she hadn't been at all apprehensive where he was concerned. After about thirty minutes of the geese honking and Effie curled under him, Haymitch decides that yes, it's definitely time to feed his geese before they wake the whole District. He starts to extract himself from Effie's death grip, rolling his eyes at her soft whine of protest. "Princess, I gotta feed the geese," he mumbles.

"Stay..." Effie whimpers, still asleep. "Stay..."

"I'll be right back, short stuff," Haymitch whispers, still trapped in her death grip.

"Please don't leave me again," she whimpers, the sound threatening to turn into full on sobbing. He sighs, then wraps her in a massive fleece and faux fur blanket, carrying her out into the front yard. He takes a large pitcher full of seed for his geese, keeping Effie in his free arm. She stays snuggled against him, pressing her nose into his shoulder when the cold hits her. A goose honks and playfully nips her toes, and suddenly, Effie's not that sleepy any more. She jumps and spots the goose, which Haymitch has remained unaware of. Effie lets out a piercing screech that sends the geese into a frenzy and startles Haymitch, who drops her unceremoniously into the goose pen. The birds go wild, trampling on her in their fear of whatever that sound had been. Effie's screams pierce the early morning, only interrupted by the geese honking and Haymitch's uncontrollable laughter. Effie shrieks "Haymitch, help me!" and he has no choice but to take pity on her.

He scoops her up and hugs her close, still laughing. "Are you okay, Princess?" he wheezes, unable to talk properly.

"No!" she wails. "Your horrible birds tried to eat me, just like I said they would!"

"That, my dear Miss Trinket, is because you let out an ear-splitting shriek. It scared them and startled me, which is how you ended up in the pen. You started screaming again at the first sight of a feather, and that scared them even more," Haymitch chuckles as his hilarity at the situation dies down.

"I only screamed the first time because one of your feathery demons bit my toes," she protests. "I didn't just randomly start screaming." 

"Right," Haymitch sighs, then plops Effie in a snowdrift away from the pen, ignoring her yelp at the cold. He stomps through the snow to the goose pen, then demands "Which one of you filthy creatures bit her?!"

All the geese stop flapping about and stare at him. Effie asks, shivering in her drift, "How can you possibly tell which goose is which?"

"Different markings," he says, then glares at his geese. "Which one of you bit her?"

Most of the geese flee to the pen, but one remains, staring defiantly at him. "Which one's that?" Effie asks.

"This one is the cockiest one of a bad bunch," Haymitch grumbles. "The kids decided that he reminded them of me."

"I suppose he was the one who bit me?" Effie asks, amusement seeping in.

"Only one way to find out," Haymitch says, then glares at the goose. "You stay there."

He picks Effie up, ignoring her squeaky protests, and dangles her feet over the goose. It nips at her toes, causing her to squeal. "No! No! Get that thing away from me!" she squeals loudly.

Haymitch drops her in her snowdrift, then lightly smacks the goose on its beak. "You don't pick on her, okay? No wonder the kids thought you and I are alike. You leave that pretty thing alone," he orders. The goose honks in protest, and Haymitch rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I know, she's pretty, she tastes good, you want to drag her to your pen, but there's a goose that's essentially her in there somewhere. Go find her, and leave the human Effie to me."

"The human Effie does not like the sound of you trying to eat her," Effie calls, shivering hard in her drift. "I'm cold, Haymitch."

"Yeah, you're sat in snow," Haymitch deadpans.

"No-o-o, really?" Effie asks sarcastically, then gets up and pads over to him, wincing at the burning cold on her feet. "So, you say there's an Effie goose?"

"Yeah, she keeps the others in line. She's funny, actually. She's the only one of my girls in there who lays eggs. The other three haven't yet. Two of them are trying to mate, but they're too young for laying eggs at the minute, but the one who reminds me most of Katniss just won't even try," Haymitch chuckles. "Every time a male gets near her, she hisses at him."

Effie laughs at that, then looks up at him. "How many geese did you start out with?" she asks.

"Just the two of them. The little one in the corner there, honking at the ones fighting," he says, pointing. "Her, and that big guy who kept pecking your feet. I thought they were both male, right up until the little madam over there kicked the male out of her half of the pen. Poor guy was miserable for weeks, and she didn't leave the pen. I had to feed her in there. She eventually came out, followed by three cute little goslings. That's the two boys fighting there, and the one who reminds me of Katniss. I got another four the next time, two female, two male, and one's been stalking the younger girl. The momma goose has adopted him, too. She adores him. The other's just been a nuisance, he's loud, obnoxious, and has a wing defect."

"Which is?" she prompts, cuddling up to him.

"I named him for Chaff," Haymitch says. "I refer to the stalky boy as Peeta, and the two baby boys over there, I refer to them as Finnick and Gale, because they keep picking fights with each other. Their mom keeps yelling, but they've learned to tune her out because she never stops."

Effie laughs, then cuddles up to him. "So what are the other girls' names?" she asks, nuzzling his neck gently.

Haymitch points to a smallish goose, still bigger than the tiny one honking loudly in the corner, then says "She's the one I named for Annie. She reminds me of how Annie was when she first won her Games."

The little goose is wandering in circles, honking quietly to herself every now and then. "And her?" Effie asks, pointing to a goose that's honking rather enthusiastically at the two fighting geese.

"Jo," Haymitch chuckles. "Look at her, egging them on. She reminds me a lot of Jo."

"Stirring the pot," Effie chuckles.

"Yup," Haymitch chuckles. "She and your goose get into scraps a lot. It takes the big guy over there to make them stop. I really love these geese."

Effie smiles. "They're fun when they're not attempting to eat me," she agrees.

"I'm glad you're enjoying them, sweetheart," he says, giving her a soft kiss.

"How come you haven't got more goslings, then?" she asks, suddenly switching topic. "If only the little one there is laying eggs, how come there aren't more?"

"She's refusing to mate now," he chuckles. "She lays eggs, but they're all just that. There aren't any goslings coming from her any more. I think her three put her off."

Effie laughs at that. "She truly is a Trinket," she giggles. 

"Size and all," Haymitch agrees. "You don't have kids, do you?"

"Not aside from Katniss and Peeta, I don't," she says. "I've never felt that way inclined. Kids are cute, but I prefer them to be able to go to their own parents at the end of the day."

"Can you even have kids?" he asks, because that doesn't sound like her. He's always suspected her of wanting her own children, given how she used to stare at the kids running in the sponsors' lounge during the games.

"I can, but I'm not keen on the idea," she says softly. "Although, that may change. I am still young, and if I don't die of frostbite, I may grow to like the idea. Right now, though, my priority is getting inside and getting warm again."

Haymitch looks down and sees that her poor feet are a dark blue, verging on black. "Yeah, we'd better get you in," he agrees and scoops her up. He takes her to the fireplace and hands her one of his clean shirts. "Put that on while I get the fire going."

She does as he tells her, turning her back. He chances a glance at her as soon as her drenched nightdress has hit the floor and sees all of the scars on her back, and notices the distinct lack of a bra, his mind dipping into the gutter. He looks away, knowing that she's nowhere near ready for anything that part of his mind has to offer, and he knows how sensitive she is about her scars. He lights the fire up, trying to dispel the images of what she used to be so proud of, adding logs to the tiny flames, and a little bit of liquor to make the fire burn a bit longer, then gets the duvet off the spare bed and brings it downstairs. She's warming her feet up when he gets back downstairs, so he wraps the duvet around her shoulders and picks her up, putting the duvet under her, then sits beside her. "Thank you," she whispers.

"No problem. Come here, give me your feet," he says, grabbing them gently and wincing at how cold they are. He starts to warm her feet for her, rubbing warmth back into them. Effie starts to let out little sighs that sound like purring, her eyes fluttering closed in contentment. "You like this?"

"Yes," she sighs. "It's so nice. It hurts a bit because the warmth is thawing my feet out, but it's lovely all the same."

Haymitch smiles a bit, allowing his eyes to roam over her while her eyes are closed. He notices how pretty she really is without all of her makeup, and how thin she still is, as if she hasn't eaten in months. Something possessive in him roars as he notes how she looks in his shirt, and how it leaves her long legs bare. His mind dips into the gutter again for a second, but he returns his focus quickly to her feet. "How are the feet feeling, sweetheart?" he asks after a few more minutes.

"More like feet," she replies, her voice a contented purr now. "In a few minutes, I may go and make pancakes for breakfast."

Haymitch asks "Can you even cook?"

"Of course," she replies. "I have to eat in the Capitol, too."

"I thought you just used takeout services," he says.

"I used to, but money is tight. I learned how to make basic food, and I can sustain myself on that," she tells him, stretching out happily. "I think I'm quite good at it."

"I know a few things you can be good at," Haymitch mutters, lifting his eyes to meet hers.

She smiles a bit, then shifts before she moves close to him and kisses his lips gently. "So do I," she whispers, her hands moving up to lock her fingers into his hair. "What do you say that you make it up to me for dropping me in a snowdrift?"

He rolls his eyes, then kisses her lips lightly, keeping it brief. "You're a demanding little thing," he jokes, then kisses her. "I'm not sure I want to sleep on the sofa after this."

"You're not that bad," she laughs. "Besides, I like having you with me in bed."

"Good," he murmurs, his hand drifting down her back.

She huffs softly, then kisses him again, pressing against him. "The correct way to say that is to say thank you and continue kissing me," she murmurs, wrapping her legs around his waist.

He chuckles, his hand landing on her bottom as he kisses her again, the kiss much deeper and harder than their last one. The only thought that goes through his head before he loses himself in the bliss of making out with her is that he's extremely grateful that she's promised not to make him sleep on the sofa. 

Chapter Text

"Haymitch," Effie whispers, gently breaking the kiss, regret in her eyes. 

Haymitch trails a hand up her back, carefully cupping the back of her head, his thumb tracing the slightly raised scar under her blonde curls. "It's okay, sweetheart," he whispers, seeing that she's not ready for more than making out.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, blushing a pretty shade of pink. "I'm so sorry. I wish I could give you more, but..."

"Hey, I said it's okay," he cuts in, cupping her cheek. "I don't want to push you. If you're not ready yet, then it's fine. I'll wait for you. It won't be fun unless you're ready for it."

She smiles a soft, grateful, genuine smile. "Thank you," she whispers, then kisses him again. "Really, thank you."

He kisses her back, remembering to keep it innocent, then he pulls her down gently into his lap, wrapping his arms around her small frame. "Nothing to thank, sweetheart. As long as you're happy, that's all that matters," he says gruffly, the admission sounding hard for him.

She snuggles into his grip, nudging his jaw with her nose. "I will manage to give you sex soon," she whispers.

"We're not having sex until you feel ready," he tells her. "That's that. When you're completely into it."

"I will be," she promises. "It'll just take a bit of time."

"Okay. Just don't go trying to do stuff you're not up for," he mutters, turning his head at a weird angle and kissing her lips. "And there's no shame in telling me when you're not ready for more."

"I know," she murmurs. "I know. I do. We can experiment, right? Test my boundaries?"

"If you swear that you'll stop as soon as you're uncomfortable," he agrees.

"I swear it on my shoes," she says. "I would never swear on your life, nor the children's lives, even though it's true."

He chuckles softly. "You're such a good mom to them," he teases, only half joking.

"I try," she jokes. "But to be clear, I am not having my own children unless I am married to someone who wants them."

"Good on you," he says, then gives her a hug. "Good luck finding a man to marry you."

He pretends not to notice her deflating a little at his words.

Effie's in the kitchen, and Haymitch is sat with Katniss and Peeta. Katniss quietly asks "Haymitch, are you sure she can cook?"

"Nope," Haymitch replies. "She put the number for poison control on my speed dial anyway, so we haven't got a lot of reason to worry."

"It smells good, though," Peeta tries, but he doesn't look optimistic.

"Here we go!" Effie exclaims, clearly very proud of her work. She brings in four beautiful china plates on a massive silver tray, each plate piled high with a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, sliced carrots, tiny green peas, broccoli, cauliflowers, roasted onions, and in the very middle of the tray is a large gravy boat. She places plates in front of the two young adults, then in front of Haymitch, then in front of her own empty seat. She places the gravy in the middle of the table, then places the tray on the little table by her side for ease of removing plates. She sits down and sees the others looking at the food apprehensively, feeling a little nervous. "It's okay, I've made this dish before, and nobody had to call poison control."

Haymitch looks at her, seeing how worried she is that they'll all hate it and taking pity on her. Much to the shock of their two young victors, he cuts into his chicken and puts a forkful in his mouth, surprised by the sage and onion stuffing. He chews it carefully, afraid she'll have done something wrong, then swallows it. The three of them wait for something bad to happen, but all he does is shrug. "Nice work, Princess," he says, turning to Effie with a smirk. 

She gives him the most grateful look he's ever seen on her face, then grabs and squeezes his hand gently. "You're not just being nice to her, are you?" Katniss asks warily.

"Try it, you'll see," Haymitch says, going in for another mouthful of chicken.

Peeta looks at Effie, then shrugs and goes in for his own meal. Effie smiles slightly, then starts on her food. Katniss shrugs and starts to eat. Within fifteen minutes, all four plates are cleared, and three pairs of eyes are focused on the Capitol woman, each one with some form of amazement. "Where did you learn to cook?" Katniss asks, having been blown away by how nice the meal had been, especially given how little experience many Capitol citizens have in the kitchen. 

"I used recipes online," Effie admits. "I had no experience before, and after, we didn't have any money, so we couldn't buy takeouts all the time any more. I ended up having to learn to cook, because my parents and sister were dealing with a lot of loss, so they weren't up for the job."

"And you were?" Peeta asks incredulously. "After all you went through?"

"Yes," Effie replies shortly, in the clipped tones that mean no. "Someone had to be the rock for them."

"Who was your rock?" Peeta asks, his eyes hardening.

"I was," Effie replies quietly, her own eyes glazing over.

(!) (!) (!) (!) (!) (!)

"You're joking," Peeta almost snarls, and Katniss lays a hand on his arm. "You're actually joking! You were beaten half to death, and you're telling me that you were left to battle your own demons and everyone else's?!"

"I'm not joking," Effie whispers, her head bent as if she's ashamed. "I was the one least damaged by the war, I had to be the rock for my loved ones, Peeta. I couldn't afford to dwell on being tortured every night."

"You were electrocuted in front of me. Real or not real?" Peeta asks.


Effie's voice is barely a whisper, but in the suddenly silent room, it carries, and it weighs on everyone in the room. "You were whipped to get answers from me. Real or not real?" Peeta asks quietly.

"Real," Effie whispers, choking a little on the word. 

Haymitch and Katniss are looking at their counterparts with fear. "They beat you when I couldn't answer them, real or not real?" Peeta asks, his voice getting darker.

Effie's soft voice is barely a whisper as she chokes out "Real."

"They carved insults into you in attempts to make me talk, real or not real?" Peeta snarls.

"Real," Effie breathes, her whole body shaking.

"Peeta, enough," Haymitch snarls, wanting to stop Effie's suffering.

"Shut up!" Peeta roars, then turns back to Effie. "They touched you to make you hurt. Real or not real?"

"Real," Effie sobs quietly, hiding her face. "Peeta, please... Not here."

Peeta nods, but keeps his eyes on her.

( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ )

Dessert is a subdued affair. Once Katniss has calmed Peeta and had him give Effie an apology, the meal becomes a little more lively, but Effie's worryingly quiet. She's barely said more than three words between bringing them dessert, which happens to have been a salted caramel truffle cake, and taking the dishes away. Sensing trouble, Katniss says "Well, it's late, and I've got to be up early to go hunting for tomorrow night's dinner. You two are welcome to come by."

"Please do," Peeta says, clearly trying to make amends for what happened over dinner. "It's really nice having dinner with you both."

"We will," Haymitch says without thinking, too focused on Effie, whose eyes are glued to a spot on the floor, too glazed over for her to really be seeing what they're all seeing. "Thanks."

He escorts them out, then returns to the living room to find Effie in the same place that he left her, but she's curled up on the sofa, her face in the cushion, and her whole body shaking. Haymitch sits down with her and pets her hair until she lifts her head. "I'm so sorry," she sniffs. "I lost track of everything, then the kids were gone, and you were gone, and I thought you'd all left me again."

Without having to hesitate, Haymitch pulls her close to him and whispers "I'll never leave you again, Princess. From now on, it's you and me. We're not just a team, we're a family."

"You, the kids, and me. We're all safe. We're all in Twelve," she murmurs, curling up against him. "I am in Twelve. I have my kids. I have my Haymitch. We are all home. We're safe."

Haymitch clutches her, liking how she refers to Twelve as home. "That's right, Princess," he whispers.

(!) (!) (!) (!) (!) (!)

"Haymitch, is it okay if we tell each other everything?" she asks softly.

"Yeah, sweetheart. What's on your mind?" he asks, cuddling her.

"What Peeta was talking about," she whispers. "How they beat me."

"Yeah?" he asks warily. "Do you wanna tell me about that?"

She nods, then closes her eyes. "It was bright when they first did this. I had already been stripped down, and I was tied to a tabletop on wheels. My arms and legs were tied tightly to the metal railings on either side of my tabletop, and I was vulnerable and exposed. They had Peeta tied similarly to me. Then they asked him who the rebels were. He told them the truth, that he didn't know, and the guard who had me immediately slammed his fist into my jaw. I remember my sight going white, and Peeta screaming. The other guard asked him something else, the words are hazy, then I heard Peeta saying he didn't know, then he was begging the guard not to hit me. He took no notice, he hit me anyway, he got me in my jaw again, and I think he broke it that time. The next punch was straight to my chest. Peeta was screaming, begging them to stop. I couldn't scream, I was winded, my jaw was broken, and I was in shock as it was," she whispers, shaking.

"Effie," Haymitch whispers, gently cupping her cheek. "If you can't continue-"

"I can," she says quietly. "I can, I need a second."

"Okay," he whispers, kissing the side of her head and watching her relax into his arms.

After a minute, she breathes "The next punch was when they'd asked Peeta who was leading the revolution. He'd insisted that he didn't know, and he begged them not to touch me. The blow landed hard on my collarbone, and it nearly knocked me out with the pain. I heard a guard tell our poor boy that if he didn't give him something to work with, he'd be forced to watch the other guard punch my stomach until I coughed up blood. And naturally, because our sweet boy knew nothing, the guard punched me until I had blood covering my lips, my chin, my throat, my chest, and my ribs."

"It's a miracle you survived," Haymitch says, cuddling her.

"That's what Peeta said when we shared a cell for a while," Effie agrees. "They put me in with a different victor once a week, the rest of the time, I was alone. And then one day, they brought Peeta to me. They asked me if I wanted to take the beating for him, and he yelled at me to say no. I told them I would, and I took it for him. They beat my head into the wall until blood was coming out of my nose and ears, then they tied me down and punched me until I was vomiting up what little they gave me."

Haymitch's thumb traces the raised scar on the back of her head and he feels sicker than ever for allowing her to be trapped there. "How long did that go on for?" he asks.

"In hindsight, it was probably about twenty minutes," she says quietly, too pale for Haymitch's liking. "But at the time, it felt like twenty years. I'm sorry, do you need me to stop?"

"No," he lies. "No. You tell me what you need to tell me."

"I can stop if you want me to," she offers. 

"Effie, you need to get this off your chest. Tell me. I won't judge you," he says, kissing her cheeks.

She sighs, then continues. "They asked me again, a few hours later, if I would take it for him again. I agreed to it, and they beat me some more. They shattered my ribs, and they dislocated both of my shoulders, They didn't hit my head again, but that may have been because they'd already broken my skull and they needed me alive. They kept beating me until I was unconscious," she sighs. "And I awoke a few days later to find that they'd beaten Jo and Peeta while I was out. I despise myself for being so weak as to stay unconscious for all of that time. My skull had been put back into place while I was out, and it was slowly fusing back together. I took the next two beatings for the kids, then they took me away for more interrogation. I didn't love what they did there, but I think I should save that for another time. I'm rather tired from this."

( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) 

"Okay," Haymitch whispers, feeling horrible for her. She starts to shake again and he asks "Sweetheart?"

She sniffs "Please will you just hold me for a while?"

"For as long as you like," he tells her, shifting her a little so that she'll be comfortable. Effie proceeds to cry, long, hard, and silent on his shoulder, clinging to him like he's her lifeline. She cries herself to sleep, making pained sobbing noises as she succumbs to her exhaustion. Haymitch, feeling rotten for her, clutches her tiny frame close and kisses her forehead. Nobody else is there to notice the silent tears dripping down his cheeks as her story sinks in, or to watch him as he lies her down between him and the sofa, careful not to wake her, and whisper into her hair "You'll never suffer like that again, sweetheart. Not while I'm still breathing."

He falls asleep with his promise to her still ringing in his head.

Chapter Text

Bang! The door slamming open jolts Haymitch awake, and he immediately grabs Effie, shifting to shield her with his body, instinct taking over. Barely aware, Effie squeaks in protest, wriggling in an attempt to shift him off her so that she can breathe again, not sure what the danger is. Peeta strides in with a massive grin on his face. "This better be urgent, boy," Haymitch growls, letting Effie up and hugging her tightly while she rubs her cheek to get the dried drool off her skin.

"She said yes!" Peeta declares.

"Huh?" Haymitch asks, looking at the young man with confusion. "If you two are having little toastbabies, I'm gonna cut your sack off with my knife, boy."

"Toastbabies!" Effie gasps, bolting upright. "Really?!"

"No," Peeta chuckles. "Haymitch, you can keep that knife away from me. No toastbabies. I asked Katniss to marry me this morning."

"Eeee!" Effie squeals, jumping off the sofa and pouncing on Peeta, hugging him in her death grip. "Congratulations! When do I start planning your wedding? Would you two like an outdoor wedding? Maybe in the meadow! I know you two love it there! Oh, oh, should I order you wedding boards? Or would you prefer it traditional to Twelve? Does Katniss want bridesmaids? What kind of rings are you thinking of having? Should I get you a tux? What will the colour scheme be? Oh, do we need horse-drawn carriages? What season do you want it to be in? I need to take Katniss shopping for her wedding dress! Who- Haymitch, will you give her away? Peeta, we need to get you in a tailored tux, only the best will do for my boy! You won't want it televised, no, I must get cameras banned from the District. Oh, this is so exciting, we need to find you a cake!"

"Let the man breathe, Princess!" Haymitch chuckles, making Effie release her death grip on Peeta. "Damn, lady, this won't be the only wedding you plan, and they've only just got engaged. Let them think about it, and they may not want you to do all the planning for them. Let them make the decisions."

Effie droops considerably, then leans on Haymitch. "Okay," she sighs. "I will have to find someone else, then. There must be someone who wants their wedding planned for them."

Katniss bursts in and grabs Effie. "Listen, I need your help," she says, locking her gaze with Effie's. 

"Yes?" Effie asks, eager to be useful.

"I need you to help me find a wedding dress," Katniss says. "I'm hopeless with dresses, and you're- Ugh!"

Effie's death grip locks around Katniss's ribs as the over-enthusiastic blonde starts squealing. Haymitch sighs and goes to save the girl from being crushed to death by Effie. Effie's not too pleased about her 'hugs' being forcibly broken, but she squeaks out "We're going to go dress shopping today, and you'll get to try on as many wedding gowns as you like! We'll get you in the dress that makes you feel like the princess you are!"

Katniss looks to Haymitch with fearful eyes, silently begging him to rescue her. Haymitch just smirks at her, knowing she's stuck with Effie now.

Two hours later, the kids have escaped the clutches of their hyperactive former escort, and they've left Haymitch alone to deal with her enthusiastic bouncing. He groans "Effie, honestly, calm down! The wedding's not taking place until August!"

"And we are in January!" she exclaims. "That is only seven months! I don't have enough time!"

"You have seven months, sweetheart, and you'll be in the Capitol for six of those," he reminds her.

She droops a little bit at the reminder. "Yes," she breathes. "In the Capitol. Alone. Of course."

"You'll be happy there," he says, more for his sanity than her comfort. He doesn't like thinking of her being alone, sad, stressed, and far away from him. "You like it there. It's your home, after all."

She sinks back against the sofa. "Mm," she hums sadly. 

"What's up?" he asks.

"Nothing," she lies, not looking up. 

"Is it the thought of you having to go home?" he asks.

She looks up at him then, and he's horrified to see her eyes glistening with tears. "Haymitch, please stop referring to the city as my home," she whispers. "Home is where my kids are. Home is where the Haymitch is. The Capitol doesn't have my kids in it. It doesn't have you. The Capitol is not my home. I am not permitted to move to my home. Please stop reminding me that I am not a permanent feature here."

She stands and runs from the room, her soft sobs filling the silent house. Haymitch follows her upstairs, then catches her on his bed, crying. He sits beside her and puts his hand on her back. "Princess, do you want to be a permanent feature of this place?" he asks quietly.

"What I want is irrelevant," she sniffs. "I am an outsider here. I am not a victor, nor am I a relative of a victor. I am the escort, the random Capitol brat that's just been pushed in where she's not wanted. I cannot just move myself in with you when it was a huge sacrifice on your part to even offer to host me. You didn't even want me here when I first asked, but when the kids heard, they bullied a very drunk you into calling to offer to host me. They offered themselves, but your wasted self had insisted I tell them that you said I was to stay with you."

Suddenly, her strange behaviour when she'd arrived clicks into place, and he understands. Maybe that's why she wasn't busy reprimanding me on my manners, and why she wasn't telling me off for not greeting her at the train station like the kids did, and why she didn't just have me put her stuff in my room as soon as she arrived, he thinks, fear of her suddenly leaving striking deep into his soul, leaving him with an instinct to pick her up and hold her to him so that she'll never leave. "You didn't feel wanted?" he asks tentatively, hoping that he's wrong.

"I don't feel wanted," she corrects sadly, sniffling again. "I feel like I forced you to say yes to me. I've tried to be my usual pushy self, but... But I can't. Haymitch, I'm so sorry. After the festival, I will leave if you still don't want me here."

"Effie, you silly little thing," he sighs, rubbing her back and wishing he'd noticed sooner. "I'm a grouchy, horrible, miserable old drunk, so I can't admit that I like having you here. Not out loud. But I wouldn't have invited you if I didn't want you."

"Really? Because I feel as if I forced you into saying yes to me, and I hate doing that," she sighs. "Be honest with me. I'm a big girl, I can take the truth."

"Okay, fine," he says. "At first, I didn't want you here. I complained about it."

"At first?" she questions.

"Yeah. I decided I like having you around on your first night here. You were all sad, and yeah, that was my fault because I'm insensitive to you, and you still chose to curl up in my bed and cuddle up to me, and you told me what was on your mind. You slept in my arms, and you talked to me about your nightmares. I like that you feel secure enough to do that. I like being the one you come to," he tells her, putting his arms around her. "Stay here, sweetheart. After the festival. Stay."

"I thought I was in your way," she breathes, hugging him tightly, as if she's silently begging him to never let her go.

"Yeah, you are, but I enjoy it," he says. "I like having you getting in my way. I'll tell you something, but you have to swear you'll never tell anyone else."

"I promise," she whispers, clutching him.

"You're really cute," he whispers, feeling like an idiot. "Don't take it as me being soft. I mean that you do cute things like wriggle your way under my arm and get a cuddle without asking. You look so pleased with yourself when you do that."

"Well, when you give me cuddles, I am proud," she says. "I have a wonderful man snuggling me. I feel very proud."

He chuckles and kisses her head. "Now you know how I feel when I have you around," he says, then cringes a bit. "Okay, now it's getting too sappy. What do you say to going out for a coffee before I say something really stupid?"

"Honestly, you could tell me that horses and llamas are the same species and make it sound clever," she huffs. "I like it when you call me cute and tell me that you're proud to have me, even if it is just every once in a while. Some mushy doesn't hurt."

"It feels weird to be all mushy," he says. "Didn't think I'd ever call anyone cute..."

"Well, now you have," she chuckles. "And I like it, even though it's very out of your usual character."

"I'm not gonna do it all the time," he warns her. "Just know that I mean it, okay? And remember, if you pout, it's a one-way ticket to getting kissed."

"I will be pouting a lot, then," she promises, then kisses his cheek. "Listen, I'm not really in the mood for going out today, and I think that goes rather well for you too. Shall we just stay in and share lots of kisses?"

Haymitch chuckles a little, giving her a fond look while he strokes her hair. "Yeah, sweetheart, why not? Staying in together works just fine for me," he says, sliding his hand to her waist and giving her a hug, smiling with satisfaction as she hugs him back.

Chapter Text

"Effie, come on! The festival starts in an hour, and we have to get there!" Haymitch calls. "And you're in those ridiculous heels, so we need to set off now!"

Effie pads down the stairs in pretty pink flats, a thick, pink velvet dress and a fake fur lined blue denim jacket. Her blonde curls are loose, and Haymitch stares at her. "What was that comment about my ridiculous heels?" she asks quietly, a glimmer of amusement in her eyes. She appraises him as he gapes at her, taking in his casual dark blue jeans, grey t-shirt, black winter coat, black leather shoes, his coal black hair brushed and curling at his shoulders, and his beard trimmed. "You look wonderful."

"Thanks," he mutters awkwardly, unused to kind comments. "You look..."

"Silly," she giggles, then kisses him. "Come on, we'd better go before I rethink looking so plain when standing next to you."

"You look beautiful," he whispers, only for her ears, not wanting to say it any louder. The Games may be gone, but in his mind, they're never over. Telling her she's beautiful scares him, because he still feels as if she'll be snatched from him at any second, and he doesn't like that idea. "Come on, the kids are waiting."

Effie follows him, beaming with pride. She links her arm with his, just how they used to. Haymitch gives her a funny look, causing her to remember that he hates it when she does that, and she withdraws her arm with a soft "I'm sorry, I forgot."

He rolls his eyes and gently grabs her hand, squeezing it tenderly, then giving her a small wink. She smiles properly and squeezes his hand back lightly. They approach the two younger adults, both of whom are waiting at the gates. "Hey!" Peeta exclaims enthusiastically, then he drops his gaze to the older couple's linked hands. "So, have you two finally come to terms with your love for each other?"

"Huh?" Haymitch asks, looking perplexed.

Effie's eyes drop to the ground at Haymitch's obvious confusion, a wave of hurt rushing over her. "Haymitch and I are not in love, dear," she says, lifting her eyes in a mask of cheeriness. "We're just very close friends."

"With added benefits," Katniss mutters.

"Honestly, Katniss, you and your dirty mind! What happened to the pure young woman I remember sending home?" Effie huffs. 

"That might have been my fault," Haymitch says. "She was in a catatonic state when she got home, I tried to shock her awake by using something not very traumatic."

"You're lucky you'd beat me in a fight," Effie hisses. "I can't believe you ruined the purest one of the four of us! Look what you did! Making innuendos..."

"Effie, no offence, but you're acting like a mom whose daughter's just been mentally corrupted," Peeta chuckles, earning himself a glare.

"When you have a daughter that Haymitch has successfully corrupted with his filthy jokes, let me know!" Effie scoffs, looking at Katniss with something akin to heartbreak. "What has this filthy man done to your mind...?"

"Hey, you like my filthy mind," Haymitch protests.

"Not when you're using it to ruin her innocence, I don't!" Effie squawks, sounding very much like a goose, in Haymitch's opinion.

"Effie, he told me dirty jokes, he didn't do anything weird," Katniss chuckles.

"You're mentally ruined!" Effie wails, making her team laugh at her. 

"Look, you can't tell me off, you're the one who understood the joke," Katniss points out.

"I am an adult," Effie huffs.

"So?" Katniss asks. "Most girls my age have done loads of the stuff you're whining about me knowing about. Would you prefer it if you knew about Peeta and me-"

"No!" Haymitch cuts in. "Nope! No! That sentence remains unfinished! No! Never mind Princess, I don't wanna know! No!"

Effie nods. "What he said. I don't need to know what the two of you get up to in the privacy of your own house. That really will give me nightmares," she says, shuddering at the idea. 

"I noticed that you didn't disagree with the whole friends with benefits thing, though," Peeta says, smirking.

"Look, boy, Effie and I aren't doing anything," Haymitch says. 

"Unlike some," Effie mutters.

"Yeah, no thanks," Haymitch grumbles. "Don't wanna think of my kids like that. Anyway, perverted Princess aside, she and I aren't having any of that kind of fun behind closed doors."

"It's not because you don't want to, though, is it?" Katniss prods.

"We want to," Haymitch says. "Anyway, we have a festival to get to."

Effie jumps at the chance to escape. "Oh, I can't wait, it sounds so fun!" she squeaks eagerly, heading for the gates.

"Trinket!" Haymitch calls, then groans, following her at a pace that's almost a run, not wanting to lose her in the District.

"Oh, oh, we could have a sound booth!" Effie rambles to Katniss and Peeta, who have long since tuned out. "And we could put streamers on the trees. Do you think that sunset orange and forest green bows would look nice on the seats? How would we incorporate that into the flower arrangement? Which florist are you going with?"

Haymitch, sick of Effie's incessant babbling, grabs a large red candy pop on a lanyard and buys it from the vendor, then unwraps it and turns to Effie. "Hey, Princess," he says.

"Yes?" she asks, turning on him with a manic glint in her eyes. He shoves the candy pop into her mouth. "Um!"

"Now you suck on that, and stay quiet for a bit, okay?" he sighs, petting her.

"Mm hmm!" she hums around her candy pop, sucking it happily like a small child.

Katniss and Peeta sigh in relief, glad for the reprieve from their former escort's enthusiastic babbling. Katniss edges up to her former mentor and asks "Does she babble like that all the time when it's just the two of you?"

"Nope," Haymitch replies. "You've got no idea how grateful I am for her quietness when it's just her and me."

Effie's contently sucking on her candy pop, looking like a happy little girl, her eyes wide, bright, and darting everywhere. She edges closer to Haymitch and takes his hand, looking around eagerly. The four of them hear a group of people laughing, and someone says "Is that an adult or a child? She looks to have the body of an adult, but everything else screams child..."

Haymitch turns to shoot them a dark look and wraps his arm protectively around Effie's shoulders. Effie looks up at him, then leans her head on his chest, her own arm snaking around his waist. "Ignore them, Princess," Haymitch whispers, only getting a nod in response.

Peeta watches Haymitch and Effie attentively, seeing how Haymitch instantly pulls Effie to his side and tries to protect her from people who might upset her, how he looks at her with love in his eyes and doesn't know it, how he's constantly touching her, as if he's not sure she's real, and how he keeps whispering to her and making her smile. He watches how Effie relaxes under Haymitch's touch, how she looks up at him like he's everything the world has to offer, how she snuggles up to him and holds him to her, how she responds to his words, how she's so trusting of him. Effie eventually pulls the candy pop from her mouth and offers the unsucked part to him. "Want a lick?" she asks, and something in her tone holds a warning.

"No, that's yours, sweetheart," Haymitch chuckles. "It's just for you."

"I have a feeling you bought it to shut me up," Effie giggles.

"Yup," Haymitch replies without an ounce of shame. "I did. Now, you eat that like a good girl, then we'll go on some rides."

"Okay!" Effie squeaks, eagerly replacing her candy pop in her mouth.

It suddenly dawns on Haymitch that giving someone as excitable and small as Effie a candy of that size probably wasn't the best idea, as she seems to be strongly affected by sugar. Her eyes get continuously brighter as she finishes her candy pop, and detaches the little stump of plastic from her lanyard before putting the ribbon into her bag. "Okay, you wanna go on a ride?" Haymitch asks.

"I wanna do cartwheels!" Effie squeals excitedly, looking around with a glimmer of crazy in her eyes. 

"Oh, God," Katniss groans. 

"Yup," Haymitch sighs, closing his eyes as he mentally kicks himself. He opens them to see Effie poising herself for a cartwheel. He grabs her by her waist and lifts her up. "Effie, no!"

Effie squirms, her feet kicking in the air. "Yay, I'm flying!" she shrieks, attracting attention.

"Is she okay?" a woman asks.

"She's been given sugar," Peeta replies. "We didn't know it had such a weird effect on her."

"Haymitch, look!" Effie squeals, her shoe flying off and knocking over a coconut. Naturally, she sees this and shrieks "Yay, I won something! Haymitch, look it!"

"Yeah, you kicked off your shoe," he sighs, then puts her over his shoulder in a fireman's hold, going to the coconut booth to retrieve Effie's shoe. "I'm sorry, my friend here accidentally kicked her shoe off..."

"And knocked over a coconut," the stall-holder says, chuckling. "She's got an impressive kick."

"Haymitch, the world is the wrong side up!" Effie exclaims, giggling. "The sky's on the ground!"

"Is she okay?" the stall-holder asks.

"I gave her sugar," Haymitch sighs. "If I'd known it was such a bad idea, I'd have given her a hot dog or something."

"Who says it was a bad idea?" Effie asks, wriggling. "Hey, it's not so bad being down-side up! I like this! It makes me feel special!"

"Yeah, you're special, all right," Haymitch chuckles.

She freezes. "You think I'm special?" she asks, sounding touched.

"Uh." Haymitch chokes on air before uncertainly asking "Yeah...?"

As expected, Effie squirms free. "I want to go do karaoke!" she squeaks, landing on all fours on the floor and crawling across the grass. 

"Effie, no!" Haymitch calls, taking her shoe from the coconut stall-holder with a hurried thanks, then chases her down and picks her up. "No karaoke."

"But why-y-y?" she whines. "I can sing! Listen!"

She proceeds to shriek some pop song at the top of her lungs, rather off-key, out of time, and off-pitch. Haymitch puts his hand over her mouth and hisses "I will pay you to never do that again!"

"Don't you like my singing?" she asks, sounding wounded.

"I like it, I just don't like it when you do it that loudly in public," he says. "You're making a scene."

She pouts, then asks "Can we go on the bumper cars, then?"

"Sure," he agrees, expecting this to be the safest option, and hoping that she'd wear some of her energy off by going in the bumper cars.

"Mind if I drive?" she asks, sitting down with him.

"Go for it, Princess," he chuckles, noticing Katniss and Peeta watching them with amusement. He sits with Effie anyway and straps them both in, resting one hand on her knee. As the cars start up and Effie slams her foot down, Haymitch suddenly understands how big of a mistake he's just made. She's a terrible driver, and keeps ramming the rubber around the base of the car into other cars. "Effie, be careful!"

"No! I'm having fun!" she squeals, driving the car straight at a wall. 

"Effie!" Haymitch yells, then winces as the car collides with the wall. "Damn it, Trinket!"

"If I wrote a book about our relationship, that would be the title," she giggles, whirling the car around and driving straight at the back of a car containing a young man that's twice Effie's size and almost double her height. She rams right into his car, then drives past him, squealing like a little girl. "I'm a bumper car pro! Hey, Haymitch, watch this!"

For a split second, he's confused, but as soon as he sees her heading for a wall at the best speed she can manage, he grabs the wheel and turns them away. "No," he tells her. "This is supposed to be fun, not you throwing us into things."

"I like throwing us into things," she huffs, then parks the bumper car up. "When this is done, I'm gonna go buy a chocolate bar."

"What for?" he asks, amazed. "You've already had too much sugar."

"Because now I'm sad," she huffs, her lips forming a pout. "And what better way to cheer up than to stuff my face with chocolate?"

Throwing every bit of caution to the wind, he pulls her close and kisses her lips, being careful not to hurt her. She's still for a split second, then melts into him and kisses him back. There are whoops and cheers around them, and they're vaguely aware of Katniss and Peeta laughing at them. The urge to breathe overtakes after about two minutes, and Effie gasps softly. "How's that for cheering up?" Haymitch asks quietly.

"Perfect," she breathes and kisses him again, locking her hands in his hair. 

They're interrupted by the ride's attendant tapping on Haymitch's shoulder, saying "The ride finished two minutes ago, and there are people who want to get on this ride."

Haymitch says "Thanks," then unbuckles his seatbelt and gets up, offering his hand to Effie. "Come on then, small thing, where are you taking us next?"

"Cotton candy!" she exclaims, zooming off.

"Why?" Haymitch whines, chasing her. He hears Katniss laughing as she hands Peeta a twenty dollar bill. "I saw that."

He catches Effie as she buys a big cloud of bright pink cotton candy. "Thank you," she chirps to the seller, then turns to Haymitch. "Hey, look it! I bought something delicious that matches my old wig!"

"Yeah, no," he sighs. "You've had too much sugar, Princess."

"Nope!" she giggles, then offers it to him. "Want some?"

He tears away half of the sugar cloud, hoping she'll be less hyperactive if she has less sugar. "Thanks, Princess," he chuckles, watching her giant smile. He eats the fluffy candy quickly, keeping his arms around her waist so that she can't run off to be hyperactive elsewhere. Katniss and Peeta arrive, then gape at him as they see Effie eating her cotton candy. "Look, I got here too late to prevent her buying it, so we split it."

"And it good!" Effie mumbles, her face sticky with sugar. "Want me to buy you some?"

"No, thanks, Effie," Peeta says gently. "Don't you think you've had enough sugar?"

"Uh uh," Effie replies, her eyes bright with enthusiasm. "We ought to go on the Ferris wheel!"

"With you full of sugar?" Katniss scoffs. "No way."

"Haymitch, will you come on the Ferris wheel with me?" Effie asks, giving him her best puppy eyes.

Haymitch groans. "Stop it," he mutters. "Not the puppy eyes."

"Please?" Effie pleads, pressing herself to him and locking her arms around his neck. "Please? I'll do anything. Please?"

Haymitch lets out a long-suffering sigh. "Damn you and your little puppy face. You really don't play fair, small thing," he says, petting her.

"It gets me what I want," she giggles. "We can discuss what you want from me when we're on the wheel."

Peeta hides a smirk, and Haymitch asks "What's with the smirk, boy?"

"You're under her thumb and she's only been with you two days," Peeta chuckles.

"He's been under my thumb for a lot longer than two days, Peeta!" Effie exclaims. "Talented lips and big eyes get you everything you want from your closest friend."

"From that kiss you two shared on the bumper cars, I'd say that that's a lot more than friendship," Katniss chuckles.

"We're going on the wheel," Effie huffs, dragging Haymitch along with her.

Haymitch learns something new on the Ferris wheel. He's afraid of heights, and Effie's utterly petrified. She spends the whole ride with her face against his chest, and he decides that there are worse situations to be in with her.

Four hours later, Effie's down off her sugar high, and she's half asleep as she walks. Katniss asks "Effie, are you okay?"

"Yes, dear, I'm fine," Effie slurs, clearly falling asleep as she walks.

Haymitch looks at the sleepy woman, then sighs "Okay, come here," and sweeps her up into his arms, making her comfortable. She squeaks softly, placing her head on his shoulder and yawning once, her eyes drifting shut. Haymitch smiles, then spots the kids smirking at him. "Don't say a word."

"What? It's nice to see you cuddling Effie," Peeta chuckles. 

"That friends with benefits situation, now," Katniss teases. "How's that going? Still no strings, or are you getting attached?"

"All right, listen up, Everdeen, you may have survived two Hunger Games, a war, and being cooked alive, but if you keep talking about this, I'll finish what those Games started," Haymitch threatens, but his eyes are twinkling with amusement.

"You couldn't kill me if you tried, old man," Katniss scoffs, smirking. "You keep your threats for Effie, I'm pretty sure she likes them."

As they approach the Village, Peeta asks "Are you ever gonna tell her that you want her to stay here in Twelve after the celebrations?"

Haymitch shakes his head. "She's a city girl. It'd crush her soul if she was forced to stay here," he sighs. "She'd miss the glitter of her home."

"Ask her," Peeta whispers. "Trust me, you might get a different outcome to the one you're expecting."

With that, he and Katniss head back to their house, leaving Haymitch to take Effie inside. She's still very much out of it, and it doesn't take long at all for Haymitch to undress her, put her in her nightie, and tuck her into the bed before he gets undressed himself. He gets into bed with her and kisses her forehead while she sleeps, then whispers "Goodnight, small stuff."

He holds her tightly as he falls asleep, comforted by her soft breaths and warm body.

Chapter Text

The morning kicks off like the last three, with the exception of following a whole night of dreamless sleep for both Haymitch and Effie. Haymitch smiles a bit at Effie, who's still sleeping soundly, her lips slightly parted. He smirks as he sees a little puddle of drool under her face, thinking about teasing her with that later on. The geese start to honk loudly, and Effie wakes up with a squeak. She notices Haymitch above her and sighs, snuggling back down under the duvet. "Watching me sleep?" she asks, a trace of amusement in her tone. 

"Yeah, I'm watching you drool everywhere while you sleep," Haymitch chuckles. "What of it?"

"That's boyfriend stuff," she chuckles sleepily, then gasps in horror, bolting upright to glare at him. "I do not drool!"

He bursts out laughing and shows her the wet spot on his t-shirt. "What's this wet spot, then?" he asks mockingly, then wipes drool off her cheek. "And this?"

She blushes furiously. "I hate you," she huffs. "I can't believe that I haven't even been awake for a whole minute and you're already trying to upset me!"

He hugs her tightly, the thought of her being upset too much for him to handle. "No, Princess, don't get upset, I'm only teasing you," he rushes out, hugging her close.

"It's okay, apology accepted," she giggles. "Do you want me to feed the feathered monstrosities today?"

"You want to go near the geese," he says, lifting an eyebrow. "You."

"Yes," she replies cheerfully.

"Who are you and what have you done with my Effie?" he asks.

"Your Effie?!" she squeaks. "Your... Who said you get to stake your claim on me?"

"I did," he jokes. "I didn't mean it like that, I meant it like the Effie I know."

The bright light in her eyes dims, and a look of sadness flits across her face before she smiles at him, wiping any trace of sadness off her face. "I know that, I was joking," she giggles. "Do you want me to feed your geese or not?"

"No," he says. "They'll mistake you for their breakfast. We can go to them together, though."

"Okay," she replies, flashing him a bright smile before she gets out of bed. She grabs her dressing gown, then looks down at her clothes. "Um, Haymitch? Was I in my nightie before I fell asleep?"

"No," he admits. "But you changed my clothes enough over the last eight or nine years, so I figure I should try making the effort when you get exhausted."

She blushes scarlet and ties her robe tightly around her. "Okay. I'm sorry if the sight of me did lasting damage to your eyes and brain," she says, then steps into her slippers. "Put something warm on, Haymitch, you'll catch your death out there. I'll put some coffee on while you do that."

