"Effie," Haymitch whispers, gently poking his fiancee's stomach. "Wake up."
"No, I don't human until after eight in the morning," Effie whines, hitting him with her pillow. "Let me be dead for a bit longer."
"Come on, sweetheart, this is important," he says, poking her. "Human for me?"
"Your head had better be hanging off," she grumbles, then peeks out from under the duvet. "It's not even light yet! Why are you making me wake up and human?!"
"I want to know what you want for your birthday," Haymitch says.
"A Haymitch that won't wake me up at this time of dark to ask me questions!" Effie yells, then smacks him with her pillow again. "Go to sleep!"
He cuddles her, then asks "No, seriously, what do you want?"
She sighs and mumbles "I'll be happy with anything you give to me, because it's not the gift itself, it's the thought behind it. That said, if you could be thoughtful and let me sleep, I might wake you up with my mouth when it gets light out. Now sleep. Your fiancee is tired."
She's asleep again in minutes.
"Effie, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?" Haymitch asks, winding his arms around his fiancee's waist as she rolls pastry for their chicken pot pie.
She leans on him and sighs "I don't, darling. I told you, my birthday doesn't matter to me. I don't want to celebrate my aging. It just means I become less fit, less beautiful, and less healthy, while you're there, staying gorgeous and fit, like some kind of vampire or something. The only birthdays I will ever celebrate are yours, the kids', the kids' kids, and our kids when we eventually get around to having them."
"Why can't we celebrate your birthday?" he asks, and she can hear the childlike whine that she knows their future children will use to get their own way. "I want to celebrate your existence."
"You can do that any day," she points out. "Why have a whole day specifically? It's just inconvenient for us all."
"Have you found out what cake she wants yet?" Peeta asks, strolling into the kitchen.
"She's being stubborn," Haymitch mutters. "It's still no birthdays for her zone."
Peeta chuckles, then says "Effie, you know we'll know one way or the other. Spare us the digging and just tell us."
"No. I've made it very clear that I don't want to celebrate," she says, arranging the pastry in the pie dish.
Haymitch kisses her neck, then whispers "Princess, if you just answer the question, I'll do everything you like me to do for you tonight."
Effie's eyes roll harder than ever, and she snaps "Fine! Fine! You'll do as you please anyway! A lemon drizzle cake! Are you happy now?!"
"Very," the two men chorus.
"Don't you have a seven months pregnant wife, Peeta?" Effie asks tersely. "She might need you more than my annoying fiance does."
Peeta gets the hint and leaves quickly, leaving Haymitch to kiss Effie's neck. "Did you get out on the wrong side of the bed this morning, beautiful?" he asks softly, cuddling her close. "You've been moody all day."
"I'm bleeding out," she mutters. "I've got cramps, and my back hurts, and my hormones are everywhere. I'm sad and angry, and being nagged about cakes and gifts when all I want is to sleep for six months is not nice. I don't even care that talking about this with you is improper, you need to have the explanation."
"I don't mind, I know you're a woman," he says. "I've been shoving it in the wrong thing if you're a guy."
"I want chocolate covered strawberries," she murmurs sadly. "And I want to cry. While I eat."
Haymitch rubs Effie's stomach gently. "When did you get your period?" he asks.
"Two days ago," she whimpers. "It hurts so much... I tried taking aspirin, but that failed me dismally, and I can't have anything else for another five hours. Put me out of my misery..."
He takes her apron and says "Wash your hands, beautiful. I've left the chocolate covered strawberries in the fridge for you."
She lights up and kisses him. "I knew there was a reason we ended up together," she coos. She washes her hands, then gets the strawberries while Haymitch washes his hands to finish off making the pie. She feeds him a few strawberries, then groans, doubling up. "Ouch..."
"You okay?" he asks. Even after four months of living with her, he's still not okay with her suffering.
"I've changed my mind, I want a baby as soon as possible," she groans. "I hate periods."
Haymitch just smirks. "Go sit down with your fruit, Princess," he tells her. "I'll come in to cover you in kisses once this is baking."
Haymitch lies down with Effie in his arms, just staring at their bedroom ceiling. "If I could give you anything in the world, what would you pick?" Effie asks softly.
"You've already given me everything I want," Haymitch murmurs, kissing her temple. "More than I deserve."
She hums, then asks "If you had to ask anything of me, even the most out there thing, what would it be?"
"I'd ask you to just be you," he mutters. "Nothing's more beautiful than that. I like you just the way you are."
"You're so romantic," she sighs happily. "I wouldn't ask more than you being yourself of you, either. It's you being yourself that made me fall in love with you."
"See, this is where you're wrong. I'm not romantic," he tells her, nuzzling the top of her head. "It was seeing those tight skirts strain whenever you bent over."
She groans and screws her face up. "Really?! That was such a lovely moment!" she whines.
"Was it, now?" he asks, chuckling softly.
"Yes! I was enjoying thinking that I was marrying a lovely man, and you said that the only reason you fell in love with me was the tight skirts showing off my bottom!" she groans, turning over and pressing her nose to his chest. "You're lucky that you have so many redeeming qualities."
"Come on, there's a lot more to it now," he chuckles, petting her.
"Oh? Like what? Maybe the fact that now that I eat regular meals and normal portions, I have actual cleavage? My legs look like human legs now?" she asks, propping her chin on his chest and smirking playfully at him.
"Hey, you were gorgeous and perfectly proportioned before. This is just a bonus for me," he chuckles, stroking her back gently.
"Then what else is it?" she asks, her fingers tracing random patterns over his chest.
He smirks and says "It's too sappy for me."
"I know you," she giggles, grinning at him. "You're a giant mush bear. Now tell me everything, or else."
"Or else what?" he asks, reaching to tickle her underarms. "What will you do, Bug?"
"I will sleep in very big, and very thick clothes tonight so that you can't touch me," she growls playfully, trying to squirm away from his touch. "Now tell your squishy what mush you have, or I'll cook myself tonight."
He narrows his eyes playfully. "Threatening behaviour? That warrants kisses, Princess," he says, then leans in.
She puts her hand on his mouth and says "No kisses until I know why you love me."
He groans, then licks her hand so that she moves it. "There," he says, then steals a kiss. "Now you can hear everything, if you really want to."
Effie's face softens, then her lower lip wobbles. "Actually, if you don't want to tell me, don't," she says. "I know how much you hate the sappy stuff."
Haymitch sees the little lip wobble, then kisses her nose. "You should know," he murmurs, then kisses her. "I love your smile, your laugh, your personality, that weird sense of humour, those big blue eyes that you use to get your own way, that adorable giggle, your little nose that bunches up when you're thinking or disgusted, your little flappy hands when you get excited, your little squeaks in your sleep, your every day squeaks. Let's not forget the little bunny hop thing you do when you see spiders. And the way your mouth forms a perfect circle when you