She rushes off downstairs, leaving Haymitch to wrap something warm around himself and consider why she would look sad every time he mentions them not being together, aside from platonically. Effie, meanwhile, is making coffee and mentally cursing herself for ever letting herself think that Haymitch likes her in a romantic way, even though she knows he's only interested in being her friend. A friend with benefits, she thinks in an uncharacteristically sour way. Haymitch appears behind her and asks "Coffee ready yet, Princess?"

Effie mentally curses her brain for dropping to the domestic line of thought, then says "It will be in a minute. We should feed the geese first, the coffee's brewing."

Haymitch nods and grabs the feed, then looks to her. "Stay here, okay? Keep an eye on that machine," he says.

"Okay," Effie sighs. She waits until he's outside to let a few tears fall. She wipes at her eyes and whispers "Get it together, Trinket, you knew when you came here that he didn't have any interest. He never has. Stop deluding yourself and be a good friend."

She gets out two mugs, then adds sugar to the mugs before grabbing a tissue from her pocket and drying her eyes and nose with it. She puts the tissue in the waste bin, then washes and dries her hands before grabbing a spoon and pouring freshly brewed coffee. She takes the mugs out to Haymitch, who's in the pen and looking into the shelter. He looks up and calls "Eff, come here! You need to see this!"

She goes over and asks "What is it?"

"Someone's nesting again, and she's being particularly vicious," Haymitch says happily, then lifts the lid of the shelter up for Effie to see. The tiny female goose is sat in a nest, and snapping her beak at Haymitch. "Looks like we're getting goslings."

Effie smiles a bit. "Lucky you," she chuckles. "I'm not going to be here for it, though."

"What are you talking about?" Haymitch asks, looking confused. 

"I have to go back to the city after the month is up," she reminds him, her heart sinking as she remembers. 

He looks disappointed for a moment, covering it up so quickly that she's not sure if she even saw it. "Yeah, I forgot about that," he says. "Well, I wouldn't mind if you wanted to stay a bit longer, see the goslings hatching."

She smiles a little. "We'll see if you're still saying that at the end of the month, yes?" she asks.

He smirks up at her, then his eyes land on the coffee. "You brought coffee?" he asks hopefully.

"Oh yes! How silly of me! Here," she laughs, handing him his mug. He takes it gratefully, then gets up, closing the shelter up and stepping out of the pen, shutting it behind him. "So, you finally got the mother goose to have more babies. You must be pleased."

"Yeah, I am," he chuckles. "The big guy's preening, he's pleased that his girl's finally been in the mood."

"Lucky goose," she jokes, but Haymitch doesn't miss the slight sad undertone to her voice. "I'll bet he has all the other males around him feeling jealous."

Including you, she thinks, not adding that out loud for fear of sparking a row. "Probably," Haymitch sighs. "The stalker one especially. We oughta head back inside, you'll freeze out here."

"Mm," she hums noncommittally, taking a sip of coffee.

He links his arm with hers and leads her back to the house, sipping his own coffee as they walk. "Are you excited for the ball tonight?" he asks, wanting to get her chatting.

"I'd much rather stay home and read, if I'm honest," she admits. "I'll go, obviously, it is why I'm here, to celebrate, but after last night, I feel rather tired. Since the war, I'm not really as social as I used to be."

"I get you, sweetheart," he agrees, letting them back into the house. "I'm only going tonight because I'm expected to by the kids, and they're adamant that I bring a date. They're determined to get me married by spring."

Effie laughs softly, sitting at the kitchen table. "Well, I don't think you'd have a problem with getting married if you found the right woman," she says. "You won't have any trouble getting a woman, either. Who knows? Maybe the love of your life will be at the ball tonight, and it'll all become a really cheesy romance movie."

"What do I have to sell to make sure that doesn't happen?" he jokes, sitting opposite her. "I don't want to meet anyone, I like my life the way it is. No marriage, nobody pestering me all the time, nobody to make me sit through hours of boring soaps and chick flicks."

"Sounds like you've got the dream life," she jokes. 

"Yeah, I guess I have," he chuckles. "What about you? How's getting your dream life going?"

"Not well," she admits. "I'm starting to think that I'm doomed to live a long, lonely life, and die a crazy cat lady with no husband or kids."

"Has nobody in the Capitol expressed an interest?" he asks, his eyes wide with surprise. 

"No," she chuckles dryly, without any trace of amusement. "I'm not surprised, I'm too hung up on a former love interest to consider anyone else. That never came to fruition, either."

She sips her coffee, trying not to look as pathetic as she feels. Haymitch, however, feels bad for her. "Eff, you're a beautiful woman. The right man will find you eventually, you'll marry him, and fill a house with little Effies. It'll be your fairytale ending."

"Thank you, Haymitch, but I doubt it," she sighs.

"Why do you doubt it, sweetheart?" he asks curiously.

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"I can't do more than make out, and that's with you, someone I trust," she sighs. "I'm terrified of being touched sexually at all, and when it gets to so much as a hand on my back under my top, I lose all rationality and it freaks men out. The one I'm hung up on doesn't share my love for him, and nobody else quite compares. I don't think I'll ever completely recover who I used to be, and that scares me. I hate the whole touching thing, it's scary."

"What scares you about being touched, Eff?" he asks, then hurries to add "I'm not expecting you to tell me everything, and I don't want to force you or rush you, you don't have to answer if you don't want to."

"I do want to talk about it, I just don't want to load it onto you. I remember that you hated hearing about the beatings, I don't think you'd like to hear about the sexual tortures, too," she murmurs, her coffee suddenly becoming very fascinating to her.

"Effie, I'm here for you, no matter what," he says, reaching to hold her hand. "You can tell me. In your own time."

She sits quietly for a few minutes, then whispers "It started when they couldn't beat answers out of me to get Peeta and Jo to talk. They knew Annie and Enobaria knew nothing, and Portia wouldn't speak regardless. She knew, but I'd warned her to keep her mouth shut. When it became clear to them that the others wouldn't talk, they'd leave me in my cell, all alone in the dark, and wait. They waited until I was sleeping before I'd wake to hot breath on the nape of my neck. I'd lie there, incapable of movement until the hands started to wander. I'd feel them first on my thigh, just resting there. I didn't respond, hoping they'd stop if they thought I was sleeping, but the hand moved."

She stops, her hand leaving her mug to cover her mouth, tears in her eyes. Haymitch squeezes her hand gently and quietly says "You don't have to tell me if you're not ready to, Eff. This has to be because you're ready."

"I am," she gasps. "It's just so vivid..."

"Okay, come on, we'll relocate to the living room," he says, getting up and picking her up from her seat, carrying her to the living room. He sits down on the sofa with her on his lap, his arms around her as if to shield her from her memories. "When you're ready, Princess."

She sniffs and settles against his chest, her head on his shoulder. "Okay. When their hands first started to wander, I prayed they wouldn't do what I thought they'd do, but then the hand travelled up my body and across my front. I had several broken ribs, and having my breathing become ragged from fear, and their hands on them did nothing for them. When it first began, I said no to them, I told them I hated it, but it just encouraged them. I'd ask them not to touch me, but they carried on, then once it got worse, there was no stopping them," she whispers.

"What do you mean, worse?" he asks worriedly.

"Well, at the start, they kept their touching to my thighs, my sides, my ribs, and my stomach," she says. "It just started to get worse when they took it further. They kept questioning me, and said that they'd stop touching me if I told them what I knew, and I repeated that I knew nothing. It was horrible, and I begged them to stop touching me, and they just started grabbing at me. They weren't gentle, and it reopened some of the cuts that they'd already put on me."

She cuts off again, dry sobbing,her whole body shaking. Haymitch tightens his grip, kissing her head. "It's okay, sweetheart, it's not happening now, and it never will again," he whispers.

"I relive it every night," she sobs. "Their hands on my chest, between my legs, squeezing at my bottom, slapping at my stomach, roaming my thighs, reaching for my throat... They kept threatening to rape me. I'd beg them not to, but they just laughed at me. I hated every second of it, Haymitch. I can't stop seeing the sick glee on their faces as they touched me and taunted me. I feel it every night. It hurt so much, I can still feel it. When I'm alone, I feel it. I can feel it now, and it's awful."

"What's hurting, sweetheart?" he asks, cuddling her close.

She presses her face into his shoulder, sobbing hard and fast. "I can see them, Haymitch. The big man with the sick mind... He likes to hold his knife to my throat while he grinds on my stomach. He keeps threatening to gut me like a fish, and he likes to fondle me. He won't listen when I tell him not to..." she sobs.

"Effie," Haymitch says firmly, knowing that when she slips into the present tense that she's falling into the memories. "Effie, look around you. Describe the room."

She lifts her head from his shoulder and whimpers "Grey walls, big window, door, brown floor, sofa, fireplace, Haymitch."

"Yeah," he whispers. "You're at home, you're safe. You're not going to be hurt."

Her hands fly to her chest and Haymitch has to keep his eyes on hers to avoid an embarrassing, and extremely badly timed, case of arousal at the sight of her cupping her breasts. "Oh, thank the heavens," she breathes, moving her hands to wrap them around Haymitch's ribs. "Now you know why I don't feel comfortable with more than just making out."

( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) 

"Yeah," he whispers, hugging her close. "And it's okay to be uncomfortable. Healing takes time."

"That it does," she agrees quietly. "I know it sounds cheesy, but... Haymitch, I really feel like I'm getting better with you. I can't hug just anyone, I don't feel safe to."

"Well, you're always safe with me," he tells her, giving her neck a light kiss.

"I know. I feel safer with you than anywhere else," she whispers, kissing his throat softly. "I like being with you. You make me feel adventurous."

"Maybe we should keep some of that adventure for tonight," he says, giving her a kiss. "Lots of dancing to be done."

"You don't dance," she reminds him.

"I can make an exception for you," he chuckles.

Effie opens the bathroom door to let out a cloud of steam, wearing a towel that's knotted under her arm. "Okay, coming through, coming through, I need to tame my hair before it explodes!" she shrieks, rushing to the vanity, her towel barely protecting her dignity. "I'm not going out if I look like I shaved a poodle and glued the fur to my head!"

Haymitch bursts out laughing, watching her apply products to her hair. "Really? You're not concerned about getting dressed, but you're worried about your hair?" he asks.

"Yes! I look even worse if I have poodle hair!" she wails, rubbing some golden liquid into her hair. "And you need to be seen with someone who's just about decent looking, so I've got to stop the frizz before it gets here!"

"Princess, you're more than just decent, you're beautiful," he tells her. "Poodle hair or not."

"Aww, you're so charming," she giggles, a little hysterically, frantically applying product to her hair before she sections it and puts it in rollers. "Okay, it's up, I can get dressed, then I'll blow dry it. You don't mind me dressing in front of you, do you?"

"Not at all," he says, shrugging. "Nothing I've never seen."

Effie drops her towel, sighing softly, then searches through the wardrobe, selecting a deep purple dress, and a medium blue one, then she holds them up. "Haymitch, which one do you think I'll look better in?" she asks, tilting her head at him.

He studies them, actually putting thought into this, then says "The blue one. You suit blue."

She nods, lying the blue dress on the bed, then hanging the purple one back up. "I'll wear purple to the concert next week," she says, then grabs a lacy blue underwear set and smiles at Haymitch. "Do you like these?" she asks, holding her underwear set up.

"Yeah, they're nice," he says, willing himself not to check her out. "Everyone's going to be so jealous."

"Why?" she asks, stepping into her briefs.

"Because my date's going to be the most beautiful woman at the party," he says casually, undressing so that he can go take his own shower. "I'm really looking forward to this."

She smiles, her cheeks turning pink. "So am I. I'm not looking forward to beating the women off you with a stick, though," she says, smirking at him as she pulls her briefs up and slides her bra on. "They're going to hate me for having the most handsome man in Panem as my date."

She hooks her bra, and Haymitch stares at her. "You really think that women will fight you over me?" he chuckles. "They'll know that, at the end of the night, I'll be coming home with you. Everyone who knows me knows that."

"Like I said earlier, you never know. You might find the love of your life at this ball tonight," she says, unzipping the back of her dress and stepping into it. She pulls it up and slides her arms into it, feeling a lot more secure now that her dress is mostly covering her body. "Would you zip me up, please?"

He tosses his shirt aside, then walks over to her, his eyes on the mess of scars on her back, and he zips her dress up, placing a kiss on the back of her neck, feeling her muscles tense. "There you go, sweetheart," he whispers into her ear. She starts to cry and turns to him, hugging him tightly. He rubs her back gently, then quietly asks "Hey, what's up?"

"I'm hideous," she sobs. "My back's a mess... Every part of me is covered in scars. I'm not beautiful any more."

He sighs, cuddling her close. "Oh, Princess," he murmurs, his hand gently rubbing her back while she sobs. "Princess, you're still beautiful. More so, even."

"How do you get more so when I look like this?" she sobs.

"Because these scars prove that you're a survivor. You went through hell and back and survived to tell the tale. You got most of these scars protecting our kids, and thousands of innocents. You're brave, and your scars show that. There's nothing ugly about your bravery. Each and every one of these scars is beautiful in its own way, because it proves that you're so much more than just a doll," he whispers. 

"I got most of them begging for mercy," she whispers.

"You were protecting your loved ones, whether it hurt you or not. Do you think my scars are ugly, sweetheart?" he asks.

"No," she whispers. "Nothing about you is ugly to me."

"There you go, then. Why would you be any different in my eyes? Your scars don't define you. To me, you're beautiful, and you always will be," he says. "Besides, you match the kids and me now. Our scars are what connect us as a team."

"We're still a team," she whispers, shaking violently. 

"Yeah," he whispers. "A really mismatched team. And we're good at it."

She laughs shakily, then turns to give him a kiss. "We are," she agrees, turning her eyes to his. "We're the best team ever."

He smiles at her, only vaguely registering that in the past few days, his smiles have been genuine, not born from spite or anger, and are only this genuine when she's the one he's smiling at. The epiphany hits him like a sack of bricks: He loves her. He loves her more than anyone else, and he's willing to do anything to protect her. "That we are, Princess," he whispers, not wanting to tell her that he loves her, knowing that she's hung up on a love who never loved her back. 

She presses a soft kiss to his lips, then says "I'd better get my makeup done. I bought a new lipstick before coming here, it's peach flavoured. I think you'll like it."

He smiles and kisses her again. "I bet I will," he murmurs, then strokes the nape of her neck gently before he backs away. "I'd better shower."

"Enjoy," she breathes, then turns to the vanity table. As she uncaps her foundation, she lets herself daydream of living here with Haymitch permanently, of living peacefully with him, raising the geese together, of shopping for the two of them, dinner with the kids every night, of coffee together in the mornings, and cuddling together at night. It dawns on her that she can't imagine being in the Capitol any more, or being all alone again, and the thought both scares and upsets her. She lets a few tears fall, knowing she'll have to cope alone as soon as the month is up, and quickly dries her eyes and cheeks with a tissue before she starts to apply her makeup, deciding not to bother Haymitch with her feelings toward him. It will be better for us both in the long run, she thinks, watching herself as she applies her foundation. She sees Haymitch leave the bathroom with his towel around his waist, and smiles to herself as she says "Wow. That was quick."

"What can I say? It's a gift," he chuckles. "And before you ask, I washed everything. Hair included, and I used soap, also before you get that in your head."

"Well, I'm impressed," she laughs, then makes a face at how much makeup she's wearing, mentally asking herself why she's worried about that. "Do you think this foundation's too much?"

"I don't think you need makeup, period," he tells her with a shrug. "You're much prettier without it."

She nods, then wipes her makeup off. "It feels too much like it used to," she says. "I'm not used to seeing myself with lots of makeup on. Maybe just powder, lipstick, and a touch of eyeshadow to make my eyes pop."

He strolls over, still only in his towel, then kisses her cheek. "You do whatever makes you feel comfortable," he says, giving her a quick hug.

She kisses his nose, then grabs her powder, just dabbing some on her nose, forehead, and chin. She nods, then puts a touch of shimmering aqua blue on her eyelids, just to make her eyes stand out, smiling a little as she applies a white pencil to her waterline, edging her lower lash line with the same shimmery aqua blue. She smiles and uses a black mascara to darken and lift her upper lashes, then curls and lowers her lower lashes, making her eyes look even bigger. She bats her eyes once, then pencils in her eyebrows with a pretty golden shade that's relatively close to her hair colour. She then picks up her new lipstick and carefully applies it, smiling at the colour. "There!" she exclaims happily, turning to Haymitch. "How do I look?"

He turns away from picking out an aqua coloured shirt that Effie had bought him to look at her, then he smiles a bit. "You look gorgeous, Eff. That colour really does bring out your eyes," he tells her. "How smudge-proof is that lipstick?"

She uses a finger to rub her lips, then shows him. "Extremely," she tells him happily. "Nobody will know if we sneak away to kiss."

He smirks, then returns to picking out his clothes. "You look stunning, Princess," he says, smiling as he selects a shirt. He places it with the black suit he'd got as a birthday gift from Effie the previous year and hasn't yet had a chance to wear out in public. He picks out a black tie when he sees her fastening a black belt around her waist as an accessory. "Are you wearing the rollers to the ball?"

Effie laughs loudly, then says "No, sweetie, I'm not. I'm going to blowdry my hair with them in." She opens her suitcase and pulls out her hair dryer, then plugs it in by the vanity. She switches it on and blowdries her hair, humming to herself as she dries her hair around the rollers, hoping it works well enough to give her the natural-looking curls she loves so much. As soon as she's satisfied, she slowly unravels each roller, blowdrying each strand of hair as she unrolls them, resulting in curls that fall neatly around her shoulders. Haymitch's eyes glue to her as she turns to face him, and gives him a bright smile. "Do I look okay to you?"

"Better than okay," he says, his mouth drier than ever. "Wow, sweetheart..."

She blushes prettily, then gets up. "I'll get my shoes. You get your clothes on," she says, giving him a quick kiss.

Haymitch hurries in pulling his boxers on, then pulls on his pants, doing up his fly and buttoning the pants closed over the zip. He then sprays a little bit of antiperspirant under his arms and goes to Effie, wrapping his arms around her waist. "How are you feeling, Princess?" he asks, kissing her neck gently.

"Like I'm about to go out," she deadpans, then looks up at him with a cheeky smile. "I'm kidding. I'm happy."

"That's good," he whispers, cuddling her. "You deserve to be happy."

She smiles a bit, then hugs him close, inhaling his scent. "Is that deodorant?" she asks, making a face.

"Yeah," he says. "Don't you like it?"

"I like it, it just interferes with your Haymitch scent. It's a nice deodorant, though," she says.

"It's fine, the smell doesn't last long," he chuckles. "I just didn't want to sweat all over you."

She laughs again, then kisses him. "That's fine. I wouldn't object, though," she giggles, then hugs him, pressing her face to his chest. "You're the best."

"Second best," he whispers. "I'm only following your lead."

"Charmer," she accuses fondly.

He smirks and kisses the top of her head, then asks "Once I have that shirt on, will you tie up that tie? I still haven't figured them out."

"Of course I'll do it for you," she says fondly, running her fingers through his still-wet hair. "Here, sit down, I'll blow dry your hair. I don't want you freezing to death out there."

She sits him down at the vanity and switches on her hair dryer, starting in on his hair. She gets a hairbrush and begins brushing his hair as she dries it, humming some slow song under her breath. "Do you sing?" Haymitch asks unexpectedly.

"Sometimes," she chuckles. "I'm not very good at it, though. You found that out on the day of the fair."

"You were high on sugar," he reminds her. "If you want to sing, go for it."

She starts to sing the song she was just humming, her voice soft and melodic, the lyrics haunting the room as she sings. She gets lost in the song and her work on his hair, not noticing the time. Once she's done, she stops singing and says "Okay, your hair's done. You'll want your shirt on."

Still entranced by her song, he asks "How long have you been able to sing like that?"

"Only a few months," she says. "I was terrible before the war, and I didn't have much enthusiasm for singing afterward, then I got laryngitis last winter, and I tried to sing to my sister while she was ill, and it must have fixed my vocals."

Haymitch kisses Effie's inner wrist gently. "You're as talented as they come, Eff," he whispers.

She kisses his lips, then murmurs "Thank you. Let's go, we'll be late."

He nods and wraps his arm around her waist. "Okay, come on," he says, feeling a flutter of pride at the thought of being with her in public and not having to be secretive.

Chapter Text

"Are you two lovebirds ready yet?!" Katniss shouts up the stairs to Haymitch and Effie. "The ball starts in twenty minutes, and we still have to get there yet!"

Haymitch appears at the top of the stairs, holding Effie's hand. "We're here, calm down," Haymitch huffs. "Come on, Princess, mind your step."

He guides Effie down the stairs, not wanting her to get hurt. "Well, aren't you two cosy?" Peeta snickers, watching the older couple's expressions.

"You can't talk, Lover Boy," Haymitch sneers. "You two were sneaking about on your Victory Tour."

"That was you and Effie," Katniss corrects. "We didn't sneak about on the Tour, and you two weren't that subtle with the secret meetings."

Effie's eyes widen and she squeaks "You knew about that?!"

Peeta cringes. "Okay, can we stop the squeaking and change the topic? We have better things to do than remember that Tour," he groans.

"Yes, let's change topic!" Effie squeaks, her cheeks a glowing scarlet. "Katniss, you look beautiful, where did you get the dress?"

"The dress shop in town," Katniss says dully. "Peeta got his suit tailor made."

"I can see that," Effie says. "It's gorgeous, it really fits your shape, Peeta."

Peeta smiles at her. "Thanks, Effie," he says, glancing down at his suit. "That dress really brings out your eyes. Did you pick it?"

"Haymitch did," Effie says, shooting a warm smile at Haymitch. "He said I suit blue."

"You do," Haymitch mumbles, clearly feeling awkward. "Blue looks good on you."

"You're wearing blue too," Katniss says, studying Haymitch.

"Yeah, so?" Haymitch asks. "She's my date tonight, it's only right that we match."

"Since when do you care about that?" Peeta asks, amazed.

"Since when is Effie your date?" Katniss asks, gaping at Haymitch.

"Since she and I became colleagues," Haymitch says. "As for caring, since last night."

Effie smiles more, then winds her arm around his waist, just wanting to feel him close to her. "I think you look gorgeous," she says, looking up at Haymitch. "You're going to be crowded by women."

Haymitch just rolls his eyes. "You just stick close to me, I don't want you getting separated from me and crowded by men," he says, kissing her head. "You're so tiny, it's hilarious."

"I can't wear heels, Haymitch," Effie sighs. "Not for longer than two hours, anyway."

He nods, knowing perfectly well why she can't wear her heels any more. "I'm not complaining, it's cute," he says.

"Did you just use the word cute without sarcasm?" Katniss asks, her eyes wide.

"What of it?" Haymitch asks. "I'm not blind, she is cute."

"Who are you, and what did you do with Haymitch Abernathy?" Peeta asks, staring.

"Yeah, let's just go," Haymitch huffs, giving the kids a gentle shove. He mutters under his breath, not intending anyone to hear, "Can't even call my girl cute now. What next?"

He pretends not to notice Effie grinning hard enough to hurt her cheeks next to him.

The music changes to a fast, upbeat tune, and Haymitch rolls his eyes. "I'm gonna go get a drink, Princess. What's your poison?" he asks, holding her waist.

"Any fruity cocktail will do for me," she says, smiling up at him.

"Okay. What's got you all smiley tonight?" he asks, watching her face.

"Nothing," she giggles. "I'm just happy."

"All right," he says, shrugging that off. "I'll go get the cocktail."

He leaves her on the dancefloor, heading for the bar. Effie stands still until a pot-bellied man strides up to her, wearing a pink tutu, a tight crop top that shows off his middle, pink fishnet tights, and chestnut brown suede Ugg boots. His blue hair and green facial hair glimmer in the flickering lights on the dancefloor. "Effie!" he calls out, the Capitol accent more pronounced than even Effie's. "How are you?! It's been so long!"

"Vender!" Effie gasps. "Look at you! So... Colourful!"

"Thank you, thank you," Vender chuckles. "Look at you! How long have you been living here in Twelve?"

"Only three days," Effie says, smiling. "I'm not living here, though, I still live in the Capitol. What about you? Where are you living now?"

"We've moved to the countryside," Vender tells her breezily. 

"We? Have you found somebody, then?" she asks, curious about his life.

"Well, after you left me so abruptly, I found solace in my best friend. I'm planning to propose to her tonight," he says cheerfully.

"Oh, congratulations!" Effie squeals. "That's wonderful news!"

"Thank you!" Vender exclaims. "So what about you, dear? Any lucky man in your life?"

"Well, I'm here with Haymitch, he's my date for the night, and I'm staying with him for the rest of the month," Effie says, cheerfully.

"Someone say my name?" Haymitch asks, approaching Effie with her cocktail in hand, and his whiskey in the other. He hands her the cocktail before winding his arm around her waist, then his eyes land on Vender. "Who's she?"

"He, Haymitch, don't be rude," Effie huffs. "Haymitch, meet my friend, Vender Earthbush."

"Hey," Haymitch says, eyeing Vender. "How do you know Effie?"

"She and I were engaged for a time around the Seventieth Games," Vender says, smiling fondly at Effie. "We had some good times."

"We certainly did," Effie giggles. "Do you remember the time that you and Pudina put me in that blanket and dangled me from your chandelier?"

"Yes!" Vender laughs. "You squirmed and squirmed, but that chandelier didn't budge! You were so tiny back then, even smaller than you are now. You should have seen her, Mr Abernathy."

"I've seen her squirm," Haymitch grumbles coldly, eyeing Vender like he looks at prey when he hunts with Katniss. 

"Oh, Haymitch, lighten up!" Effie giggles. "We're good friends now, even after a year or so of no contact."

"You saw each other after the war?" Haymitch asks, jealousy sparking in his eyes.

"Oh, yes, we had dinner together a lot," Vender says. "She's always known all the best places."

"Well, when you say it like that, you make it sound as if it was every other day!" Effie exclaims. "It was maybe once a month at most."

"Just like all of our dates," Vender chuckles. "The downsides of dating an escort who was also a model, she's always busy. But still, you're a very lucky man, Mr Abernathy. Last I heard, Effie here's unemployed."

"That's still true," Effie sighs.

"And we're not a couple," Haymitch growls.

Effie's face falls, but she smothers it with a smile. "So, tell me, what's the inspiration behind your look tonight?" she asks of Vender.

"My girlfriend," Vender says. "I did her makeup, too. I figure that even though the Capitol may be all District Chic right now, a bit of bright colour and some liveliness would be perfect to cheer our citizens up. Not everything should be dull just because the war was won by the rebels, after all!"

"Well. You certainly look-" Effie starts, but struggles to find the word.

"Like you got mugged by a paintbox," Haymitch scowls, staring disdainfully at Vender's blue hair, green beard and moustache, red eyeshadow, the white eyeliner, the dark brown foundation that doesn't match his light beige skin tone, the blue mascara to match his hair, the out of place yellow eyebrows, the bright purple lipstick, and the neon orange contacts. 

"Haymitch!" Effie gasps. "Don't be so rude! What's bitten you?"

Vender turns around awkwardly and says "My girlfriend's waving at me, I'd better-"

"Go!" Haymitch roars, sending Vender scuttling away.

"Honestly, Haymitch, he's my friend!" Effie snaps. "He just wanted a catch up!"

"What he wanted, you're not ready to give!" Haymitch snaps at her. "I'm not letting some random Capitol guy take you and hurt you! Not now, not ever!"

"Why would it matter to you?! Like you said, we're not a couple!" she shouts, forgetting about never raising her voice inside.

"And?! I'm still the one who's supposed to be looking after you! I'm not going to let you suffer just because some guy is your friend!" Haymitch bellows.

"He wouldn't make me suffer, he's got a girlfriend!" Effie shouts, silencing everyone. 

Their shouts are beginning to attract attention, and Haymitch roars "So what?! You Capitols don't care about exclusive relationships, he probably wanted to coerce you into a three-way!"

"No, he didn't! Friends don't do that!" Effie shouts. "For the most part, and yes, Vender and I fall into the most part here, friends don't do things like that! I stick to one man at a time, which you know perfectly well! And Vender's girlfriend is probably very insistent on exclusivity too!"

"Uh, excuse me," Vender coughs awkwardly. "I brought my girlfriend over to meet you."

"Where is she?" Haymitch asks.

"Meet my girlfriend, Pudina Earthbush," Vender says, gesturing to a woman with bright pink hair that looks like a painted hedgehog stuck to her head, the same pot belly as Vender. She has scarlet eyebrows, blue eyeshadow, orange eyeliner, orange foundation that makes her look like a giant cheese puff, orange mascara, yellow lipstick, and bright green contacts. She's dressed in a too-tight dress shirt, a dark purple tie, and blue denim dungarees, accompanied by egg-yolk yellow high heels. "Pudina, you know Effie, and this is Haymitch."

"Um, Vender, Pudina's your sister," Effie whispers, her eyes wide.

"Well, yes," Vender says. "All the better, right? No need to change her surname!"

"He proposed!" Pudina squeals, and flashes a massive diamond ring.

"Uh, congratulations," Effie says, clearly disturbed by this revelation. 

"Wait," Haymitch says, eyeing up Pudina now. "Are you really telling me that this is a woman?"

"Yes!" Pudina gasps, clearly offended. "What do you mean by that?!"

"You look like a gorilla that was mugged by a paintbox," Haymitch says flatly, then looks at Effie. "I take it back. You looked normal in all your clown gear compared to these two."

"Haymitch Abernathy, I am going to- Muuuh!" Effie screeches, being cut off as Haymitch kisses her. She leans in, kissing him back as her eyes flutter closed. Haymitch breaks the kiss and Effie gasps for breath, then snarls "I am not done with you yet, Abernathy."

"Whatever, Princess," he scoffs, then looks at the brother and sister couple. "So, you're marrying your sister, and you came over here to flirt with Effie? Because stringing her little heart along isn't going to end well for you."

"No, I came over here to stop you and Effie fighting by proving to you that I'm no longer in love with Effie," Vender says, hugging Pudina to his side. "I have Pudding."

Pudina giggles, and Effie turns a little bit green. "Well, I'm very pleased for you both," she says. "Now, I think Haymitch and I had better make our rounds and head home. We have a lot to yell at each other, and I'd rather do that in private."

"Okay," Vender says, then smiles awkwardly at Effie. "Try to keep in touch this time."

"I will," Effie promises. "Goodbye!"

"See you!" Pudina calls.

Effie hurries Haymitch away, and hears him hiss "You're friends with your ex?"

"Yes," Effie hisses. "And we're keeping this topic until we get home!"

Back at Haymitch's house, Effie snaps "You couldn't just be nice to my friends for a change, could you?!"

"When your so-called friend is trying to worm his way into your bed, no, I can't be nice!" Haymitch yells at her. 

"Oh, so you're jealous now?! Funny, since you said we're not a couple!" Effie shrieks at him. "Yes, that makes perfect sense! Well, guess what?! You don't have any right to be jealous! You're not in a relationship with me! You don't even want to be in a relationship with me! Every time I've thought that you might see me as more than a friend with benefits, you've crushed my hopes!"

"I'm not the only one to blame!" he yells at her. "You've been the same way! Every time I've thought I might actually get you to move in, you've gone and reminded me that you're going back to the city! And now I know why! You're going back to the city for those two! Paintbox and Crayons!"

"Paintbox and Crayons!" Effie screeches. "Could you be any more of a five year old?! Paintbox and Crayons! Their names are Vender and Pudina!"

"I don't care, Effie! I don't care what their names are! They're the reason you're going back to the city, aren't they?! Aren't they?!"

"No!" Effie screams. "They're not! The reason I'm going back is because I'll have no reason to stay here after the celebrations are over! I can't just stay here when you don't want me! I already pushed you to the limits by rudely inviting myself over here, and now look! You hate me more now than you did when I arrived!"

"I don't hate you!" he roars. "I hate that you're going off with two people who looked like they got attacked by Peeta's art supplies!"

"I'm not going off with them!" Effie screams. "I'm not! I just told you why I'm not staying after the celebrations! Vender and Pudina have nothing to do with it! If I'd known you were going to get all possessive over me, I would have told Vender that I'm actually taken and that my partner's the jealous sort! I can't believe you! I'm not even anything to you, and you want to stop me seeing my friends!"

"He's your ex!" Haymitch booms. "He's not your friend!"

"He is!" Effie shrieks. "He has Pudina!"

"That's his sister, and it's weird!" Haymitch roars, now towering over her.

Effie recoils slightly, waiting for a blow that won't come. "They're my friends, Haymitch!" she shrieks. "Maybe I was right to try convince myself out of loving you! If ever a day came that you fell for me, I'd be under your rule forever, and I'd never be allowed out! I'm glad you hate me, because if you didn't, I'd be trapped forever!"

"If you're that determined to not be here, you can pack your bags, you can sleep in the guest room, and I'll see you on the first train to the city tomorrow!" he bellows at her. "I didn't even want you here in the first place!"

Effie goes quiet, then asks "And now? Do you still regret agreeing?"

Haymitch just studies her, then shakes his head, remembering their past few days, and how much fun they've had. "No," he admits. "I don't regret agreeing."

"Do you want me gone?" she asks, expecting him to say yes. He's silent for a moment, wanting to say no, to beg her forgiveness, and unsure if he can, or even how to. She takes his silence for an answer, her big blue eyes widening and filling with tears. "Okay. I'll... I'll go pack, I guess. I'll take the last train out of the District."

She rushes upstairs before Haymitch has time to react to her words. As soon as her words hit, he shouts "Trinket!" and runs up to the room he's starting to call theirs. He catches her dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, sniffing and packing her things up. "Effie, stop."

"What for, Haymitch?" she sobs, not looking at him. "I thought that this would be nice. I spilled my heart out to you, and I was just learning to trust you with my feelings, and then you go and get all angry and possessive over me, and... I shouldn't even bother. What do you care?"

She continues with her packing, barely able to lift anything with her trembling hands. Haymitch strides over and envelopes her in a hug. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I don't want you to go. I shouldn't have been like that with you, or your friends. I just don't like the thought of anyone else anywhere near you, especially people who've already dated you," he whispers. "And I know that sounds really manipulative, but I don't want it to be. I worry about you, Eff. Anyone and everyone is a threat to you now. I hate it, and you're so precious, I can't stand the thought of you getting hurt."

She melts into his arms and whimpers "I don't know what to believe with you any more. I want to trust you, but my reason is screaming against it. I don't know how to trust someone who'll be so lovely to me one moment, and terrify me the next, only to revert to being lovely with me. I'm scared, Haymitch. I know I shouldn't say it, but I am. I hate being shouted at, and I hate it even more when I've not actually done anything wrong."

He feels a massive ball of guilt weigh down in his stomach, and tears spring to his eyes. He presses a gentle kiss to the top of her head. "I'm really sorry, Princess," he whispers. "Look, you carry on packing, okay? I'll go book the rest of the month for you in the nicest hotel in the District. At least you'll feel safe."

"No," she whispers. "I won't feel safe in a hotel. I'll carry on packing and take myself to the train station. There's no point me staying where I'm not wanted."

She resumes her packing, biting deep into her lip. "Eff, be careful, you're going to hurt yourself," Haymitch sighs, gently pulling her lip from between her teeth.

"I don't care," she whispers. "I'd rather have a split lip to worry about on the journey back into the city than finding a thousand ways to fail at cheering up. Just promise to tell the kids that I decided against staying the whole month. Spin some story about me not liking it here, or something. Lie like a log. You need the company."

"Then stay," he blurts out. "If you think I need company, stay with me." 

Effie's jaw drops, and she gapes at him.

Chapter Text

Previously in Once a Team, Always a Team...

"Then stay," he blurts out. "If you think I need company, stay with me." 

Effie's jaw drops, and she gapes at him.

"You're blowing hot and cold here. First you say you don't want me, then you do, then you're sending me to a hotel, and now you want me here," Effie chuckles sadly. "Do you want me here or not? This is the final time I'll ask you this week, so make sure you're willing to put up with me for another week if you say yes."

"Yeah, I want you here," he says without hesitation. "I like having you here."

"Okay," she says, then starts to unpack what little she's actually got packed. "Okay. Well, let me get my stuff unpacked, and then I'll go make us hot chocolate to relax ourselves with. Do you still drink?"

"On occasion," he admits. "Nothing drastic like I used to. I've got a limited supply, so I can only get wasted once a month."

"All right. I brought this for you," she says, pulling a bottle of the Capitol's finest brandy from her suitcase. "I was wondering if you still had a regular alcohol consumption, and I didn't want to set you back if you were finally sober."

"Aww, sweetheart," he sighs. "You're too good to me. Nah, I'm not totally sober, and I won't be unless I finally get a good reason to."

She looks sad again, but says "I'll put some of this into your hot chocolate, then."

"Okay," he agrees, then studies her. "What's the sad face for?"

"I just don't like to think that you don't consider your health a good enough reason to stop drinking," she whispers, her eyes filling up again. "I'm sorry, I'm on the edge of tears tonight. I'm probably just tired."

"No, it's fine," he says. "I don't have any real reason to be healthy, Eff. The kids have each other, and you're only ever here for such a short space of time, and it's only occasional, you have a life. I'm not sure that I have anything to stay healthy for."

"Oh, Haymitch," she breathes, putting the bottle and the handful of clothes she's got back on the bed, then wraps her arms around him. "I'll visit more often, if you like. Anything to help you."

"What about when you're not around, Eff?" he asks. "These past few days, they're the most sober I've been since I was detoxed in Thirteen, and it's all because I have you around to think about, and to occupy me. You said you feel at home here, and I feel better with you. We've always worked better together. Why don't you stay here? Permanently, I mean. We can do regular trips to the Capitol if you feel like you need your usual glitter and such."

"Ask me tomorrow, when we're not as emotional," she says. "If you still think it's a good idea to ask me to move in with you properly, ask me tomorrow. Sleep on it, see if you really want it. I contain a lot of crazy, and there are times it gets worse than ever."

"Okay," he says, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "You go make that hot chocolate, I'll put your stuff away."

Effie bites her lip, then presses a kiss on Haymitch's lips. "I know it's a bit soon, and you probably don't share the feeling, but you deserve to know. I love you," she tells him, then grabs the brandy and runs from the room.

Haymitch starts to put her things away, her words ringing in his ears. I love you. He hadn't expected that.

Effie braces herself before letting herself back into the bedroom. She hands him the dark blue mug, then says "There's brandy in it."

"Thanks," he mutters awkwardly. A few minutes of silence pass, and he asks "How long have you been holding that in for?"

"Quite a while," she admits. "I know it's not what you wanted, not by a long shot. Just another Capitol woman throwing herself at you, hoping to become your one true love."

Her voice is full of bitterness and self-loathing. "Princess," he sighs, wanting to comfort her.

She plods on anyway. "I know, I know. You have standards. I convinced myself of you, that's all. I suppose, somewhere not so deep inside, I'm still that little girl with a crush," she scoffs, scorning herself.

"Effie, shut up for a second," Haymitch says, placing his hand on her knee, causing her to fall silent and look at him. "You're not just another Capitol woman throwing herself at me. And I do have standards, granted. I just happen to think that you exceed them. Don't doubt yourself so much. I'm a backwater drunkard who can't get a grip on his emotions, so don't expect any grand gestures, but just know that... How you feel... It's not unrequited. It's just gonna be a bit before I can say it properly."

She nods, knowing all too well what it feels like to be unable to do things that most people can do. "That's okay," she whispers, turning to him. "You know, I didn't expect you to react like this, given the way you reacted to Vender talking to me."

"React like what?" he asks, choosing to leave the Vender thing until later.

"Calmly," she replies with a helpless little shrug. "I expected you to get upset with me. I didn't think you really even liked me."

"Eff, you're staying in my house, in my bed, we've been kissing and touching at every chance we get, I'm hugging you nearly all the time, and you didn't even suspect that I like you?" he asks, lifting an eyebrow.

"I just thought that you wanted reassurance that I'm not a hallucination," she giggles softly. "I'm pleased that it's more than that, though."

He reaches for her, pulling her into a hug and burying his face on her neck. He's quiet for a minute before whispering "Damn, Eff, you smell so good..."

Effie blushes and whispers "Now you understand how I feel when I hug you," as she winds her arms around his neck. "Come on, we should get some sleep. If we're going to wake up at four in the morning, I want us to have had a few hours before that so that we're not exhausted."

"Fine," he groans, inhaling her scent one more time before getting up. "You sit right there, sweetheart, and drink your chocolate. I'll get you your nightie."

She smiles at him, her eyes glittering with many different emotions. 

The next morning finds them snuggled up together in a mess of blankets from wriggling in their sleep. "Haymitch! Effie! Wake up!" Peeta calls from downstairs.

"Mm-no," Effie whines, squirming. "No-o-o... I like bed."

Haymitch pulls her closer, his mind only just registering her whines through the sleepy fog. "I gotcha," he mumbles. "Safe."

She burrows against his chest, falling back into her restful sleep. They stay like that until Peeta comes up to their room. "You two had better be decent!" he calls as he walks in.

Haymitch jumps awake and immediately shields Effie. "What are you doing in here, boy?! A man's room isn't a public area!" he snarls.

"It's breakfast time," Peeta says. "I really hope you're both fully clothed under that duvet."

"We dressed," Effie mumbles, waking up slowly, totally disgruntled by her peace being disturbed. "And you better start running, because you just awoke the beast and didn't bring coffee."

Peeta sighs. "Effie, you're about as dangerous as a mouse," he says.

"After coffee, yes. You haven't seen a dangerous me yet," she grumbles, squirming out from under Haymitch. "I'm getting coffee. Haymitch, would you like one?"

"Yeah, go on," he sighs, acutely feeling the loss of her warmth. She slips her fluffy robe onto herself, then steps into her slippers, and leaves the room. Haymitch notices Peeta staring at him. "What?"

"After that fight you two had, and how quiet your house was when Katniss and I got home, we weren't sure if you'd kicked her out or not," Peeta says.

"Yeah, she almost left," Haymitch admits. "But as you just saw, we resolved it."

Peeta's eyes darken with anger. "You didn't do anything she's not ready for, did you?" he asks, glaring at the older man.

"What do you take me for? A sixteen year old with a one-track mind?" Haymitch scoffs. "No, we didn't. You'll be pleased to know that I've asked her to move in with me, and she'll be staying here permanently."

"You'd better be extremely sure of yourself, Haymitch," Peeta warns. "Effie's like a mom to me, and if you hurt her, I'll hurt you."

"Cute to think that you think that you could hurt me, boy," Haymitch scoffs.

"I'm not joking around, Haymitch," Peeta says firmly. "If I see Effie miserable with you even once, I'm finding her somewhere else to live."

Effie comes up with three mugs, handing one to Peeta. "There you go. And you've no need to worry about that yet, Peeta, we're still in the process of sorting it out," she says. 

"Haymitch said you'd already agreed to move in," Peeta says, looking confused.

"Well, I actually said that if he thought it through and asked me when he's certain, then I'd agree," Effie says, shooting Haymitch a strange look. "I'm debating it, given the especially weird treatment."

"What especially weird treatment?" Haymitch asks.

"Becoming far too protective, going from calm to aggressive over someone trying to talk to me, then getting all weird on me," Effie lists. "Don't think I didn't notice. I understand it, but it's not pleasant."

"Well, I'm sorry you find it unpleasant," Haymitch grumbles. "I don't trust Capitols with you, that's all. And seeing as he dated you, I don't have any faith in him."

"He's engaged, Haymitch, and I know it's not him who you really have the issue with," she says. "Look, if you think I'll ever be disloyal to you, you're wrong. I'm a one man woman."

"It was him I have a problem with. If he can get engaged to his sister, he can have a thing for you. That guy didn't look like he was uninterested," Haymitch says, his tone becoming detached, just like it did when he was trying to avoid feeling anything for tributes.

"Haymitch, don't do that," Effie sighs, seeing the signs of him becoming emotionally distant. "What would it matter if Vender or Pudina had had any interest? It's not them you need to worry about. I would never leave you for either of them, or for anyone, come to that."

Haymitch looks down, like a scolded child, his eyes becoming blank for a moment, then he looks directly into her eyes, grey clashing with blue. "Fine. I wasn't concerned that you would leave, you're free to if you want to. I was worried that they'd hurt you. You're not exactly ready for anything, are you? Especially what they'd want from you. If you'd wanted to go off with those two weirdos, if you still want to, you can. I'm not going to force you to stay," he says, his voice still empty. 

"See what I mean about the weird treatment?" she asks, then shakes her head sadly. "I won't leave unless you want me to. I certainly won't go off with them. Now, do you have your answer?"

"Answer?" Haymitch asks, surprised enough by the topic change that he forgets to be detached. He remembers asking her to stay and says "Oh, that."

"And?" she asks, knowing that he remembers. "I'll ask you again next week, so don't feel pressured to give me a definite answer yet."

"I've got a definite answer. I want you to move in with me, Princess," he says. "It's just a matter of whether you want to or not."

Effie stares at him, then opens her mouth to answer him. In that one moment, time seems to stop, and everything they could have hangs in the balance that only her answer can tip.

Chapter Text

"Yes, I want to move in," Effie breathes, and Haymitch feels relief pour over him like warm water after being out in a snowstorm. 

He gets out of bed, ignoring Peeta's disgusted groan at the sight of him in nothing but his boxers, then cups Effie's cheeks, kissing her lips hard. He breaks away before her grip on the mugs loosens, then stares at her as if he's seeing her for the first time. She smiles up at him, knowing she's made the right choice. "That's a relief," Haymitch murmurs into Effie's ear, too quietly for Peeta's ears to catch it. "I like having a squeaky little thing running around my house."

"I should have bought you a mouse," she chuckles. "Maybe that would satisfy your need for squeaky little things."

"You're squeaky enough," he tells her, then takes his mug out of her hand. "And you make good coffee."

"Well, thank you," she says, smiling. "I didn't think you were a coffee person. You're full of the surprises of late."

"That's what you want. Someone who just keeps the surprises coming," Haymitch chuckles. 

Peeta looks between the two of them, then edges out of the room, clearly feeling like an awkward third wheel. He leaves them be, and returns home. Meanwhile, Haymitch and Effie are drinking their coffee in comfortable silence, snuggled against each other. "You know, Haymitch, I think that, while we're on the subject of living together, we should probably get a few things cleared up," Effie says.

"Yeah?" Haymitch asks warily.

"First of all, we need to talk about the cleaning situation," she says, taking the conversation somewhere that Haymitch hadn't really thought it would go.

"Okay, what of it?" he asks, wondering if she'll make him clean up.

"I want to be left in charge of the cleaning," she tells him, then sips her coffee. "That's for every area of the house. I also want to be left in charge of laundry and dishes."

"Who are you, and what have you done with my pampered princess of an Effie?" Haymitch asks, gaping at her. "Why are you suddenly trying to take over all of the household stuff?"

"Because, my darling Haymitch, it's something that I like to do, and since I'm against having any other woman doing things that I am perfectly capable of doing feels both morally wrong, and very threatening, I want to do everything. Besides, I happen to have a dream life, and now that I don't have a thirst for fame, I just want to make life good for you," she says, smiling at him.

"You're starting to scare me, Eff," he says, worried because she doesn't seem like the kind of woman who would be happy being a housewife. He places his hand on her forehead and asks "Do you have a fever?"

"No, I'm fine," she says. "So, do you mind if I take over the household stuff?"

"If you want to, go right ahead," Haymitch agrees, still perplexed by her request. "Do whatever takes your fancy."

She lights up and kisses him gently. "Excellent! Well, I'll get started on that in a little while. I also think we need to discuss the bathroom thing," she says.

"Bathroom thing?" he asks, wondering what other odd requests she's going to come out with.

"Yes. We need to figure out what we're going to do when we both need to shower and such," she says. "I mean, obviously it would be more appropriate to shower, and stuff of that like separately, but if it should ever come to it-"

"We could just do that sort of stuff together," he offers. "Not in a sexual way, we both know that's a no-go area, but to conserve water maybe?"

"Ugh, please don't ever say conserve again, it sounds too much like what Coin used to say while I was in the hospital," Effie shudders, looking disgusted. "She was obsessed with the bare minimum, that one."

Haymitch smirks and pulls her close to him. "Okay. So to stop wasting water, we could just do stuff like that together," he suggests. "No need to plan ahead."

"Well, I suppose we could," she says thoughtfully. "We really could. It would be easier, and less aggravating to schedule. I will insist that we draw the line at using the toilet. I don't want to do that in front of you. Pooping time is Effie time."

Haymitch stifles a chuckle against Effie's neck. "Okay, Princess. We draw the line at the toilet," he chuckles. 

"Good," she giggles, nuzzling his neck.

The knocking at the door is grating on Haymitch's nerves. He nips at Effie's neck a little too hard, his annoyance getting the better of him. "Ouch!" Effie squeaks, squirming. "Look, go and answer the door instead of trying to become the next Count Dracula. That's going to leave a mark."

Haymitch kisses her neck gently. "You stay right there, sweetheart. I'm coming right back to you," he murmurs, cuddling her.

"I hope so," she whispers, ready to give herself a little pep talk.

Haymitch kisses her again, not wanting to leave her, then goes to answer the door. When he opens it to see Peeta standing on his doorstep, looking tense, he growls "You'd better have a damn good reason for interrupting us."

"I need to talk to you," Peeta whispers, his tone unusually hurried. "Outside, away from Effie?"

"Okay," Haymitch sighs, then takes Peeta out to the back yard, gesturing to the cushioned bench he'd bought during Effie's last visit. As soon as he and Peeta are seated, he asks "Right, what's the matter?"

"Katniss doesn't want kids," Peeta blurts out. 

"Yeah?" Haymitch asks, trying to find out the problem.

"I do," Peeta sighs. "I wasn't going to talk to her about it, but I saw her with a kid while we were in town, sorting out the orders for the craft fair tonight, you know... And she was so good with him. She helped him, and she was so kind. She has the makings of a good mom, Haymitch. But when I said that, she shot me down."

"Oh," Haymitch says, the understanding of the boy's tension hitting him. "I see. So what do you want me to do?"

"How did you deal with Effie saying she wants kids?" Peeta asks.

"She doesn't want kids," Haymitch tells him quietly.

"Oh," Peeta says. "Well, I guess you don't get it, then."

"No, I get it," Haymitch sighs. "She doesn't want them. I do."

"You want kids?" Peeta asks, amazed by this revelation. "Since when?"

"Since Effie agreed to move in with me," Haymitch says heavily. "I didn't intend to want it. It just happened. But I know she doesn't want kids. I asked her when she arrived, and there's no way she will. She's too afraid to be touched, let alone have sex multiple times."

"How have you made your peace with it?" Peeta asks curiously.

"I haven't," Haymitch tells him, his voice gruff, laced with sadness and honesty. "I cope with it. I just think of her, how she feels. I can't make her do something she doesn't want to do. I'm okay to live with the what-if scenarios, and the thoughts of who our kids would take after, as long as she's happy. Her happiness means more to me than my own. You've just got to ask yourself, what matters more? Your girl, or your desire to have kids?"

"You chose Effie," Peeta whispers.

"Because if the situation was reversed, she'd choose me. Having kids wouldn't be right unless she was their mother, and I'd rather have her and no kids than have kids and no Effie," Haymitch says, shrugging. 

"Why don't you ask her?" Peeta asks.

"She's spent so many years putting me ahead of herself, and I've spent most of the time I've known her putting alcohol ahead of her. Then I put you and Katniss ahead of the liquor, leaving her as my last priority. It's high time she's put before everyone and everything else now. And with any luck, that's where she'll stay. You need to ask yourself, what's more important? Your engagement and upcoming marriage to Katniss, or your desire to fill a house with little Peetas?" Haymitch says, his eyes downcast.

"Katniss," the younger man sighs. "Katniss has been my priority since we were five. And she doesn't seem to share the same emotions."

"She does," Haymitch promises. "She's always put you before herself. In the Games, during the war, after the war. You're what she loves most. And she's a kid herself. She might grow to like the idea. Give her time. You might end up with kids. It's just a matter of letting her grow and mature. Give her time, and a chance. It won't be your worst decision."

"What if she never does want kids?" Peeta asks, sounding defeated.

"Then you ask yourself again what matters more? Kids, or your marriage," Haymitch tells him.

"It shouldn't have to be a choice," Peeta mutters.

"No, it shouldn't, but some women just don't want kids, or they can't have them," Haymitch says. "That's why it's a choice. And if you love the girl enough, you'll be able to accept her choice."

Peeta nods, then a look of inspiration hits him. "Thanks, Haymitch!" he exclaims and runs off.

"Any time!" Haymitch calls back, then stands up and turns to go back inside, only to find Effie stood in the doorway, her blue eyes shining with tears. "Princess, what's wrong?"

"If you love the girl enough, you'll be able to accept her choice," Effie whispers, her voice wobbling. "Is that why you didn't want to push the topic of children?"

"I don't want to ask you for things I know you don't want to give," Haymitch sighs, then reaches out to her. "Come here, little stuff."

She flies into his arms and whispers "I think we should have a chat, Haymitch."

Chapter Text

Haymitch picks Effie up and carries her inside, sitting her down on their sofa before settling down next to her. "What's the chat about, sweetheart?" he asks, wanting some clarification.

"I think we should start in on triggers first," Effie says. "I have a list of things to discuss, hang on."

She runs upstairs, giving Haymitch time to make them both some camomile tea, then Effie runs back down them with her list in hand. She curls on the sofa, hiding the list from him. "In your own time," Haymitch says, sliding Effie's Princess mug closer to her.

(!) (!) (!) (!) (!) (!)

She shoots him a grateful smile, then inhales deeply. "We'll start with my triggers," she says. "Is that okay?"

"Yeah, go for it," Haymitch tells her.

Effie nods, then quietly says "Dirt. Lots and lots of it. Regular dirt, like mud, that doesn't bother me. I mean human waste everywhere, garbage, the smell of rot, the smell of vomit, the smell of blood, the smell of genetically modified roses. It all reminds me of the cell. I know I won't really smell it here, but just to be safe, I thought you should know."

"Okay," Haymitch says, then kisses her hand. "We can work with that. Is that why you like housekeeping?"

Effie nods, blushing a little. Haymitch smiles at her, wanting to be comforting. It must work, because she smiles back, then whispers "Another of my triggers is the dark. I cannot stand the dark any more. They kept me in such a dark cell all the time, and I couldn't see a thing. It was horrible, never knowing where they were watching me from, where the next attack would come from."

"All right, sweetheart. I can work with that. We've got lights all over the house. I'll find a way to make sure you're never in the dark again," Haymitch promises.

Effie smiles and kisses him gently. "Thank you, darling," she whispers, then returns to her list. "Being called Pet. They called me that, and it was always followed by something horrible. I was conditioned to believe that my name was Pet, and it took a lot of therapy for me to remember that my name is Effie."

"Well, it's not a name that fits you anyway, so you needn't worry about me calling you that," he says. "And you're to tell me if anyone does so that I can punch their lights out."

Effie chuckles softly, then sips the tea, sighing at the relaxing taste of camomile. "You're too kind," she sighs, then glances at her list. "Being threatened is a trigger. I don't mind dirty talk, but actually being threatened scares me silly. There's a line, and if it's crossed, it'll be obvious."

"What do I do if I trigger you by accident?" Haymitch asks worriedly.

"Ask me things pertaining to our current life," she says. "For example, you could ask me where I am, or who I am, or who you are. Any of them would work. If they don't, and by that point, I'm on the brink of insanity, then cuddling and soothing whispers help. If I feel safe, it's easier to bring me back."

Haymitch nods, noting that information in his mind. "What about after nightmares? Or if you have episodes?" he asks.

"After nightmares, just cuddles, and telling me that I'm safe. It worked on me as a little girl, and it works on me now," she replies, smiling at him with love in her eyes. "If I'm having an episode, it'll just look like I've zoned out. Just make sure that I have soup and water. There's no waking me from those, I'm afraid."

Haymitch nods, then gently holds her hand. "Okay. Anything else on the trigger front?" he asks.

"Just shouting at me, and throwing things at me," she says. "By shouting at me, I mean being much louder than you normally are when I do something stupid. I trust you not to throw things at me."

"I'll never throw things at you," he promises, wanting to kill the people who hurt her.

Effie beams at him, then puts her mug down, crawls over to him, and curls up on his lap. "Thank you. Now, I think we ought to discuss what they did when they hurt me to get information from Jo, don't you?" she asks, snuggling up to him and bringing his hand to her stomach, wanting the comforting warmth of his hand.

"If you want to tell me, then sure," Haymitch says, getting the hint and rubbing her stomach. "It's best to get it off your chest."

Effie nods, then kisses his jaw before she begins to recount the horrifying tale. "It was worse than it was with Peeta. They had me tied between two thin steel posts. They had whips with them, and they plugged the metal into a podium. That really should have been my first clue as to what they had planned for me. They questioned Jo on what she knew, and I know she knew things, but she lied like a log. I was so proud of her, Haymitch. But they were livid. For every I don't know, I would get whipped. For every I don't care about her, do as you please, I was electrocuted. But then they did something Jo wasn't expecting them to do. She answered back in the most amazing, sassy way, and they stabbed me. They missed my lung by a hair's width, and I was very lucky to live. Johanna was horrified, and she demanded that they fix me, or she wouldn't tell them a thing. Naturally, they fixed me, and she fed them false information. I was beaten very severely for that. But I was so proud of her, Haymitch. I told her as much while she was tending to my injuries. She was so clever to come up with those lies on the spot. The next morning, the guard came by to collect me, and he was taking many liberties with me. Johanna, being the good friend she is, and please never tell her I told you that, she punched the guard and told him off for touching me that way," she tells him, true pride in her voice as she reaches for her mug.

Haymitch smirks, watching her drink her tea. He rubs her stomach and murmurs into her ear "Jo looked up to you before the war. She claimed she hated you, but she really admired you. Everything you did, she wanted to subtly emulate. That's why she fought for you. She would never admit it, and she'd kill me if she knew I've told you that, but trust me, Eff, you're her idol."

Effie giggles, putting her mug back on the table. "Well, I'm glad I know the true reason," she sighs, relaxing against Haymitch and purring as he rubs her stomach. "Do you want to know what happened to me after the others were freed?"

"Go on," he whispers, kissing her temple. "I'm right here, and you're safe to tell me anything."

Effie smiles and leans her head on his shoulder. "After the others were freed, I was kept as a toy, leverage against you. They knew you were involved, why else would you have disappeared off the radar? They brought me to the deepest vaults, where they kept the corpses. I was locked in with two rotting bodies, and I was left in the dark. The guards would come in while I was sleeping, and wake me with a punch. I knew to stand up for them then, which was quite hard after they broke my leg. I stood still for what seemed like an age some days. Others, I'd be standing still, and then two hands with steel-spiked gloves on them would grab and squeeze my breasts or my bottom. I'd be covered in little puncture marks, and they'd laugh at me if I made any indication of being in pain. If I was lucky, they wouldn't wear the gloves, but it was rare that they would grab at me and not wear the spikes. I remember sassing one guard once while he had the gloves on. He was pushing the spikes into my breasts, and I told him off for it. He let go of me, tearing my skin something awful, and he slapped me across my face. The cuts were shallow, fortunately, so there were no real scars, but it was enough to hurt. So I flew at him, and I bit him. I tore his jugular with my teeth. After that, I was joined by three corpses until a new guard took him away. That new guard thought that fondling my nether regions was okay, and I couldn't kill him like I killed the other one. He was horrible to me, worse than his colleague ever had been, but he didn't get as far as raping me. He did threaten to, but that's all I got," she whispers, starting to shake a little.

"Hey, hey, it's okay," Haymitch tells her, giving her a kiss to the top of her head. "You're safe. It's okay. You're at home, you're in Twelve, you're with me."

"I know," she whispers. "I'm just seeing it in front of me again, and I hate it. It's like being in my nightmares again."

"What are your nightmares like, Eff?" he asks. "If you can't tell me, it's fine, but if you can..."

"My nightmares used to be just that," she whispers. "The cell, the guards, the abuse... But now it's worse. Now I'm the one being interrogated, and they're mutilating you, Katniss, and Peeta right in front of me. They turn the three of you against me. They have the kids hold me down while you rape me. It's scary, and I can hear the guards laughing at me, and then, when you're done raping me, they have you cut me open and disembowel me while I'm alive, and you're laughing at me, mocking me, and the kids are telling me how glad they are that I won't be in their lives any more, and then you stab me through the heart."

He holds her close, his heart breaking as anger at the people who hurt her raises its head and breathes flames, the smoke about ready to pour out of his ears. "Oh, Princess..." he sighs, kissing her head as he holds her. "I'm so sorry. If I'd known about the rescue mission, I would have added you to the list."

"I'm here now, and I'm alive. That's what matters. You did have me rescued, and you fought for me. I'm grateful to you for that. We have each other," she murmurs. "I'm just worried that someday, someone will discover who I am and hurt me for what I did before the war, whether that's physically, or through you and the kids. It's just one of those nagging fears that never truly leave you alone."

"Trust me, Princess, nobody will hurt you on my watch," Haymitch promises, kissing her head softly, his hand tracing soothing patterns on her stomach.

"That's very sweet of you, but I don't want you to put yourself in danger for me," she whispers. "You've done that enough."

"Nah. I'll never have done that enough for you," he whispers. "What else are you afraid of?"

"The other shoe dropping," she whispers. "I'm scared that I'll get married and have a baby or two, or the kids will have babies, and I'll be torn away from you and our family to be forced into being an escort again, and I'll have no choice but to reap either Katniss and Peeta's babies, or my own, and watch them fight to the death. I'm terrified to settle down, because the other shoe could drop, and everything could be turned upside down and inside out in no time."

"Sweetheart, I had a word with Paylor, and I told her that as long as Katniss, Peeta, Jo, Annie, you, Beetee, Enobaria, any kids any of us may have, Annie's little boy, and I are all still breathing, there aren't to be any more Games. It's law, sweetheart, she passed that one easily," Haymitch tells her soothingly. "No kid of ours would ever be in any danger. I'd kill whoever hurt our kids."

"Well, I still don't feel comfortable with the idea of being a mother," she sighs. "But if I do fall pregnant, I won't have an abortion."

"What will you do?" Haymitch asks softly.

"I will let nature do its thing," she murmurs. "Whether that means I carry to term, or if I miscarry, or have a still-birth baby, I will allow nature to take its course. So there is a chance of having a baby, but I'm not going to actively try to be a mother."

( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ )

"Okay," Haymitch murmurs. "I can live with that. What do you hope our future's like?"

"Safe," Effie replies quietly. "I want to be safe. I'd like to be married. Maybe in about three or four years. Perhaps after getting married, I might decide to ignore the risks and start a family. That's still in the air, but I think we have a while to decide."

Haymitch smirks. "Yeah, we do, sweetheart," he whispers, kissing her head. "We've got all the time in the world."

She smiles and curls up to him. "You're an angel," she whispers. "I'm the luckiest woman in the world to have a man like you."

Before Haymitch can respond, she's fast asleep on him. He shifts her sleeping form off him, lying her down on her own and pulling a throw over her. He kisses the top of her head and walks out of the house, only pausing to grab a bottle. Everything else, he can live with, but after hearing every horror that his Effie's been through, he wants a drink. There's only so much that he can take hearing before he goes crazy. 

Chapter Text

One week later

Haymitch is sat on the porch swing again, this time with a bottle in his hand. He hardly drinks any more, but the previous night had seen Effie screaming herself raw in her sleep, and throwing things around when she woke, before lucidity took over. It had scared Haymitch silly, and since Effie's off in her own world, too spaced out for him to get through to her, he's turned to a bottle, just like old times. He's only having the one drink, he's promised himself that, solely because Effie needs him. He takes a gulp of the liquor and wonders what it'd be like if he'd just managed to bring Effie to Thirteen instead of leaving her. She might be different now if he had. "Thought you quit?" Peeta asks, startling Haymitch out of his musings.

"I have," Haymitch mutters. "Just having one now because Effie's too zoned out, and I hate seeing her like that."

"Bad night?" Peeta asks, knowing exactly what it's like. His own episodes are few and far between now, but he remembers how horrible it was while he was healing very clearly, and it was no easier on Katniss when it happened to him.

"Yeah. She was really out of it," Haymitch sighs. "She didn't wake up lucid, either. She was throwing stuff around and screaming like someone was rubbing lemon juice into a paper cut."

Peeta nods sadly. "Yeah, I get it," he mutters. "She's not going to heal immediately, though."

"I know," Haymitch says dully. "I know. It's just hard to see her like this."

"Yeah," Peeta mutters. "I know. She's usually so full of life."

"It's not that," Haymitch tells him, swirling the liquor in the bottle. "I remember when I first met her. She was so innocent and childlike. Her eyes were full of joy, and she looked so eager for everything. She used to be the bane of my existence, being so happy and energetic. She would always work to make sure our tributes lived, and she made sure their last days outside the arena were fun. She'd get them the food they enjoyed most, and after training, she'd get Beetee to run interferences for her so that she could take them out sightseeing around the Capitol. She lost a lot of her innocence along the way, but even when you two were in the arena for the second time, she still retained some of who she used to be. She wasn't left with deep-seated trauma that would leave her in a catatonic state. Then they got her, and you kids, and when I got her back, they'd broken her. Her mind, her body, her spirit. She used to be okay with taking whatever she wanted, and they broke her. She's too afraid to get what she wants, and when she gets like this, I wonder if she'll come back to us."

"Katniss said the same about me," Peeta says. "There were times I wondered if I'd ever come back from it."

"You had a lot more trauma than Effie did," Haymitch points out. "Right from being small, you had it. In some degree, you knew how to cope with it. Up until that point, Effie had never had so much as her hair pulled. Not to hurt her, at least. She'd never been the victim of physical violence. She didn't know how to cope with it, and even though she's trying, she's not succeeding. I thought about talking to her about the future, but I'm not so sure now. It would get her mind off the past for a bit, but she'd probably clam up on me for even considering it."

"What were you thinking of discussing?" Peeta asks.

"Marriage," Haymitch mutters. "Getting married, maybe buying a holiday home, having kids, starting a business together, that sort of stuff, but I know she won't go for it."

"Maybe not having kids," Peeta agrees. "But she would marry you if you asked her to. When she's lucid, you should ask her. I asked Katniss, and I was worried she'd laugh in my face and tell me that she just refuses to get married, but she agreed. You should ask Effie. She might surprise you."

"I might ask her next week. It gives me time to find her a ring," Haymitch muses aloud, staring into his liquor. "We could all go out for a family meal. She mentioned wanting to go to that place in town, the one that makes those Capitol dishes."

"She'd like that," Peeta says. "It's really posh, as well. It's perfect for her. You'll have to book in advance, though. That place fills up fast."

"How would you know?" Haymitch asks suspiciously. 

"I was thinking about taking Katniss there someday soon," Peeta says.

"Well, you'll have to come with Effie and me, that way she won't get suspicious, and you can bring Katniss out of that house for a change," Haymitch chuckles, but his voice is laced with concern. He switches the topic and asks "How are you coping with the girl's choice, anyway?"

"Not well," Peeta admits. "I haven't said anything to her, and I've taken extra precautions to avoid any accidents, but it's just getting harder and harder to live with. Are you having any luck?"

"No," Haymitch sighs. "She said that she doesn't want kids, and she has valid reasons not to, but if she ends up pregnant, she said she won't abort it."

"How come?" Peeta asks curiously.

"She said that she has enough blood on her hands and that she would never add the blood of her own child to it," Haymitch sighs. "When she's like this, though, I have to question if her being a mom would be a good plan at all anyway."

"Give it time," Peeta says. "She's good with kids, and she'd be a great mom. She got a lot of those scars from protecting me."

"How many's a lot?" Haymitch asks. "She told me she'd protected you and Jo a few times, but she never said..."

"She took everything for us," Peeta tells him quietly. "Not just a few things here and there. She took as much as they'd allow her to. She's downplayed a lot to tell you when it comes to what good she did, and I think that's because she either doesn't want you to worry or she doesn't want you think she's bragging. She's a better mother to me than mine ever was. Katniss won't ever say it to either of you, but she prefers Effie to her own mom, too."

Haymitch nods. "I agree with you. She would be amazing with a little kid. She thinks she'd be okay at it, but she's too afraid of ever having kids. She knows what to do, but the problem lies with her always feeling like the other shoe's going to drop," he tells him sadly. "Well, that, and she's still too scared to have sex."

Peeta nods, a small chuckle escaping him. "That sounds about right," he mutters. "Katniss was patient with me when we first had sex. She knew then what touch did to me, and we took it slow. You could try that with Effie. You have the advantage of having been with her before, too. She knows you, and when she knows her own body, she'll be able to trust that she's safe with you."

"Yeah, it's just getting her to that point," Haymitch says. "I really don't want to rush her. She's going to be stressed enough without adding sex to the situation."

Peeta nods, then asks "Will you bring her to the concert tonight?" 

"I don't think so," Haymitch sighs, taking a gulp of his liquor. "She gets really jumpy after an episode, and having her in a crowd won't be much help for her. If she wants to come, we'll come, but up to now, it's unlikely. Shame, too. She was really looking forward to it. This singer she likes, he's performing tonight."

"What's the singer's name?" Peeta asks.

"He's some Capitol singer," Haymitch mutters, thinking hard. "Morel Skyberry, I think. She has all of his music on her music player. She's obsessed. I think she might be hoping he notices her at the concert."

Peeta rolls his eyes. "If she had to pick between you and this guy, she'd pick you," he chuckles. "This guy's just a celebrity crush. Katniss had one on Finnick when she got to know him, a while before she found out about Annie. It's nothing really, they wouldn't give us up for them."

"Yeah, I know," Haymitch chuckles. "Maybe I should take her to the thing tonight."

"Definitely," Peeta agrees. "If nothing else, she'll smile."

Effie's listened to most of the conversation from the doorway, just missing his plans to propose, tears streaming silently down her cheeks. Seeing Haymitch with a bottle hurts her soul, hearing that he wants things she's not ready to give makes her sad, and knowing that he's trying to ignore what he wants to make her life easy breaks her heart. She doesn't let on that she's there, she just stands out of sight and hears Haymitch sigh "Yeah. It'd be good to see her smiling because of something she enjoys that isn't solely based on us. Sometimes, it's like you, Katniss, and I are the only reasons she's making the effort to be happy."

Effie nods to herself, her arms around herself in a parody of a hug, her breathing ragged with silent sobs. "She'll find her way, we just need to be patient with her. It'll be worth it," Peeta says, and that's the final straw for Effie.

She runs to the sofa and faceplants it, nearly breaking her nose as her face slams into the arm rest. She spends a solid twenty minutes crying until she hears Haymitch coming into the house. She turns over so that she's facing the back of the sofa, then buries her face in the cushion. Haymitch spots her, and she can feel his eyes on her. She hears him coming over to her, and his hand stroking her hair, then she hears him breathe in deeply. "Effie, we both know you're not asleep," he murmurs. "Come on, what's up?"

She whispers "It's nothing I want to discuss."

"Okay," he whispers, then rubs her back. "Do you want a hug?"

She nods, then rolls off the sofa, landing in his waiting arms, as if he'd known exactly what her plan was. He pulls her close, enveloping her in his hold. She wraps her arms around his neck and whispers "I love you. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. Thank you for letting me come to you, and for letting me stay here, and for being so super to me all this time, and for loving me like you do, and for being this patient with me, even though you're really frustrated with me. You're amazing, and incredible, and I really love you."

He kisses her forehead and asks "That's really sweet of you, Princess, but where's all this coming from?"

"I heard you telling Peeta that you miss me being the way I was, and that you want to have a family with me," she whispers, her voice breaking as she speaks, tears filling her eyes again. "I'm sorry that I can't give you what you want, at least not yet with the baby thing, and maybe not ever with being the way I used to be, but... Maybe you'll like who I am now, too."

"Princess, I didn't mean it that way. I meant that I miss the way you were. You were happy. You didn't fear falling asleep, you didn't fear opening your eyes when you woke up, you didn't fear wearing the dresses you liked, you didn't think you didn't deserve what you wanted. That's what I meant by missing how you were. How you are now, you're the you I used to see in the mornings, the you who had flaws and insecurities, and who wore them with confidence in the privacy of one of our rooms. The only things I see differently with that you and this you are that you're more open to being who you really are now, and you're much sadder than you used to be. How you are now... You're human. You're not a doll, you're a person, and I really admire you for that," he tells her quietly, giving her a light squeeze, his heart aching every time he replays maybe you'll like who I am now, too in his mind. "You're precious to me, Eff. Don't go thinking that you have to change who you are, or rush your healing just for my sake. Promise me that you'll let yourself heal at your own pace, and only do what you feel ready to do."

"I promise," she sobs, clinging to him. "And one day, if ever the time should come that we're both healed enough, we will have a baby or two."

"If you ever feel that urge, then that'll be great," he murmurs, kissing her. "Don't worry about that yet, okay? Worry about now, and yourself. And what you're going to wear to the concert tonight. That's extremely important."

"We're still going to that?" she asks, looking up to him with tears in her eyes.

He wants to cringe and run away from her as soon as he sees how sad she is. Nobody can look quite as sad as Effie can. Her cheeks are shining from her tears, her nose, cheeks, forehead, and eyes are red, her lashes are stuck together with tears, her lips are slightly swollen, and her eyes are wider than ever. It doesn't help with the down turn of her lips, because she's got a pout that could melt even the stoniest heart. "If you want to, we are," he says, giving her the choice to back out, stroking her cheek tenderly. "Do you want to?"

"No," she whispers, snuggling closer to him. "I want a hot bath, then to get into bed with you, and cuddle until we're warm and fast asleep. No crowds, no music, just you and me. And maybe some chocolates, because chocolates are like cuddles. Fabulous at keeping sadness at bay."

Haymitch smirks then, and kisses her lips gently. "Okay. Well, you soggy little thing, you go get your bath going. I'll go buy wine and chocolates, and we'll have a nice, quiet night. You and me, all by ourselves," he offers.

Effie's smile makes all the concern vanish momentarily. "That sounds lovely," she whispers, then kisses him gently. "Okay. And when you come back, we will have a blankets fort to snuggle under."

"You're adorable," he chuckles, kissing her nose. "Go on, go get that bath started, build that fort, and we can snuggle all night."

She squeaks happily and runs off upstairs. Two hours later, they are both fast asleep in their blankets fort, the faint sound of the concert at the other end of the District just filtering in through the slightly open window.

Chapter Text

"Oh, no!" Effie whines, her eyes flying open.

Since the previous morning after their blankets fort cuddling session, Haymitch thinks Effie's been acting weird. She's been eating grilled tomatoes, she's thrown all of her bras at a very startled Buttercup, she started bawling at the dinner table last night and took three hours to be consoled before admitting that she'd bashed her ankle and it hurt, and she'd gone to bed whimpering in pain and clutching her back. "What up?" Haymitch mumbles, not awake enough to speak properly yet.

"I just came on," Effie whimpers. "There's blood on the sheets."

"What?!" Haymitch demands, jumping out of bed, suddenly very alert. "You could have said!"

She lets out a tiny squeak, her eyes widening in fear. "I didn't know I was coming on," she whispers, blushing. "After what my body went through, I will either not get a period, or it'll surprise attack me. I never know when I'll start to bleed. I'm sorry. Please help me get the sheets off."

"No," he sighs, then walks around the bed to kiss her nose. "Go and get yourself cleaned up, get a tampon, get clean clothes on, and take some time to pamper yourself a bit. I'll change the sheets and try to get the blood out of them."

"Are you sure?" she asks, then her mouth clamps shut and her eyes pop.

"Yeah, I'm sure. Go on. You're covering the floor in blood," he says, giving her a tender kiss. "Go."

She kisses him back and rushes off to the bathroom. Haymitch grabs clean sheets from the airing cupboard, grateful for having Effie around to put things in easily accessible places. He strips the bed, then gets out the white vinegar he keeps by the bed and some cotton balls. He soaks the cotton in vinegar, then rubs at the blood pool on the mattress. It comes up after a minute or two, and he gets out a bottle of water, dampens the cotton ball, and wipes the vinegar off the mattress. He sprays a little sweet-smelling fabric spray onto it, then changes the duvet sheets and pillow cases, knowing Effie will go mad if the bed isn't matched up. She comes back in as soon as the mattress is dry, her hair up in a towel, and a fluffy dressing gown tied tightly around her, her skin pink from the warm water of the shower. "Here," she whispers, picking up one side of the sheet. "We'll do this together, it's easier with two."

Haymitch smirks at her, becoming more and more grateful for her with every passing second. The two of them make the bed, their eyes meeting every few minutes and smiles erupting on their faces before they return to the task at hand. After they've got the bed neat, Haymitch grabs Effie around the waist and flings her onto their bed, making sure she lands with her head on the pillows. She shrieks as he throws her, only to end up giggling when she lands safely. "You're so funny," he chuckles, flinging himself down beside her and making her fly off the mattress momentarily. She flops back down, giggling. "What's so funny?"

"You," she giggles, rolling onto her side so that she can cuddle up to him. "You throw me about like it's nothing and make sure I land comfortably, then you call me the funny one. You're the strongest man alive, I'm sure of it."

"No, you're just tiny," he laughs, giving her a kiss. "My adorable small thing."

She laughs, then murmurs "My gorgeous big thing."

After a few minutes of quiet cuddling, she grabs his hand. "What are you doing there, sweetheart?" he asks, watching her.

In answer, she pulls his hand to her and places it on her lower stomach. "You're warm, and I'm hurting," she purrs. "This is nice."

"How come you're hurting?" Haymitch asks, worriedly. Since he's never lived with a woman, he's never had to learn about their monthly struggles until now. "Do you need a doctor?"

"No, it's okay. I'm just cramping up. The warmth helps," she says.

"How come you're cramping up?" he asks, slowly rubbing her stomach.

"Because of my period," she chuckles. "To put this in a non-medical way, it's simple. Uterus wants baby, so it spends a month making itself nice and squishy, all ready for a baby, and when nothing happens to the little egg cell and no baby comes, the uterus gets upset, throws all the squishy lining out, and starts trying to crush itself to death over not having a baby to house, and because it's part of a woman's anatomy, it hurts quite a lot."

Haymitch just pulls her closer, softly rubbing her stomach. "That sounds traumatic, Eff. How do you live with it?" he asks, kissing the top of her head.

"I've been doing this since I was eleven," she murmurs, her eyes drifting shut. "It's just one of those things that I have to live with. It gets better, it goes away after a week."

"What about when you haven't had a period in a while?" he asks.

"Then it goes on for twelve or thirteen days. It's nothing I can't handle, it just means it's more painful," Effie sighs. "Oh, and we have to do groceries later."

"You aren't doing the groceries," Haymitch scoffs. "You can make a list, and you can stay in bed with a hot water bottle. No grocery shopping for you."

"Then who's going to do it?" she asks.

"I will. You're staying right here and resting," he tells her, then reaches over to his bedside table, giving her a pen and a notepad. "You make a list, I'll get you a hot water bottle."

He leaves her to make a list, only returning to her when he has her pink mouse bottle full of hot water. "Here it is!" Effie chirps.

He grins and places the hot bottle on her stomach, taking the list from her. "Okay. Now you lie your little self down and get some sleep. I'll be home in a bit," he whispers, then kisses her.

"Okay. Stay safe," she whispers, squirming under the duvet with her hot water bottle and snuggling down. "And don't get into any fights."

"I won't, Princess," he promises, then leaves her be.

He leaves her inside, locking the front and back doors before he trusts the house enough to leave her safely. He sees Peeta in the street, and much like him, the young man has grocery bags in hand. "Haymitch?" Peeta asks, looking surprised. "Isn't Effie the one who does groceries?"

"Not when she's not in a good enough state to get out of bed, she's not," Haymitch tells him. 

"Is she okay?" Peeta asks worriedly. "Should she be left alone?"

"She's fine, she's just on her period. I'm not letting her go wandering around when she's prone to accidents, though," Haymitch says. "You heading to town?"

"Yeah, Katniss is hunting, so groceries are my job today," Peeta tells him.

"Ah, all right," Haymitch says with a shrug, glad he doesn't have to be quiet now. Ever since Effie arrived, and she's been quite hushed, he's taken to being as quiet as her, assuming that hearing him speak normally often would either induce a headache for her, or scare her senseless. "How's your bakery getting on?"

"It's good. Business is growing. Lots of people are thrilled that Mellarks' is back in business, too. Since my family died, this place has had Capitol bread, you know, the machine made stuff, so Twelve's natives are pretty thrilled to have locally baked bread again," Peeta chuckles. "Have you and Effie discussed the business thing?"

"No. We discussed the kids thing again," Haymitch says, still not quite sure if he wants to talk about this.

"Oh? How did that come about?" Peeta asks, his eyes wide.

"She overheard you and me talking," Haymitch responds flatly. "And she had a lot to say afterward."

"What did she say about you two having children?" the younger man presses.

"She said that if ever the day comes that she decides she wants to be a mother, then she'd be happy to have a baby or two. Once she can have sex without flipping out, that is," Haymitch sighs, wishing Effie had never overheard him and Peeta.

"Well, aren't you lucky?" Peeta chuckles, though Haymitch can hear the envy in the younger man's voice. "Have you decided on whether you're going to propose to her or not?"

"Yeah, I have," Haymitch says, then hastily corrects himself at the shocked look on Peeta's face. "Decided, I mean."

"And?" Peeta asks, clearly relieved that he hasn't missed anything.

"I'm gonna do it," Haymitch admits, with a confidence to his voice that he just doesn't feel. "I'm thinking that I might buy the ring today while she's not with me. She's smart, she'll guess if she sees me with it."

"Doesn't she keep track of your account?" Peeta asks.

"One of them, yeah," Haymitch chuckles. "I have a separate account she doesn't know about, and all the statements are online. I have over four thousand dollars in there, so whatever happens, I can buy her a really expensive ring."

"You're really going all out," Peeta observes. 

"It's Effie. If I propose to her with a ring that's less than a thousand dollars, she might well cut my sack off and feed it to me," Haymitch chuckles. "I like my anatomy the way it is, and she likes her sparkly stuff."

"You're such a romantic," Peeta deadpans.

"She knows what she's signed up for here," Haymitch says, shrugging. "She's just going to have to be glad she's even getting a proposal."

Peeta rolls his eyes and asks "Are you going to do anything really romantic for her?"

"No," Haymitch says, a dead look on his face.

"Haymitch, you need to do something romantic for her," Peeta sighs, despairing of his mentor.

"I am doing something romantic. Asking someone to marry you is a really romantic thing to do. You're asking them to spend the rest of their life with you. And she's not going to be young and visibly gorgeous forever. She's going to get old, and she's not going to feel like a million dollars, but she's not going to be alone in that or with someone who tells her that she's anything less than perfect," Haymitch tells him. "And when you can tell me that you're happy to be engaged to Katniss, fully accepting that you're stuck with her and every bit of her stubbornness until death comes at one of you, then you can't tell me off for not being romantic. Effie's learned my version of the word, and she likes it."

"What happened to the meal you had planned?" Peeta asks.

"We'll see how she feels later," he says smoothly.

With that, Haymitch turns on his heel and walks right into the store, on the hunt for the perfect ring. "Can I help you?" the store assistant asks.

Haymitch turns to study the girl. She's about the same height as Effie, she has black hair, she's a little bit pudgy, her accent marks her as someone from District Eleven, she's plain, and Haymitch trusts this. "Yeah, actually, you can. What's the best ring for a woman who gets everything she likes?" he asks.

"I'd suggest Princess cut," the girl tells him, showing him a case of rings with square diamonds. "What's your price range?"

"Up to four thousand dollars," Haymitch says softly, in case someone else overhears.

"Then you'll want something like this," the girl says, tapping the case. "Nine carat, silver, Princess cut diamond. Only fifteen hundred dollars."

"Sure," Haymitch says, then gets out one of Effie's rings. "I need it to be this size in the next two hours. Can you manage that?"

"I'll have to give it to my boss," she says.

"That's fine, just get this done in two hours, I'll pay double the price," Haymitch tells her.

"Done," the girl gasps and takes Effie's own ring and the ring Haymitch wants, ready to get to work.

Haymitch walks out of the store proudly, knowing that he can propose to Effie that very night. "What have you done?" Peeta asks.

"I'm having a ring resized," Haymitch tells him proudly, feeling strangely excited. 

"When are you going to propose?" Peeta asks.

"Tonight," Haymitch tells him. "Why wait? Once I have the ring, I'll have everything I need."

Peeta smirks. "And when she arrived, you wanted nothing to do with her," he chuckles.

Haymitch not very gently pushes Peeta. "Shut up," the older man grumbles. 

"Hey, I'm just saying what we're both thinking," Peeta mocks. "She's going to be delighted."

"Yeah, yeah," Haymitch mutters, annoyed by the younger man's teasing. "As long as you keep your mouth shut, I don't care."

"Fine," Peeta says. "I just can't wait to see her face when she comes running to tell Katniss and me that you're engaged."

Haymitch shifts uncomfortably. "It's going to be hard enough proposing without thinking of her telling people," he mumbles, still uneasy with admitting that he feels more for Effie than friendship. "Even people who aren't people like you and Katniss."

"We're people," Peeta chuckles.

"Yeah, but you're not people-people," Haymitch insists. "You're Peeta and Katniss people."

"You're being deliberately weird, aren't you?" Peeta chuckles. 

"No, it's science!" Haymitch exclaims, annoyed at Peeta's refusal to get it. "You're people, but you're not people. You're physically people, but you're not people. You're Peeta, she's Katniss, neither of you are people."

"Are you trying to say that we're not strangers?" Peeta asks, laughter creeping into his tone.

"Precisely! Finally!" Haymitch exclaims. "You're family people, not people people."

Peeta laughs properly and chokes out "Fair enough, that's fine. I thought you were saying we're not humans for a few minutes there."

"The girl didn't fall in love with your brain, boy, that's for sure," Haymitch chuckles, relieved that Peeta's finally got it.

Two hours later, Haymitch has Effie's ring in a box and her own ring used for fitting in his pocket. "Is she going to kill you for the size?" Peeta asks softly, nodding to the ring box.

"You tell me," Haymitch says, then shows Peeta the ring. "Don't let on that you saw it before she did."

Peeta nods, then studies the ring. "Wow," he whistles quietly. "She's going to be thrilled. That's beautiful."

"I know," Haymitch preens. "The Princess will love it. I've seen her with smaller diamonds than this on her finger."

"How many times has she been engaged?" Peeta asks. "I know she's not that old..."

"She's twenty seven, and she's been engaged about five times," Haymitch says. "She got engaged first at sixteen, then again at eighteen, when she became our escort. That lasted all of three minutes. Then when she was twenty one, and again at twenty two, then she took herself off the dating scene until the year she turned twenty four, which was around your first Games. She got engaged to Crane, used her relationship with him to help you and Katniss win, then when he got executed, she cried for a week straight. She didn't love him, but she did have a deep affection for him."

"Wait, that makes you sixteen years older than her," Peeta says.

"If she'd been born three weeks later, it would have been seventeen," Haymitch says bitterly. "And trust you to focus on the age gap, kid. She's more mature than she gets credit for."

"She must be," Peeta scoffs. "Isn't it a bit weird to think that she's so much younger?"

"Nope," Haymitch replies. "She's mentally as old as me. She's just using the body of a younger woman."

"Um," Peeta says, lifting an eyebrow.

Haymitch cringes and says "Yeah, that sounded worse than I intended it to... You know what I mean, she's physically younger than she is in her head."

"I get you, just please don't ever say that again," Peeta mutters, his ears turning red, heading off in the direction of his own home.

Haymitch chuckles to himself as he walks off to his house, where Effie's lying in their bed waiting. He shivers with anticipation, knowing that within the next hour, he might be helping Effie plan their wedding.

Chapter Text

"Well, you took your time," Effie remarks, stretching out in the bed.

"I had something to pick up," Haymitch tells her, then pads over to the bed, placing the bag beside her, then he lightly presses one hand to her stomach as he leans down to kiss her. "How are you feeling?"

"Loved," she giggles. 

"Well, good, but I meant physically," he chuckles, tapping her nose gently.

She beams up at him. "Well, my back hurts, my uterus is trying to commit suicide, I have a relentless headache, my breasts are aching like someone's just punched them, and I feel rather nauseous. Other than that, I feel amazing," she tells him cheerfully. "Come, get into bed with your squishy. I missed cuddles with you."

He chuckles and kicks off his shoes. He drapes his coat over the end of the bed, then gets under the duvet with her, giving her a kiss on her lips. "Okay, you adorable little thing, snuggle up," he says, then cringes at her small wince. "Sorry, Princess, I forgot about the regular speaking tones being harsh on your little ears."

She snuggles close to him and kisses his nose. "I don't mind. The doctor said I should get used to normal volumes again, because it isn't good for either of us to be so quiet all the time," she whispers. 

"I like it," Haymitch blurts. "You and me, we work better when we're quiet. Less rage."

"True," Effie giggles. "So, do you want to tell me what you were picking up from the store that took you so long to get or not?" 

Haymitch's breath catches, then he gives her a kiss on the forehead. "I probably should," he says.

"Well, what is it?" she asks, looking up at him, widening her eyes innocently. "You've made me curious now."

He sighs, then gets out of bed. "I have to get the thing out of my pocket," he says.

"Okay," Effie says, squirming a little. "What is it?"

He gets the ring box out, his nerves on edge. He suddenly feels as if there's no air in the room, and like Effie's a demanding goddess who would kill him for such a small offering, despite her tilted head and massive blue eyes proving her innocent curiosity. He grabs the little box, then kneels beside the bed. "Here it is," he says, feeling incredibly sick from the nerves, his stomach flipping over and over.

"What is it?" she repeats eagerly, looking excited. "Is it a pet?"

"No, Princess, it's not a pet," he chuckles nervously. Effie looks confused, so he shows her the box. "Open it."

She does and gasps. "Ooh, that's beautiful!" she breathes. "Haymitch, who are you thinking of proposing to? This is an expensive diamond ring. How come you didn't tell me that you have a girlfriend? When are you proposing to her?"

"Right now," Haymitch mutters awkwardly. "Effie, I know it's a bit soon after asking you to move in, but we've been together for ages, and... I just don't want to wait much longer to ask you. Will you marry me, Princess?"

Her mouth opens to answer him when Peeta shouts "Haymitch! Haymitch, Katniss is missing!"

"What?!" both Haymitch and Effie shout, bolting up and running down the stairs. 

"What do you mean the girl's missing?!" Haymitch demands.

"I went home, and I couldn't find her," Peeta says, distress evident in his voice. "I searched everywhere, and she's not home."

"Okay," Effie sighs. "Peeta, breathe. Haymitch, stay with the boy, I will go find our girl."

"Princess, you're bleeding," Haymitch mutters gently, grabbing her arm tenderly, wary of hurting her. "You shouldn't be walking anywhere."

"Honey, I can manage. She's probably in the woods, I'll manage to find her. You keep an eye on the boy and remember to call me if she turns up," Effie says, then presses a kiss to his lips. "I will bring her home when I find her, and I promise to text you when I do."

"Princess, it's not safe for you to go walking around Twelve alone, you know how they view you out there," Haymitch says.

"Haymitch has a point," Peeta agrees. "After seeing you in the bakery, a lot of people talk amongst themselves about things they'd do to you if they got you alone. It's safer for you to stay here."

"This is feeling very sexist right now," Effie grumbles. "I'm capable of doing my own protecting, you know!" 

"Up to a certain point, yeah," Haymitch says. "But these people hate you beyond measure, and you're not safe. If you were safe, I'd be less worried, but you're not safe. Stay here, Princess, please."

"I hate you," Effie mutters. "Who will go if I don't?"

"I'll go," Haymitch offers, giving her a kiss. "Nobody will mess with me. You stay here, sweetheart. Please?"

"Fine," Effie huffs. "I still wish you'd let me go. I can protect myself, after all."

"I know you can, sweetheart, but you're tiny, and your strength won't last you very long. I'm trying to keep you safe, tiny stuff," Haymitch says, then gives her a kiss on the nose, hugging her. "It's not because you're female, it's because you're precious to me. You stay here where the warm stuff is."

Effie pouts and nods. "Be safe. You have to text me when you get to the woods, and when you find her, and when you're heading home, okay?" she whispers, giving him a hug.

"Sure," Haymitch agrees, giving her a kiss. "Be kind to the kid, yeah?"

"As always," Effie says, then gives him a quick kiss. "Find her quickly, yes?"

"Sure, Princess," Haymitch says, then turns to leave.

Effie sits Peeta down, then asks "Would you like a drink?"

"Effie, now's not a good time for a drink," Peeta mutters.

"Okay," Effie quietly sighs, a touch of hurt in her voice. "A snack?" 

"No," Peeta says, a little more firmly.

"Okay," Effie whispers. "Let me know if there's anything you'd like."

"I'd like Katniss to leave me notes when she goes somewhere while I'm out so that I don't have to worry about her," he mutters bitterly.

"When she comes back, you can have a word with her about it," she says quietly. "Maybe you could ask her if she would mind being more considerate of you. I'm sure she would, she's definitely more open to doing things you ask her to do now. She's less stubborn than she used to be."

"Effie, I love you a lot, but could you shut up? You're not making this any easier," Peeta grumbles. "I don't need this now."

Saddened by this, Effie goes quiet and sits at the other end of the room, well out of the way. She stays quiet until Haymitch texts her saying "Found her, Princess. She says she wants to talk to you, won't say a word to me."

Effie texts him back, saying "Okay, honey. I'll chat when you get back with her. Where was she?"

"Behind the Hob. She was crying. No idea why, because she won't talk to me," Haymitch texts back.

"Has he found her?" Peeta asks.

"Yes, they're on their way back," Effie says. "She was behind the Hob. She won't tell Haymitch anything, though."

When Haymitch finally arrives back, he has Katniss with him. She's silent, and she has her brooding face on, and she seems unresponsive. "Here she is!" Haymitch calls.

Peeta runs into the hall and glares at Katniss. "What were you thinking?! Running out like that! Not even a note! Kat, I thought you'd been kidnapped! Do you not know how scary that was?!" he bellows.

Katniss doesn't respond. "Peeta, remember what I said?" Effie asks, strolling into the hall. "Let me deal with this. Katniss, shall we go and sit on the porch swing?"

Katniss flings herself at Effie and allows the older woman to walk her out of the house. As soon as they're outside, Katniss mumbles "Effie..."

"It's okay, darling," Effie whispers soothingly. "What happened?"

"Effie... Effie, I... I'm pregnant," Katniss sniffs. "I can't tell Peeta, not after the fit I threw about him asking for a baby. I had to tell you, you're practically a mom to us both."

"Oh, honey," Effie sighs. "Do you know how far along you are?"

"About eight weeks," Katniss sobs. "I-I-I didn't... I didn't know I'd missed my period, but when I checked, I did a-a-a test, and... An-and when it came out positive, I just took off, and before I knew it I-I was in the woods, and I'd buried the test."

"Oh, honey," Effie sighs.

"What if he leaves me?" Katniss asks softly.

"He won't leave you, darling," Effie promises. "If there's one thing I know about our men, it's that they're the most loyal beings ever created. Peeta loves you, my girl. He won't leave you over this."

"What would Haymitch do if you got pregnant?" Katniss asks.

"Be livid," Effie sighs. "He and I haven't quite got to having intimate relations yet, so he'd think I was stepping out on him. But if we were intimate, he would be over the moon at the news."

"Would he?" Katniss asks.

"Yes," Effie sighs, fondness in her tone. "He wants to be a father."

"What would you do?" Katniss asks, a bit stunned at the former escort's revelation about the man who's kept everything he desires, apart from his alcohol, close to his heart.

"I would react just like you are doing," Effie admits. "I am afraid to be a mother, too."

"But you're so good with kids," Katniss says, gaping.

"So are you," Effie counters. "I dare say you're better with children than I am. What of it? Being good with children and having our own are vastly different things. But I will say this for you, my darling. You have Peeta, Haymitch, and myself at your side. We are all ready to help you, and support you. You're not alone in this. You've got three people right here to help you with your baby. And what's more, you can always ask us for anything."

"How about a hug?" Katniss asks meekly.

That's what sets off Effie's worry. The uncharacteristic desire for a hug, and from Katniss, of all people, scares Effie. She reaches out to hug the young woman, holding her close and stroking her hair. "Whenever you ask for them, hugs are there for you."

"Thank you, Effie," Katniss murmurs. "Effie, we need to move the wedding up before I start to show. Like really far up."

"I can do it in a week," Effie offers. "It'll be a challenge, but I can do it."

"Thank you," Katniss sobs. "Effie, you're a mom... How do you mom?"

"I don't have a baby," Effie points out. "I've only been regarded as a mom since you and Peeta came into my life."

"Surely you know how to mother a baby," Katniss sniffs. "You have a sister who had a kid, right?"

"Yes, and I do know how to look after one, but my sister always soothed her when she cried," Effie tells her.

"I don't care, you know how to look after babies," Katniss sobs. "Please help me, Effie, you're much better with small kids than me."

"I am with you every step of the way, my girl, I always have been and I always will be," Effie promises.

"Thank you so much, Effie," Katniss sniffs, clutching to her former escort.

"Anything for you, darling," Effie murmurs, clutching Katniss close. 

An hour later, Katniss heads home and instructs Effie just to send Peeta back home where Katniss can explain it on her own. Peeta grabs Effie roughly and demands "Where is she?!"

"Get off her," Haymitch snarls, going ignored by Peeta.

"Where is she?!" Peeta demands, primal fear in his eyes.

"She went back to your place," Effie says calmly, her eyes full of terror. "She told me that she wants to tell you why she ran off herself."

As quickly as he'd grabbed her, Peeta lets go of Effie and runs off. Haymitch immediately grabs Effie, far more tenderly than Peeta did, and asks "Did he hurt you, sweetheart?"

"No," Effie sighs, melting into his embrace. "I just want to scrub the bathroom out, and then we pretend to watch a movie before we inevitably fall asleep."

"Okay," Haymitch says, then kisses her lips. "Hey, about that scrubbing the bathroom thing..."

"Mm?" she hums, smiling at him as she hugs him.

"Want a hand with it?" he asks, rubbing her lower back, knowing that she has back pain.

Effie mistakes his helpfulness for him making a move on her. She lowers his hand to her bottom, smiling. "A helping hand would be delightful, thank you," she says, kissing his neck gently. "Come on, upstairs. I left the cleaning stuff under the bathroom sink."

Haymitch gently squeezes her bottom before picking her up. "I'll carry you," he chuckles.

Effie bursts out laughing as he carries her upstairs.

Chapter Text

"Okay, sweetheart, what do you want me to do?" Haymitch asks, setting Effie down gently.

Effie blushes and bites her lip, a secretive smirk forming on her face. "Please will you scrub the bathtub for me, sweetie?" she asks.

"That was your I had a dirty thought face," Haymitch chuckles. "What did you think?"

"My first response to your question was me," she whispers, giggling a little.

"Fair enough," Haymitch chuckles. "We'll see if you still want that later."

Effie grins at him, then whispers "We'll definitely see. Take." 

She hands him a pair of gloves, a cleaning fluid, and a scrubbing sponge. "Thanks, Princess," Haymitch chuckles. "You going to show me how to use this?"

Effie tips a bit of fluid onto the wiry sponge, then scrubs a section of the bath. "There, that's how you do it," she says. "After you've scrubbed the bath out, you just have to rinse the bath with the shower head."

"Got it," he says, then kisses her nose. 

He kneels down and leans over the tub, relying on his kneecaps, and he doesn't see the pat on the bottom that Effie gives him coming. He turns to her and lifts an eyebrow. She tilts her head at him innocently. "Yes?" she asks, smiling adorably. 

"Stop being so cute," he grumbles playfully. "I know you just whacked my a-"

"Language," she reprimands automatically. "No cursing around your squishy."

He laughs, then shakes his head. "You're such a pain, Princess," he chuckles.

She pouts for a millisecond, then grins. "Yes, but I'm your pain," she giggles.

If Haymitch was unused to her and her subtle changes, he wouldn't have noticed the hurt and insecure undertone to her laughter. He gets up and hugs her. "Hey, I didn't mean it badly," he whispers, kissing her neck. "I'd miss it if you weren't a pain. It's a good thing, sweetheart, I promise."

She clings to him for a minute, then asks, in the smallest and saddest voice he's ever heard, "Do you like me being a pain?"

"Yeah, I do," he whispers. "In fact, it's one of the many things I love about you."

She  lifts her head and kisses his lips. "You're my squishy, and I love everything about you," she whispers.

Instead of responding, Haymitch just presses a kiss to her lips, trying his best not to hurt her, then he says "We should get this bathroom scrubbed."

"We should," Effie agrees breathlessly, her head spinning from the kiss. She watches him for a minute as he scrubs the bath, then starts to scrub out the toilet, content just to feel his presence beside her. She glances over when he stops scrubbing and asks "Are you okay?"

He presses a kiss to the back of her head. "Yeah, I'm done with the bath," he tells her softly, then wraps his arms around her waist, resting his hands on her stomach. "You're getting tinier every time I hold you."

She giggles and leans her head on his chest. "I hope not, I might vanish if I get smaller," she whispers. "I might become an ant-sized Effie."

"Better than an Effie-sized ant," Haymitch chuckles. "It's about an inch bigger than a regular ant, and it'd have you screaming louder than I ever could."

"Nothing makes me scream louder than the screams you cause," Effie chuckles, then kisses his neck. "WIll you pick a film? Or would you prefer to scrub the sink?"

Trying to impress her even now, Haymitch kisses the top of her head and says "I'll scrub the sink."

An hour later, the bathroom is clean and both Haymitch and Effie are drifting off to sleep on their sofa when the phone rings. Effie picks it up and mumbles "Hello?"

"Effie! Effie, can you and Haymitch come for dinner tomorrow?!" Peeta asks eagerly. "Katniss and I have a big announcement, can you come over for dinner tomorrow?!"

"Yes, yes, okay," Effie mumbles. "We'll come over. Are you both okay?"

"Never better!" Peeta chuckles, then goes silent for a second. "Did I wake you?"

"No, we're not asleep yet," she hums sleepily. "Very close, though."

"I'm sorry," Peeta says apologetically. "I didn't mean to disturb you."

"It's okay, I don't mind," Effie slurs, drifting off a little. "Always a pleasure to talk to you."

"And you," Peeta says gently. "Get some sleep, Effie. You sound like you could really do with it. We'll see you tomorrow."

"See you," Effie mumbles, then sighs, hanging up. She drops the phone, then winds her fingers into Haymitch's hair while he sleeps on her chest, smirking a little at the dark spot of his drool on her shirt.

"Kid?" he asks sleepily, slowly waking up.

"Yes, they've got big news for us," Effie mumbles. "Dinner with them tomorrow night."

"Okay," Haymitch mumbles, then kisses the flat plane between her breasts, too tired to move his head. "What for?"

"No idea," Effie murmurs, slowly running her fingers through his hair. "Peeta seems very excited about giving us food, though."

"Probably that," he slurs, nuzzling at her chest, then resting his ear over her heart. "He's probably excited to see your pretty face."

"Flatterer," Effie murmurs sleepily. "Could be you he's excited to see."

"I hope not," Haymitch mutters, almost asleep already. "How long's that movie got to go?"

"Who cares?" Effie hums, her eyes drifting shut. "We've seen it."

Haymitch smirks, his own eyes closing as he listens to her heartbeat. "Okay," he murmurs. "My little squish."

"Yours," she murmurs. "You're my big squish."

"Yeah," he mutters. "Sleep well, Princess."

She smiles and kisses his head. "You too, darling," she hums sleepily. Within minutes, the two of them are fast asleep and dreaming.

Chapter Text

Haymitch wakes with a start, opening his eyes just to close them against the blinding sun. He turns his head and presses his face into Effie's chest, not ready to wake up yet. He hears her soft breathing and smirks, grateful that she's stayed with him all night. He lifts his head and looks up at her face. Her features are smooth and soft, as peaceful as she was while she slept in his arms the night before he was taken to Thirteen. He reaches up, doing his best not to hurt her, then he cups her cheek and strokes his thumb across her soft skin. "Beautiful," he whispers, so quietly that it's barely more than a breath of air.

It's enough to wake her, though. Unlike him, she doesn't startle, her eyes fluttering open. She groans at the sunlight, then stretches out as much as she can underneath him before reaching down to stroke his hair. "Good morning, gorgeous," she sighs happily.

"Morning, Princess," he chuckles, allowing himself to lie back down on her.

She lets out a quiet purr as he rests his head on her, her fingers slowly combing through his hair. "I love your hair," she whispers. "It's so soft, and so thick."

"I never would have guessed that you like my hair, sweetheart," he chuckles, trailing his hand up and down her side. "You're usually telling me to get a haircut."

"That's because I know you'll do the exact opposite just to spite me, so if I tell you not to, you will, and then what will I play with while you're asleep?" she chuckles.

"Fair point," he replies, smirking. "We're going to have to move at some point, sweetheart, we're both going to have back pain from sleeping here."

"Speak for yourself," Effie giggles, then softens her tone up. "I'll give you a back rub. You remember how good I am at those, right?"

"Yeah, and I remember where we ended up after one of your back rubs," Haymitch chuckles softly, his hand still coasting up and down her side. "Not sure you're ready for that, sweetheart."

"Mm," Effie hums, something in her tone that unsettles Haymitch a little.

That evening, Haymitch and Effie are over at the kids' place for dinner, and Katniss has been acting antsy. Peeta's beaming like he just won the lottery, and Haymitch is rapidly getting annoyed by it while the kids and Effie share small talk. Effie smiles politely at Peeta, a little ill at ease with the buzzing current running between the four of them, and quietly says "This turkey is divine, Peeta, how did you get it this juicy? I often find turkey rather dry."

"It was freshly killed this morning," Peeta says. "I actually cooked it slowly today, I thought it would taste nicer."

Effie smiles again, a little more warmth in it this time, and nods a little. "It does. Is it just me, or is there a little touch of cranberry to it?" she asks.

"You got me," Peeta chuckles. "I used a little bit of cranberry juice with the oil."

"It is delicious," Effie praises. Haymitch is watching Katniss with growing suspicion as she pokes at her food. He knows something's wrong, but he's just not sure what's wrong with her. Effie elbows him gently and asks "Don't you think that the turkey's especially delicious today?"

"Yeah," Haymitch mutters. Effie huffs softly, shooting an uneasy but polite smile at the younger couple before continuing to devour her food. Haymitch watches as Katiss become increasingly more squirmy under his gaze and loudly demands "Okay, that's it, what's crawled into your two's pants tonight?!"

Effie jumps, almost falling out of her chair, her fork clattering on her plate, then smacks his arm gently. "Honey, shush! There was no need for that!" she snaps, then turns to Katniss and Peeta, her heart racing from the shock. She gives them an apologetic smile and quietly says "Excuse Haymitch, he's got a sleep hangover, and we spent a long while on the sofa, so he's got a back ache too."

"No, I haven't!" Haymitch snaps. "These two are acting weird, and nobody's telling me what's going on!"

"Why don't you wait for them to be ready instead of being an impatient little boy?" Effie hisses, resisting the temptation to cover her ears.

"i'm not being an impatient little boy, they're acting weird, and it's making me feel weird!" Haymitch shouts.

"Will you stop shouting?" Effie asks icily, trying not to get angry. 

"Shut up, will you?!" Haymitch yells. "Someone tell me what the hell's going on!"

"Okay, fine!" Katniss yells, slamming her hands down on the table in annoyance at Haymitch. "I'm pregnant!"

"You're what?!" Haymitch thunders, standing up.

"Haymitch, you're in a house, and you are a guest! Sit back down and behave like a man, not the animal you behave like at home!" Effie snaps, barely raising her voice.

(!) (!) (!) (!) (!) (!)

"The girl is pregnant, Effie! She's barely more than a child herself, and she's nowhere near married!" Haymitch bellows.

"Oh, don't be absurd!" Effie shouts back, giving up on her manners to stand up and face him. "Can you just not ruin something this exciting?! These kids deserve to have this joy, and you're not allowed to ruin it! This is good for us all!"

"Yeah?! How?! In case you missed the memo, Trinks, we're all submerged in PTSD, and none of us are stable enough to look after a kid on a good day!" Haymitch roars.

"Oh, well, that's good to know, Haymitch! It's not as though we live with our trauma, is it?! No, it takes the great and wise Haymitch Abernathy to make us see it!" Effie screams, pink spots appearing on her cheeks and her eyes blazing with fury. "Why can't you be happy about this baby for the kids?! Sharing the news with their family is a moment to treasure, and having you throwing a tantrum like a toddler being told that he's getting a sibling is ruining the moment! Would you like them to ruin the moment for you if the situation was reversed?!"

"The situation won't ever get reversed, will it?! You're not exactly eager to start with making them, are you?!" Haymitch roars.

"Oh, my God, you're jealous! You're actually jealous!" Effie screams, hysterical amusement rising in her voice. "What happened to I'll wait for you to be ready?! Or her happiness means more to me than having kids?! Hmm?! What happened to that?! What do you want from me?!"

"How about an estimated time for having kids?!" Haymitch bellows. "Or even just a little bit more than making out every now and then would be nice!"

"I should have known!" Effie screams. "The only reason you asked me to move in was because your lower brain was thinking hey, I might find a warm hole to stick it into!"

"Yeah, I was really thinking about finding somewhere to stick it when I asked you to move in!" Haymitch yells sarcastically. "I would really ask for an annoying, bossy, squeaking thing to live with me if all I wanted was somewhere to shove it! We're getting off topic here! The point is, the kids are too young for this!"

"They are only physically too young! Mentally, they're older than you are! And quite frankly, I'm glad of it! This child won't be raised to treat people who love them like they're just a potential mate!" Effie screams. "I hope to the heavens that the little angel won't learn anything from you! It'll reach fourteen and only ever think with its nether regions if it learns from you!"

( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ )

"Can we not do this now?!" Katniss snaps over the shouting, causing the older couple to go quiet.

"I'm sorry, darling," Effie says, softening immediately. "My ridiculous partner here thinks he's the only one who's sexually frustrated and isn't getting any action. Congratulations on your little baby. It's truly miraculous, and you deserve every bit of joy you get from this. Now, I hate to be a buzzkill-"

"That's a first," Haymitch scoffs.

"Enough!" Effie snaps, glaring at him. "I hate to be a buzzkill, my darlings, but I fear that I have a rather horrible headache coming on, as usual after a fight with Haymitch, and I don't want to waste food. Haymitch, I will see you in a few hours. Try to calm down before you come home."

She presses a kiss to his lips, then hugs Peeta, then brings Katniss in for a hug before she rushes out of the house with a hurried goodbye, tears rolling down her cheeks. "You've really done it now, Haymitch," Katniss grouches.

Haymitch flips her off, staring after Effie, wondering if she'll punish him in some new and creative way like she used to, or if she'll be sad and crying. What if she's left him? He finds himself truly dreading going home, the guilt chewing away at his soul. He really doesn't want to know what Effie's chosen to do.

Chapter Text

After dinner, Haymitch decides that going home to Effie just isn't something he's willing to do just yet. He bids the younger couple a good night and leaves, but instead of crossing the road to see to Effie, he turns right and walks towards the gateway separating the Village from the rest of the District. He heads to the bar in the town, taking place where Ripper's stall used to be. He enters the bar, much to many patrons' shock, and looks up at the barman as he sits on a stool. "I'll take a glass of your strongest liquor," he sighs, ready to drink away the rest of the night.

The barman gives him a glass of liquor, then says "Your lady already came by here when she knew you were a regular, she paid us off to only give you three glasses per visit."

Haymitch rolls his eyes. "Of course she did," he mutters. "The damn woman can't just leave a man to drink himself to death, she's just got to get under my skin, come hell or high water."

He downs his drink and pushes the glass toward the barman for a refill. The man behind the bar sighs and gives him another drink. "You're only allowed three, you know," he says.

"Whatever," Haymitch mutters, then drains his glass. "I'll pay you twice whatever Effie gave you just to ignore her for tonight."

The barman shrugs and Haymitch hands over the money. It's all of two hours later when Haymitch leaves, drunker than ever before, and makes his way home. He enters the house and turns on the living room light to find Effie on the sofa, a cold cloth on her head, a little black nightie on, and a throw over the top. "Eff?" he asks softly.

"Oh, you're home," Effie sighs. "I'm soothing my headache, so please try to be quiet when you try to explain your perspective on babies."

"Baby?" he asks, not quite sure what she means. "We haven't had sex in two years and you said you haven't had any boyfriends. How are you having a baby?"

"I'm not," she says, then flings the cloth at him as his slur registers in her mind. Not quite capable of believing it, she demands "Are you drunk?!"

"No," he lies immediately, his slur betraying his lie. "I only had one glass."

"One glass what?! A glass tank of liquor?!" she demands, horrified. "I told that man at the bar to only give you three glasses, and look at this!"

"Oh, shut up," he grumbles, stumbling to the door that leads to the stairs. Being sober, Effie runs to block his path upstairs, standing in front of the door, glaring at him, drawn up to her full height, which Haymitch's drunken mind points out would be more intimidating if she hadn't stood at five feet and two inches tall without her heels. "Move."

"No," Effie replies icily. "I'm not going to."

"Move, or I'll move you," he growls.

"Move me," she scoffs, challenging him. 

With no consideration for her, Haymitch scoops her up and throws her like a ragdoll across the room. "Moved," he snarls, then stomps upstairs.

Effie takes a second to assess the damage done, then follows him upstairs. When she reaches their bedroom, she sees all of her things in a heap on the floor. Instead of caring, she runs to bathroom to find Haymitch on his knees by the toilet, surrounded by all of her toiletries. She kicks her things aside, then pulls his hair back while he vomits. She holds his hair back with one hand, rubbing his back with the other. "It's okay, get it all out," she hums. 

Haymitch vomits until he can't possibly get anything else up, then looks up at Effie. "I'm sorry, Princess," he whispers weakly. "I should have just come straight home to you."

"It's okay," she whispers. "I shouldn't have been so intense with you. It's natural that you got upset when you saw people you love getting something you want."

"They've been together for the last two years, this was the natural next step, it wasn't fair of me to expect you to jump into marriage and family life all guns blazing after only two weeks," he whispers, trying to hold her hand.

She kneels down and takes his hands in her own, then quietly says "It's okay, Haymitch. You and I have been a couple for nearly five years now. It's okay to want to get married and have a family. It'll just take a little while for things to set in motion."

He pulls her close and hugs her. "I want you happy," he murmurs sadly. "No babies needed. I want you happy."

"Oh, darling," she whispers. "We'll discuss this tomorrow afternoon, okay? Give you time to get away from your hangover. Come on, let's get you into bed."

"Mouthwash," he murmurs. Effie closes the toilet lid and presses the flush button, then sits Haymitch up on the toilet seat and gets his toothbrush out of the holder, where he's left hers be. She rinses it and puts toothpaste on it, then approaches him. He lets her clean his teeth, then takes the mouthwash from her, rinses his mouth, and spits into the sink. Effie rinses his toothbrush and replaces it, then helps him up. He leans on her and murmurs "Effie, I don't want you to feel like you have to do things for me."

She guides him to bed, then murmurs "When I fall pregnant, it will be because we both want it. I won't let a child grow up half wanted."

She carefully throws the bedsheets back and lies Haymitch down, stripping him to his boxers before lying him down properly, and tucks him up. "You said when," he murmurs, looking up at her in wonder, his eyes shining behind the glaze of alcohol.

Effie kisses his lips softly. "Go to sleep, Haymitch," she whispers soothingly. "We can talk tomorrow."

She moves away and begins to tidy his mess, listening to his breathing as he falls asleep and starts to snore. She decides she'll make sure he never does this again tomorrow, when he'll be sober enough to remember it.

Chapter Text

Haymitch approaches Effie slowly as she makes their lunch, wincing at the dark bruise on her shoulder. "Effie?" he asks, cautiously wrapping his arms around her waist.

She lets go of the pan to forcefully disentangle herself from him. "Get off me."

"You're still mad at me, then?" he asks quietly.

"Not about wanting sex," she replies. "I want it too. It's just a matter of affirming my rights to myself now. The doctor told me that nobody just comes back from that. I am angry that you ruined the pregnancy announcement for the kids, and that we had to have that fight in front of them, and that you came home to me drunk."

"Yeah, the kids and I talked it out. They get it. I told them that I'm sorry for blowing up like that," he says.

"That was good of you," Effie sighs. "I'm sorry I threw such a massive tantrum too. I'll go by to say that to them too tonight."

"They know," Haymitch tells her. "Look, about what I said... About you moving in..."

"I know," Effie murmurs. "I do. It's okay. I wasn't planning to leave. We've said worse to each other. And just so you know, I won't take much longer on the sex front. It's getting easier to deal with human contact now, and I trust you. The baby thing will have to wait a while, of course, I do need to get used to having the right to consent again."

"Yeah," Haymitch sighs. "I don't want to rush you, Princess. I shouldn't have said that."

"I know," she murmurs. "It's okay. I know what you're like when you fight. And honestly, I regret telling you that you only think with your manhood. I know that's not true. And I'm very sorry for accusing you of only wanting me for sex and babies. I know that's not true, too."

"If we say sorry for everything we said, we'll be here all year. But I'm sorry for that, and for coming home drunk. Look, if you want to figure out your limits, and when you're sure of it, let me know," he says. "I won't be offended if you say no, or if you decide you want someone else, someone who doesn't want kids, once you're in the right mindset for married life."

She tuts disapprovingly. "Oh, honey. You ruined me for other men a long time ago," she sighs. "I'll never want anyone else. I never have. Let's have lunch, and in about an hour or so, we can try to see how far I can go with you."

"I don't want you to do this just because you think I'll kick you out," he says, gently stroking her upper arm.

"I'm not going to," Effie huffs. "When we do try, I'll do it because I want to. And I want to."

Haymitch bites his tongue to prevent himself saying something that'll upset her. "Let's see how you feel later, sweetheart," he tells her, not daring to attempt kissing her. She nods, then sighs and returns to cooking. Haymitch just sits and watches her, wondering how he ended up with her. She starts to hum softly, a sign that she's no longer terribly angry, and Haymitch can't help smirking at her. He quietly asks "How did I end up lucky enough to get you?"

Effie dishes up their lunch and notices Haymitch watching her as she turns to him. "Oh, you're there," she murmurs, then places his lunch in front of him.

"Yeah, still here," he says, then notices that her lunch is still on the counter. "Aren't you bringing your food here?"

"No, I'm going to let you eat in peace," she says.

Haymitch sees right through that and glares at her for a second, then gets up and forces her into the seat opposite his. He gets up and grabs her plate, placing it in front of her, then he gets them both some fruit juice. He puts her glass down in front of her, then hands her a knife and fork. "Now get that down you," he orders.

For a split second, Effie's eyes are wide and fearful, and if Haymitch wasn't so attentive to every detail of her, he wouldn't have noticed it before she erased the emotions from her face and replaced them with her Capitol mask. She eats quietly, avoiding his gaze, and she doesn't attempt to make conversation. It takes them all of fifteen minutes to eat their food, then she stands up, taking his empty plate and placing it on top of hers. "I'll do the dishes," she says, making sure she isn't as quiet as usual. 

Haymitch reaches for her, but only catches air as she moves toward the sink like lightning. He gets up and approaches her from behind, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her head. "Princess," he murmurs softly.

She pushes him off her, pressing herself against the edge of the sink. "Stop it," she says, her voice perfectly clear. "I'm busy."

"Effie, come on, talk to me," Haymitch sighs, swinging himself up onto the counter beside the sink. "I've said that I'm sorry for everything I did to you and the kids, what more can I do?"

"Just drop it, Haymitch," Effie huffs, scrubbing a plate with far too much intensity. 

"I'm not going to drop it," he tells her, watching her face scrunch up and smooth out. "I miss you, sweetheart."

She glares up at him, then grabs his shoulders and pulls him close to her, kissing him passionately. He responds to the kiss eagerly, only letting her break it when the need to breathe overcomes them both. "Satisfied?" she asks, her voice as quiet as usual, and her accent almost gone.

"Extremely," he mutters, breathless. "What brought that on?"

"I just miss kissing you, that's all," she whispers, blushing. "I was going to continue tormenting you, but you were getting annoying."

Haymitch laughs properly, then leans down and kisses her lips. She kisses back with a passion that she hasn't displayed since before the war. Haymitch matches her passionate kiss until air becomes a necessity, then murmurs "Damn, sweetheart, that was amazing. What was that for?"

"I've decided that we could test my boundaries. There are still things that they didn't threaten to do to me, after all. That means that there are things I can do fearlessly, even now," Effie murmurs. "What do you say? Would you like to?"

"We'll need a safe word," Haymitch murmurs. "In case it gets too much for you."

(!) (!) (!) (!) (!) (!)

"How about our old one?" she asks softly, hopefully.

Haymitch smiles at her. "Sure, sweetheart," he murmurs.

"Then why are we waiting? Come here, you," she giggles, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips.

He leans into the kiss, kissing her as gently as he can, trying not to rush her. She attempts to take control of the kiss, and he lets her, happy to allow her to control everything. She's eager in her approach, her fingers tangled in his hair. He slides his arms around her and lifts her up, then flips them so that she's on top of him. "Mine," he murmurs against her lips, loving the feeling of her lips on his.

"Yours," she murmurs back. "Always yours."

She kisses him again, her hands raking tenderly through his hair. She leads the kiss to gentle passion, allowing her hands to trail down his neck to his chest. He carefully runs his hands over her back, desperately trying not to get lost in his lust and just have his way with her. She slowly starts to unbutton his shirt, nudging his lips with her tongue. He opens his mouth to grant her entry, gently stroking her waist as they kiss. He slides his hands down to her bottom, tenderly squeezing her soft skin. "Effie," he murmurs, want rising up deep inside him. "My Effie."

"It's okay," Effie murmurs back. "You can relax. I'll tell you if something's not okay. Enjoy this, Haymitch, please. I won't break if you touch me."

He nods and kisses her a little harder, groping her properly, pulling her little body closer to his. She unbuttons his shirt eagerly, pushing it off him quickly, her hands roaming his body in the way she remembers him liking the most. Haymitch smiles a bit into the kiss, edging her nightie up a little, wondering if she'll be okay with skin-on-skin contact. He tentatively strokes the soft skin of her bottom, and relaxes a little at her quiet moan of surprise and happiness. "That okay?" he asks quietly.

"Yes, my love," she breathes, her voice slightly huskier than before. "Perfect."

She kisses him again, her fingers unfastening his jeans hastily, so he breaks the kiss to kiss her jaw. "Slow down, sweetheart, it's not a race," he murmurs into her ear, nipping gently at her earlobe.

"I'm sorry," she purrs. "I'm just eager to have you again."

The words send a shiver of anticipation through him, and he rubs her bottom gently, one hand sliding up her body to ease a strap of her night dress down. He kisses her neck gently, wanting this to be good for her. She whimpers softly, and Haymitch's protective instinct kicks in. "Are you okay?" he asks quietly, nuzzling at her neck.

"Yes," she breathes softly. "Would you like me to get this night dress off?"

"If you want to," he murmurs.

She beams at him, then whispers "I know I'm not perfect any more, but I hope I don't repulse you entirely."

"This is you we're talking about, you can't repulse me," Haymitch chuckles as she sits up on him, bringing his hands to coast tenderly up and down her sides. She takes her nightie off, revealing that she's not wearing underwear. "Wow..."

Effie blushes at the way he's staring at her. "I know I've lost a cup size or two, and that I'm not quite as beautiful as I once was, but..." she says, but she trails off at the lustful spark in Haymitch's eyes, a smile blossoming on her lips. Her voice is hopeful and delighted when she whispers "You don't care about that, do you?"

"Nope," he murmurs, staring at her as he gently runs his hands over her. "You're beautiful."

She leans down and kisses him, trembling with happiness and excitement. "I love you," she breathes, allowing him to run his hands on her as she trails kisses down his neck, her hands sliding down his body and pushing his jeans off him. "I love you so much..."

He strokes her hair, trailing his hands down her back. "Ditto, Eff," he whispers back, hating himself for being unable to say it back to her.

It doesn't deter her, though. She looks even happier and pushes his boxers down. She kisses all across his chest, nuzzling at the sprinkling of wiry dark hair as she makes her way down his body. He pats her bottom, making her shiver with anticipation, and he smirks as she makes her way down his stomach. "You've been working out," she purrs, lifting her head to look at him.

"Not really, I just had to get more firewood," he tells her, smirking. "But if you like the thought of me working out, you keep going."

"No, you chopping wood is sexy," she purrs, then kisses him more, getting closer to his hardened manhood. The understanding of her plan smacks him with reality and he gently tugs her back up to him. "What's the matter?"

"Let's save that for another time," he murmurs. "I won't last that long if you do that, and I want to make this good for you."

She looks touched and gives him a soft kiss, smiling broadly. "Okay, darling," she whispers. "What would you suggest we do?"

"Would you mind me taking control for a bit?" he asks, knowing perfectly well that she might not like that.

"Not in the slightest," she says, smiling a little. "I trust you not to hurt me, after all."

He carefully flips them, not wanting her to get hurt, especially after her declaration of trust toward him. He lies her down, giving her a tender kiss. She responds in kind, and relaxes as he slowly strokes her sides. His hands travel to her stomach, and her breath catches. "This okay?" Haymitch murmurs against her lips.

"Of course," she murmurs, bumping his nose with hers. "Just go with your instinct, my love. I won't just take whatever bothers me. This is as much for you as it is for me."

He nods, then lets instinct take over. He kisses her neck, ghosting his hands over her stomach and ribs, placing them softly on her breasts, listening to her quiet intake of breath. He looks up at her, seeing her blue eyes darken further with pleasure mixing into the lust. She wriggles impatiently and he nips at her neck tenderly, slowly massaging her breasts while she squirms with pleasure underneath him. He kisses across her throat and her collarbone, listening to her soft gasps of pleasure, smiling a little. He kisses the flat plane between her breasts, listening to her happy little squeak, then he softly nuzzles her skin, tightening his grip on her breasts a little, earning a tiny moan from her. "Like that?" he asks softly.

"Yes," she gasps. "This feels wonderful..."

Haymitch smirks a bit, kissing his way down her stomach. He kisses all the way down to her feet, then kisses every single scar on her body, all the way up to her lips. They kiss passionately for a few minutes, and Haymitch murmurs "You're perfect, Effie."

"So are you, Haymitch," she whispers back, then kisses him briefly, kissing her way down to his jaw. He moves away from her, kissing a path to her chest. He kisses all over her breasts, his eyes meeting hers, silently seeking her permission before he continues. She nods and he shoots her a warm smile before dipping his head and enveloping her straining nipple in his mouth. She lets out a high-pitched gasp of delight, and he smirks, licking at the hard peak. Her fingers tangle in his hair, her back arching up a little so that her breasts push against his face. "Haymitch!"

He smirks and sucks gently, enjoying her reactions more than he'd care to admit. He's suddenly very grateful for her undressing him, though. He lets go of her nipple, his teeth tenderly scraping against her flesh, then asks "Are you on anything?"

"No, I'm not," she admits. "It'll be fine, once is highly unlikely to make a baby, and we're both clean. Next time, we'll have condoms. It'll be okay, Haymitch, just... I need you. Please?"

He strokes her cheek, kissing her tenderly as he grips his length and guides it to her entrance. He enters her slowly, keeping the kiss loving and slow, enjoying the little gasps coming from her. His free hand slides down her front and tenderly rubs on her previously neglected breast as she gets used to feeling him inside her. "How's this?" he asks, scared of hurting her.

She gasps softly, then murmurs "It's amazing... When you're ready."

He slowly starts to move, pulling out so that only his tip remains inside her, then he sinks right back in. She moans happily, kissing him tenderly. He smirks and moves back down her body, his mouth replacing his hand on her breast. She squeaks, lacing the fingers of one hand in his hair and guiding him closer, her other hand pawing softly at his back. He moves slowly in and out of her, listening to her happy moans and gasps. He lets go of her nipple to ask "You still okay?"

She nods, then chokes out "Faster?"

He nods and picks up the pace. Effie squeals in delight, her hips moving in time with his. "Effie..." he gasps, watching her underneath him, enraptured by the sight of her. "That's it, Princess..."

She screams out, pulling him close to her and kissing him hard, her hands all over him. He pushes deeper into her, moving faster, forcing her to keep up pace with him, then she gasps "Haymitch! Haymitch... I... I'm so close..."

"Okay," he murmurs, kissing her again. "What do you need?"

She takes his hand and murmurs "Look at me."

He watches her, his eyes locking on hers. He stares, lost in his own bliss, as the pleasure pushes her over the edge. He groans as her internal muscles clamp down on his straining manhood, and lets himself fall into the blissful pit of his own pleasure, his cum filling her up. Effie lets out a scream of pure rapture, pulling Haymitch down on top of her and clinging to him. He bites her shoulder to muffle his groans of ecstasy, slowing the pace of his thrusts as they come down from their highs, kissing her shoulder when some sense returns to him. He waits until their breathing has evened out before he pulls out of her, nuzzling at her neck. "That was incredible," he whispers, holding her tightly.

"Yes, it was," Effie breathes, holding him just as tightly. "Well worth the recovery span..."

"How come you were okay to have sex tonight, Eff? I thought you were terrified," he whispers.

"It's not dignified to say how I prepared for it," she whispers back.

"Eff, we just had sex on the sofa, with the curtains open, the lights on, and the doors unlocked. We're lying in our living room, stark naked. I'm prepared to bet that we could have been heard at the other end of the District. Why are you worrying about your dignity with me? Whatever you did, I've probably done before too," he chuckles.

She goes scarlet and whispers "Well, for the last eight weeks, ever since you and I set the plans for me to come here, I relearnt my own body... By learning to please myself again. I must say though, I do prefer it when I have you to help me."

Haymitch smirks and kisses her gently. "I prefer to help you out with sex, too," he chuckles, nuzzling her neck. "You're still the best partner I've ever had. My hands don't even come close to you."

Effie beams, then whispers "Well, I have news for you. You won't need to use your hands now. You have me."

( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ ) ( ^_^ )

"Good," Haymitch murmurs, cuddling her. "We'd better get some clothes on, it gets cold in here."

"Good plan," Effie murmurs, but stays tucked underneath him, liking this little bubble they've created for themselves. The front door bangs open and Effie just has time to whisper "What's going on?" before Katniss and Peeta run into the room, both looking terrified.

Haymitch pokes his head up from the sofa and growls "What do you two want?!"

"We heard Effie screaming, and we thought she'd had a nightmare, but the screams didn't stop, then she just went quiet, and we thought she might have got hurt," Katniss gasps, clearly out of breath.

Effie pops up from underneath Haymitch. "No need to fear, darlings, I'm here," she chirps.

"Please tell me you're dressed," Peeta groans.

"We're dressed," Haymitch chuckles.

"Are you?" Katniss asks.

"Not in the slightest," Haymitch replies, then bursts out laughing. "Neither of us are. Now turn around so that we can cover up, you two aren't seeing her undressed."

"Uh, just for your information, we don't need to see either of you undressed!" Peeta exclaims, turning away from the older couple.

Katniss follows suit, and Haymitch strides out of the room to get Effie a clean nightgown and some underwear, pulling on a pair of boxers himself, then he follows them with some navy blue flannel pants. He takes Effie's clothes to her and helps her step into her panties, then helps her put her nightie on. "There you go, Princess," he whispers, kissing her lips. "Okay, you two can turn around now, neither of us are naked now."

The kids turn around and Peeta asks "Effie, I don't mean to pry here, but how did you go from too scared for sex to... This, all in one evening?"

"That is none of your business," Effie huffs. "Just know that we do not plan on having children."

Haymitch cuddles Effie close, knowing not to rule that possibility out. "So you two do have condoms?" Katniss asks.

"Nope," Haymitch replies. "I mean, up until tonight, we didn't need protection. Why would we?"

"So right now, there's a possibility that...?" Katniss asks, her gaze dropping to Effie's stomach, worry flitting across her face.

"Well, yes, but it's unlikely," Effie says. "Extremely unlikely. Alcohol has negative effects on fertility, and so does trauma. I'm not sure if we're even capable, and if we are, it's unlikely to happen from one time. I am going to buy condoms in the morning, anyway."

Both of the kids cringe and Haymitch rolls his eyes. "You two are having a baby of your own, how can you still be that revolted at the idea of sex?" he asks.

"It's not sex that revolts us, it's the thought of you two doing it," Katniss whines.

"Well, darling, you're just going to have to not think of it," Effie chuckles, stretching. "Now that we've finally got something, we're not stopping any time soon. We're a couple, after all, and we have a lot of sex to catch up on. Just imagine us being celibate."

Haymitch laughs and cuddles her close. "Okay, we're leaving," Peeta says. "You're alive, we don't need to know anything else."

"Okay, enjoy the rest of your day," Effie giggles. "Oh, and I'll have everything sorted by the end of next week!"

"Thanks!" Katniss yelps as the two of them leave.

Effie laughs and kisses Haymitch. "What do you say we have a nap, then go again?" she asks.

"Sounds like a plan," he chuckles and rubs her stomach as he kisses her gently. "A nap sounds great."

Effie grins and snuggles close, hugging him tight. "I love you," she whispers.

"Same to you," he murmurs back. "Hey, you never answered my question."

"Question?" Effie asks softly.

"Yeah. Will you marry me, Eff?" he asks quietly, feeling her stiffen beside him.

Chapter Text

"I... I... Um..." Effie stutters, gaping at him.

"You don't have to answer me yet," Haymitch says soothingly, reaching to stroke her cheek. Effie lets out a terrified yelp and bolts out of the living room in an extremely undignified way, grabbing her coat and shoes and making a run for it. She steps into her shoes in the hall, then yanks on her coat as she runs, tying it far too tightly around her slim frame, her hands shaking with fear. "Effie! Princess, where are you going?!" Haymitch yells after her.

"Running!" she shrieks, running faster. "Back soon!"

Haymitch attempts to follow her, but quickly learns that she can run shockingly quickly for a tiny woman. He goes back to the house, worried sick for his adorable little thing. He doesn't fall asleep, worrying too much about Effie. He sits awake all day and all through the night and watches the window, waiting for her to return. He watches the sun rise, and still she doesn't come home. Katniss and Peeta turn up a little while after sunrise, and immediately, Katniss groans "Haymitch, put a shirt on, I'm pretty sure only Effie would want to see you like that."

Peeta asks "Where is Effie, anyway? It's not like her to be up after you. Is she sick?"

"She's missing," Haymitch sighs. "She panicked and ran out on me yesterday afternoon. I don't know where she went, I tried to chase her down, but she's too fast for me."

"You're kidding," Katniss snarls. "Tell me you're messing about."

"I wish I could, kid, but I can't," Haymitch says, a little defensively. "She was fine one minute, all relaxed and happy, then we had a chat, and she decided she was going to run off."

"What the hell did you say to her?!" Peeta demands.

"I asked her to marry me!" Haymitch snaps, then instantly regrets it at the shocked looks on their faces.

"You did what?" Katniss whispers, her eyes like saucers.

"I didn't think you'd actually ask her," Peeta murmurs, amazed.

"You knew?" Katniss asks of her fiance.

"Yeah, of course I knew, I was there when he picked the ring out," Peeta says. "He asked me to keep it quiet so that Effie didn't find out."

"What did she say?" Katniss asks, still staring at her former mentor in shock.

"She just stuttered a bit, then I told her that she didn't have to answer me immediately, and she bolted," Haymitch says. "I've been waiting for her coming home, and she still hasn't shown up. I'm thinkng about going searching for her."

"That would be a wise idea, yeah," Peeta says. "Knowing the people of Twelve, and their resentment toward her, seeing her alone would be like a wounded gazelle in a lion's enclosure. It wouldn't end well for her."

"Look, kid, I like you, but if you keep up with that train of thought, I might actually have to break your neck," Haymitch growls, fear at the thought of Effie in more pain flooding through him. "Do you think we should go and search?"

"Not with you half naked, I don't," Katniss scoffs, then glares at him. "Why are you half naked, anyway? I thought Effie didn't allow nudity."

"Effie's not here," Haymitch snarls. "And she doesn't like public nudity. She's fine with it when it's her doing."

He instantly cringes with them as the kids think about Haymitch's and Effie's newly-rediscovered sex life, and his mind goes right to them imagining it. "You didn't," Peeta says, his eyes widening in disgust. "You didn't. Not with her in that state."

"Oh, God, you're too old for that!" Katniss groans.

"No, she was fine with it, I made sure many times," Haymitch says, electing to ignore Katniss. "It was the marriage proposal that freaked her out."

"You're telling me that after all this time, and all of her fear, and all of her doubts, she was just willing, out of nowhere, to have sex with you?" Peeta asks doubtfully.

"I didn't expect it either, but she was okay with it," Haymitch sighs, also electing to hide the truth from them. Effie really would kill him if he told Peeta what really prepared Effie for the previous night. "Look, it's unlikely, but do either of you have an inkling of where she might be?"

"No," Katniss says.

"If she's not in your bed, then no," Peeta says, still staring at Haymitch in disgust. "I can't believe you did that with her. She's still too delicate."

"She's tougher than she looks, and she was fully consenting to it," Haymitch snarls. "You're acting like she said no and I forced her into it or something."

"Well, if the shoe fits," Peeta growls, becoming extremely protective over Effie.

"It doesn't fit!" Haymitch roars as Katniss walks out. "She, and you kids, have always been my priority! Your safety over everything, remember?!"

"Yeah, and you did such a great job of protecting Effie and me when it came to the Capitol, didn't you?! It's because of your protecting that Effie's in this state!" Peeta bellows. "She truly believed in you, in the rebels, and she believed that you'd have her rescued when you came for the victors! It's no wonder she ran off when you asked her to marry you!"

"You encouraged me to ask her!" Haymitch yells, not bothering to deny the accusations Peeta just threw at him, because as far as either Haymitch or Peeta is concerned, that's exactly what happened. Effie would deny it, and Katniss would insist on taking part of the blame, but the fight raging between the two men is about more than that. "You told me that she'd be happy!"

"Before I knew you were planning to encourage her to have sex with you before she's ready!" Peeta thunders.

"She was ready! She was eager! Don't accuse me of hurting her unless you have concrete evidence of it, kid! She enjoyed that! We have a safe word and everything, and she knows I'll stop as soon as she says to! And in the meantime, while you're throwing baseless and unfair accusations at me, she's probably being beaten to death somewhere in Twelve!" Haymitch booms, shaking the windows.

"I'm not being beaten to death," Effie's small voice whispers from the doorway. "And while it's kind of you to look out for me, Peeta, Haymitch is right. Last night, what he and I did, I consented completely. He would never hurt me. And contrary to your belief, he didn't intentionally leave me in the Capitol. I was left there because the rebels didn't know where I was. Plutarch explained everything to me, and I understood. Haymitch is blameless. I was just grateful for you being safe with the rebels in Thirteen."

Peeta glares and Haymitch asks "Want a drink and some breakfast, Eff?"

"That would be lovely, darling, thank you," she sighs.

"So why did you run away after Haymitch asked you to marry him if you're so okay with it?" Peeta asks.

"Peeta, my darling, I am a woman who has left a trail of romantic destruction. I would eagerly accept my former long-time lovers' proposals of marriage, only to have the engagements fall through within two weeks. Each of those five times broke my heart for various reasons. I knew last night that if I accepted Haymitch's proposal without going over every possible scenario I could dream up and finding every possible way to survive it, and the engagement falls through, I would be beyond heartbreak. It would be the thing that finally finishes me off. So I had to get away, darling. I had to give myself time to get myself straight, and while I trust Haymitch with everything I have, it's not likely to be his fault if the engagement fails," Effie tells him softly. "I am a wreck of a woman, dear, and if I marry Haymitch, I want him to be happy with it."

"You're not a wreck of a woman, Princess," Haymitch says, placing the mug of coffee in front of Effie, giving her a kiss on the top of her head. "I wouldn't have asked you to be my wife if I would be unhappy with it."

Effie beams at him, then gives him a tight hug, inhaling his scent. "I love you so much," she whispers. "Whatever I did to attract a man with so much love, care, warmth, adoration, strength, intelligence, kindness, sarcasm, arrogance, talent, and wit about him, I'll be eternally grateful for. Not to mention the amazing sex, and the exceptional cooking skills, and your willingness to help me clean."

Haymitch chuckles. "I've picked the perfect bride. I'm making you a bacon sandwich, Effs, you'll need to let go of me," he says, giving her a squeeze.

"Okay," she giggles, releasing him. "Stay perfect."

"I'll literally be across the kitchen," Haymitch chuckles, ruffling her hair before he goes to the stove to rescue the bacon. He then glances at Effie and asks "Where'd you go to clear your mind?"

"I went to the meadow. It reminds me of you, and all of our forbidden trysts there," she chuckles, then sips her coffee. "I just got my head in order, then came home. I figured out what my answer to your proposal is, if the offer's still there."

"Yeah, it's there," Haymitch chuckles. "I'm not gonna revoke it."

"Oh, goodie!" she squeaks happily. "Do you want my answer?"

"Sure, sweetheart," he chuckles, buttering a slice of bread.

"Yes," she says proudly. "I'll be very proud to be your wife."

Without a word, Haymitch grins at her and shows her the box he'd put in the pocket of his jeans during the small hours of that morning. He puts it in front of her, then turns back to her food. He makes her four sandwiches, then pours her a glass of orange juice, placing both the plate and the glass in front of her, only to notice that she hasn't opened the box. "You not gonna open that?" he asks.

"I want you to see my reaction," she says, smiling.

He chuckles, then strokes her hair. "You're an adorable little thing," he tells her, then kneels down beside her so that he can kiss her properly. "Go on then, open the box."

She does, and as soon as she sees the ring, her eyes pop and her jaw drops. "Oh, Haymitch," she breathes. "Princess cut?"

"For a special Princess," he mutters, the tips of his ears burning red.

She eagerly kisses him, her fingers tangling in his hair. "Darling, thank you," she whispers against his lips before kissing him again. 

Haymitch grins and asks "Princess, now that you're home, is there anything you want to do?"

"Redecorate the kitchen," she murmurs. "I plan to spend a lot of time in here."

"Okay, anything else?" he asks, petting her.

"Redecorate our room. I like it, but beige isn't as sexy as we're going to want it to be," she whispers, nuzzling his neck.

"Done," Haymitch whispers back. "Anything else you want, Princess?"

"I would like my sandwich, then I would quite like to do a few things with you," she whispers.

"Okay," Haymitch chuckles. "Anything else?"

"Chocolate?" she asks hopefully. "Wait, no."

"Why no chocolate?" Haymitch asks, confused by her sudden change of heart.

"I'm chubby enough. That's why I didn't ask for sour cream and onion chips," she says softly, blushing scarlet.

"You're not chubby," Haymitch sighs, giving her a kiss. "Why would it matter even if you were chubby? There's nothing wrong with that. It just means more to love. To me, you'd be beautiful no matter what you look like, because it's what's inside that counts. You're a beautiful woman on the inside, and I'd love everything about you even if you looked like that Pudina. You'd be a bit creepy, but you'd be my creepy thing."

"So... Should I be concerned about you wanting her now?" Effie asks.

"No, because she's not you," Haymitch chuckles.

"Who's Pudina?" Katniss asks, poking her head into the kitchen through the back door.

"Some weird Capitol friend of Effie's," Haymitch says. "She's as ugly as they come, too."

Effie giggles and nods. "She and Vender are two of my best friends, but I honestly agree with you, Haymitch. You saying that you'd love me even if I looked that bad is so sweet and flattering," she says softly.

Haymitch grins and says "I'll get you your chocolate and your sour cream chips, sweetheart."

Effie opens her mouth to protest, but Haymitch is already moving. He gets her a whole bag of the sour cream and onion potato chips, and a big bar of chocolate, then places them next to her plate. "Oh, Haymitch, how did you know?" she asks. "I thought you didn't have a clue that I like these."

"Well, sweetheart, I do pay attention to you sometimes," he chuckles. "Eat up, we've got a lot of DIY shoppng to do."

Effie giggles and says "You'd better eat too, I will be very upset if you don't. And you two kids, too."

And just like that, the three of them are roped into joining Effie for breakfast. No matter how much Katniss and Peeta tease Haymitch for being under Effie's thumb, he takes solace in knowing that they're just as under her thumb as he is.

Chapter Text

"Okay, okay, first of all, no pink," Haymitch says, glaring in disgust at the colour sheets that Effie's holding.

"Fine by me," Effie says, but she makes no move to put the pink palette back. "No pink. I do like these, though. I'm going to keep looking at these, though, they make pretty bookmarks."

Haymitch rolls his eyes. "You don't read," he scoffs.

"I do so!" Effie gasps, as if he's just deeply insulted her. "I read a lot! Just because you never notice me doing it doesn't mean I don't do it!"

"Really? When was the last time you read anything even remotely like a book?" Haymitch asks.

"Two nights ago, while you were sleeping, because I'd had a nightmare and I didn't want to wake you," she replies coldly.

"Wait, you had a nightmare and didn't tell me?" he asks softly.

"Well, you were asleep, and you rarely sleep so peacefully, so far be it from me to disturb you like that," she says. "Besides, it wasn't terrible."

"What was it about, Princess?" he asks, pulling her close to him in a sudden burst of his protective instinct.

"Nothing special," she says evasively, not looking up from her selection. "Would you prefer green or grey for our kitchen?"

"Whatever works for you," he mutters. "Princess, tell me. I'm only going to worry more if you don't at least give me an idea."

"Fine. I dreamt that I was back in my cell, but I had a little baby boy in my arms. The guard came and he tried to take the baby. I wasn't giving him up without a fight, so I attacked the guard, then the baby started to cry as the guard fell, and I noticed how much the baby looked like you," she whispers, going scarlet. "I told you that it was nothing. Just my own baseless fears coming to the surface."

"Why are you afraid for a baby we don't even have?" he asks softly, rubbing her waist soothingly.

"We had unprotected sex, and I know it's such a slim chance of me ever getting pregnant, but I am afraid that it happened," she admits. "And with that fear comes the fear that any baby of mine will be brutally murdered. You know as well as I do what that kind of fear does to a person."

"When's the earliest that you can find out?" Haymitch asks.

"Around a week, maybe two," Effie murmurs. "I can get a blood test done then, but I'm scared of having a baby."

"You have the option to abort it if you're pregnant and not ready to be," he murmurs, the words cutting at his throat like knives.

"Absolutely not," she hisses, affronted by the very idea. "I refuse to do anything of the sort. If I am pregnant, I won't kill the baby. It's not the potential baby's fault that I was silly enough to have no contraception. Now, tell me. Green, or grey?"

"What about blue?" he asks, resolving to have a chat with her about the rest of the baby topic later. He points to a shade of blue that perfectly matches her eyes. "I like that shade."

She studies it, then says "As long as I can have this shade for the wood work," and points to a stormy grey that perfectly compliments the blue he's chosen and his eyes.

"Sure, Princess, you can have that," he murmurs, then hugs her tightly. "You know that you can always tell me when you're scared or sad, right? No matter what, if you're not okay, you let me know. We're supposed to be a team."

"It's always been you and me against the world, hasn't it?" she whispers, leaning into his hold. "We make a fantastic team, you and me."

"Yeah, we do," he murmurs, kissing her head. "Now, what are you doing with our room?"

Effie smiles and launches into a lecture about size, shade, and combinations that gives Haymitch a headache worse than any hangover he's ever experienced.

Back at their house, Effie gets started in the kitchen immediately, emptying it out. Once she's got it empty, she brings in a little silver boombox. "Do you mind if I put some music on?" she asks, looking up at Haymitch.

He grins at her, then says "You live here, sweetheart, you do what you like."

"I don't want to be annoying," she says, blinking her eyes rapidly. Haymitch has come to learn that she blinks rapidly when she feels scared or uncomfortable, and wishes he knew how to make her feel safe with him. "Actually, you know what, I-"

"Put your music on, Princess," he tells her, smiling a bit. "I've been wondering what sort of stuff you listen to."

"I have a Death Cavity disc in that," Effie murmurs, blushing. 

"What the hell is Death Cavity?" Haymitch asks incredulously.

"They're a hard rock band," she admits, blushing. "This particular album is a compilation of ballads they've written, and I happen to love them."

"You like hard rock?" he asks, amazed. "I always took you for a bubblegum pop sort of woman."

"No, aside from Morel Skyberry, I don't really like pop music. I personally prefer things like Death Cavity, because they're more relatable," she tells him, her cheeks bright pink.

"What else don't I know about you, little squish?" he asks, studying her and wondering if he really knows her.

"Well, before the war, I was exactly what you thought I am. I loved bright pink, pop music, partying every day, and I was a fruity cocktail type of girl. I dreamed of marrying the only victor I liked, and having his babies. The Games were entertainment, and I was a loyal supporter," she sighs, resentful of her past. "Afterwards, I was upset to have survived. That was not my intention, I can promise you that. And when I eventually came to terms with my life continuing and accepting that I had to carry on, I found that nothing I had wanted before was even remotely appealing now. Well, aside from getting married to you, but I was certain that you wouldn't want a wreck like me. I didn't really have much of a personality, or any interests, until I came home to you. It was three days in to being here, and I discovered that I had a new favourite colour. It made me happy to know that I had something now."

"What is it?" Haymitch asks, wanting to cuddle her close to him, to make her feel safe, to help her squeeze herself back together.

"Grey," she whispers. "A bright, silvery grey. It's the shade of grey that your eyes turn to when we're together, and when we're chatting, and when we cuddle."

He smirks, then pets her gently. "You're such a strange little thing," he chuckles, making her blush.

"How can being called strange, an insult from everyone else, be such a sweet compliment from you?" she asks, leaning into his touch. "What's your favourite colour?"

"That's a deep question," Haymitch jokes, but at the sight of her looking disappointed, he rolls his eyes. "Okay, okay. Blue."

"Blue?" she questions. "I was expecting you to prefer black or gold."

"Nah, blue. It's got good memories and stuff attached to it. Blue skies when I'd take my brother for a walk. Mom's blue dress for the reapings. She was so proud of that dress," he chuckles. 

Effie smiles sadly. "Your mother and brother sound like they were wonderful to be around," she whispers.

"Yeah, they were. You would have loved them, sweetheart," he says, then gives in to his urge to hug her, pulling her tightly to his chest. "Do you wanna know why blue's my favourite colour?"

"Is it not because of them?" she asks.

"No," he replies. "It's because of a certain adorable thing that happened to drift into my life on heels that were damn near a foot tall, in a dress that looked like a giant bird had exploded in a glue factory, and was covered in so much makeup that she didn't look human. I hated that little thing that was almost five seven on her heels so much because of how Capitol and annoying she was. I despised everything about her, especially when she was disgusted by the little twelve year olds she reaped as they tried to hug her."

"Does this story go somewhere nice?" Effie asks, sounding tearful. "Because it's quite sad right now."

"Don't be sad, little squishy, it's okay," he whispers. "And that very night, I was going to the liquor cart, and I saw that same Capitol nightmare on the sofa, her wig gone and her dyed black hair everywhere, dressed in a skimpy little nightie, and she was sobbing her little heart out onto the sofa arm. I offered her a glass of vodka, and she accepted it with tears rolling down her little face. Without all that junk on her face, she was the prettiest sight I'd ever seen. We spent that whole night sat on the sofa and drinking. She was so tiny, and so sad. She confessed everything about that reaping, and she made me feel bad for hating her. Every day, she would be the bane of my existence, but come night time, she was the sweetest little thing. She had a good heart, and she wanted to bring kids home from the Games every year. She gave me a purpose, too. She survived hell and high water when it came to war, and came out of it just as insane as the rest of us, beaten, scarred, and terrified. She wanted nothing to do with me, and for two years, she would only come by every now and then, and we rebuilt our friendship. Then she talked a very drunk me into letting her stay with me for the celebrations, and her presence made life so much better. One of my geese finally decided she was in the mood, and now she's nesting. The pretty little woman who cunningly got me to let her stay with me charmed this old washed out victor so much that living without her seems impossible, so I had to ask her to move in with me. And she said yes. Then I pushed my luck further and asked her if she'd marry me, and the beautiful little thing said yes. It was seeing your bright blue eyes sparkling like that when you said yes that made blue become my favourite colour."

For a second, there's silence. Then Effie bursts into tears, and sobs "I love you, squishy. I really do, I really love you."

"Oh, Princess," Haymitch sighs, cuddling her tightly. "My poor little thing. I should have just told you the ending of that story."

"No, I'm glad you told me everything. I'm just touched that you love me in spite of how much you used to hate me," she sobs. "You love me regardless of that, despite me being a horrible person."

"Hey, come on, you weren't a horrible person, and you're not a horrible person now. You're a brilliant person now, and you were back then, too. It wasn't your fault that you were forced to be something you're not," he whispers, holding her tightly. "Do you know what you are now?"

"No," Effie sobs, her voice breaking as she tries to talk. Her arms, still thin and frail from her lacking ability to eat, wrap around his waist and lock there tightly.

"You're my Princess. You're a strong, brave, clever, amazing woman. You have so much to do, so much time to live out your dreams, and you're going to have your annoying husband to be getting under your feet the whole time," he whispers, kissing the top of her head. "You're my Princess, and you're the most incredible human being I've ever seen, so you can get your little self together, and you can crush everything that's holding you back."

"You really believe that I'm that strong?" she asks, sniffling a little.

"Yeah, I do," Haymitch tells her. "I believe in you, sweetheart. I know that when you set out with a goal to achieve, you won't stop until you have what you want. You're Effie Trinket, and one thing you're amazing at is getting what you want."

Empowered by his belief in her, Effie tilts her head back to look up at him and grins a bit through her tears. "You're the absolute best, did you know that?" she asks. "I really can't believe my luck with you."

Haymitch grins and kisses her gently. "Come on, small one, we've got a kitchen to redecorate," he says, then gently pats her bottom.

Effie's grin broadens. "Keep patting that, and we'll end up doing something that's not at all redecorating related," she chuckles.

"I'll save that for later. A reward for a job well done," Haymitch laughs, kissing her nose. Ten minutes later, Effie bursts out laughing as she paints a cupboard door. "What are you giggling at now, you weird little thing?"

"Us!" she chokes, wiping off a tear. 

"O...Kay?" Haymitch asks, nonplussed by her sudden laughter. "Want to share?"

"We've become so domestic! When did we ever think we'd get to do something so normal like redecorating our kitchen?" she splutters.

Haymitch chuckles, then flicks paint at her, hitting her cheek. "Probably never," he chuckles as she squeals.

"You just attacked me with paint!" Effie squeaks, still giggling.

"No, I didn't!" Haymitch exclaims, feigning innocence.

"Yes you did, and you're going to pay for it," Effie giggles, advancing on him on her knees, silver-coated paintbrush in her hand. She pounces on him, trying to swipe the paint onto his nose. He brushes her off with ease, and laughs as she yells "Come here!" and tries again.

He easily dodges her, joking "You're too tiny, Princess, you'll never win."

"Won't I?" she asks, then lunges again. She ends up face down across his lap, and trapped under his arm. She wriggles playfully and whines "Not fair, I'm tiny!"

"Yeah, and your wriggling is cute," Haymitch chuckles, patting her bottom gently. "Keep going, you're like a little kitten chasing prey."

Effie paints his arm happily, giggling at the painting of a cat she's done on his arm. "Fight me, you have a cat on your arm," she tells him proudly.

"You little monster," Haymitch chuckles, kissing her lower back. "Who gave you a paintbrush?"

"You," she giggles. "And you love it."

"That paintbrush is going to go somewhere else in a minute," Haymitch jokes.

"Oh, fight me," Effie giggles, squirming. "You love me too much."

"I did fight you, and I won," he chuckles, then smirks at the back of her head. "I never said I'd hurt you, did I?"

"No," Effie replies. "What were you thinking of doing with that paintbrush?"

"You're too pure to know," he chuckles, then flips her onto her back, smirking at her. She takes the opportunity to smear silver paint on his nose, and giggles more as he growls in playful anger. "You little-" he growls, then pushes her shirt up so that he can attack her stomach with kisses. 

She squeals and squirms, laughing harder than ever. "Stop it, I'm ticklish!" she squeals.

"You're a little monster," he chuckles, kissing her more. "My little monster."

"I'm your Princess," she gasps, squirming helplessly. "I hate being tiny!"

Haymitch laughs harder at that, and marvels at the fact that she's got him genuinely laughing. "I like that you're tiny, because you get kisses for it," he splutters, kissing her more. "My tiny thing."

"Y-yours!" she gasps, wriggling. "Okay, okay, I surrender!"

Haymitch chuckles and sits her up, then kisses her lips, his hand resting lightly on her stomach. "Good squishy," he whispers, then smirks. "Only you."

"Only me what?" she asks quietly, breathless from laughing.

"Only you can make me laugh like that," he whispers. "Nobody else makes me laugh like that."

"Neither," she whispers back. "We're good for each other. Tell you what, when we've painted the wood work, we can take that can of whipped cream up to our room. I haven't changed the sheets yet."

"You're a kinky one, Miss Trinket," Haymitch chuckles, stroking her hair.

"You love me that way," Effie murmurs. "Do you want to?"

"Absolutely," he replies softly, kissing her again. Redecorating's the best decision I ever made, Haymitch thinks happily, cuddling Effie close.

Chapter Text

One week on

Haymitch wakes to sunlight and an empty space where Effie should be. "Effie?" he asks, wondering where she's disappeared to. "Princess, are you in the bathroom?"

Still no response. He picks up his cell and calls her number, grateful to hear her ask "Hello?"

"There you are, small thing," he sighs. "Where've you gone?"

"I am at the doctor's," Effie replies. "I'm just having my blood taken for testing, then I'm going to the train station to get my things. They're being delivered today from my old apartment."

"How come you're having a blood test?" Haymitch asks, worrying a bit.

"Darling, I hope your brain is still functional after all that alcohol you consumed over the years, because if not, I fear for your safety," Effie sighs. "Do you remember most of last week? The whipped cream, the fruit, the chocolate sauce, and the lack of protection?"

"Oh, pregnancy test," he mutters. "Should have known. Why didn't you say anything? I would have come with you. I know how much you hate going to the doctor."

"Darling, I did this like this because I don't like worrying you. I am a big girl, I can handle having a blood test," Effie chuckles. "You're very sweet to worry about me, though."

"You're my world, Eff. Anything happens to you, and I'm not going to be able to cope," he says reluctantly, still a bit awkward about expressing his feelings to her. "You know that. You don't have to hide from me to protect me. I just worry more when you disappear like that."

"Okay, honey, I won't do it again," she says quietly. "I'll be sure to leave a note or wake you next time."

"Wake me, I'll come with you," he offers. "Leaving you to do that stuff alone doesn't sit right with me, and I'm almost certain that you could do with a hug."

"How did you know that?" she asks, astounded.

"You left without one," he reminds her. "We never normally leave each other without hugs or kisses."

"No, we don't," she whispers. "We never have. Even when we hated each other, we still shared hugs and kisses like a couple would. We just need to have an extra long hug and a few extra kisses when I get back."

"Never mind that, I'll meet you at the station. Someone as tiny as you won't succeed in carrying all that luggage alone," he chuckles.

"Always mocking my size," she giggles. "Trust you. Okay, meet me at the station. We can get extra kisses in there."

"Sounds like a plan," he chuckles. "How's that test going?"

"So far, I have a needle in my elbow and it's pinching, but I should be okay," she replies. "And the doctor knows your voice from years of being on the television. Turns out, she's shipped us right from the off and we never knew."

"Shipped us?" Haymitch asks, totally nonplussed.

"It's hard to explain. It's hoping that two people become a couple. Apparently, it's always been a thing," Effie says, then winces. "That hurt quite a bit."

"What did?" he asks, worrying a bit.

"Having the needle removed. Don't worry so, my love, I'm fine," she chuckles, then covers the phone. Haymitch hears her muffled voice asking "How long until I get my results?"

"About a week," the doctor says. "Here, take these, you and your husband can look through them, just in case of a child."

"We're not married yet, but thank you," Effie says, then there's the muffled sound of shuffling papers before she comes back to the phone. "Did you get that?"

"Yeah, about a week until we know, and you've got some papers," Haymitch replies.

"Pamphlets," she corrects. "Just detailing pregnancy right from the off, and dealing with newborns, breastfeeding, and other stuff of the like. Well, I know one thing."

"What's that, small thing?" he asks, panicking a little at the idea of a baby now. It's more to do with their lack of baby-related experiences and their current unmarried status than anything else, but he doesn't care. He doesn't know how to look after a baby, and if she's pregnant, he'll have to learn, fast.

"If I am expecting, and we have a son, I am not having anyone go near him with a knife," she huffs. "Honestly, who would torture their baby like that?"

"Not you," he chuckles. "See, you'd be a good mom."

"You're just being nice to me," she chuckles. "Do you still want a child?"

"If there is one, yeah. If not, I can live without one," he replies.

"So you do still want one," she confirms. "Okay, then. Well, after our honeymoon, we can start trying."

"What?!" he demands, wondering if he's hearing right. Sometimes, you can't trust your own ears. "Did you just say that you want to try for a baby?"

"After our honeymoon, if you still want one, then absolutely. Not before, though. I don't want to look like a whale in a wedding gown," she says. "I didn't want to try before, but now that I'm looking at these pamphlets, it's starting to seem appealing."

"Effie, you're considering this because of pictures," he sighs. "You need to make a rational decision based on what your little instincts say."

"Right now, my instincts are telling me to have your babies, so do you still think I should listen to my instincts?" she asks, then coos happily. "Aww, those cheeks!"

"I'll talk to you about this at the station," he sighs.

He meets her at the station, just to find her with a handbag and a massive smile. "Well, hi there, Miss Suddenly Wants To Have As Many Little Peanuts As She Can Trinket," he grumbles.

Her smile drops and forms into a pout. "Why are you mad at me?" she asks, hurt in her eyes.

"I'm not mad at you," he tells her. "I'm just shocked. When did you change your mind?"

"Two nights ago," she admits quietly. "I didn't want to alarm you. You were sleep talking again, and you told me that our baby will be gorgeous, just like me, and you put your hand on my stomach. I couldn't help liking the idea a bit. I didn't mean to, it just happened."

Her eyes drop to the ground and she angles herself away from him under the pretense of watching for the delivery train. "Princess," Haymitch sighs, reaching for her and trying not to feel hurt as she dodges his grip. "Effie, I'm not upset with you."

"Oh, what a relief," she snarks, not looking at him. "Forget I said anything. It doesn't matter any more. You clearly don't want that, so neither do I. How long is that train going to take? I am freezing out here!"

He shrugs off his jacket and wraps it around her shoulders. She gives him a look that's half annoyed and half grateful. "Look, you don't have to pretend that you don't want something, sweetheart. See how you feel when the honeymoon's ended, yeah? If you still want it then, we can work on it then," he says softly. "I'm really not mad at you, Princess. I'm not going to get mad at you for being human. You haven't done anything wrong by changing your mind, and I'm happy that you're taking your own decisions. I just don't want you to be mad at me all day today, too."

She droops like a dying flower, then whispers "I'm not angry at you."

"Then what's wrong?" he asks.

"I'm upset with myself," she whispers. "I should have waited until I got home to tell you anything at all."

"No, you shouldn't," he murmurs, giving her a kiss. "You really shouldn't. I would have sent a search party after you. Anything could have happened to you, small thing. You scared me badly by disappearing like that. I'm just glad you're safe."

She shakes her head and looks sad. "I don't deserve you," she whispers and clams up on him.

Chapter Text

They arrive home with all of Effie's things in a massive wheelbarrow. Effie just piles her possessions carelessly by the living room door, then whispers "I'll take it up later," before taking off her shoes and making her way to the sofa. She curls up in one corner of the sofa and takes up as little space as she can.

Upon seeing her in a sad little heap on their sofa, Haymitch makes her a hot soup for lunch and a mug of strawberry tea. He feeds her the soup, watching her apathetic attempts to eat, her blue eyes glazed over, then helps her to have a few sips of her tea. He wraps her in her fluffy silver throw and kisses her head. "My perfect Princess," he whispers. "I'll get you a book from upstairs, okay?"

No response. For the next six hours, Haymitch spends his time reading to Effie, petting her, giving her drinks, taking her to the toilet, making sure her hands are clean, and giving her kisses and cuddles. Katniss and Peeta arrive for dinner, immediately spotting Effie curled in a ball while Haymitch soothes her. "What's this?" Katniss asks, worry sparking in her eyes.

"She's having one of her episodes," Haymitch sighs. "She's been like this since eleven this morning. Haven't you, sweetheart?"

Effie doesn't respond, her eyes empty of everything that could reassure Haymitch that she's still in there. Peeta kneels in front of her and asks "Effie? Can you hear me?"

Effie's hand twitches a little and she blinks once. "What are you doing?" Katniss asks.

Ignoring her, Peeta asks "Effie, where are you?"

"Dark," Effie whispers, her eyes wild with fear, and a thin sheen of sweat is starting to cover her face.

"No, look around, Effie. Where are you?" Peeta asks softly, watching the Capitol woman's face for signs of recognition.

"I'm..." she gasps softly, and Haymitch tenderly rubs her stomach, helping her to relax.

"Where?" Peeta repeats gently, watching her closely in case of a violent outburst. 

"Home," she whispers. "With my family."

"Good," Peeta murmurs. "What's going on inside your head?"

"Inside?" Effie asks, her voice small and meek.

"Yeah, inside your mind," Peeta says gently. "What's happening for you?"

"Bad," Effie murmurs. "Very bad. Horrible."

"What's horrible?" Peeta asks.

"Me," she whispers. "I ruined it all. I shouldn't be here."

"What did you ruin?" Peeta whispers, gently touching Effie's hand.

"I-I-I-I," Effie gasps, her eyes widening as she struggles.

Katniss steps back, and the fear is plain to see on her face. "Is she...?" she asks softly. "Can she breathe?"

"It's panic," Haymitch mutters, not really paying attention to Katniss, not while Effie's distressed.

"It's okay, breathe. In your own time, Effie, don't stress," Peeta says soothingly, stroking her hand, blocking Haymitch and Katniss out.

"I-I-I-I ruined..." she gasps, then chokes, wheezing a little. "I... Rui-ruined ev-ev-ev-"

"What?" Peeta asks quietly.

"Haymitch's and my relationship," she whispers, her words stabbing Haymitch in the heart.

"How did you ruin your relationship?" Peeta asks softly.

"I ch-cha-changed m-my mind," she murmurs, tripping over her words despite speaking slowly. "And wh-wh-when I chan-changed it b-back, Haymitch was up-ups-upset with me a-and wouldn't ad-admit it, and now I-I-I know that I'm a b-ba-bad squishy and s-sh-shouldn't be h-he-here."

"You're not a bad person, Effie," Peeta whispers. "You're allowed to change your mind."

"I kn-kn-know that, and I didn't s-sa-say that I'm a bad person, I've been ta-t-taught that much. I said I-I am a bad squishy, and th-that is something else entirely," she whispers, her voice slowly getting stronger. "I am going to go and make the dinner."

Without another word, she gets up and heads into the kitchen. Haymitch gets up and follows her, scared that she'll hurt herself trying to cook without her full mental presence. Katniss hisses to Peeta "We should go after them."

Peeta nods, allowing himself to follow Katniss to the kitchen, ready to intervene if Effie becomes violent or self-destructive.

Chapter Text

Upon entering the kitchen, Katniss and Peeta instantly spot Haymitch standing behind Effie, his arms around her waist, and they hear her whisper "I am trying, darling. I swear I am. I don't mean to fade out when things get bad."

"I know, sweetheart," Haymitch whispers. "You're doing so well."

"It's been two years, Haymitch," Effie murmurs, leaning her head on him. "Do you think I'll ever be right again?"

"Princess, you literally suffered the worst any human can suffer. That isn't going to just fade away in two years. You need to give yourself as much time as you need," he murmurs, kissing her cheek. "You won't be alone, though, no matter what your little mind says. You've got the kids. You've got me. You're safe with your family. You have loved ones who want to help you, and you're not going to get better if you rush yourself and hold everything that hurts you back. You can talk to me, and heal at your own pace. Whatever feels most natural to you."

She turns in his arms and hugs him tightly. "I wish I could do more to help you like you're helping me," she whispers. "This should be a two-way thing."

"It is," he whispers, holding her tiny body close to him, his hand cradling the back of her head. "You being here has made me sober up entirely. You did that. You're already a massive help just by being here. I'm here to help you out too."

She clutches him, and the younger couple watch as their former escort and mentor share their moment, wondering how two people who have fought almost every day in their presence could possibly be so tender to each other. "You're my world," Effie whispers. "I hate hurting you."

"The only way you're going to hurt me is by letting yourself hurt," Haymitch murmurs back, gently rubbing her back. "Be nice to yourself, Princess."

She nods and presses closer to him, then murmurs something into his ear that neither Katniss nor Peeta hears. Haymitch laughs a bit, then Effie murmurs "What do you think?"

"I think you're insane, but I like that idea," he chuckles. "You're a crazy woman, small thing."

"Yes," Effie chuckles, clearly perking up a bit. "I'm your crazy woman, though."

"That's my girl," Haymitch says proudly, then kisses her neck. "Always as tough as nails."

Effie beams proudly, kissing his shoulder. "Learning from the very best," she whispers, then notices Katniss and Peeta gaping at them. "How long have you two been watching us?"

"They know we're a couple, Princess," Haymitch chuckles, letting go of her momentarily to turn to the younger couple, his arm around Effie's waist. "Don't you worry, kids, nothing inappropriate going on in this kitchen."

"My question still stands," Effie points out.

"We were worried," Peeta starts, but he's cut off by Katniss.

"How long have you two been all mushy like that?" Katniss asks, gawking at them.

"Well, sweetheart, if we fought all the time, we wouldn't be standing up," Haymitch tells her, then squeezes Effie gently. "Would she really have stayed with me if she was constantly fighting me and being made to feel miserable and unwelcome?"

"Probably," Katniss says. "We all know what her life in the Capitol's like."

"That's over," Effie says coldly, her voice as sharp as a knife. "My life is here, and I can assure you that I would not be here if I was unwelcome."

Haymitch gives her a kiss on the top of her head, inhaling the sweet scent of her shampoo, then murmurs "Princess, it's okay. You know that Katniss has a way of making innocent things sound nasty."

"Thanks," Katniss huffs.

Effie nods, then says "I'm sorry, Katniss. Now, since we're not quite prepared for dinner, who would like a takeout?"

Katniss and Peeta share a look, knowing that neither Haymitch or Effie has the energy to cook, and they nod. "Takeout sounds great," Peeta says kindly.

"Mitch?" Effie asks.

"Sure, sweetheart," Haymitch says, smirking a little at her. "You deserve a rest."

Effie smiles, then says "I will go and order it. Is everyone having the usual?"

Nods from everyone, and Effie bounces a little, strolling out of the kitchen with a new spring to her step, then Haymitch's smirk drops and he looks about twenty years older. Katniss notices first, then asks "What's up?"

"Effie," Haymitch sighs.

"What about her?" Katniss asks.

"If you're having second thoughts about her now," Peeta growls.

"No, I'm not, you can stop worrying," Haymitch sighs. "I'm not going to break her heart, she means too much to me for that."

"Then what is it?" Peeta asks.

Haymitch looks like he's at war with himself, then says "I'm concerned that she's going to fall back on her old habits."

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"What old habits?" Katniss asks.

"Before you met her, she was addicted to diet pills and narcotics," Haymitch says softly so that Effie doesn't hear him. "She was popping pills all the time, and in between, she'd smoke a lot. She was like a chimney with how much she smoked. I'm just worried that she'll go back to that self-destructive spiral if she has another really bad episode."

"You mean she used to be a junkie?" Katniss asks, her eyes wide.

"I believe that," Peeta says. "In the cell, she used to talk to me about sleeping pills, and what she'd do to have one or two to help her sleep. I figured, seeing how much pain she was in, that it would have been useful. I tried to get a guard to give her a sleeping pill, just so she could have some respite from the pain, but all I got her was a kick to the ribs."

"You tried to help her, and that's what counts," Haymitch sighs. "She wouldn't take narcotics anyway after that. She felt too afraid of sleep. For the first couple of weeks after she woke up from her rescue, she spent all of her time either screaming the place down or clinging to me in terrified silence. She really needed someone when I came here with you, Katniss, and she made me come back here without her. I'd insisted she came, but she argued that you needed her, Peeta."

"Are you quite done?" Effie asks softly from the doorway.

"Princess," Haymitch says, startled.

"We swore we wouldn't tell the kids that stuff," Effie whispers, her eyes wide and her lips trembling. "We promised to keep it quiet. They didn't need to know about the drugs, nor did they need to know anything about the smoking, the aftermath of my rescue, or our fight over our return to Twelve. Why didn't you tell me that you were planning to tell them?"

"I didn't plan to," he says. "We were talking about why I'm worried about you, and I have every right to be."

"You think I'm going to relapse," Effie says, her voice empty and cold. "You really think that I would throw away all of the work you've put in for some damned drugs?"

"I don't think you'll do it consciously," Haymitch says slowly. "It might happen in an episode of yours, and render you powerless to it."

"I try so hard every day to get well again, to avoid every possible unhealthy addiction, to be something good for you, and you're there thinking I'm going to waste all of our efforts on a five minute high!" Effie shouts, her voice getting shriller and shriller. "You are unbelievable, did you know that?! Telling me that you believe in me one minute, and the next, you're off telling everyone else that you have no faith in me!"

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"Eff-" he starts, but he's cut off by her shriek.

"No! No! Don't you dare try to lie to me any more! I'm not a fragile doll, Haymitch! I can take it when nobody has any faith in me!" she screams, then whirls onto Katniss and Peeta. "Now I understand why you two think we fight all the time. This man just blows hot and cold all the time, and usually he's lying to my face! WIsh me luck for the rest of my life, I'll never know if he's being honest with me or not!"

With that, she storms out of the room, leaving an icy breeze behind her. "Wow," Katniss mouths.

"Good luck to you, Haymitch," Peeta says, gaping after the former escort.

"I'll need it," Haymitch sighs, pressing his forehead into his palm. "She doesn't seem to understand that people have conflicting thoughts sometimes, and while I have every faith in her, I don't trust those episodes of hers."

"No, you shouldn't," Peeta says. "They're bad, and she doesn't seem to know just how bad. They make you forget everything good about the world."

"When Peeta first started healing from his, he had really horrible tendencies to hurt himself," Katniss says, her voice pained. "Effie will try something similar, whether she believes it or not. She doesn't understand how bad the healing process can get. She really needs you, and her emotional outbursts just prove that."

Haymitch sighs. "If she doesn't talk to me again in the next three days, I'll call her therapist in," he says. "She won't like it, but she'll have to suck it up." 

He's just worried that if she finds out that he's going to get her therapist involved again, she'll leave and never return home. "She'll understand if you have to bring her therapist back in," Peeta says.

"If she does, it'll be a miracle," Haymitch mutters. "She can be unreasonable sometimes."

The kids nod, knowing that the Capitol woman has a temper to be reckoned with when she's riled up, and that's not a side of her they ever want to unleash.

Chapter Text

"Effie! Princess, dinner's here!" Haymitch calls.

"Not hungry!" Effie calls back, her voice wobbling.

"You need to eat, Princess, remember what Doctor Cleargrove said?" he calls back. "You need to keep eating regular meals, even when you don't want to!"

"I will eat later!" she snaps, then clams up again.

Haymitch rolls his eyes and dishes up three of the four meals. "Isn't she coming downstairs?" Katniss asks.

"No, she's being her stubborn brat self," Haymitch mutters, annoyed by his fiancee's disregard for her own health.

"Stubborn brat self," Peeta snarls.

"What?" Haymitch asks, taken aback by the young man's harsh tone. 

"You told us her personal history, and you told us that she could relapse, all without talking about it with her before us," Peeta growls, glaring at Haymitch. "She's upset, and that doesn't make her a stubborn brat."

"You were wishing him luck with her earlier," Katniss points out unhelpfully. "Besides, we're family. She should know not to keep secrets from her family, we can help her."

"She has a right to confidentiality," Peeta argues. "The reason I wished him luck, not that you deserve to know it for defending him, is for him trying to make up with Effie so that she doesn't leave him tonight for treating her like she's incapable of doing anything herself. She should leave him, because someone else may actually give her the treatment she deserves."

"I may not treat her perfectly, but in case it escaped your notice, I need to talk to someone about her, or I'll lose what little sanity I have left while I try to help her, and me losing my mind won't benefit her," Haymitch growls back. He takes a deep breath, then eats a forkful of food, giving himself and Peeta a minute or two to relax before quietly adding "Anyway, she said she'll eat later."

"Are you sure?" Peeta asks, still fuming.

"If she's willing to cooperate with me in about two hours, yeah," Haymitch says.

"If not?" Katniss asks.

"Then I tell her she'll end up back in the hospital on another drip, and she'll eat because she's afraid," Haymitch mutters, clearly hating that he may have to resort to scaring her when he wants to help her get better. "I really hope she's willing to cooperate."

"She will," Peeta says. "She'll do anything to make you happy. Katniss never had to resort to scaring me into eating."

"You're native to Twelve, kid," Haymitch mutters gruffly. "You've always appreciated never having enough. She hasn't. She still sees eating as a choice, not a necessity, even after she was starved. Nobody would have to scare a pre-war Twelve native into eating, even if they'd been starved for months. A pre-war Capitolite, though, she won't see it like we do. She sees food and gags at the idea, because she's so used to having it at her disposal. She tries, I'll give her that, but old habits die hard, and she's not going to be like us immediately."

Sensing the older man's discomfort, Katniss says "She's trying. She wants to make you happy. Remind her of people who went their whole lives with nothing, and how much they'd have given to get regular meals like she does. Give her a hint of what your life growing up was like, and what a young Haymitch went through to make sure his family could have at least one meal a day."

Haymitch nods slowly, then mutters "Guilt trip won't hurt her as much as scaring her will. Yeah, thanks, kid."

"Did you just thank her without Effie prompting you?" Peeta asks.

"I live with her," Haymitch says, smirking a little, pride lighting up his face as he remembers that he lives with Effie. "She gets into your subconscious after a bit, and you end up knowing everything she'd say to you without needing her there."

That evening, Effie still hasn't left the bedroom, and Katniss says "Call us when she's eaten. I'm not going to sleep until I know she's eaten and happy."

"Sure," Haymitch says, as Katniss had done it for him when Peeta was recovering. "You two go do your thing, and Katniss, don't do anything stupid. Remember, you've got your little Toastbaby to care for."

"Toastbaby?" Katniss asks, then glances at her stomach, which is barely showing. "I would have expected you to call it the Everdeen-Mellark spawn."

"Effie calls it a Toastbaby, and that sounds cuter than Everdeen-Mellark spawn," Haymitch chuckles. 

"You think anything she does is cute," Peeta mutters, smirking a bit.

"What's wrong with that?" Haymitch asks, a ghost of a smile on his face to match the hint of amusement in his tone.

"Nothing," Peeta says, grinning properly now. "Remember to call us when she's eaten and feels better."

"Sure," Haymitch replies, smirking. "Expect the call in about three hours."

The young couple nod and leave the house, and Haymitch heads back to the kitchen. He dishes up Effie's dinner, and gets her a glass of sweet red wine, something he knows she loves. He won't drink it in his hopes of being the best version of himself for his Effie, but he won't deny her a drink. He taps the door with the base of the wine glass, hearing Effie ask "Why are you knocking, Haymitch?"

He walks in and says "Sorry, I thought you might have been getting changed or something."

"You have seen me naked many times. I have no shame in being naked around you," she whispers. "Come here, sit with me."

He walks over to her bedside table, placing the wine beside her before walking around the bed and sitting in his usual spot, still holding her dinner plate. "What you reading there, Princess?" he asks.

"It's not a book, it's a photo album from when I was a teenager," she replies softly, distantly.

He shifts a little, looking over her shoulder at a girl with dyed black hair, only a little bit younger than she was when he first met her, wearing a long black skirt, black high-heeled boots, a black top with lace sleeves drooping at the wrists, and black painted nails. She has chalk white foundation on, and her eyes are thinly lined with black to make them look bigger and rounder. Her eyebrows are thin and pencilled in with black, drawn to make her look even more childlike and innocent. Her lips are a deep red shade, making her look like a doll. "You were Goth?" he asks softly, amazed.

"When I wasn't on the runway, or being your escort, yes," she whispers. "Out of the public eye, I could be myself. Nobody ever guessed that this was me, not without the bright, vivid outfits, heinous wigs, and deplorable makeup jobs. I've often wished to return to it, but really, I'm scary enough here in Twelve. People shunned me in the Capitol before I did anything wrong."

"If you want to dress like that again, sweetheart, go for it," Haymitch tells her, petting her.

"No, you prefer me blonde," she chuckles. "And you'd be better off not waking to a vampire next to you."

"You're not a vampire. And who said you have to dye your hair? If you're going for a childlike look, the blonde will help you. You should do what makes you feel good, small thing," he tells her seriously, giving her a hug.

"Well, I think we should eat first, if I'm honest," she chuckles. "No, really, though. I can't just revert to my comfort zones now. I'm better off like this."

"It's your choice," he says. "You're hot no matter what you dress in."

Effie giggles, then asks "Do you remember the day I went for that blood test?"

 "Yeah," Haymitch replies. "What happened?"

"Nothing," she hums, wriggling happily. "Not until the doctor saw the results of the tests the doctors from Thirteen ran on me. I was quite shocked to find that the rebel doctors had any of that medical technology."

"What medical technology?" he asks worriedly. "What did they do to you, sweetheart?"

"Nothing bad," Effie chuckles. "It was actually good for us, and why I'm so concerned about getting us condoms."

"What is this all about, Princess?" Haymitch asks, getting more and more worried.

"What my captors did to me, it rendered me infertile," she tells him, turning to capture his lips with her own. 

Haymitch kisses her back for a minute or two, then asks "How is this good?"

She beams at him, then says "Well, Thirteen's doctors were medically trained far further than I ever expected of them. They used the machines in the city with expertise, and in doing so, they fixed my body. If I could just sort out my eating habits, I would be able to gain weight properly."

"So you're trying to tell me that they somehow made you capable of having kids?" he asks, trying not to let the hope seep into his tone. No matter what, he won't make her feel pressured, and he won't allow himself to feel excitement or joy over a child unless or until they have one. 

"Yes, that's exactly it," Effie murmurs, nestling up to him. "And just so you know, I'm not going to revoke my decision. You can get excited, if it's a baby you want, it's a baby you can have. If the results of that test say negative, then we have to wait until after our honeymoon, I have big plans for you and our honeymoon."

"Dirty little thing," he chuckles. "How are you doing with the kids' wedding? Didn't you book the Justice Hall for Sunday?"

"Yes, I did," Effie sighs, stretching. "Annie, Jo, and little Finn are coming by tomorrow, ready for the wedding. I have already got arrangements for them, don't worry. And I tried to get Flora Everdeen to come home, but she refuses to return to Twelve. I do wish that woman would see that she still has one baby left alive. And Beetee is too busy working with Gale to come, and Katniss told me not to invite the boy. I don't blame her, he's horrible. And Plutarch has said that it's too short notice, but he's sending a gift. I couldn't get in touch with Enobaria, but something tells me she wouldn't come anyway. The children did say that they only wanted a small party, but this is tiny!"

"What about Sae?" Haymitch suggests. "You could invite her."

"I did," Effie murmurs, leaning on him. "Like I wouldn't, she's been as big a part of yours, Katniss's, and Peeta's lives as this District has been. But it's still such a small party, and I even invited Delly Cartwright and her younger brother, as they are friends of the children. Our kids deserve the very best wedding, and I'm doing such an awful job of it!"

"Hey, come on, sweetheart, you're Effie Trinket, you never do a bad job of anything. You're doing brilliantly. And look at it this way, this isn't the last wedding you'll ever plan," he whispers, stroking her hair soothingly. 

"No, we do have ours," she agrees. "What did young Haymitch want his wedding to look like?"

"When I was a kid, I wanted to marry my girl, Franny. We wouldn't do anything big, we'd sign papers in the Justice Building, have a small loaf of bread from the bakery, and just our families around for our toasting. After my Games, I didn't want to get married at all. It took twenty seven years for me to even contemplate it again," he says softly, kissing her head.

"What did your mother and brother think of your plans?" Effie whispers, nuzzling at his chest like she does when she gets tired.

"Mom hated Franny, she didn't think she was good enough for me. My brother didn't like her either. He said I'd be better off waiting to grow up, and until he was grown up too. I laughed at him, because as far as we were concerned, we were grown up already," Haymitch chuckles sadly, wondering when it stopped hurting so badly to talk about his family, and why Effie's small hand over his heart makes him feel peaceful. "I loved that kid. I often said otherwise, but he knew. He would have loved you. Mom would too, when she got used to you and all your quirks. Mom would be proud of me for finding you. You're exactly what she used to describe to me."

"What would your dad have said?" Effie asks.

"No idea," he replies. "Hated him. He stayed just long enough to beat Mom and me to a pulp, then he ran off with the only midwife in town when he got Mom pregnant for the second time. He left Mom with a six year old and a baby on the way. He was horrible, and definitely not worth the title of dad. I swore with him around that I'd never treat my wife or kids like he treated us."

Effie presses a soft kiss to his chest. "Do you know where he is now?" she asks.

"Hopefully rotting in hell," Haymitch mutters. "I hate him, and if he somehow survived all that this District, the war, and the bombings put him through, he'll be dead before he gets within a foot of you and the kids. I'll never let him near you."

"Aww," she coos, then lifts her head. "Is this you being all manly and trying to protect me again?"

"No. Do you have to assume that I'm sexist all the time, Princess?" he asks.

"Well, you have been known to say a man protects his woman multiple times," she points out.

"That's how I was raised to treat a woman," he grumbles defensively. "And since you're a little stick Effie, I'm not willing to risk that teaching now."

"You were raised by a woman to treat women like they're weak?" she asks suspiciously.

Haymitch rolls his eyes harder than ever. "No, I was taught to treat a woman like an equal. If it makes you feel better, I'd defend Peeta too if it weren't for the boy constantly trying to keep an old man out of harm's way. It's not sexist, it's protecting my family," he says. "And you're my family."

Effie sighs. "I will call you out if you get sexist on me again," she warns, then kisses his neck. "And just so you know, I'm going to protect you too. Nobody's to say that only men can protect."

"You're a nuisance," he sighs, petting her. "Go to sleep and stop babbling to me."

"I'm not babbling to you, we're having a chat," she huffs, insulted. "I'm glad to know that I don't have to talk any more."

"I didn't say don't... Oh, forget it, you're annoyed now," he sighs. "When aren't you?"

"When you're nice to me," she says, then wriggles away from him and props herself up on her pillows. "Go to sleep. I'm going to plan the children's wedding while you take a nap. This is my area of expertise."

"Well, you said it," he sighs. "Have fun with that, Princess."

He fluffs his pillow up and lies down on it. "I will," she mutters angrily.


Haymitch jumps violently, falling off the bed and smacking the side of his head on the bedside cabinet. "Ow! Damn it!" he yells, then clambers gracelessly to his feet and glares furiously at Effie. "Princess, what the hell?! Why did you scream like that?!"

"Because I have one day before the wedding and literally nothing is cooperating with me!" she wails, tears rolling down her face. "Why can't I make one thing go right?! These are my kids, I should be doing a better job on their wedding!"

Feeling sorry for her and mildly concussed, Haymitch drops down beside her and gives her a hug. "Hey, come on, it's okay. The kids won't mind if there's no frills," he says softly.

"They let me take charge, and their only request was that I didn't make a massive wedding party or anything over the top," she sobs. "I'm going for a simple rustic theme that would suit both of them, and look! I can't even do that right! I used to be good at this! Oh, Haymitch, what am I going to do?! These poor kids! I'll have had more time to work on our wedding, and they'll think I did this to them deliberately to upstage them!"

"They won't think that at all, small stuff," Haymitch tells her softly. "You're being silly. Look, we can call the kids and ask them for their opinions."

"Yes, yes, call the children," Effie sniffs. "Our kids, Haymitch. We need to make the beautiful and memorable. I can't do that alone."

He rubs her back and hugs her close to him, letting her cry her frustrations out. "You're not doing anything alone, Princess. I'm here for you, whenever you need me," he murmurs, kissing her head.

"How can I possibly trust you to help me, though?" she sniffs.

"You've always been able to trust me," Haymitch says, utterly nonplussed by that.

She lifts her head to look at him. "I used to be able to blindly trust you," she sniffs. "Then you went and told the kids everything I told you in confidence. I heard Peeta telling you off, and honestly, I agree with him. You have treated me with disrespect today. I told you about my history with the pills and cigarettes because you are my future husband, and you betrayed my trust by telling the kids, despite promising that you wouldn't."

"I had to talk to someone, Effie," he sighs, squeezing her. "Why didn't you bring this up earlier?"

"Because you were upset with me already," she whispers sadly. "I wanted to discuss this tomorrow, but you brought up being here for me. I would ask you to keep my insecurities about this wedding planning from the kids, but I think you'll tell them anyway, since you so badly need to talk to someone who isn't your fiancee."

"Yeah, Peeta told me that I should have talked to you first," Haymitch sighs. "Princess, I didn't want to hurt you further by asking you about the drugs thing. I wanted an outsider's opinion, and fine, I should have spoken to you first-"

"Yes, you should have," Effie whimpers, then sniffs.

Haymitch strokes her hair, then continues "And I didn't. I can't help you if I'm losing my own mind in doing so. The kids are better to tell than a therapist, they know better than to tell any old gossip rag. I wouldn't have said anything to them if I couldn't trust them, Princess."

"I asked you not to," Effie reminds him. "I specifically said do not tell the children. I wouldn't have minded if it was a therapist, because they're legally signed to confidentiality, and they wouldn't tell the kids that the woman who looked after them was a recovering junkie. I understand your need to talk, but you need to respect my rights to privacy. I can forgive you once, but if this happens again, I will up and leave you without a word. Understand?"

"Got it," Haymitch says, a feeling of dread weighing itself heavily in the pit of his stomach. "That said, I'm still here to help you in any way you need."

"Thank you," she sobs. "I'm so used to having to work alone and to deal with an overwhelming workload alone, I barely remember what it feels like to have someone there to have my back when I need them."

"You'll get used to it," Haymitch murmurs. "We've always been a team, yeah?"

"Yes. You and I have always been a team," she murmurs. "Colleagues, enemies, best friends, lovers, and now engaged. We're the best team ever, you and me."

"That we are. And soon enough, we'll be playing mentor and escort again," he mutters, a dark look on his face. "I'm still not happy about them having a baby so young."

"Leave them be, they're only physically young," Effie sighs, choosing to ignore the reference to their pre-war careers for fear of inducing a panic attack. "They deserve this."

Haymitch rolls his eyes, then pats her head. "I never said they don't, I said I'm not happy that they're still kids," he tells her, giving her another kiss on her hair. "Come on, let's call the kids and ask what they want for their wedding theme."

"Okay," Effie whispers, snuggling up to him. "After snuggles."

Haymitch chuckles at her. "Whatever suits you, short stuff," he murmurs into her hair, cuddling her. "Whatever suits you. So, am I forgiven for earlier?"

"That depends," she hums.

"On what?" he asks, cuddling her.

"If you're willing to get me a candy bar," she giggles. "I bought some, but I'm too tired to go downstairs and get one. Please?"

"I hate you," he sighs. "Fine, you get your candy."

He starts to get up, but she holds him down. "You're forgetting something," she says.

"Princess, I'm going to our kitchen, in our house, with only the two of us here. I'm not putting on pants or a shirt to get you a candy bar," he tells her firmly.

"Okay, at least put a robe on, it's cold," she tells him. "And I meant kisses. You're already forgetting to kiss me."

He chuckles and kisses her lips. "We can't have you going three minutes without a kiss, can we?" he mocks gently.

"No," she replies, a happy little smile appearing on her lips. "Robe, then candy."

"Bossy," he chuckles, stroking her cheek softly.

"Yes. I will call the kids," she says, leaning into his touch. "Get that robe on, you'll freeze without it."

He puts on his robe, smirking at her as he holds his arms wide to show her. "Robe's on," he says.

"You look gorgeous," she chuckles. "Now, candy. We can have more kisses when you come back up."

He nods and leaves her to call Katniss and Peeta's home phone, chuckling at how disgruntled they'll be to hear Effie pestering them for wedding details at one in the morning, finding her secret stash of candy, wanting nothing more than to watch her smiling that happy little smile again. If he could make her smile like that every day for the rest of their lives, he'd be content.

Chapter Text

Haymitch and Peeta are sharing a drink, watching the sun set while Effie helps Katniss with her final dress fitting. "Ow! Effie, watch the pins!" Katniss shrieks.

"I'm sorry!" Effie yells, clearly just as annoyed as she is apologetic. "Just stay still, you're squirmier than me!"

Haymitch laughs softly. "Nah, nothing's squirmier than Effie," he mutters to Peeta.

"I don't know, Katniss might give Effie a run for her money. The way her body's reacting to pregnancy is keeping her up," Peeta replies quietly. "She's nauseous when she's awake, she can't get comfortable at all, she's given up on bras, she won't go hunting in case she scares off game, and she's really moody because she's not sleeping. The acne and dark circles don't bother her, though. Makes me wonder how you'll cope with Effie in that state."

"Knowing Effie?" Haymitch chuckles. "The woman will probably even carry a baby in textbook propriety. She'll somehow get even better skin, even glossier hair, she'll get curvy in all the right places, she'll sleep like a log, won't have any problems at all, and she'll probably even spring back after giving birth. You know what she's like, she won't spend nine months being improper. I would like to see her avoiding mirrors, though. It might get us out of the house on days we say we'll go out."

Peeta bursts out laughing. "I can imagine. She's got to be her own standard of beautiful at all times or she's miserable," he splutters.

"Oh, for Panem's sake!" Effie shrieks and runs downstairs. "Haymitch, fix her!"

Haymitch looks up to see Effie with tears all over her face and a bright red circle around her eye. "What happened?" he asks.

"I accidentally stuck her with a pin because she was wriggling, and she punched me, then she said something horrible," Effie sobs. "Please go and fix her so that I can work on her dress."

"You shouldn't still be helping her, Eff," Haymitch sighs. "Look, we can hire a dressmaker-"

"No, she won't trust anyone else, she said so," Peeta says, then gets up. "I've got Effie, you go and sort Katniss out. No violence, please. I know it's tempting, but don't."

"Yeah, your kid doesn't deserve that," Haymitch says.

Peeta takes Effie and asks "What did she say to you?"

"She... She told me that I'm still as useless to her now as I was when I tried to train her for your first Games," Effie sobs, and Haymitch overhears her as he leaves.

He storms upstairs and glares at Katniss. "What do you have to say for yourself?" he asks furiously.

"I told her repeatedly about those damned pins, Abernathy," Katniss hisses.

"Yeah, there's no need to tell her she's useless," he snarls, advancing on her. "And there was even less need to punch her in the face. She's got the patience of a saint with you, and she's said that she's still willing to help you. You don't know how lucky you are. If it weren't for the boy and your kid, I'd have snapped your neck for treating her like that when all she wants is to help you. Now, when she's stopped crying and can see again, I'm going to bring her up here, and you're going to give her a sincere apology, and you're going to be good to her. She's doing you a massive favour here, and she doesn't deserve to get yelled at or hit for trying her best with you. Now, you have ten minutes to sort yourself out while I go check on her."

He walks out, leaving Katniss to stew, and finds Effie with an ice pack over her eye. "I don't know, Peeta, sometimes I think I'm just plain toxic," she sighs, looking dejected. "It's hard to see it every day. I know he loves me, that you and Katniss love me, but..."

"It's okay, Effie," Peeta says. "I've been here, I know how you feel. It's hard to feel like you're just a waste of effort when everyone around you is trying so hard to help you feel better, because you just think they're wasting their time on you. I know. It's hard, and it hurts, but you can see the difference in us both. Do you remember when you first came back to Twelve after bringing me home?"

Effie nods sadly. "I annoyed all three of you with my constant fussing and ended up leaving early," she whispers.

"Exactly," Peeta says. "And now look at you. You live here, you're going to get married, and you're planning our wedding. Look at yourself, Effie. You're doing brilliantly. Here, if you need anything to help you feel useful again, look at it this way; Haymitch has barely drunk anything alcoholic since you arrived. You're keeping him alive by being here. That should prove how useful you are just by existing."

"I am glad he's not drinking," Effie whispers. "It's just... Whenever I'm near, everything seems to go down the pan, and it's devastating. It feels like my presence alone destroys everything good about our lives."

"Effie, do you remember when you first moved here?" Peeta asks. "We went to the fair, and we all had fun."

"I ruined that," she murmurs. "I behaved atrociously and humiliated you, Katniss, and Haymitch."

"You were adorable," Peeta dismisses. "That was the first time I'd ever seen you genuinely happy. You were happy and carefree, and it was precious. I don't think any of us have ever seen you like that. It was fun to see you acting like the kid you never got to be. Does that sound like you're a toxic and destructive presence?"

"No," Effie whispers sadly. "It was once, though."

"So? Okay, how about all the times you've been here for us? You were ready to run out of this house in your nightgown to find Katniss while you were cramping and bleeding, which isn't something just any woman would do. You comforted her when she told you about the baby. You were the one who held me through the night in prison. You were here for me when I needed a guardian before being brought home. You're the one who called all three of us to talk us through our problems every night, despite your own issues. You protected all three of us. You're here now, you're feeding us every other night, you're keeping Haymitch in a good place, you're keeping us in a good place, and you're doing all the jobs that most people hire help for. You're not toxic, you're not useless, and you're not destructive. You're the mom figure for us all, you keep us all together," Peeta tells her, rubbing her back. "Without you, we all fall to bits. We need you just as much as you need us."

"He's right," Haymitch says, watching them both startle. "You're our glue, Eff. And that kid up there's got a lot of apology for you."

"Of course, my apologies," Effie whispers, then hands her ice pack to Peeta. "I'll go up there and sort her dress out."

She runs before either man can say another word to her, and rejoins Katniss. "Hey," Katniss mutters, her tone soaked in annoyance.

"Hello," Effie replies softly, no inflections in her tone at all. "I'll make quick work of this, okay? Your feet must be sore."

Katniss nods and lets Effie do her work silently. Effie works as quickly and efficiently as she can, then stands up to help Katniss out of the dress. Instead, Katniss hugs her close and whispers "I'm sorry, Effie. You've been nothing but fantastic all this time. I don't deserve your help, and I'm really sorry for hitting you and bringing that up to you."

Effie hugs Katniss back tightly, as close as she can get her. "It's okay, Katniss, all of it. Your rage was understandable, if a little misplaced. It was only natural that the outcome was magnified. You deserve every minute of my help here, and I am proud to give it. You're my girl regardless," Effie whispers sweetly, petting the younger woman's hair.

"Thank you, Effie," Katniss whispers, too vulnerable for Effie to feel at ease.

"My pleasure," Effie hums. "Now, do you want to see how you look in the dress before I sew it?"

Katniss nods and lets Effie guide her to the full-length mirror. "It's beautiful," Katniss whispers, staring at the dress. 

It's a simple white gown with sleeves that flare out three quarters of the way down her arms, with forest green embroidery from the bottom hem to her knees, curling around her legs like grass. The neckline is hemmed with miniature katniss, all hand sewn by Effie, who had studied the book that Katniss's father had made for the exact design of the flowers. "Does it feel comfortable?" Effie asks quietly. "If you ignore the pins, I mean."

"It's perfect," Katniss whispers, entranced by the dress. "I never thought I'd like a dress so much."

Effie gives her a small, soft, genuine smile. "I am glad you like it," she whispers. "I will have it ready for you by morning, darling."


That night, after a long afternoon and evening of being shut up in a tiny room with a sewing machine, Effie enters the bedroom, finding Haymitch sat up in bed with a hot chocolate and a book. "Hey," she whispers, blinking rapidly. 

"Hey, small thing. How's that dress coming along?" he asks, sipping his drink.

"It's going well, but I'm definitely glad that our wedding is much later in the year. I don't want to sew another wedding dress for a long while," she sighs.

Haymitch smirks, looking up from his book as Effie starts to undress. "Well, Princess, you could always buy one," he reminds her, knowing exactly how she feels toward that.

She gasps, turning to glare at him as she drops her dress. "Absolutely not!" she exclaims. "I will not have our future daughter see our wedding pictures and see me in something that has been mass-produced! And our son is never going to wear a suit that was mass-produced, either! When our children get married, they will have wedding clothes that were made with love and care, and tailored. I refuse to have anything but the most unique designs!"

"How many kids do you want, Princess?" Haymitch chuckles.

"As many as my body will allow me to have," she replies, then unhooks her bra with a sigh of relief. "Oh, that is wonderful."

"What is?" he asks, looking up at her only to have his mouth go dry at the sight of her in nothing but a pair of lacy briefs. 

She smiles, wriggling a little. "Not having a bra on," she purrs. "You don't understand just how good this is."

"Trust me, short stuff, I enjoy it when you don't wear a bra too," he chuckles, sipping his hot chocolate to prevent himself jumping on her. "Are you going to get into bed?"

"Without anything but my panties on? I don't think so," she giggles. "I wouldn't want to tempt you."

He laughs at that, then says "Honestly, sweetheart, you're not wearing much. That boat sailed long ago."

She pulls on a white cotton shirt and crawls under the duvet, snuggling close to him. She rests her head on his chest and stays quiet for a while, enjoying his warmth and the musky smell of him. After a little while, she gets bored and wants a little bit of attention from him, so she gently pokes his hip. She doesn't get a response, so she pokes him faster and more insistently. When he still doesn't respond, she punctuates every poke with "Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug."

"What are you doing?" Haymitch asks, amused, but also mildly irritated by her interruption of his reading.

"Bugging you," she replies, poking him again. "Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug. Bug."

He groans and bookmarks his page, then puts his book down to pay attention to Effie. "Okay, okay. Keep this up, and your new name will be Bug. What do you want?" he asks.

There's a pause, then Effie squints up at him and gives him a cute little smile. "Kisses," she squeaks. "Lots of kisses."

"You don't ask for much," he chuckles and kisses her gently, allowing her as many kisses as she likes before she snuggles up to him. "You done with kisses?"

"For now," she murmurs. "I'll kiss you when we wake up. I need sleep."

Haymitch smirks and strokes her hair. "I will deny ever saying this if you tell anyone, but you're really cute when you're tired," he tells her quietly. "Sleep well, Eff."

"You too, Mitch," she hums, then pokes his stomach. "Bug."

He laughs, hugging her close. "That does it. Bug's your new name," he says, tapping her nose.

She giggles, then yawns and stretches out like a cat. "Sleepy time," she mumbles. "I sleeping."

Haymitch smiles and watches her fall asleep, then picks his book up again, ready to enjoy the rest of the story before he goes to sleep without Effie's interruption.


Chapter Text

"I cannot believe that the kids are getting married tonight!" Effie whines.

"You should, you're the one who spent the last forty eight hours awake," Haymitch sighs, attempting to tie his tie. "And you need to cover that black eye up."

"I know, people will think you did this to me," she sighs. "Thankfully, no cameras will be at the wedding. How's that tie coming along? We haven't got enough time to mess with it."

"It's not," he sighs. "I hate these things."

"Oh, give it here!" Effie snaps, getting increasingly more antsy. Haymitch smirks at her, allowing her to tie the tie. "You're never going to learn how to do this."

"I'm never going to have to," he says, gently placing his hands on her waist. "I'm always going to have my impatient Bug to do it for me. And while we're on that topic, I want you to know that you've done a brilliant job of this wedding on a week's notice. You need to stop worrying about it going smoothly and start to relax and enjoy yourself. That's what the kids need, their mom figure being relaxed. You're going to be too unhelpful now if you're stressed, because Katniss will be stressed too, and she'll need you to be calm. You can freak out on our wedding day."

"I won't need to," she sighs, perfectly straightening his tie. "There, now you're presentable to the outside world."

"I'd hoped our days of you stuffing me into monkey suits were over," he chuckles, then plants a light kiss on her bruised eye. 

"Well, you only have our wedding left in which I will be forcing you to wear a suit. After that, you can roam our house in just your boxers. Unless we have a baby, because no child wants to see their parents in nothing but their underwear," she giggles. "Are you sure you're ready for the commitment of wearing clothes every day? Babies are impressionable little things, and seeing Daddy in nothing but his boxers won't be as appealing to a baby as it is to me."

"I'm ready for that," he chuckles. "Talking of baby Bugs, did you get the results of that blood test?"

"I'm going by to get them in a minute, that's why I'm not ready for the wedding yet," she whispers, looking sick. "I'm scared of what the results will say."

"Focus on the ideal, Princess," he tells her, giving her a kiss on her forehead. "Take your ideal and pray that it turns up on the results, okay?"

"Okay," she whispers. "Will you do the same?"

"Sure, Princess," he chuckles, kissing her. "Anything for you, small thing."

She grins, her bright blue eyes glittering. "Mine," she whispers, then hugs him tightly. "My squishy."

"Your squishy," he whispers, then grins. "You know, Princess, that little grin of yours makes you look like a chipmunk."

"A chipmunk?" she asks, pulling away a little to study him. "Why would you compare me to a chipmunk?"

"That cute little face with the glittery eyes. You look like one of those old toys you collect, the beanie ones. That chipmunk of yours, you look like that," he chuckles, kissing her nose softly. "But you're cuter and squeakier."

"Aww," she giggles. "And once upon a time, you couldn't have given me a genuine compliment if you'd tried."

She turns away to cover her eye, using her lightest concealer first, covering it over entirely, then gets out a yellow-based foundation that she never uses. She covers the bruise over with that, then blends it all together. "You're an artist," Haymitch says, gaping at her. 

She applies a light foundation to the rest of her face, one more suited to her skin, blending it all together to conceal any differences in the makeup's tone. "Well, thank you," she giggles. "Two compliments in the same hour. My darling, anyone would think you're in love with me."

He shifts awkwardly, then kisses the top of her head. "You're being annoying," he says, smirking at her in the mirror.

She smiles, understanding what he's not saying. "Fortunately, I am fluent in Haymitch-ese, and I love you too," she chuckles.

The front door clicks closed and Effie's light tread patters down the hall. "Princess, is that you?" Haymitch calls. 

"Yes, and I have my results in hand!" she calls back.

"What do they say?" he asks as she walks into the living room and plops down beside him, kicking her shoes off.

"I haven't looked yet," she admits softly, curling up next to him and nuzzling his chest. "I hate it when you wear suits, they don't smell of you. Anyway, do you want to check the results?"

He takes the paper and gives her a kiss. "Will you be okay no matter what it says on here?" he asks.

"Of course I will," she whispers, snuggling up to him.

He opens up the paper and reads the result to himself, then looks at Effie. "Well, Bug, looks like the wedding can stay as it is," he says softly, kissing her forehead. "You're not pregnant."

She checks for herself, then snuggles up to him. "Well, now we can have our wedding on our chosen date," she whispers, nuzzling his neck. "And we can take things as fast or as slow as we like after that."

He smiles and cuddles her close. "Talking of weddings, you need to go and get ready for the kids' wedding," he mutters. "You're supposed to be there to keep the kids calm."

"Why did I get the hard job?" she sighs, then grins. "I'm joking. You've got to get Katniss down the aisle, no job's harder than that."

Haymitch grimaces, then kisses Effie tenderly. "You're spending too much time with me, sweetheart, you're getting grumpy," he jokes.

"That's why you love me," she teases, then kisses him back. "You're right, I do spend too much time wth you. I think I'm going to go and get changed, darling. I don't need help, I want you to be surprised by what I've got planned."

"Okay, Princess," he chuckles. "Have fun."

"I will," she replies happily and kisses his cheeks. "Back in an hour."

Chapter Text

"Trinket, if you don't get yourself and all the pretty you've got down here now, I'm leaving without you!" Haymitch shouts.

"Five more minutes!" Effie calls back.

"You've been saying that for three hours, Eff! What happened to I'll be back in an hour?!" he bellows.

"I got tangled up in my curling iron!" she shouts. "I had to find a way to cover the bald spot and the sprained wrist somehow!"

That has Haymitch running up the stairs to check on her. "You hurt your wrist?" he asks.

She shows him her wrist, which is swelling up rapidly, and he sees that she's moved her engagement ring to her other hand. "I just need ice to bring the swelling down," she says softly, kissing him. "I fell on the vanity desk and sprained it. It isn't broken, and the pain will stop soon."

"You're hurt," he mutters, then gives her a kiss. "You're a hazard to yourself, Princess."

She gives him a cute giggle, then hugs him tightly, wary of her injured wrist. "I'm only a hazard when I try to do silly things," she tells him. "And that will only become a problem if I ever catch you up in whatever idiotic stunt I'm trying to pull."

"I love that you say if instead of when," he chuckles, hugging her back. "Anyway, are you putting your dress on, or are you going in your robe?"

"Dress, but you're not allowed to see which yet," she giggles.

"You're not the bride today, Effie," Haymitch tells her, kissing her nose.

"No, but I like seeing you stare at me," she replies with an innocence that Haymitch thinks is totally faked. "It's nice, it makes me feel beautiful."

He smiles, a rush of pride at being the one to make her feel beautiful running through him like an electric shock. "Good, because you are," he says, then kisses her lips. "Okay, Princess, try not to kill yourself. Just sit on the bed until you're safely in your dress, and try to carry your shoes downstairs."

"Okay. Should I put some glitter eyeshadow on, and a bit of glittery lip gloss, or is that too much makeup? I'm only thinking of it because it's a special occasion," she says, worrying more about impressing him than anything.

"It's your decision," he says.

"I want your opinion," she sighs, squishing her lips into a pout. "Please?"

"Okay," he groans, kissing the pout off her lips. "Pouting like that's cheating, you know I can't resist it."

"Yes, that's why I do it," she tells him. "Now, should I put a little bit of glitter on or not?"

"Like I said, it's up to you. I prefer seeing you without your makeup on because it hides your face, but if you want a bit of sparkly stuff on you, go for it," he says, kissing her. "Just make sure it's waterproof, you and weddings go as well together as onions and apples."

She smiles and kisses him. "Okay. Just a tiny bit of glittery eyeshadow, and a touch of strawberry lip balm," she says, grabbing a beautiful shade of aqua eyeshadow. She applies the glittery powder with a soft applicator sponge, then grabs a strawberry lip balm and swipes it on, blotting her lips once, then she stands up. "Want to taste it?"

Haymitch chuckles and kisses her gently, nudging her lips with his tongue. She grants him access to her mouth, kissing him back eagerly. Haymitch breaks the kiss reluctantly. "We don't have time for this, the kids need us," he murmurs.

"True. What do you think of the lip balm?" she asks.

"It's nice," he says. "Strawberry and Effie. Now, get your dress on, we've got to be quick."

"Aww, I've made an impression!" she squeaks delightedly. "You're adhering to a schedule!"

Haymitch chuckles. "I'm only doing this to get into your pants," he tells her.

"Don't spoil it, let me be happy about this," she giggles. "Now out. I'm going to get dressed, and you are going to see it when I get downstairs."

"Okay, okay," he chuckles. "You're going to be the bossiest wife ever."

"I already am, I just need the documentation to prove it," she says, pushing him gently. "I also like seeing you stare at me, so get out and let me make myself beautiful."

"Princess, you can't be more beautiful, it's not fair to other women," he sighs.

"Listen to your squishy!" she groans playfully. "Go on! We are wasting time!"

Haymitch obediently goes to the kitchen, getting himself a cold glass of apple juice while he waits. Eventually, he waits in the hall just to see Effie's blonde curls poking out of their bedroom. "Bug!" he calls.

"Coming!" she calls back, then heads to the top of the stairs. Haymitch's jaw drops as he gets a good look at her. She's in a beautiful, form-fitting, black maxi dress with sunset orange lace at the neckline, her golden hair mostly down with a braided crown around her head, and her eyes are lightly outlined with black, her lips a soft, dusky pink. "How do I look?"

Haymitch gapes at her, then says "You just upstaged the bride."

"You haven't seen her yet," Effie giggles, her cheeks turning a pretty shade of pink, letting him know he's pleased her. "And she's the bride, she's got to be the most beautiful woman today."

"Yeah, no," Haymitch says, then takes hold of her uninjured hand and helps her walk down the rest of the stairs, wary of her heels. "Do you have some flats? I know your back bothers you still."

"Oh, Haymitch," she sighs dreamily, then kisses him tenderly. "I have a pair of flats stashed under a seat at the reception with my name on the seat. We have a table for the four of us, as per Peeta's request. He wanted all four of us together, and everyone's been sat according to the kids' seating plans. Thanks to our darling children, that was one thing I didn't have to stress out over."

"Remind me to thank them," he says, giving her a kiss. "They probably stopped you dying of heart failure."

"I'm not dying until after I've given you at least two babies and helped you raise them to adulthood," she tells him. "Oh, and watched you get old. That has to happen."

Haymitch smirks and kisses her. "You're not going to like it when I get old, Eff. From what I saw of my grandfather, Abernathy men look really bad when they get old," he chuckles.

"Not you," Effie disagrees, looking extremely serious. "I know you, and you're going to be a very sexy old man. You're like a fine wine, you just get better with age."

Haymitch laughs and asks "What would you know?"

"Well, as a teenager, I looked at images and video of a sixteen year old you, and I thought you were sexy then. And then I met you, in all your drunken ruins, and I still wanted you. I admit that you cleaned up, but you just got more and more attractive. Do you know how many teenagers who see us around point at you and whisper to each other?" she asks, snuggling up to him. "Because lots of them do. When you and I tie the knot, I'm going to be even prouder of the heartbreak I've caused."

"You women are weird creatures," Haymitch chuckles. "You get all possessive over me, and claim that I belong to you, and that no other women are allowed near me."

"I don't think you belong to me," Effie says, her eyes going wide with shock. "You're a person, you don't belong to anyone. And other women are allowed near you if you want them to be. I don't have an issue with you having female friends. How am I wrong when I say that I've broken many hearts by being in a committed relationship with you? Lots of women want you, women much smarter, much prettier, much kinder, far more talented, more stable than me, and totally whole, unlike me, but you still picked me. You could have someone who is actually beautiful, clever, kind, talented, stable, and mentally whole, yet you picked a nutcase. I'm scared that you will fall in love with someone else, yes, but I won't stop you having friends. Your happiness is everything to me, and if that means that one day, you decide that I'm not good enough for you any more, then that's okay."

She gives him a gentle kiss, then glides down the hall and out of the front door, not waiting for him. He sighs and chases after her, scared that she'll ruin the wedding by being sad or starting a fight.

Chapter Text

(Haymitch and Effie: Part One)

Haymitch catches up with Effie five minutes away from the Justice Building. "Hey, slow down," he says, almost out of breath.

She slows down to walk with him, initiating nothing at all. He tentatively touches her hand, hoping she'll be willing to hold his hand. She takes his hand without hesitation, and says "I think we need to put our arguments aside for today, darling. We can fight tomorrow."

"Okay," he says, noticing the odd lilt to her voice. "Are you okay, Eff?"

"I'm just fine," she replies, still with that strange lilt to her voice. "I think we should focus on something else. Like our kids."

He immediately pushes the idea of them having biological children out of his mind and kisses Effie's head. "I never thought I'd ever agree with you," he chuckles, hoping to put her feelings at ease. She smiles slightly, then rests her head on his shoulder. "Okay, little stuff, what's the plan with these kids?"

"You take Katniss, I'll take Peeta," Effie says quietly, her eyes trained on the ground in front of her. "You know as well as I do that when these kids are in crisis, the girl runs to you, and Peeta comes to me. We should make this easier on them this way."

"Okay," Haymitch says softly. "Just you remember to enjoy today. It's your hard work, you should enjoy some of the benefits."

"I'll try to," she replies, lifting her head from his shoulder. "I think I should go and find our boy, don't you?"

"Yeah," Haymitch says, pressing a light kiss to her cheek. Effie gives him a tiny smile before she begins to walk away, and he grabs her arm, earning himself a quizzical look. "Don't unload your frustration on him, okay? Save it for being at home. He'll be stressed enough as it is, he's getting married in an hour."

Effie nods, then whispers "I can put up a front even now," and hurries off, the very image of grace even when running away from someone.

Haymitch sighs and makes his way to Katniss.

(Peeta and Effie: Part Two)

Effie timidly knocks on Peeta's door, waiting for him to open it. "Who is it?" he calls.

Inwardly, the blonde cringes at the nerves in Peeta's voice, and she wills her voice not to shake as she replies "It's only Effie, don't worry."

Peeta pulls the door open and tugs Effie in, giving her a hug. "Effie," he sighs happily. "You don't know how happy I am that you're here."

She hugs him closer, giving him a squeeze. "What's bothering you?" she asks.

"Is Katniss still in for this, or has she bailed?" Peeta asks nervously.

"She's getting dressed. Haymitch is looking after her. How are you, darling?" she asks, walking up to him and hugging him close.

"I'm going to walk out of this building as a married man," Peeta says, then freezes. "I'm going to walk out of here as a married man!"

Effie smiles, knowing wedding jitters from previous experience. Despite her always having called off the wedding, she once made it to the altar before she found a good enough reason to call it off. Before she and Haymitch became a couple, she'd often wondered if she wouldn't be better off having got married. "I know it's daunting, dear, but you know Katniss, and you know she'd never hurt you. You'll be happier with her than with anyone else," she says kindly. "You'll have her and your baby, and this time next week, you won't be able to fathom living any other way."

Peeta nods, then asks "Have you ever been married before? Haymitch says you haven't, but what does he really know?"

"He's right," she admits. "I did make it to the altar once, but the image of Haymitch kept floating in front of my face. I called it off immediately when I heard his voice asking me if I was okay to live a lie for the rest of my life. You need to ask yourself that, darling. If you're not okay with this, why? And if you can't give yourself a solid reason, then it's nerves. But be quick, because it's sad and humiliating to be turned down at the altar. I know I received a lot of backlash for that one."

Peeta nods, then resolutely states "I love Katniss, and today's the best day of our lives. I won't turn her down just because I'm a bit nervous."

"That's my boy," Effie says proudly, then hugs him close. "I'm really proud of you. You've become such a fine young man, and you've survived so much, and you came out of it so much stronger and braver. I couldn't be prouder of you for making your way through everything you were put through, and still being my boy. You're going to be a wonderful husband, an even more wonderful father, and one day, a fabulous uncle."

Peeta buries his face in the former escort's neck, hugging her tightly. "You're going to be a brilliant aunt," he murmurs. "And one day, a fantastic mother. You've been an amazing wife to Haymitch since before you met Kat and me."

Effie chuckles, clinging to him. "Haymitch has needed more than a wife over the years," she giggles, then breaks the hug. "Listen, Haymitch has Katniss's gift, but this is yours."

She pulls a fairly small box from her clutch and hands it to him. "Effie, you didn't have to do this. You've already given us a beautiful wedding on short notice," Peeta says, looking down at her with fondness. "Emphasis on short with you."

"You're too much like your mentor for your own good, my boy," Effie huffs playfully, grinning up at him. "Now, don't dawdle, I want to see your reaction! Open it!"

Peeta chuckles, then lifts the lid off the sunset orange box. Inside lies a medallion much like the one he had in the Quell, except it has the name Peeta Mellark on it. He opens it up to see a picture of Katniss, himself, Haymitch, and Effie all beaming at the camera on Peeta's last birthday in one slot, a miniature photograph of his and Katniss's baby at the most recent ultrasound in the middle, and a picture of Katniss, himself, and Buttercup in the other side, which Effie must have taken. "Effie, this is..." he whispers, his eyes wide.

"I thought you would like it," Effie says, her voice displaying a confidence that doesn't quite have solid foundations. "Haymitch said something more like a scrapbook would have been better, but this way, you can carry your family where ever you go."

"I love it," Peeta tells her sincerely. "It's so thoughtful, and it has Effie written all over it."

"Actually, honey, that says Peeta, not Effie," she jokes, trying to make him laugh.

Peeta takes it in stride and makes a show of checking it, then chuckles "Oh, so it does!" He turns serious on her then and smiles a bit. "Thank you, Effie. It really is thoughtful, and I really do love it."

She beams at him, then hugs him again. "I'm so glad you like it, darling," she says, clutching him close to her. "You deserve to know that you're precious, and this is one of the only physical ways I could show you that."

"You prove that to me every day, Effie," he whispers. "You stand over Katniss and me to make sure we eat, you force us out of the house on days when we don't want to and we need to the most, you cook for us every other day, and you make sure we're warmly dressed at all times. That's you showing how precious we are to you."

"That's me proving how precious you both are, yes," Effie says softly. "I don't think I've ever shown you as much appreciation as Katniss gets, and that isn't fair."

"Katniss doesn't see it in every day actions," Peeta says. "She's not tuned to get subtle hints like you and me. I see it in the way you always look out for me, even when it hurts you to do so. It's in the way you hover around all three of us when we're out, ready to protect all three of us at a moment's notice. It's in the way you notice if we haven't really eaten and pile more on our plates just to stand over us and watch us eat. It's in the way you tend to make three particular dishes at least once a week and rotate between three favourites for those dishes."

"I didn't think you'd ever noticed that," Effie whispers, surprised.

"Yeah, of course I did," Peeta says. "You make lamb stew with plums for Katniss, you make butternut and asparagus pie for Haymitch, and you make chicken in that orange sauce for me."

"You're an observant boy," Effie chuckles. "One of you needs to be. Oh, talking of food, I can't wait for you to see what I did for the reception. I think you'll find a few of your special secret indulgences there."

"It's hard to believe that I ever disliked you," Peeta chuckles, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

"You did?" she asks. "I can't ever fathom the idea of you disliking someone who wasn't our former President."

Peeta grimaces. "Well, you used to come across to those of us who'd never known you as stupid, insensitive, spoiled, and useless," he says softly. "To most of Twelve, as a matter of fact."

Effie nods sadly, all too aware of what she'd made herself out to be. "It's understandable," she says. "Sometimes it was hard to differentiate myself and the escort for me, too. I don't blame you."

Sensing her sadness at the topic, Peeta rushes to reassure her. "Effie, I'm sorry," he says. "I know you're not like that. You're an angel, and I love you."

"Should I tell your respective significants that you're marrying each other then?" comes a cackling voice from the doorway, weighted with the unmistakable accent of District Seven.

"Johanna!" Peeta and Effie exclaim delightedly.

"In the flesh," Johanna replies proudly. "What sort of welcome is this? Come on, Lover Boy, hasn't your escort drummed some manners into you yet? Get over here!"

Peeta gives Effie a worried glance, knowing what being referred to as an escort does to her, but she gives him a warm smile and gently nudges him to Johanna. "Hey, Jo," Peeta says, hugging her. "How was your journey?"

"Unlike Trinklet over here, I don't want to talk about me," Johanna says. "This is about you marrying the most brainless female to ever walk the earth. First of all, well done. I didn't think anyone could get close enough to the Mockingjay to kiss her, let alone have her breeding. Second, good luck surviving pregnancy. Annie's vibrator got a lot of work done since Finnick decided to have his head bitten off and left her to be pregnant on her own, so you're going to love what comes next. And third, your brainless bird is squawking at Haymitch because he's drinking wine when she can't."

Effie narrows her eyes. "He is doing what now?!" she snarls.

"It's wine, Trinklet, leave it," Johanna scoffs. "Overprotective escorts are a nightmare."

Effie flashes her engagement ring at Johanna. "Overprotective fiancee, actually. And he promised that he'd stop drinking excessively! I'm going to skin that man alive tonight, mark my words!" Effie growls. "How could he?! On a day like today!"

"If I had to put up with your Mockingjay, Trinks, I'd drink too," Johanna says. "And don't lie, so would you."

"No, I wouldn't. I have decency," Effie says. "And my surname is not Trinks, or Trinklet."

"Yeah, but you're too tiny to be a full-sized Trinket," Johanna says.

"I'm going to start wearing my highest heels again!" Effie whines. "Why is everyone picking on my height?!"

Peeta pulls her close and hugs her tightly. "Okay, okay, it's okay," he murmurs soothingly, stroking her hair. "You're not that tiny, you're okay."

Effie hugs him tightly, then strokes his hair. "Anyway, I'd better get the wine off Haymitch," she says. "I don't want him ruining the wedding by being drunk."

"He won't get drunk off wine, Trinks," Johanna sighs.

"He's been doing wonderfully lately, I will not have him ruining it now," Effie huffs. "Stay with Peeta, and do not corrupt him! I will steal your flesh for a coat if you do anything wrong."

"Ah, bite me," Johanna scoffs, then snatches Effie, squeezing her close. "It's been too long since I've heard your voice not screaming."

Effie hugs Johanna back tightly. "I've missed you," she murmurs back.

"I hope you did," Johanna snorts, but it lacks its usual bite. "It's better to see you looking pretty, Trinks."

Effie laughs a little. "Same to you, Johanna," she whispers.

"Okay, enough mushiness," Johanna grumbles good-naturedly. "This is about Lover Boy."

And with that, the two women start to fuss over Peeta. Johanna offers him alcohol, Effie prevents her from doing so, and Peeta laughs at their bickering.

(Haymitch and Katniss: Part Three)

"Sweetheart?" Haymitch asks tentatively, wary of Katniss in case she has her bow. "You alive in there?"

The door flings itself open to reveal Johanna. "About damn time you show up!" the young woman snaps, then hands him a bottle of wine. "You'll want it. She's a nuisance, whining that she's too fat for her dress and that Peeta's going to leave her at the altar."

Haymitch enters the room to see Katniss having a hissy fit at Annie. "I don't care where Effie is!" she snarls. "Get her here and have her fix this! Peeta's going to leave when he sees me! I look disgusting!"

"No more than usual," Haymitch chuckles, sipping the wine.

"You insensitive pig!" Katniss screams.

"Wow, okay," Haymitch replies, his eyes widening. "You look better than usual, sweetheart."

"Not that!" Katniss screams. "You're drinking!"

"And people call you unobservant," Haymitch chuckles, taking another sip of the wine. "I'm allowed to drink."

"Not around me, you're not!" Katniss bellows, glaring so hard that if looks could kill, the wedding would be a funeral. "If I don't get to drink, neither does anyone else!"

Johanna groans and rolls her eyes. "I'm going to see Trinket and Lover Boy. Good luck dealing with Brainless," she mutters, patting Haymitch's shoulder as she walks out. He glares after her, deciding to kill her later.

"Auntie Kat! Auntie Kat!" little River Odair squeals. "Look! Look!"

Katniss softens a little at the sight of the two year old running around and pretending to be a plane. "Yes, River, you're a plane," she says gently.

Haymitch smiles fondly at the little boy, wondering if Finnick is watching from where ever he is now, and thinking about how much he'd love to have his own kid running about at some point in the future. He pushes that thought aside, unwilling to let his own feelings mar the day for Katniss and Peeta. "Well, sweetheart, how are you feeling about walking down that aisle?" he asks, squeezing Katniss's forearm gently.

"About as good as you feel about giving me away," Katniss sighs. 

"So... You're feeling pretty good?" Haymitch jokes, knowing that it's not the case at all.

"Yeah, aside from knowing that as soon as Peeta sees me, he's going to call this whole thing off," Katniss sighs. 

"Girl, he's seen you waking up," Haymitch scoffs. "That boy loves you a lot more than you think he does."

"What makes you say that?" Katniss asks.

"He's woke up next to you and he still calls you beautiful," Haymitch deadpans. "I've seen you sleeping, sweetheart, and that's the least pretty sight I've seen in a long while."

"Looked in a mirror lately?" Katniss scoffs, lifting an eyebrow.

Annie tries to hide her laughter by catching River for a cuddle, but Haymitch doesn't care. "Okay, you get that one," he grants, almost with approval. "Well played."

Katniss nods, then River runs up to her and places his hands on her stomach. "Baby?" he asks hopefully.

"Yeah, that's a baby," Katniss says gently. 

"Baby," River says sagely, nodding as if he understands something secret. 

He turns away and runs off, making the three adults laugh at him. "You'll be run off your feet with yours, Katniss," Annie chuckles. 

Katniss laughs lightly, rubbing her stomach. "Probably. If he's anything like me, that is. If he's like Peeta, I'll be fine," she says, beaming.

"He?" Haymitch asks. "You've already found out?" 

"No," Katniss sighs. "Peeta doesn't want to know, and until it's out, I'm calling it a he. A boy would be easier to handle, he'll turn out like Peeta."

"Yeah, a mini-Katniss would be scary," Haymitch chuckles. "Might relieve Effie of that idea, though."

"Effie wants a baby?" Annie asks, her eyes wide.

"Nope, Haymitch does," Katniss says smugly, grinning evilly at Haymitch. "Effie's scared of the idea, and Haymitch wants it. Guess who gets their way."

Annie's eyes go wide. "You talked her into it?!" she demands, gaping at Haymitch. "You know that a baby isn't like a pet, right? There's no returning a baby, they don't come from stores."

"I didn't talk her into it, she decided that she wants it on her own," Haymitch sighs wearily. "And her condition to it is that we wait until after marriage to try, which is traditional and fine by me."

The door creaks open and Effie's head pops in. "I hear there's a bride in distress?" she asks.

"Yeah," Katniss says grumpily. "I feel disgusting, and your fiance is not helping by drinking when he knows I can't."

"Haymitch, put the wine down if you want anything from me tonight," Effie orders.

Haymitch instantly places the wine down, and Effie smiles proudly, gliding over and kissing his lips. "Ew," Katniss groans.

"We never complain when we catch you and Peeta kissing," Haymitch grumbles.

Effie laughs, then kisses him again. "Go and make sure that neither Johanna or Peeta get drunk, darling. And no drinking, or there will be no sex tonight," she tells him firmly, beaming at him.

"Oh, come on!" Annie and Katniss whine.

"What's sex?" River asks innocently.

"Never mind, River," Effie chuckles, ruffling the boy's hair. "Haymitch, darling, out. Unless you want to see me fixing Katniss's dress."

Haymitch rolls his eyes. "Fine," he mutters. "I hate you, Trinket."

"I hate you too, Abernathy," Effie giggles, blowing him a kiss. "Go on."

She lightly smacks his bottom as he leaves, smiling more as Katniss and Annie wince. Haymitch turns to smirk at Effie once before getting out of there. "Did you have to do that?" Katniss whines.

"Yes, I did," Effie chuckles. "Now, let's fix this dress."

Haymitch comes up behind Katniss and asks "You ready to go get married, Katniss?"

"Yeah," Katniss whispers. "Just a bit nervous about all these people watching."

"Pretend that it's just you, Peeta, Effie, and me yesterday afternoon, okay? Just the four of us. You did fine then," he tells her.

"Come on," Annie whispers.

And with that, Katniss and Haymitch link arms, ready to make their way down the aisle.

Chapter Text


Haymitch comes up behind Katniss and asks "You ready to go get married, Katniss?"

"Yeah," Katniss whispers. "Just a bit nervous about all these people watching."

"Pretend that it's just you, Peeta, Effie, and me yesterday afternoon, okay? Just the four of us. You did fine then," he tells her.

"Come on," Annie whispers.

And with that, Katniss and Haymitch link arms, ready to make their way down the aisle.

The doors open and Effie and Peeta share a quiet gasp. The guests turn to see Katniss in her wedding gown, and those who don't know about the baby notice just how much difference Katniss is showing. She doesn't look pregnant, aside from the glow, but she definitely has a fuller figure, and her dress flatters it wonderfully. Effie, while admiring of Katniss, only really has eyes for Haymitch. He rarely wears suits, after all. She smiles at Haymitch and Katniss as they walk down the aisle, wondering if she's really ready to watch the two young people she's come to know like her own get married. The new mayor of Twelve steps up to preside over the wedding, and as Haymitch and Katniss arrive at the altar, he begins by saying "Dearly beloved, family, and friends, we are gathered here today to witness the union of two souls in sacred matrimony."

Effie bites into her lower lip, already on the verge of crying. Johanna glares at her and hisses "Shh!"

"Who gives this woman to marry this man?" the mayor asks, and Haymitch steps up, holding Katniss's hand.

"I do," Haymitch declares, his voice cracking ever so slightly. He gives Katniss a kiss on the cheek, then places her hand in Peeta's, backing off a bit. 

Haymitch goes to sit down, taking Effie with him. She leans on him, sniffling softly. The mayor proclaims "If anyone can think of any reason why these two should not be joined together, please speak now or forever hold your peace." Nobody speaks, so the mayor looks at Peeta. "Very well, if you would kindly repeat after me; I, Peeta Mellark, take you, Katniss Everdeen."

Peeta smiles at Katniss as he repeats "I, Peeta Mellark, take you, Katniss Everdeen."

"To be my lawfully wedded wife," the mayor intones.

"To be my lawfully wedded wife," Peeta repeats, beaming, completely oblivious to the soft sniffing from the front row.

"To have, and to hold," the mayor says.

"To have and to hold," Peeta repeats, his eyes shining with joy.

"To love and to cherish," the mayor continues.

Peeta's got tears in his eyes as he repeats "To love and to cherish."

"For better and for worse," the mayor recites.

Peeta's smile seems too wide for his face now. "For better and for worse," he repeats.

"For richer and for poorer," the mayor reads, having to glance at his papers now.

"For richer and for poorer," Peeta copies proudly.

"In sickness and in health until death do us part," the mayor finishes.

"In sickness and in health until death do us part," Peeta repeats, his eyes locked onto Katniss's.

The mayor nods, then looks to Katniss. "Repeat after me; I, Katniss Everdeen, take you, Peeta Mellark," he starts, watching Katniss.

"I, Katniss Everdeen, take you, Peeta Mellark," Katniss says, watching Peeta and concentrating on him.

"To be my lawfully wedded husband."

"To be my law-lawfully wedded husband," Katniss stutters, tripping over her words a little.

"To have and to hold," the mayor repeats, now fending off a smile.

"To have and to hold," Katniss copies determinedly, focusing on Peeta.

"To love and to cherish," the mayor says, losing his battle to his smile as he does.

"To love and to cherish," Katniss repeats, focusing on not tripping over her words now.

"For better and for worse," the mayor continues, still grinning like an idiot.

That irks Katniss a bit, but she's focused now. "For better and for worse," she says clearly, her gaze meeting Peeta's and her tone softening.

"For richer and for poorer."

"For richer and for poorer," Katniss copies, affection for Peeta shining through her words.

"In sickness and in health until death do us part," the mayor concludes, watching Katniss now.

"In sickness and in health until death do us part," Katniss finishes, a warm smile on her lips now.

On Katniss, warmth and affection look terribly similar to disgust and disinterest, which amuses Peeta enormously. "And with the giving of the rings," the mayor begins, looking at River, who holds the cushion up to Peeta. Peeta smiles at him and takes Katniss's wedding band, tenderly sliding it onto her finger. Katniss then takes Peeta's ring and slides it onto his finger with a gentleness nobody but Peeta has ever known her to possess. The mayor finishes "I now pronounce you husband and wife, by the state of Panem. You may kiss your bride."

Without any prompting, and to prevent more soft sobs from Effie, Katniss grabs Peeta by his cheeks and kisses him gently. Her plan fails, because there's a quiet wail before the applause starts. The kiss goes on for about a minute before the newlyweds need to breathe, and they're both shocked to see that not only is Effie crying, which had been expected, but Haymitch has tears rolling down his cheeks too, despite the broad smile on his face. Katniss and Peeta both step forward to sign their wedding papers, only to turn back to a very excitable River throwing confetti at them and screaming "Yay for Mis-mer and Mis-wes Mew-wark!" before his mother scoops him up and carries him out of the way.

The wedding reception is beautiful by everyone's standards. Effie's pulled out every stop she could, getting the food ordered directly from the Capitol, and the decorations are above and beyond any that Katniss or Peeta would have chosen for themselves. She has somehow managed to make forest green and sunset orange work together, and has changed the entire hall into a forest clearing in a sunset lighting, precisely what Katniss and Peeta had both requested. Haymitch whispers "You went way further than what they wanted."

"I wanted to do this in an actual clearing, but with it only being February twelfth, I thought far better of it," Effie sighs. "We cannot have guests freezing to death, after all. I thought that this would be a much better way to do it. I even had real trees brought in so that it can smell nice."

Haymitch laughs. "You pulled this off with one week to do so. What are you planning to do for us?" he asks softly, squeezing her gently.

"I told you, it'll just be small," she says, kissing his cheek. "You don't want a big celebration, and I'm not that keen on being watched by an audience when I tell you just how much I love you, so we're going to do a tiny thing with only the kids as witnesses. These two still have family and friends, and they want to have a special memory."

"And us?" Haymitch asks teasingly.

"We make special memories every day, Haymitch," Effie chuckles. "How many couples do you know who get to plan weddings for the closest they have to kids and disappear during the buffet to have a little bit of alone time?"

"You plan to take me away from the food?" Haymitch asks nervously. 

"After you've eaten," Effie sighs. "I want you to have as much energy as possible."

That's when the music strikes up and Effie squeaks happily. "They chose the set list, yeah?" Haymitch whispers as the newlyweds take the dancefloor.

"Yes! And I love this song! It's Morel Skyberry's cover, too!" Effie squeals.

It's a country-pop love song, and Haymitch rolls his eyes. The dance that the younger couple do isn't exactly fit for this tune, but their movements are swift and well-rehearsed, almost as if they do this every day. Effie sighs happily, watching Katniss and Peeta dancing. "That'll be you this winter," Haymitch murmurs, his hand discreetly sliding down Effie's back. "Dressed in white and dancing to some sappy song."

Effie wriggles closer to him and whispers "Except we will have just had our toasting, we will be all alone, and you'll likely have your hand up my skirt, much like you are attempting to do now. And the music will be a lot less bouncy. Bouncing won't be very good for our dance."

"Not the one we're going to do to music, anyway," he chuckles, grabbing her bottom and squeezing gently. "You're not expecting me to dance with you now, are you?"

"Not in the slightest," Effie purrs. "You'll spend the whole time with your eyes down my dress and your hands on my bottom, and when we try to walk away, everyone will see just how much you love my body."

Haymitch laughs, a true, booming laugh that the music only just covers, then kisses the top of Effie's head. "I knew there was a reason I asked you to marry me, Princess," he laughs, moving his hand to her hip so that he can squeeze her close.

The dancing goes on for about four hours, then the bonfire is lit up. "What's this?" Effie asks. "This wasn't planned!"

"This is the toasting, Effie," Haymitch whispers. "They didn't tell you about this bit because they wanted to do it to open the buffet, and you weren't allowing it."

"I would have if they'd asked," Effie whispers back. 

Haymitch leads her to the bonfire and sits her down on his suit jacket, sitting beside her and giving her a hug. Peeta stands up at the head of the bonfire, Katniss gratefully sat in silence, making Haymitch smirk at how little they've changed with their public speaking. Peeta clears his throat to get attention, and as soon as all eyes are on him, he blushes a little and says "Katniss and I would like to thank you all for coming here today to share our wedding day with us, and to bear witness to our marriage. It's been a long time coming, and it's pretty surreal that this is happening. For anyone who isn't sure what they're witnessing because it wasn't on the invitations-" Big laugh from the guests. "This is a tradition in Twelve, we call it a toasting. As soon as this is over, you can forget it all and go get some food. We know it's part of the reason you're here."

Another big laugh, and Peeta grins, then grabs two pieces of bread, handing one to Katniss, along with a metal stick. "Vows?" Katniss asks.

Peeta smiles warmly at her, and Effie sighs wistfully, leaning her head on Haymitch's shoulder. Peeta nods, then says "Katniss Mellark, I promise to stand by you through thick and thin, through good times and bad, through our best moods and our worst. I promise to support you, to look out for you, to always kill spiders for you, to feed you when you're hungry, and to give you cheese buns at least once a day. I promise to love you forever and always, and to always be your rock."

Effie elbows Haymitch gently to stop his quiet chuckling, earning herself a filthy look. "Peeta Mellark, I promise to be there for you in dark times and light, in happiness and hatred, to always be a thorn in your side, to fight you over the smallest things, to encourage your ambitions, and to give you a relatively easy life," Katniss says. "I wouldn't be me if I didn't make some parts of your life a little bit difficult, after all. I promise to keep you and our kids in fresh game, and to keep you on your toes, even when we're too old to stand."

More laughter at Katniss's words, and a quiet whine from Effie before she's buried her face in a tissue. It takes a lot of silent coaxing for Haymitch to pry Effie's face from her tissue so that they can watch as the newlywed half of their team toast their bread together and share it, leading Effie to start crying again and Haymitch to tear up. The bonfire is soon extinguished, and the buffet is opened. Katniss and Peeta cut their wedding cake, which had been ordered specifically by Peeta, but Effie had refused to let him bake for his own wedding, and of course, the photographer has a field day with pictures of that. All in all, it has been a very successful wedding.

Chapter Text

Haymitch eagerly starts in on cakes and champagne, watched by his ever-cautious Effie. On his fourth glass of champagne, Effie whispers "Darling, I think you might have had enough of that. Would you like some sparkling apple juice instead?"

She offers him her own glass tentatively. "Why aren't you having champagne?" he asks, instead of taking the apple juice.

"Because somehow, I feel rather repulsed at the idea," she admits quietly. "I do think you should have apple juice for the rest of the night, though, darling."

"Effie!" Katniss screeches, running over to the couple from the dancefloor.

Effie jumps a mile, and stares at Katniss. "Darling girl, what's the matter?" she asks, scared silly of the way Katniss screeched.

"Gale! Hazelle! Mom!" Katniss shouts at her, ignoring the way the older woman shrinks back.

"Don't shout at her like that," Haymitch growls, advancing.

"Why are you mentioning them? I didn't invite Gale, and your mother refused to come," Effie whimpers, clinging to Haymitch. "What is this all about, Katniss?"

As soon as Effie finishes speaking, a tall, brooding young man approaches them, with Peeta following him, a glare on his usually kind face, a blonde woman following them, and a short woman with Haymitch and Katniss's colouring brings up the rear. "Effie, what's the meaning of this?" Peeta asks coldly.

"Don't look at me!" Effie yelps. "This wasn't my doing! I asked Flora to come, and she said no! I didn't expect anyone other than who responded yes!"

"Actually, I told you that I wouldn't come to any event that you attended," Flora corrects, giving Effie a disgusted side glance.

"And you knew I'd be here, so why did you come?" Effie hisses.

"Because it's my daughter's wedding," Flora says. "And Hazelle and Gale wanted to come, but you didn't invite them. Silly, given that they're closer to Katniss than some Capitol puppet ever will be."

"Why, you mannerless-" Effie growls furiously.

Haymitch wraps his arms around Effie and kisses the top of her head. "It's okay, Bug," he whispers. "She's trying to get a rise out of you. It's okay. Breathe deeply, snuggle, and remember that you're safe."

Katniss glowers at Gale. "You shouldn't be here," she snarls. "You helped them kill Prim. I told you in the Mansion, I want nothing more to do with you. Leave."

"He's my plus-one," Hazelle steps in, defensive over her son. "He's not here to break up your marriage, he's here with me to help celebrate it."

Katniss snaps "You only came because Mom invited you, and only when she said that Haymitch would be here! Don't think I don't know!"

"Katniss, Hazelle is like a second mother to you," Flora says quietly, as mildly as her late daughter would have been. "You must remember to be pleasant to her."

"No way! She brought the guy who murdered your daughter back here, and to ruin my wedding, and she's here to try to charm Haymitch away from Effie!" Katniss bellows. 

Effie, scared by all the shouting, starts to shut down. "Haymitch," she whispers, her blue eyes glazing over. "Haymitch, darling..."

Haymitch barely notices Effie's soft voice, holding her tighter. "I would never do such a thing!" Hazelle shouts.

"Don't accuse my mom of attempting to ruin relationships, Everdeen!" Gale roars. "She's not your child-killing Capitolite!"

"You're a fine one to talk about child-killers when you are one!" Katniss bellows back.

Effie whines quietly, shaking violently. "You weren't invited, Hawthorne!" Peeta bellows at him. "Neither of you were!"

"I invited them," Flora pipes in. "Besides, Haymitch can do better with Hazelle than with her. You were adamant that you hated Effie Trinket, after all."

"I want to go home now," Effie whispers, going unnoticed under the shouting match that's quickly attracting attention.

"Stuff it, Mom! Effie's more of a mother to me than you ever were!" Katniss roars, then returns her glare to Gale. "Get out of here, and don't come back! After what you did, you have some nerve setting foot back in this District!"

Effie yelps loudly, then breaks free of Haymitch to run away. "Effie!" Haymitch bellows.

"I'll go," Gale snarls. "Pretty damn clear I'm not wanted here. Might as well make some use of myself while I'm here."

He chases after the small blonde, following her all the way back to the Village. He follows her into the house she shares with Haymitch, not making any secret of his presence. He still goes unnoticed by Effie, who runs straight to the kitchen and grips the edge of the sink hard enough to turn her knuckles white, and sobs. "Get a grip, Effie, you don't want Haymitch to get upset by you, too," she mutters to herself. 

"You know, after the way you called Katniss, Prim, Peeta, and Haymitch to their deaths, I'm kind of surprised that they accepted you," Gale says casually, watching with satisfaction as Effie jumps.

"Gale!" she gasps. "My sincerest apologies, may I offer you a drink?"

"Spare me," he spits. "You may have those three fooled into believing that you're some kind of angel, but you'll never trick me. Why did they accept you and not one of their own?"

"Maybe because I fought for them," Effie whispers. "All of them, not just Katniss. I fought to keep Peeta alive, too. And to protect Haymitch. And Primrose. And Katniss. I didn't expect them to love me back. I want nothing of them, I just want them safe."

"You failed at that, didn't you? Mellark lost a leg, Katniss has skin grafts all over her, Prim's dead-" Gale growls, only to be cut off by Effie's furious shout.

"I didn't kill Primrose, Mr Hawthorne, you did!" Effie shouts, her eyes blazing. "You designed that bomb, you gave the authority to drop it, and you did not fight to keep Primrose out of the field! In your shoes, I would never have said yes to her going out there! If anyone is to blame for that, it is you, and Beetee, and Coin, and Plutarch! Don't blame that on me!"

Gale roars "You cost me my best friend, you cost me my home, you cost thousands of people their families, you cost my best friend her sister, you cost Cake Boy his leg, you even cost my mom a shot at happiness with that old drunk! You're the reason that so many citizens of Panem are dead! It should have been you!"

"Don't you ever call my Haymitch an old drunk!" she shouts, glowering at him. "If Katniss had never stepped up for Primrose, if that war had never happened, those citizens would be handing their children over to Snow to let other kids slaughter them! As for your mother with my Haymitch, she wouldn't have stood a chance anyway! He would never have gone for her without the war happening, it was too risky!" 

He steps closer to her, smirking slightly at her flinching. "You've got some nerve to say my mother wouldn't have stood a chance with that old drunkard when he went for you," Gale scoffs. "At least my mother's not a mentally disturbed Capitolite with nothing attractive about her."

"Haymitch happens to like me the way I am," Effie huffs, but Gale hears the insecurity in her voice.

"Delude yourself, Trinket," Gale spits. "He doesn't like you. He felt bad. So did Catnip."

"Maybe so," Effie says with a confidence that she doesn't feel. "Regardless, he picked me. At least I didn't come with baggage in the form of a son who has no respect for his crush's loved ones, or his own family."

Gale advances on Effie and tugs her hair. "If I were you, I'd think very carefully about breeding. Nobody wants more child-killing Capitol escorts in the world," he snarls, then pushes her to the floor before he storms out and leaves her shaking in fear on the floor.

Haymitch arrives moments after Gale flees. He'd insisted that both Katniss and Peeta stay at their reception and enjoy it because of how much work has been put into it on Effie's part. He runs to the living room to find Effie on the sofa, staring into space. "Effie?"

"Yes?" she murmurs, her eyes glassy. "Why have I got a headache?"

Haymitch sighs, taking Effie's hand gently. "Hey, Bug," he says gently.

"Where's the boy?" Effie asks softly. "Hazelle's boy? I need to punch him, he called you an old drunk."

"Did he hurt you?" Haymitch asks, kissing her knuckles. 

"Yes," Effie whispers. "He said lots of horrible things, then he pulled my hair and pushed me down. Where'd he go? I want to hit him."

"You're not hitting anyone, small thing," Haymitch tells her, then rubs her stomach gently. "You're going to lie here and look pretty. I have a kid to go and kill for hurting you," he says. "And Peeta will want to kill him too."

"Honey, no," Effie sighs. "You can't kill him."

"I can, and I will. He hurt my Bug," Haymitch growls, then hugs her close. "I'll see your little face later."

Meanwhile, Katniss is glowering at Gale. "Do you really think that I'll just forgive you for everything? You've done all you can to ruin my chances at happiness, and you killed off my sister, the one person I was certain that I loved," she snarls. "Now you think you can just stroll back into my life and pick up where we left off before the Seventy Fourth reaping?"

"Catnip-" Gale starts, only to be shoved back by Peeta.

"Don't Catnip her," Peeta snarls. "You can back off and stay away from my wife before I throw you out of this building myself. This is supposed to be a happy day, not full of the guy who killed my sister-in-law."

"Get over it already! It's been two years!" Gale snaps. 

"That was my sister!" Katniss bellows. "I won't get over it already!"

"You've been told to leave, now go before I call the Peacekeepers on you!" Peeta roars. "She doesn't want to talk to you, and she has every right not to! You wouldn't want to talk to someone who killed Rory, Vick, or Posy, would you?! No! Now get out of here, and don't come back! She's made it clear that you two aren't friends!"

Gale turns and storms out, then Katniss sighs. "I should probably talk to him before he hurts Haymitch or Effie in retaliation, right?" she asks.

"Nobody's stupid enough to hurt Haymitch, or go after Effie," Peeta says. "Not even him."

Katniss shakes her head. "Gale's stupid like that. He'll go for Effie and get his head ripped off by Haymitch for attempting on Effie. I'd rather not have him be one more stain on Haymitch's conscience," she says, then bolts after Gale.

She finds him at the same second Haymitch's voice rolls over them like thunder. "Hawthorne!"

Gale barely has time to turn before Haymitch has flattened him.

(!)  (!)  (!)  (!)  (!)  (!) 

"What the hell?!" Gale yells, wriggling around in an attempt to escape Haymitch's furious grip.

"You think it's okay to hurt a harmless little woman like my Effie, do you?!" Haymitch roars, slamming his fists into every accessible bit of Gale he can find. "You think it's okay to tell her that she's unwanted?! Would you let a six foot three man treat your mom that way?! Or little Posy?! I didn't think so!"

Haymitch begins slamming Gale's head against the gravel, fury spurring him on. "Haymitch!" Katniss shouts. "He's not worth it!"

"This one, I won't feel bad about!" Haymitch roars. "Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets away with hurting Effie! You wrecked my kids' wedding, and all of Effie's hard work, and you scared that poor, defenceless little thing into a stupor!"

Peeta comes out of the hall just in time to hear what Gale did to Effie. "He did what?!" Peeta bellows, then pulls Haymitch off Gale, yanking Gale off the ground. "Scaring that woman is not on! If I ever see you in this District again, I'll give you a first hand experience of what it feels like to have your leg cut off!"

( ^ _ ^ )  ( ^ _ ^ )  ( ^ _ ^ )  ( ^ _ ^ )  ( ^ _ ^ )  ( ^ _ ^ )  

He drags Gale toward the nearest Peacekeeper, and Katniss approaches Haymitch. "How is she?" she asks lowly.

"Recovering," Haymitch growls. "That poor little thing's dazed and alone on our sofa. I wouldn't have left her, but that kid deserved to be beaten up after that."

"Maybe you should go back to her," Katniss suggests. "My mom will go with you to check on Effie."

"No need, I'm here," Effie gasps, clearly out of breath. She grabs Haymitch and leans on him. "I'm just a little lightheaded. I do hope you didn't murder that boy."

"Only because the kids stopped me," Haymitch says, hugging her close. "You shouldn't be up."

"I couldn't miss more of this reception. It's not every day two of my kids get married, is it?" she says, snuggling him. "Now, inside. I would love a cupcake right now."

Peeta approaches them, mercifully Gale-free. "Should you be standing, Effie?" he asks, watching her warily. 

"No, I should be eating a cupcake," Effie sighs wistfully. "Come on, you two still have your reception to enjoy. Don't let that miserable child bother you."

With Effie's repeated encouragement, the four of them return to the party inside.

Chapter Text

"You simply must call me when you arrive at your hotel, okay?" Effie sniffs, hugging both Katniss and Peeta close to her.

"We will, Effie," Peeta chuckles. "You know we won't let you worry. You've done enough of that to last us a lifetime."

"I'm still worried," she says, snuggling them. "I'm going to miss you so much!"

"I won't," Haymitch chuckles. "I'll finally get to do whatever I like to you, whenever I like, without being burst in on by these two."

"Ugh!" Katniss groans. "This honeymoon's going to be ruined if I have that image in my head!"

"Good, you're already pregnant," Haymitch mutters. "And before you say that you can't get pregnant while you're pregnant, you're wrong."

"Haymitch!" Effie snaps. "Hugging is happening, so sexy talk is not happening!"

"You're adorable," Peeta chuckles. "These two are as clean as the public bathrooms in the park."

"Ew, ew, ew!" Effie squeals. "No! My cupcakes will make a return! No!"

Katniss breaks the hug, then tugs Peeta away. "We have to go, we'll miss our train. We'll call you, Effie," she says, eager to be away. "Try not to get yourself smothered by Haymitch while we're gone."

"I will try," Effie promises, watching the newlywed couple board the train. As soon as the doors are shut, Effie sniffs "I can't believe that they're married!"

"I know, sweetheart," Haymitch whispers. "I can't believe we let them get married. They're still kids."

"I know!" Effie wails. "They're too tiny to be married and having babies! Tell me I'm dreaming."

"You're not," he sighs, kissing her head. "I wish we were."

Despite their emotional responses to the wedding, it doesn't take long for Haymitch and Effie to arrive home, both extremely eager to be behind closed doors now that the happy newlyweds are off on their honeymoon. Haymitch catches Effie eating a strawberry and vanilla cupcake that she'd brought home with a good portion of the buffet, then murmurs "Come with me, small stuff. Bring the cake."

She grins and grabs another, following Haymitch out. He leads her upstairs to their room, and Effie gives him an innocent smile, then offers him a cupcake. "Cake?" she offers.

Haymitch grins and nods. "Sure, Princess. If only to prevent another sugar-related incident like that one we had at the fair," he chuckles.

"Let. It. Go," Effie growls. "That was once. Now take the cake and forget that the fair thing ever happened. I'm not going to go crazy because of cupcakes."

"Sure," he mocks. "Just a second, though, there's something I want to do first," he says, leaning in to peck her lips.

(!) (!) (!) (!) (!) (!)

He smirks and unzips her dress, watching the sleeveless maxi dress pool around her ankles. His gaze travels over her body and he smirks. "Do you go without underwear a lot, sweetheart?" he asks, eyeing her hungrily.

"That's for me to know, and you to find out," she giggles softly. "I believe I offered you some food."

Haymitch chuckles and takes both of the cupcakes from Effie. "Thanks, sweetheart," he says, smirking. He turns them around in his hands, eyeing the pink and cream frosting, then his smirk turns devilish and he lunges, pushing the cakes, frosting first, onto Effie's chest. She gasps as the cool frosting touches her tender skin, squirming about happily, and squeaks at him. Haymitch innocently asks "What's with the squeaks?"

"There is cold frosting on my breasts," Effie whispers, her eyes wide. "Why might that be, Mr Abernathy?"

Haymitch grins and presses the cakes harder against her breasts, leaning in to kiss her. "Maybe you look especially good with frosting on you," he murmurs against her lips, kissing her gently.

"And if I don't want frosting all over my breasts?" she asks, her voice little more than a purr. "How do you suggest getting it off? I ran out of tissues, you see."

As if to prove it, she lifts her empty tissue box, smiling up at him. "I didn't think about that," he whispers, rubbing the cakes gently against her breasts, coating her nipples in the sugary frosting. "What do you suggest?"

"Well, frosting is food, and I hate to waste food as much as you do," Effie hums, pretending to think about it. "I'd suggest eating it, but considering where you've put the frosting, I can't eat it. But you can... That is, if you are willing to take your clothes off too. I don't like being the only one naked."

Haymitch smirks and says "Hold the cakes there." She does as he asks, helping him peel the cases off, then keeps hold of the cakes, leaving them in place. She watches as he undresses, purring happily at the sight. "See something you like?"

"Yes," Effie hums, moving the cakes about her chest a little. "And I just discovered that having frosting rubbed on my breasts feels sensational, especially when I get to watch you undressing at the same time."

Haymitch removes his boxers, the last thing he'd been wearing, then steps away from them. "Let's see what you're saying when I get rid of that frosting for you," he whispers, taking the cakes and giving her the cake she's already eaten some of.

"Um, no," she giggles, her eyes wide. "That has been pressed on my chest."

"I've seen you wipe apple sauce off your chest and eat it," Haymitch chuckles. "Just take the cake."

Effie smiles sweetly, then whispers "Just remember what you did to me with it," before she finishes it off.

Haymitch's eyes darken, and he smirks at her. "Just when I think you can't get any more attractive," he mutters, eating his own cake in just three bites.

"I prove you wrong," she giggles. "I should hope so too. Now, my darling, I think it's time to remove this sticky stuff from my body, don't you?"

"I don't know," he says, smirking as he pretends to consider it. "I think you look good with frosting on you."

She smirks at him, then dips the tip of her finger into the frosting. She licks at it thoughtfully, then whispers "It tastes lovely, are you sure you don't want a taste?"

Instead of arguing, Haymitch steps closer to her and kisses her once, breaking the kiss before she has a chance to respond, and dips his head to her chest, starting to lick off all of the frosting. Effie squeaks and squirms, her fingers wrapping in his hair as he nips at her skin gently. "Good?" he asks softly, flicking his tongue over the swell of her breast.

"Wonderful," she whimpers, gently massaging his scalp. He smirks and licks at her nipple gently before enveloping it in his mouth and sucking hard on it, making her yelp softly, tugging his hair. "Let go, will you?"

He chuckles softly at her tugging, pulling his head back. "Sweetheart, are you sure you're okay?" he asks, concern flitting across his face when he sees her uncomfortable expression.

"Yes," Effie whispers, then blushes.

"Why are you blushing?" he asks softly, stroking her hair gently. "Is something wrong?"

"I don't want to carry on with the frosting, it feels sticky and weird, can I please just run to the bathroom and wash it off?" she asks, looking awkward and scared.

"Sure, sweetheart, you don't need to be afraid of telling me that you're uncomfortable. Do you want help?" he asks, smirking as she pretends to consider it.

"Yes, please," she giggles, giving him a minute to wonder if she's actually considering it. "I could do with some help."

They head into the bathroom, Haymitch keeping a respectable distance between them just so that he can watch Effie walk. "I love the way you walk," he chuckles.

"You're disgusting" she laughs, turning to face him as soon as she's in the bathroom. She sits down on the closed toilet seat and gets out her cleansing wipes. "Will you help me get this stuff off?"

He takes a wipe and approaches her, kneeling in front of her. "Are you okay, after what the Hawthorne boy said to you?" he asks, trying to be casual about it.

"I'm fine," she replies, wiping the frosting off one of her breasts carefully. "It's no worse than what I tell myself on the worst days."

Haymitch is more tender with her at that, being as delicate as he can while he wipes the licked frosting off her previously unattended breast, taking the time to admire how the pink frosting gives way to her pale skin. "Sweetheart, that stuff he said isn't true," he tells her. 

"I know," she says, lifting her eyes to meet his. "You like me, that's what matters."

"Like you?" he scoffs. "Sweetheart, if I liked you, you wouldn't be wearing that rock on your hand."

She laughs softly, a look of adoration on her face, and Haymitch's eyes glue to her chest again just to avoid the emotions she's directing at him. "Okay, then, you love me, and that cancels out every bad thing I was told today. Now, help me get this off me, then we can go to bed and have some fun," she murmurs, kissing his head.

He hurries up in cleaning the frosting off her body, and helps her to her feet as soon as she's clean. Her face pales considerably, and he panics. "Effie, what's wrong?" he asks, hugging her close for fear of her falling.

"Nothing," she whispers. "Now take me to bed, darling."

He carries her to their bed, pinning her down and kissing her lips. She tries to take charge, battling him for dominance, but he doesn't give in quite that easily, keeping the kiss slow and deep. She works it out quickly and allows him to take control, kissing him back slowly, her arms around him. Haymitch brings one hand up to lock itself in Effie's hair, his other hand sliding itself underneath her. He grabs her bottom and squeezes gently, smirking a little at her little gasp. He breaks the kiss, starting to kiss her cheek and jawline gently, murmuring "Princess..." as he pets her.

She runs her hands down his chest, gently rubbing the pads of her fingers against his nipples before stroking the hair on his chest. "Darling," she murmurs. "I really love you."

He smirks and nips at her neck gently, licking and sucking until he's turned that patch of skin a dark reddish-purple. He kisses the abused skin and continues down her body, planting soft, light kisses all over her body, barely brushing her skin with his lips. He murmurs "You're beautiful," and starts to kiss down her inner thigh.

She sighs softly, stroking his hair gently. "You're spoiling me tonight," she purrs softly as he kisses her knee. "I must have done something wonderful for this treatment."

"Yeah, you didn't kill me for drinking," he chuckles, kissing his way back up her other leg, smirking a little at her soft squeaks of pleasure. Upon reaching her lips again, he murmurs "Have I ever told you you're pretty?"

"Occasionally," Effie giggles, then pulls him down on top of her for a messy kiss, her hands travelling at a high speed down his back. He kisses her hard, touching her breasts as he kisses her. He keeps going, deepening the kiss, focusing a little too much on stroking her nipples. Effie mumbles as the pleasure she's feeling starts to stagnate a little, and breathes "Your fascination there is cute, honey, but I need more than this."

Haymitch groans softly, nudging her legs apart. "Fine," he grumbles, kissing her hard again as he guides his length to her entrance. He slowly sinks into her, sighing quietly into the kiss at the feeling of her warmth surrounding him. He's slow in his initial entry, listening to her quiet moans as he slowly fills her. "You okay?"

"Yes," she breathes quietly, her nails gently raking up and down his arms. As soon as he's buried to the hilt in her, he stops, waiting for her to adjust properly. She wriggles impatiently underneath him, giving him a dark look, then quietly murmurs "Are you going to move?"

He bites her neck gently, playfully rebuking her, then draws out until only his tip remains inside her. He strokes her cheek gently as he thrusts back into her with much more force than she'd been expecting. She lets out a sharp squeak, which worries Haymitch. "Are you okay, small thing?" he asks, petting her.

"Yes, you just surprised me," she giggles, pushing her hips to his. He draws back and thrusts into her again, smirking at her little squeak. She brings her hips up to meet his, and within a minute, they're working in a perfect tandem. 

He smirks down at her, slowly running his hands over her waist and hips, pulling her closer to him as he picks up the pace. After a short while, he groans softly and shifts, changing the angle slightly. At Effie's high-pitched yelp, he chuckles and asks "You liked that?"

"Of course," she gasps, running her hands down his sides, lightly scraping him with her nails. He groans softly at the sensation of her sharp nails scraping his skin, and moves his hands up to her shoulders to push her down, trying his best not to cum so soon. She claws gently at his forearms, then gasps "Come on, darling..."

He growls softly, leaning in again to bite down on her neck, pounding his hips to hers. She lets out a sound that's halfway between a moan and a scream, muffling the sound wth a bite on his shoulder. "Don't muffle it, sweetheart, there's nobody around but me to hear you," he mutters, his hands coasting up and down her thighs.

She makes an appreciative little noise, grabbing his behind and squeezing hard, sucking and biting on the tender join between his neck and shoulder, her eyes fluttering closed for a second. He smirks at the tiny gasps that are now escaping her in rapid little bursts. "Oh! Haymitch...!" she whimpers.

He sucks lightly on her pulse point before asking "What's up, tiny stuff?"

She squeaks softly and whispers "I'm so close, Haymitch... I just need..."

He grabs her hand and guides it between her legs. "Go for it, sweetheart," he murmurs, kissing her.

She rubs her clit in time with his thrusts, alterating between gasping for air and moaning loudly from sheer pleasure. "Hay-Haymitch," she gasps, her climax hitting her like a tidal wave.

Haymitch watches her with fascination, and is taken aback when his own climax hits, too focused on Effie to have noticed it creeping up on him. The sound of her ecstatic scream is muffled by the roaring in his ears. He gradually slows his thrusts into her as she slows the movement of her hand. Eventually, he slides out of her and lies down next to her, pulling her close for a cuddle. "Wow," he breathes quietly.

( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^ ) ( ^ _ ^) ( ^ _ ^ )   

"Wow, indeed," Effie breathes, her arms winding tightly around him. "I don't think we're going to leave this bed again for the next two weeks, do you?"

"Probably not," Haymitch agrees, kissing her forehead gently. 

A crash comes from downstairs, and Effie sighs. "If that's Katniss's feral cat again, I shall give it to Sae for meat," she mutters. "Ruining a perfectly lovely afterglow..."

Haymitch chuckles and glances at the window, the light from the moon filtering in. "I'll go have a look," he offers. 

"Not while you're naked, you don't," she hisses. "I never like saying this, but put some clothes on."

He chuckles and kisses her gently. "Okay, okay. You stay here, okay? If there's any danger, I'd rather not have you near it."

She gives him a stubborn pout and says "You know perfectly well that as the lunatic you plan to spend the rest of your life with, I am not staying here while you face potential danger, my darling. I'm coming too."

"No, you're not. You're going to lie there and wait for me to come back," he tells her.

She stubbornly gets up and pulls on her dressing gown, tying it tightly around her waist. "I am coming with you," she insists, sliding her feet into her slippers. 

Haymitch just rolls his eyes and pulls on sweats and a hoodie, then leads her downstairs and into their kitchen. Sure enough, flicking his tail and proudly standing on their kitchen unit, is Buttercup, glaring at the couple, a pile of pans below him. "You stupid mutt," Haymitch grumbles, picking Buttercup up and throwing him back outside. "If I catch you in here again, you're going to mysteriously go missing. Get it?"

Buttercup hisses at him and runs off. "Well, I'm glad that there's no scarier intruder," Effie sighs, then picks up the pans.

"Effie, pull your robe down, you're flashing me," Haymitch chuckles, leaning on the wall to admire the view.

She huffs and puts the pans back in their rightful places, then says "I want to go back to bed now. It's cold down here."

"Your wish is my command, Princess," Haymitch chuckles, then scoops her up.

Back in their bed, Haymitch kisses Effie's head as she snuggles up to him. "Did you enjoy the wedding?" Effie asks softly.

"Yeah, aside from that rotten kid of Hazelle's," Haymitch says, petting her. "You did really well, Bug. I wonder what you're planning for us?"

"You'll see," she yawns, snuggling closer. "Will you hold me a little tighter? I'm a cold Bug."

He chuckles and pulls her closer. "Okay, squishy Bug," he murmurs, kissing her head. Within seconds, Effie's fast asleep, purring quietly. Haymitch smiles slightly at her happy little face and wishes he could tell her how much she means to him. He sighs softly and settles for stroking her hair and whispering "Sleep well, beautiful Bug."

He watches her until long after three in the morning, listening to her soft squeaks and the geese honking sleepily outside. Whether he falls asleep or not is unclear to him, as nothing really changes and he still sees the sun rise. The fact that he hasn't had a single nightmare tonight brings him some slight comfort as he swings his legs out of bed, careful not to wake a deeply sleeping Effie. She grumbles when he leaves, curling into a ball under their duvet, hugging his pillow close with a quietly mumbled "Snug."

He chuckles quietly, leaving her to sleep while he makes his way downstairs to make coffee and feed his geese. As soon as he's set the coffee brewing, he heads outside with the feed bag, opening up the pen and calling "Come on, demons, breakfast's here! You too, Effie-goose!"

When there's no response from inside the hut, he opens the roof up curiously. Upon seeing the mother goose, he bellows "Effie!" and runs toward the house.

Chapter Text

"Ugh, go away," Effie groans, rolling onto her front to avoid the sunlight. 

"Effie!" Haymitch calls, sounding urgent.

Effie bolts out of bed at the urgency in his tone, barely pausing to slide on her slippers before she runs downstairs and through the kitchen to the back door to find him. "What is it?!" she gasps breathlessly.

"You have to see this!" he exclaims, tugging her toward the pen. She gasps at the sight of the geese, and the missing roof to the pen. "Look!"

She follows the direction of his pointing finger, seeing the mother goose Haymitch had named after her gently pecking at a crack in one of her four eggs. "Oh," Effie breathes, her eyes widening. Soon enough, a tiny beak pokes out of the shell, breaking it apart. The mother goose honks softly as her gosling breaks free of its egg. "Oh, my... Haymitch, it's a baby!"

"Really?" he asks sarcastically. "Would never have guessed."

"It's so tiny and cute!" she whispers excitedly.

The mother goose affectionately nudges her baby with her beak, then pulls the shells out of the nest, turning to honk at Haymitch. He laughs and pulls the shells from the hut for her before the next egg cracks open. The mother goose helps her second gosling break free of its shell, giving Haymitch the remains of the shells while Effie giggles. Within minutes, four little goslings have hatched, and the mother goose bossily lines her babies up. "See why I called her Effie?" Haymitch asks, cuddling his Effie close. "She's just like you."

The mother goose leads her newborn goslings out of the hut and toward their father and older three siblings. Effie laughs a little as the big goose studies his four babies and gently nudges each of them with his beak before nudging their mother gently. "Do all geese do that?" Effie asks softly.

"Nope," Haymitch chuckles. "Not that I've seen. These two are just particularly weird with each other. They're either honking and hissing at each other, or they're all loved up. Either way it goes, she must really love him to keep hatching his babies."

Effie beams and says "They're us, but in goose form."

"That they are," he chuckles. "What do you want for breakfast?"

"I've just witnessed four babies being born, Haymitch," she whispers. "I haven't thought about food."

"Okay, then," he chuckles. "I'll make mushroom omelettes."

"How about some pancakes?" she asks hopefully. "Could we have pancakes for breakfast?"

He grins then pulls Effie close for a kiss. "Pancakes it is," he whispers, stroking her hair. He throws some food to the geese, then grabs Effie, knocking her knees out from under her so that she falls into his arms in bridal style. She squeaks in fear, burying her face in his neck. Haymitch finds that hilarious, laughing at her squeaks. "Sweetheart, you know I'll never drop you. You should get used to being carried around, it's going to happen a lot more now that the kids aren't around to shame us."

"No, it's not," she whimpers. "It's not your fault that I'm scared of being picked up."

He laughs at her, carrying her inside. He puts her in her chair at the table, then strokes her hair. "How about coffee?" he asks, smirking at her.

"Yes, please," she purrs. "Coffee sounds delightful."

He smirks at her, then washes his hands, setting the coffee mugs down, then pouring out some of the freshly brewed coffee, adding cream and sugar to Effie's mug and stirring it before placing it on the table in front of her. He makes up his own coffee, then he makes some pancake batter, warming the oil in the pan as he does. He makes two identical stacks of pancakes and asks "What sauce do you want?"

"Strawberry?" she asks hopefully. "Or chocolate."

He gives her an equal measure of both, pouring maple syrup onto his own stack of pancakes, then moves the frying pan off the stove and switches off the hob before grabbing two forks and two knives, carrying the plates and cutlery to the table. He gives Effie her pancakes and cutlery before sitting down with his own. They eat their food in comfortable silence, which is only interrupted by the baby goslings' honks and their mother squawking at something. "I really hope you don't squawk at the kids' baby when it gets here like she does to the goslings," Haymitch jokes quietly.

"I won't," Effie replies softly. "I sometimes think that they won't let me within six feet of the little darling."

"Why wouldn't they let you near their baby?" he asks, watching her carefully for tell-tale signs of an episode.

"I just think that they haven't quite let go of who I was yet," she whispers. "What I did to them. What I did to you. What I did to their families. What I meant to this District. What I was to the people of Twelve. What I was to the Games. Sometimes it just feels like I'll never get to live past my past, no matter how hard I try to make amends."

"Bug..." he sighs. "Yeah, we'll always remember that stuff. It's like your sugar high at the fair, or the first time you attempted to cook for yourself here. They were pretty memorable occasions."

"They were only one offs," she disagrees. "What I was, who I was, what I did, that... That was most of my life, Haymitch. I'm scared that they won't trust me near their baby after all I did to them. It feels like, no matter what I do now, I can never be anything but the human embodiment of death coming for them and their baby."

"Sweetheart, that's paranoia. Those kids love you," he says gently. "We know you were just used as the mouthpiece for the Games. It wasn't your fault that you had to be what you were told to be."

"I know that, but the fear for their baby will still be there," she murmurs, closing her eyes against the tears she knows will fall. "I feel like nobody will let me move past it, like I won't ever get to prove that I'm more than that."

"You will get to prove that. You're family, sweetheart. We wouldn't see it that way if we thought you to be a threat," Haymitch tells her. 

Effie miserably eats her pancakes, determined to avoid wasting food, and waits for Haymitch to have finished his own food before she takes the dirty dishes. She washes them, careless of her neatly filed and painted nails, her mind drifting to a world where everything is perfect and she has no fears. The soft touch of Haymitch's hand on her back jolts her back to reality, making her gasp. "Oh, I'm sorry," she whispers. The words have barely left her lips as her vision fades to black, a roaring fills her ears, and her whole body goes numb.

Her vision returns slowly, her tongue tingling, and she's cradled in Haymitch's arms. "What was that all about, tiny thing?" he asks, stroking her hair gently.

"I don't know," she murmurs, placing a hand on her forehead. "I can't feel my tongue and my head's throbbing."

"How long has this been happening?" he asks, cuddling her close. 

"Only twice," she whispers. "It used to happen a lot while I was living in the Capitol, right after Peeta returned home. I'd just black out, and it could last anywhere between thirty seconds to an hour. It used to scare my friends silly."

"I wonder why," he deadpans. "What's the matter with you now?"

"I have a headache," she whispers. "I got it just as I fell asleep last night. It's just getting worse, though."

"Maybe it's a migraine," he murmurs, then kisses her forehead. "Come on, we'll get you lay down. If you still feel bad later, we'll get you a doctor, okay?"

"Okay," she murmurs. "But they have to be here, I don't want to go into a hospital."

"Fine," Haymitch agrees. "No hospitals unless it's worse than we expected. Meanwhile, you need to lie down."

"The dishes?" she asks softly.

"Only you would worry about dishes when you're feeling bad and blacking out," he scoffs, then picks her up and carries her to the sofa. He lies her down and covers her up. "You lie right there, Bug. If you need painkillers, tell me immediately."

"Okay," she whispers, burying her face in the cushions. "I'll tell you."

He nods and leaves her be while he goes to finish washing the dishes. He returns while she's napping, smiling a little at how she's curled into a ball, the cushion supporting her head. He chuckles as her nose scrunches up a little. He tidies up around her, making sure that she won't wake up to mess, and opens a window so that she gets some fresh air too.

She wakes three hours later and stretches, immediately going dizzy again. "Ugh," she mutters, which grabs Haymitch's attention.

He rushes over and kneels beside her, panic flooding through his nerves, then asks "What's up, Bug?"

"I just stretched and it made me dizzy. It's okay. I think it's just the stress of the last week catching me up," she whispers, snuggling him. "We need to go grocery shopping today, darling. I know we have that buffet food, but we need hot meals too."

Haymitch chuckles, kissing her forehead. "Are you sure you're ready for that?" he asks. "You seem a bit less stable on your feet than usual."

A sweet smile spreads across her face and she whispers "Maybe we should go get groceries, then we have a little bit of fun."

He perks up a bit at that and says "That sounds promising."

"It is," Effie giggles. "Are we going to go shopping?"

Haymitch nods and kisses her lips gently, holding her to him for a minute. As the kiss breaks, he murmurs "Race you to the shower."

"I don't get why, I'm still going to get in there with you," she whispers back, smiling slightly.

"Says who?" he asks, getting up.

"Says me," Effie whispers, then presses a little kiss on his jaw before running up the stairs at full tilt.

Haymitch chases after her, determined not to smell of flowers or fruits, only to find that she's already in the shower when he gets up there, her robe hanging on the door frame, her towel on the rack, and his right beloe it. He opens the shower door and asks "Do I have to get in there and smell like you?"

"No, I've purposefully used plain water," she says. "Your shower products are here." 

He undresses, then steps into the shower with her. He smirks a little as his eyes drift over her, noticing the bite marks he's put all over her, a sense of pride roaring from deep within his soul over being the one to have put them there. He asks "How about we have a bit of fun before we go out too?"

"Not a chance," Effie hums, smiling at him as she scrubs at her skin. "We won't get out if we start something now. You're just going to have to think up all the things you want to do while we go out."

"You're a tease," he groans softly, reaching out to stroke her hair. "A pretty tease, too."

She blushes a little and kisses his wrist. "Well, thank you," she hums. "Come on, you need to have a wash. That water won't do anything to dirt on its own, and you've been hanging around your geese this morning."

"You like those little goslings," he chuckles.

"Yes, but that doesn't stop them getting dirty," she chuckles. "I love those little fluffy things."

"You have a thing for cute, fluffy little things," Haymitch mutters. "Is it because you relate to them from being a cute, fluffy little thing yourself?"

"I'm not fluffy," she chuckles. "I'm actually quite smooth."

"Not when you're dressed," he points out. "All of your sweaters are fluffy."

She sticks her tongue out at him in an uncharacteristically childish way. "Fine, you win," she says. "And not just because I happen to like it when you look all smug about winning anything against me."

He smirks, a smug look all over his face. "Your little pout is cute," he tells her, poking her lips only to have her playfully nip at his finger. "That's why I like winning fights against you."

"You like defeating me in fights because you know I usually win," she scoffs. "So when you win, it makes a nice change for you."

"Whatever," he chuckles. "You usually lose our fights, tiny stuff."

"Oh, bite me," she huffs, smiling playfully at him.

"Sure, come here," he chuckles, grabbing her around her waist and pulling her close. He sweeps her hair aside in one fluid motion while she giggles and squirms, then bites down on her pulse point hard enough to make a small mark, hugging her closer as she shrieks. He sucks on her skin, making her wriggle, slowly licking at the mark until he's satisfied by it before letting her go. "Was that what you meant?"

"No," she giggles, then touches it with a wince. "That's going to be there for days. Only you would mark me up that way."

"I should hope so," he chuckles, but his face shows concern. "Did I hurt you, sweetheart?"

She stops laughing to regard him more seriously. "If you had, don't you think your jaw would be dislocated?" she asks. "You didn't hurt me any more now than you did when you covered the rest of my body in bites. I liked it."

The fear of hurting her at all settles deep in his stomach once again, and he gently kisses her lips. "I'm sorry, little thing," he mutters, hugging her close.

"Don't be," she says firmly. "I told you, I enjoyed it. I don't want you to stop marking me like that just because it stings a little afterward. I've had a lot worse than that."

The reminder is unwelcomed and just serves to make him hold her closer under the hot water. He suddenly feels something cold running up and down his back and over his triceps and shoulder blades. "Are you washing me?" he asks, kissing the top of her head.

"You weren't about to do it," she points out. "And I happen to enjoy making sure your back's clean too."

"What happened to not starting anything?" he asks, bending down awkwardly to kiss her lips.

She smiles and kisses him back, rubbing shower gel on his front now. "I'm not starting something, I'm trying to make sure that you're clean," she giggles. "It's not my fault that I have a sense of smell that appreciates you smelling clean."

Once she's worked a lot of soapy lather all over him, she rinses her hands and starts on his hair with shampoo. She works it into a lather, then groans softly, stretching her arms out. "What's up?" he asks, running his hands up and down her sides. 

"My arms are aching," she mutters. "Sit down, I'm too short to do this while you're standing up."

He chuckles and obediently sits down for her, allowing her to stand behind him and wash his hair. He looks up at her, smirking at the view he has. "You're gorgeous," he tells her, playfully tickling her ankle.

She beams at him, rinsing out the shampoo and starting in on the conditioner. "I'm just taking hints from you," she says, massaging his scalp.

"Do we really need to use conditioner?" he asks.

"Yes!" she exclaims. "You have lovely hair, Haymitch. It needs to be cared for."

As soon as she's done, they step out of the shower and Effie hands Haymitch his towel before grabbing her own. He dries himself off, then allows Effie to sit him down and get out the hair dryer. "Are you serious?" he asks. "Is this hair care too?"

"Yes," she replies calmly. "I used heat-protection shampoo on your hair, this will be just fine."

She takes her time drying his hair and combing it as she goes, ensuring that it's detangled and soft by the time she's done. "Are you finished?" he asks hopefully.

She runs some golden serum through his hair, then kisses his cheek. "Yes, go on," she says. "I'll just sort my own hair out now."

Haymitch walks out of the bathroom to get dressed, choosing a grey shirt and a black jacket, with matching black jeans to wear. He grabs a pair of clean boxers that Effie had given him the previous year for his birthday, sliding them on. He's dressed and spraying on deodorant when Effie saunters in, her towel in the hamper along with his. She looks him over appreciatively, then selects a black dress with a silvery shimmer to it that drops to her ankles and covers her arms, leaving her shoulders bare, and matching ballet flats. She picks out a black strapless bra and the matching black thong, which captures Haymitch's attention. "You're really going to go outside with that tiny thing under that dress?" he asks, his eyes glimmering.

"Yes," she replies. "You know me, always looking for ways to be tempting to you."

She dresses far too quickly for Haymitch's tastes, but sits down to do her hair. Haymitch sits and watches, stroking her shoulders and neck as she braids up her hair into a fancy bun, then smirks as she adds a black headband with a little black flower on it. He smirks at her and watches her apply a lip balm. "What's with the lip balm?" he asks.

"It's cold outside, and my lips will chap," she says, then applies some to his lips. "And now neither of us will have that problem."

They grab their coats and leave the house, Effie carrying a massive bag with three smaller bags inside it for their shopping. They walk side by side, their fingers gently brushing, and Haymitch takes the chance to grab Effie's hand. She looks up at him in surprise, making his cheeks redden a little, and squeezes his hand gently, pressing a kiss to his lips as they walk. The walk to the market is thankfully short, and Haymitch is grateful to get inside. As they wander the shops halls, a sixteen year old boy spots Effie walking a litte distance from Haymitch to pick out some desserts. Seeing her alone, the boy's rage is spiked, and he walks deliberately too close to her. She doesn't notice him and takes a step back, ready to call out to Haymitch, when she bumps directly into the boy. She turns around with a gasp, and he snaps "Watch where you're going!"

"I am so sorry!" she exclaims, her eyes wide. "I didn't mean to hurt you! Are you okay?"

"I'd be better off if you were with the rest of your kind, Capitol wretch," he growls. "Why don't you go back to your privileged little life?"

"I-" Effie squeaks softly.

The boy pushes past her, knocking her against the freezers. She winces as her back collides with the cold metal, and Haymitch, who has seen the boy knock Effie down, grabs him and growls "What's your problem?!"

"I don't have a problem," the boy replies coldly.

"Yeah?" Haymitch challenges, glaring the boy down.

"Yeah!" the boy snaps defiantly.

"Then why did I just see you knock my fiancee down, huh? You seemed pretty mad when you were insulting her," Haymitch snarls, lifting the boy off the ground.

Effie hobbles over, her hand rubbing the bruise on her back, and gently places her hand on Haymitch's arm. "Darling, it's okay," she whispers. "Put him down, I'm sure he didn't mean to knock me over."

"I meant it all right," the boy growls. 

"Put him down, Haymitch," Effie whispers.

Reluctantly, Haymitch lowers the boy to the ground and snarls "Be grateful that she's merciful, kid."

The boy turns to Effie and snarls "You should have been executed," then spits in her face.

She doesn't retaliate, just pulls out a tissue from her coat pocket and wipes her face clean, then says "I'm sorry that you feel that way. Haymitch, my love, come on. We have things to do."

She tugs him away from the boy, and Haymitch hugs her close. "Why didn't you let me break him?" he asks, cuddling her.

"Because a little dirt stain like that isn't worth another death on your conscience," she replies, snuggling up to him. They continue their trip, piling their groceries into their cart, sharing kisses every so often just because they can. As they approach the checkout, two small children approach them. They hang back for minute after they're spotted by Haymitch, then the small girl approaches Effie and tugs on her sleeve. Effie looks down at them and smiles a little. "Hello, sweetie. Are you okay?"

"We can't find Mommy," the girl whispers, gesturing to her brother. "Can you help us?"

The little boy looks at Effie, then his eyes widen. "Marie, I see Mommy," he whispers frantically.

"Where?" Marie asks, looking around. "I don't see her."

"I see her!" the boy hisses, then his eyes dart to Effie. 

Confusion is replaced by fear when she places Effie, and she nods. "Oh, there she is! Sorry bothered you!" she exclaims and runs away with her brother.

Effie looks at Haymitch, confused for a minute, but the way he avoids her eyes tells her everything. "Oh, no," she whispers sadly. "They... Oh."

Haymitch squeezes Effie gently, knowing she knows, and kisses her head gently. "It's okay, little thing, mindsets around here are slow to change," he whispers.

No response comes from Effie. They go through checkout in silence, and Effie stands behind Haymitch, her face hidden from view. They walk home in silence, and put away their groceries. Once the silence becomes too much for him, Haymitch tugs Effie into his arms and kisses her forehead gently. She hugs him back and whispers "Do you see why I'm afraid of the kids not letting their child near me? Most parents tell their kids to avoid me, they think I'll take their babies away and kill them."

"The kids know you, Effie. They've known you personally for a lot longer than the people around here have. They don't see you as a threat to their baby," he murmurs, petting her gently. "You wouldn't ever hurt them. You and I know that."

"It's the fact that they fear me, Haymitch," she murmurs. "I hate it, I hate that they look at me as if I might try to murder them for looking at me. I really would love to know the families around here, and to be someone the kids can trust to help them find their parents. It hurts that I'm still seen as the dangerous woman who took away two children and brought them home in coffins every year."

"Look, not everyone knows you like the kids, Jo, Annie, and I do. Annie and Jo trust you with River," he points out. "Katniss will trust you with her spawn, and Peeta sees you as the spawn's grandmother."

"I don't know what I want to cry over most now," she whispers. "The fact that the little children around here fear me, the fact that you refer to their baby as spawn, or the fact that you just told me that the kids think I'm old enough to be a grandmother."

Haymitch chuckles softly at that and kisses her head. "What's so wrong with that?" he asks.

"I don't want to be a grandmother before I'm a mother!" she exclaims, then shudders. "Ugh, I might actually be a grandmother before I have my own child."

"Well, as soon as you want to start making babies, we can try," he murmurs, cuddling her.

She laughs softly and buries her face in his shoulder. "I suppose..." she hums. "Hey, did the kids call? Peeta did say he would."

"Yeah, they rang while you had a nap," he says. "They arrived just fine, but they figured we'd be asleep when they arrived, so they waited to call us."

"Aww, they're so sweet," she sighs, snuggling up to him. "I feel a little better now. Shall we go and have a lie down? I'm tired after that walk."

"I knew you would be," he chuckles. "Okay, a lie down it is."

She giggles and tugs him toward the hall, heading for the stairs. "Come on, Haymitch, our bed awaits!" she giggles.

He laughs and follows her upstairs.

Chapter Text

"Okay, so you need to watch out for the goslings," Haymitch murmurs, guiding Effie's hand. "Just sprinkle the feed lightly, make sure to get an even covering. I don't want them to maul each other to death over this stuff."

Effie nods, allowing him to help her sprinkle the feed all over the floor of the goose pen. One of the goslings wriggles through the fencing, which Effie notices immediately. She drops the food and kneels down, scooping the gosling up. "Hello, little fluffy," she coos. "Hello. Why aren't you in your pen?" 

Haymitch smirks at her, then says "Keep an eye on those geese, sweetheart. I've got to patch that gap up before we lose all the goslings."

She nods and sits down as a guard, petting the squirmy little gosling. "You're cute," she tells it. "I don't understand how you're so cute. Maybe it's the fact that you're so little and babyish. If you were a human baby, you'd probably be crying right now from seeing me."

The gosling makes a tiny honking sound and Effie watches the mother goose come waddling up to her. The mother goose honks furiously at her, so Effie pets the gosling before giving it back to its mother. She gets a nip on the hand from the mother before she nudges her gosling away, honking at it. Haymitch comes out from the house and sees Effie pouting at the bite. "Did you aggravate them?" he asks, smirking.

"No, Mama Goose doesn't love it when I handle her babies either," Effie sighs. "Those goslings are too cute, though. Well worth a bite."

"She bit you?" he asks, checking the now-bleeding mark. "Damn. Go sit down, I'll come in and clean it up once I'm done here."

Effie wanders into the house, getting out the first aid kit. She washes her hands, paying extra attention to the cut, then dries her hands off while the bleeding has been stemmed by the water. She rubs the wound with an antiseptic wipe, then applies antiseptic cream before putting a sticky plaster over it. Haymitch walks in and sees her putting the first aid kit away. "I fixed it," she says softly, showing him her hand. "She has a nasty bite."

Haymitch chuckles and walks over, winding his arms around her. "Geese have sharp teeth and tongues. You're lucky it was just a little bite, Princess," he tells her.

"Mm, I know. I prefer your bites to any from your geese," she giggles. "I need coffee. Do you want coffee? I have cookies."

He smirks and kisses her gently. "You set out the cookies, I'll make the coffee. It'll spare you the risk of getting scalded," he says, hugging her close and appreciating her warmth against his body. They break apart to get coffee and cookies, occasionally sneaking glances at each other until their eyes meet. Five minutes go by in silence before Haymitch quietly chuckles to himself and asks "Have I ever mentioned how funny you are?"

"Sometimes," she replies quietly. "You're usually too busy being sweet to notice that I am the most hilarious woman you'll ever meet."

"Poetry suits you," he chuckles quietly, then smirks at her. 

"So what brought how hilarious I am to mind?" she asks.

He rubs her back, then says "Just you arranging those cookies. You had this little look on your face when you thought I wasn't looking."

She blushes a little. "Which look is that?" she asks.

"Your nose scrunched up and you looked like you were thinking too hard, then your tongue poked out a bit when you got ideas. It was kind of cute," he chuckles, pouring out hot coffee. "You make cute expressions."

She blushes, then passes him the plate of cookies, which she's arranged into a love heart shape with littler cookies on top to form H A and E T.  "Here's the cookies," she whispers.

He smiles slightly at that and pulls her into his arms, relaxing more when he knows she's in his arms. "Mine," he murmurs. "My Bug."

She helps him finish making the drinks, then sets up the tray. She swings her hips just a little bit more as she walks out of the kitchen, calling "I'll put these on the coffee table, darling!" She knows he's watching her, and hears him following her to the living room. She smiles slightly to herself as she puts the tray down on the coffee table, making sure to bend almost in half, and smirking in satisfaction when she hears him groan. She arranges her face into the picture of concern, then stands, turning to face him. "Are you okay, darling?"

"Perfectly fine, thanks," he mutters in a strangled voice.

She walks over and touches his throat. "Does your throat hurt, my love?" she asks sweetly. "I'll get you some lemonade."

He watches her walk, his eyes glued to her rear. She returns to him with two glasses of ice cold lemonade. "Here, darling," she says, handing him his glass. "Hopefully that'll soothe your throat."

He sips the lemonade, then asks "Shall we sit down?"

She kisses him and puts her glass on the coffee table, making sure to bend just as she had before, then she puts their warmest fleecy blankets over their sofa, making sure that they can both sit on them and be covered up with others. "Okay, darling, sit yourself down," she says, beaming at him.

He sits in the corner of the sofa, waiting for her to put on a movie. She puts on his favourite horror movie, closes the blinds, turns off the lights, then curls up next to him. He covers her up and cuddles her close, sipping his lemonade while she snuggles up to him. at some point in the movie, Effie's scared slightly, and starts to nuzzle at Haymitch's neck, her hand on his stomach. He puts his empty glass down with hers, then pulls her and her blanket onto his lap, cradling her against his chest, then places one hand on her stomach. She lets her head loll on his shoulder for a while until she looks up and sees the body of a decapitated little boy. She screams, burying her face in Haymitch's chest, shaking violently. He rubs her back softly and whispers "It's okay, sweetheart, it's not real. It's just a movie."

She cries quietly while he watches the rest of the movie, waiting for it to be over before she whispers "I'm never watching this with you again."

"I'm never watching it with you in the house again," he whispers. "You're too easily scared by that. Shall we watch one of your movies instead?"

She nods and picks out a cute cartoon movie about ducklings. "This," she says.

Haymitch smirks and says "That's a kids' movie, Effie."

"This is cute enough to destroy any scary images," she argues.

He shakes his head and walks over to sit beside her and give her a kiss. "I wasn't saying no, I was just pointing out that it's for kids. I'm fine with watching Duckie's Found Treasure," he murmurs. 

She puts the movie on and tugs him back to the sofa, where she snuggles up to him while they watch the movie. She finds herself giggling at the ducklings and their adventures, which only serves to make Haymitch laugh at her. After the movie, she yawns a little, then asks "What do you want to do? Eat in or eat out?"

He runs his fingers up and down her side thoughtfully, then asks "If I choose the latter, can it be you?"

She groans and drops her head back. "Not if you use another cheesy line like that," she mutters. "I meant dinner. It's my night to cook, and I was wondering if you'd prefer dinner that I've cooked or dinner from a takeout."

He kisses her neck, then asks "Do you want to cook, Princess, or do you want takeout? I don't want you to cook if you're exhausted."

"It's your choice," she hums, slipping her hand under his shirt. "I'm okay to cook, and I'm okay to order food."

"I'll cook," he says. "Saves your energy."

She smiles and whispers teasingly "Someone's certain he's getting sex tonight."

He kisses her gently and whispers "All you have to do is say no if you don't want it."

She kisses him back, then murmurs "No, I do want it. But only if you let me take my turn cooking tonight."

He nods. "Fine," he agrees. "I like whatever you make."

She kisses him and heads to the kitchen. She pulls out the barbecue ribs she'd prepared for dinner the previous day before remembering that it was Haymitch's turn to cook, removes the plastic wrap from the container, then puts it into the microwave to defrost the ribs. She preheats the oven, waiting for the ribs to defrost, then lines a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Once the ribs are nice and defrosted, she washes her hands thoroughly, then places them on the tray. She washes her hands again before putting the tray into the oven, and she chops up sweet potatoes to make into fries. Haymitch walks in to get a drink and sees her dropping the sliced potatoes into the pan. "Is everything okay?" she asks him quietly, smiling slightly.

"Yeah, just needed a drink," he replies, then turns to smirk at her. "I also wanted to look at you again."

She blushes, then beams. "You're so kind, my darling," she whispers, then wraps her arms around his neck. "You're gorgeous, did you know that?"

"Well, thanks, Princess," he chuckles, pecking her lips softly. 

She slips her hands down the collar of his shirt, then presses them to the back of his neck, still covered in potato juice, making him yell out at the cold, wet, and slightly slimy sensation. "Potato juice!" she squeals and breaks away from him, taking off running at lightning speed.

Haymitch growls "Get back here, you cheeky little squirt!" and chases after her, running up the stairs behind her. "I'll get you, you little monster!"

Effie locks their bedroom door and undresses, only unlocking it once she's wearing nothing but her lingerie, then dives under their duvet, lying flat on her front to conceal herself. The duvet gets ripped off her and she squeaks "Oh! You're here! You found me!"

He flings himself down on top of her and rolls her over, then growls "This is revenge for the potato juice down my neck, you pretty little demon," before he starts to tickle her mercilessly, despite her shrieks and pleas for him to stop. "Do the crime, you pay the tickle fine!"

She squirms and squeals, flailing helplessly as she tries to escape and fails miserably because of her laughter. "Put me down!" she squeals, giggling helplessly as he tickles her. "What do you want from me?! Name your price! I'll do anything!"

He tickles her more, then chuckles "I'll only stop if you promise to spend the rest of the evening only wearing what you've got on now."

"Done!" she squeaks. He stops and she lies still, catching her breath. After a few minutes, she rolls over and rests her head on his lap. "I hope you never tickle-torture our future children that way."

"Never," he promises, stroking her hair. "Our future mini-Bugs will only ever be subjected to cuddle torture. You're the only one I'm going to tickle endlessly."

"Mm," she hums, then asks "Do you still want babies?"

"Only when you're ready, I've told you that," he tells her, gently stroking her cheek. "Have you decided that you want them before marriage?"

"No," she replies softly. "I want to wait for marriage. I just wanted to be sure that you're still okay with that."

"Yeah, I'm okay with that," he says softly. "We'd better get downstairs and keep an eye on our dinner. I happen to like ribs."

She laughs and gets up, then strolls to the door. "Fine with me, handsome," she chuckles. "Get comfy, we can have dinner in bed."

"You're spoiling me," he chuckles, watching her walk out of their room. As soon as her footsteps have faded away, he lies back and sighs "She's the best..."

Effie returns to their room with a massive dinner tray, two plates of ribs and sweet potato fries and two glasses of sparkling apple juice. "Here we are, darling," she says, sitting down and passing the tray to him before she swings her legs up and snuggles up to him. 

He gives her a plate and a glass before taking a fairly sizable gulp of the apple juice, promptly choking on it as it burns all the way down his throat in an all-too-familiar way, and he splutters "What the hell?!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry, darling, that was mine," she squeaks. "I put vodka in it."

"Why the hell did you put vodka in your drink?" he asks, handing it back. 

"Well, I've been feeling very highly strung lately," she says. "I just thought some vodka might take the edge off."

"This once, Princess, I'll allow it. But the minute I see you spiralling into alcoholism, I'm banning booze," he warns her, kissing the side of her head to soften his words a little.

She pouts a bit, but keeps her mouth shut about that. "Don't worry, it's only once," she promises. "I won't have any more alcohol after today. I'd rather not worry you."

He rolls his eyes, then mutters "I never said don't drink again, I said no spiralling into alcoholism."

Effie bites the inside of her cheek in an attempt to hold back her cutting remark on that. "Eat up, sweetie, it won't taste as good cold," she says, neatly changing the subject.

They eat in silence, and Haymitch notices that she's not drinking her spiked juice, having left it on the table. After they finish their food, she places everything on the tray, including her nearly full glass, and lifts it. Haymitch asks "How come you haven't had your drink? Aren't you thirsty?"

"No, I'm not," she replies, smiling sweetly at him. He knows that the smile is straining a little, but she's kissed him and left before he can call her out on it. She has a drink of milk before she returns upstairs, climbing back into bed. "Hello, gorgeous."

"Hey, Princess," he says, wrapping his arms around her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, darling. Are you okay?" she asks, looking up at him with a small smile.

He strokes her cheek softly and says "Yeah, I'm fine, Eff. Wait... You have a milk-stache." He wipes her upper lip with his thumb, then kisses her nose. "How come?"

"I wanted some milk," she says, snuggling up to him. She catches the look of annoyance on his face and strokes his jaw. "Hey, no. Do not start this with me. I'm allowed to make choices. We've had a nice day so far. Just relax a little. I used to live alone and I lived just fine. I don't need managing. Relax. I'm not trying to start a fight with you."

He glances at her and she widens her eyes pleadingly, sticking her lower lip out, then whimpers softly, in perfect knowledge that doing that makes him melt for her. He rolls his eyes and gives her a kiss. "Fine. Using the cute face is cheating, you know I can't be mad at you when you do that," he grumbles.

"And that's why I use it," she hums happily, cuddling closer to him. "I love that you love my pouty face."

"It's not just the pouty face," he mutters. "I like that you're a thorn in my side, too."

She giggles and drapes herself over him. "And I'm a weight on your chest," she adds, pressing her face against his chest. "Your warm, muscly, strong, sexy chest... Mm. Have I ever told you just how sexy you are to me?"

He chuckles and says "On occasion, yeah. Almost as often as I think about inflating your ego further by telling you that you're pretty."

"Hmm," she giggles. "You're very nice to lie on. I should lie on you more often. Or not, I might flatten you."

"With what? All three kilos of you?" he chuckles, cuddling her. 

She laughs and kisses his jaw gently, propping her chin up on his shoulder. "No. If I only weighed three kilos, I'd be dead," she says, nudging his jaw with her nose.  "Now, my darling man, I need to cuddle you while I take a nap. Are you napping with me?"

"Why do you want to sleep again?" he asks, kissing her head. "You're nearly always sleeping."

"I'm always under blankets. My mind associates blankets and warmth with nap time. And I've eaten, so now I'm tired," she says. "You should nap more, too. It clears your head up a bit."

"My head's clear enough," he chuckles. "You sleep, sweetheart, I'll just creepily watch you sleep."

"Fine with me," she hums, yawning as she curls up on him. 

As soon as she's asleep, Haymitch takes Effie's tablet and lets himself into it, then begins to search up why she might need to sleep more. The results go from mildly bad to horrible, and being the paranoid man he is, he jumps to the worst case scenario and begins to panic. He presses a gentle kiss to her forehead and cuddles her closer, determined to avoid worrying her with his discovery. He deletes his search history and watches her, committing everything about her to memory.

Chapter Text

It's been four days since Haymitch looked up Effie's symptoms, and all he's been able to focus on is keeping her alive and well. He's wrapping her in endless amounts of blankets, feeding her endless mugs of hot chocolate or detox tea, feeding her chicken soup, chicken dinners, vegetable stew, bananas in every form he can find, and endless amounts of oranges. Effie takes this in stride at first, finding it adorable that he cares so much about her when he wouldn't have minded if she lived or died when he first met her, but on the fourth day of this constant barrage of care, she starts to feel a little bit smothered, so she catches his arm and asks "Darling, as much as I love being looked after, care to tell me why you suddenly want to keep me under constant care?"

He pets her and says "I didn't want to scare you."

"Scare me?" she asks. "How could you possibly scare me?"

"I looked up why you're sleeping more, and why you're so dizzy every time you stand up, and why you keep feeling faint, and why you're so hungry all the time, and I worried," he admits. "And the stuff I found said that you might be sleep deprived, you might not be getting all the nutrients you need, you might be dehydrated, you might have the on-set of leukemia, you could be experiencing the early signs of mono. The list goes on, Eff. I'm not willing to risk your life. I've even asked a doctor to come over later and get some tests done to make sure you're not about to die."

She sighs, shaking her head. "Sweetest, it's okay," she says. "I feel fine. I haven't gone dizzy in days. It was stress. And I crashed a little because I hadn't slept well before the kids' wedding. It's really nothing to worry about. It was just my body telling me to relax, eat properly, have a few hydrating drinks, and get some rest. I love that you care so much, my beloved, but there was never anything to worry about."

"You're something to worry about," he mutters, then kisses her head. "I still want to get you tested, though."

"Oh, Haymitch," she sighs fondly, grabbing his arm to press a kiss on his inner elbow. "If it gives you peace of mind, I will let a doctor test me. I don't mind."

"That's my girl," he says, the relieved smile on his face telling her everything she needs to know. 

Just hours before the train from Four arrives in Twelve, bringing Katniss and Peeta home with it, the results of Effie's most recent blood test come back. Haymitch hovers nervously behind her as she opens the envelope, irritating her a little. She looks up and asks "Why don't you come and sit with me? You can read them first. Would you prefer that?"

"I just want it open," he mutters. "I want to know if I need to worry about you."

She smiles to herself, opening the envelope. She reads through the results, then shrugs. "Nothing to be concerned about," she says, then hands the list to him. 

He looks through, seeing that everything's normal. "Good," he sighs, flopping down next to her and pulling her close for a hug. "Mine. You won't go and get sick on me, will you?"

"I promise to get nothing worse than a stomach virus," she chuckles, hugging him back. "I love you, did you know that?"

"You might have mentioned it," he says, inhaling the scent of her hair. "I couldn't cope with losing you."

She makes a soft noise and hooks her leg over his lap. "I couldn't cope with losing you either," she whispers. "You'd better promise that you'll live as long as I do."

"I promise," he murmurs. "When you go, I go."

They cuddle silently for a few hours, then Effie catches sight of the clock. "Oh my word, is that the time?!" she squeaks.

"Yeah," Haymitch says casually, watching her closely. "Why?"

"The children are returning in ten minutes, we need to be at the station to greet them!" she shrieks. "Quick, quick, put your shoes and your coat on! We have to run!"

"I so don't want to run," Haymitch mutters, but he gets up anyway. Running is far more appealing to him than having Effie roaming Twelve alone. He puts his shoes on, then picks up Effie's coat and holds it up for her so that she can just slip it on. She smiles warmly at him in appreciation, then holds his coat up to do the same for him. He slides his arms into his coat and Effie stands on her toes to slip it onto his shoulders for him. She puts her own shoes on, then they bolt out of the door, Haymitch barely remembering to lock it before he has to chase after Effie. He catches her up much more quickly than he once would have, and links his arm with hers. She clings to him and jogs to keep up with his long stride. He smirks down at her and asks "You okay to run, short thing?"

"Yes," she gasps. "And I'm not short, you're a titan."

He laughs and scoops her up. "That's it, little Bug. Let's see how easy it is for us to get there before the train," he says, then takes off running with her shrieking in his arms. They arrive at the station minutes before the train pulls in and Haymitch places Effie down gently. "There we go, beautiful. How was that?"

"Easily one of the scariest things you've ever done to me," she says, snuggling him. "Now, we need to get you breathing properly again before the children arrive back."

"Am I meant to be carrying their bags?" he asks. "Can't rely on the boy with all of those bags, he's almost as bad as you are when it comes to shopping."

"It's likely to just be baby clothes," Effie murmurs distractedly. "But no. I'll carry as many of the bags as I can, saves your hands and back."

The very idea of her trying to carry heavy bags back to the Village while attempting to keep up with them all makes him laugh. "Really?" he asks, laughing harder at the affronted expression on her face.

"Yes," she says, offended by his laughter. "I fail to see the funny side. Please let me in on it."

"You're a midget! You'd still be trying to find your way off the platform with bags all over you next week!" he wheezes. "You're not carrying all of those bags, your little legs would snap!"

She pouts, then says "There are kinder ways to say no, I'll carry the bags than laughing at my size. It's not my fault that I'm not as tall as you."

Before the argument can escalate further, the train pulls in and Peeta steps off the train, holding his hand out to Katniss to help her down. "I'm not that heavily pregnant yet," she grumbles. "I can still get off trains."

Peeta chuckles softly, but helps her anyway. "You can't blame me for wanting to be sure of my wife's safety," he chuckles. 

"Yes I can," Katniss huffs, then stretches. "I hate trains. I want my sofa."

Haymitch smirks and says "If that damned cat of yours hasn't ruined it, that'll be great for you."

"I'll string it up if it's ruined my sofa," Katniss growls. "I love that sofa."

Effie smiles, clearly restraining herself from hugging them both. "So, how was the honeymoon?" she asks eagerly.

"No gory details," Haymitch says. "Only give us the good stuff."

"Well, it was hot," Katniss says, shivering slightly. "Two weeks in Four has really made the harshness of late February here more unbearable than usual."

Effie nods sagely. "That will happen. It is freezing here," she says softly.

Haymitch and Peeta share a look, then Haymitch sighs "Is she allowed to hug you yet? That nice shade of purple she's turning isn't from the supposedly freezing weather, after all."

Katniss sighs a long-suffering sigh, but Peeta nods. "Come here, Effie," he chuckles, opening his arms.

Effie flings herself at him, hugging him tightly. "I've missed squishing my boy!" she squeaks happily. 

"Try not to break him, Effs," Haymitch chuckles.

"It's fine, Haymitch, I've missed being crushed in her death grip," Peeta chuckles, hugging Effie back. "Besides, she gets shorter every time I see her, and that makes her easier to hug."

"You've got your wife," Haymitch mutters, jealousy flashing in his eyes.

"Don't get jealous, squishy, I'm more of his mother than a girlfriend," Effie giggles, happily snuggling Peeta, who's slowly turning blue from the oxygen not making it through him. "Now that I have you two kids again, I don't think you're allowed to be away from me for that long again."

"Effie, you're turning that boy blue, get off him," Haymitch says, tugging her arms away from Peeta to allow him to breathe.

She pouts up at Haymitch while Peeta gasps for air. "When are you ever going to stop forcing me to stop hugging people?" she asks.

"When you stop trying to crush their lungs out of them through their throats," Haymitch replies. "And you're not allowed to hug the girl in case you squeeze the baby out of her."

"Thank you," Katniss sighs happily. 

Effie pouts again for a second, then takes all of their bags. "Well, home time," she says, doubled up under the weight of all of their bags. "Heavy..."

"Give some of those bags here, Princess," Haymitch says, reaching for them. She dodges him surprisingly quickly, given the weight pressing on her, so he growls "Trinket..."

"No!" she squeaks and takes off hobble-running. "I'm taking the bags!"

Haymitch groans softly and mutters "Why is she like this?" before following her to the Village.

"Nice to see things haven't changed with these two idiots," Katniss mutters to Peeta.

Peeta chuckles. "Be nice, Kat," he mutters back. "But I doubt these two will ever change. They probably fight over who gets to die first."

"Knowing them, they do," she murmurs. "They'd better keep their fighting well away from this one."

"I hope they do," Peeta whispers. They walk for a little while, listening to the older couple shouting at each other, then he murmurs "I can't believe that in just a few months, we'll have a baby."

"I hope these two sort out their act before we give them any kind of dealing with it," Katniss mutters. "Imagine what kind of effect hearing these two yell at each other all the time will do to the baby."

"I'd rather not," Peeta winces. 

They get a bit closer to their house and hear Effie shouting "Is it any wonder I'm highly strung?! You treat me like I'm completely incapable of everything just because I'm not a giant!"

"You can't blame me for not wanting you to get squashed to death! You tried carrying three times your body weight!" Haymitch yells.

"I'm not that light!" Effie screams. "Why must you treat me like I'm made of glass?! I'm stronger than you think!"

"Uh," Peeta says, announcing his and Katniss's presence. "Hi."

Immediately, the older couple shut up and shoot dangerous glares at each other before Effie plasters on a sweet smile. "Oh, you're here!" she coos sweetly. "Now, as a welcome home treat, I will bring your dinner to you tonight and allow you both to peacefully get reacquainted with your sofa."

"And by that, she means she'll try assert her dominance over your entire house just because she's a tiny thing that thinks she's stronger than she is," Haymitch mutters.

"Oh, zip it," Effie growls harshly. "I've got no patience for your bad attitude. You seem to hate good things happening to this family. Why can't you just be glad that we have our kids home? You've been so lovely these past two weeks, and now they're home, you don't seem to have any happy feelings left."

"These last two weeks, you haven't been behaving like a spoiled brat," Haymitch growls.

"I'm not a spoiled brat because I want to do things!" she snaps. "I'm only a spoiled brat when I want things I know I shouldn't have and I start yelling at you to get it for me!"

"Can you two just not fight in our house, please?" Katniss groans. "I just want to get reacquainted with my sofa and some chocolates."

"Of course," Effie says, softening immediately. "That was very rude of us, darling, I am so sorry. We'll leave you two to get settled, I'll bring your dinner over. I do hope you can forgive us, and that you have a nice evening. Haymitch, come on."

"I'm not your dog, woman," he growls.

"Haymitch," she says sternly. "Now."

"See what I live with?" Haymitch mutters to Peeta. "And this is before the-"

"Haymitch, I swear down, if you finish that sentence with wedding, there will not be a marriage! Now come back home before I put you on a leash and drag you!" Effie bellows, fury written all over her face. 

Because he's not an idiot, Haymitch follows Effie out of the house, glaring daggers at her the whole way. Katniss flops on the sofa and sighs "Thank Panem they're gone. I can't cope with them fighting like that all the time. Those two have serious issues."

"We should lock them in a room together," Peeta suggests. "It might shut them up."

"Or have one of them kill the other. Either way, I don't want them in the house with us," Katniss says.


Meanwhile, over the road, Effie's cooking up a large pot of lamb stew. Haymitch says "I don't get you. You're fine one minute, then having a hissy fit the next."

"Maybe you should try not being horrible to me in front of other people," Effie says coldly. "If you were as sweet to me all the time as you have been the whole time we've been alone, I wouldn't be so upset. If you decided to fight me on the important things instead of me trying to do things myself, I might want to be more forgiving when you shout at me. And maybe if you weren't calling me woman, and telling people that I'm horrible now and you can't imagine how bad I'll be as a wife, you might end up getting something more than a cuddle before sleep!"

He snaps "If you weren't being so stubborn and trying to break your back, then calling me like I'm your dog, I might just want more than a cuddle before sleep tonight!" When he doesn't get a response, he stews in silence while she cooks. After it's done, she dishes some stew out and places it in front of him, along with a plate of bread, and a glass of her own homemade apple juice. She says nothing, just empties half of the stew pot into a smaller pot, then covers it. She takes the pot out of the house without a word and goes over to give the food to Katniss and Peeta, leaving Haymitch to think about their fight. She takes a full half an hour with the kids, leaving Haymitch enough time to decide to try to make up with her when she returns. She eventually does, and he gets up to give her a hug. She pushes him off her, glaring at him. "Effie..."

"Oh, so it's Effie now, is it?!" she growls. "Well, guess what? I'm still angry, and you've got a long way to go before I accept another hug from you!"

He sighs, then says "Fine, then. I'll take the sofa tonight."

She scoffs. "No, you will not! That sofa does your back in. You're going to have some more food, and then you're going to bed. The actual bed. And no, you may not fight me on that," she tells him firmly. 

"Who made you my keeper?" he asks, lifting an eyebrow. 

"I did," she replies coldly, then she dishes out some more stew and gives it to him. "Eat up. Maybe if you're fed and well-rested, you'll be sweet to me again tomorrow."

He kisses her lips gently, then says "If you'd stop being so prickly, I'd be sweet to you now."

"Not a chance," she snaps. "Eat that, then get to bed."

"You need the food more than I do," he says.

"Haymitch. Eat," she orders. "I'm not fighting you any more now. Just do as you're told, and I might consent to hug you before you go to bed."

He eats it just to avoid more fighting. "I'm not even sure how we ended up fighting," he admits.

Her shoulders drop and her lip wobbles slightly before she plasters on a mask of composure. "I am stubborn, and you hate it," she sums up. "I tried carrying very heavy bags, you got angry because I wouldn't let you help me, and it just went from there. It's entirely my fault, and I'm just sore because I know you were right, even though you hurt me with your insults. I cannot deny that I deserved them, but regardless of that, I'm still unhappy. I'm going to go and lie down."

She leaves the kitchen without another word, and Haymitch finishes the stew, knowing perfectly well that Effie's likely to kill him if he doesn't finish it. When he's done, he washes the dishes up in the hopes of getting into her good books again, then he walks into the living room. "Princess?" he asks softly.

She turns to face him, and even though her expression reads calm, her eyes are red and sore, and it's immediately obvious that she's been crying. "Oh, good, you're done," she says softly, then gets up and hugs him. "Goodnight, darling. Sleep well."

She lets go of him and escapes his hold just as he tries to hug her back. "Come here," he says softly.

"No, I'm going to sleep," she replies softly. "Go to bed, I'll still be here tomorrow."

"I want you to come with me," he mutters. "I won't sleep right unless you're with me."

"Haven't you ever heard the saying don't go to bed upset?" she asks softly. "I am too sad to go to bed with you right now. So I want you to go alone."

"Haven't you ever heard the saying don't let your Haymitch go to bed lonely because he's sorry and loves you really?" he asks dryly.

"No, because it's not a saying, that's you trying to be cute and succeeding," she sighs. "Look, I promise that I'll come with you tomorrow night."

He groans softly, then sits on her legs. "I'm not going up there unless you come too," he says. "I won't sleep unless I have you."

She whines sadly. "Why are you playing on my love for you?" she asks in her whiniest spoilt brat tone.

"Because it'll get me what I want," he says. 

"Which is?" she asks.

"I want you back," he says, tickling her knee. "I want to bring you up to bed with me and cuddle you all night. I don't want to fight any more."

She sighs, then asks "Will you let me have my legs back?"

"Not until you promise that you'll come upstairs with me," he says.

"Legs first," she huffs. "I need them for what I want to do."

He reluctantly lets her free her legs, only to watch her kneel on the floor in front of him. "What are you doing?" he asks. "I was expecting you to run away."

She rolls her eyes, then takes both of his hands and holds them, giving him the sorriest look he's ever seen, then she says "I've been horrible to you today, and so very stubborn. I should have just listened to you and shared the load with you. It's my fault we fought, and I should have done this hours ago. I'm so sorry for being so mean to you, and you didn't deserve any of it. You're the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm sorry I treated you like a dog and shouted at you for trying to be nice to me, and for snapping at you when you were mean back to me. I promise that I won't ever be this nasty to you again, and I won't ever treat you badly again." She takes a deep breath in, swallows hard, then asks "Can you forgive me?"

He picks her up and cuddles her close to him, nuzzling her neck. "Only if you can forgive me for not being nicer to you," he whispers.

"There's nothing to forgive, I deserved it all. Unlike you, I had no basis for my side of the fight. I was just doing it to be a show off. You were caring about me," she murmurs, petting his cheek. "Am I forgiven?"

"Entirely," he murmurs, then kisses her gently. "Come on, you limp noodle, let's get you up to bed."

"Any reason I'm a limp noodle?" she asks, smiling.

"No," he replies. "I just wanted to call you a limp noodle."

She giggles "Oh, my... Don't tell me!" 

"What?" he asks, then his eyes light up with mischief. "You're my Noodle Bug."

"Oh, for Panem's sake!" she groans, laughing the whole while. 

He carries her upstairs, smirking at his new name for her. "You've done it now. Every time we fight, you're going to be called Noodle Bug," he tells her proudly.

"It'll end our fights a lot faster," she giggles.

Chapter Text

One month later...

"Oh, oh, should I give them something?" Effie asks worriedly. "Do we have the gift bags? They're probably so excited. Their first baby! How do you think they feel? Do you think they're nervous? Do you think they're worried about having a baby? We'll have to offer our help, darling. Will it be this scary for them? What must they be feeling? Oh, I hope they're okay. Do you think they need us? I can't stand not knowing!"

"Effie, they're finding out the sex, she's not giving birth yet," Haymitch sighs. "I can't imagine what you're going to be like when that child's born if you're this worked up over an ultrasound."

"They don't know! Oh, it's so nerve-wracking! They're our kids, Haymitch. What if something's happened? What if they're having twins? What if- Mmuh!" she squeaks, cut off by a passionate kiss from Haymitch. He breaks away once he's sure she's totally dazed, only to get a small "Ooh," out of her.

"Are you calm now?" he asks softly.

"I think I might need another kiss, my nerves are frazzled," she hums, wrapping her arms around him.

He smirks and says "Your wish is my command," leaning in to give her another kiss.

Kissing quickly turns to a hot and heavy make-out session, only to be cut short by the door banging open and two eager young adults almost running to the living room. "We're here, and we have results!" Peeta yells happily.

"One sure-fire way to get the kids in," Haymitch grumbles, straightening Effie's blouse before he buttons his shirt back up.

Effie whines softly, but sits up eagerly, looking at the two younger adults hopefully. "Well?" she asks. "Do we know?"

"We already know," Haymitch says. "It's a unicorn."

"It's not a unicorn," Peeta chuckles.

"That's your baby with Effie," Katniss taunts, smirking.

Effie bites her lip, looking away for a second, then she looks back at them, a giant smile plastered on her face. "Well, tell me! What colour clothes am I going to buy for my little godchild?" she squeals.

Peeta passes the picture to her and points out every part of it, from head to toes, then says "And here's its genitalia..."

Effie studies it closely, then her eyes widen. "Oh, my..." she breathes.

"Huh?" Haymitch asks, studying the picture. "Congratulations. You're the proud parents of a peanut shaped blob."

"It's a girl," Katniss says, looking at Haymitch. "She's not a peanut shaped blob."

Effie lets out a high-pitched noise that could have passed for a squeal had it been audible to humans, then hugs both Katniss and Peeta much more gently than she usually would in that frame of excitement. "I'll get shopping for her right away!" she shrieks happily. "We're having a girl!"

Haymitch falls over onto the sofa in a silent fit of laughter. "It's not our baby, Effie," he splutters, holding his stomach.

"It's our godchild, now let me be thrilled!" she giggles, letting go of Katniss and Peeta to give them a gift bag each. "Presents for Mommy and Daddy."

"Effie, you didn't have to," Peeta says, smiling at her.

"Stop being sweet and just open the gifts," she orders, smiling proudly. 

They open the bags to find luxury Capitol chocolates, a t-shirt each saying Mommy and Daddy respectively, and they both have lockets with a family photo in one side, and the first ultrasound photo of their daughter in the other. "Oh, Effie," Peeta says softly, beaming at her.

"These are really nice, Effie," Katniss says quietly, actual gratitude on her face. "Thanks."

"Think nothing of it," Effie says modestly, blushing. "This is just the start of the gift shower."

"Effie, you'll make me the first victor in history to go bankrupt," Haymitch chuckles.

"I'm not that good," Effie giggles. "Now, my beloved kids, sit down and let me get you some tea."

She zooms out of the living room and Peeta helps Katniss sit down before taking his own seat. "Is she going to go mad with stuff?" Katniss asks.

"No, I won't let her," Haymitch says. "I can stop her accessing my bank account if needs be."

"What about hers?" Katniss asks.

"She only starts on mine when she's emptied hers," Haymitch chuckles. "I won't let her buy up the world of baby supplies for you."

"Thanks," Katniss chuckles. They sit in comfortable silence until a very happy Effie walks in. "Hey."

"Hello," Effie says softly, then places the tea tray down. "So, have you been thinking of names?"

"Not just yet," Peeta says gently. "We want to wait a bit first."

Effie dims a little, but perks up again when she gets an idea. "How about Elena?" she suggests.

"Trinket, no," Haymitch says. "No. You're already planning to buy them everything they need, don't try to name their baby for them. You'll have that chance when you have one of your own."

She wrinkles her nose up, but says "Fine. I'll just sit here in quiet mode. You only have to cuddle me."

"That I can do," Haymitch chuckles, wrapping her into his arms.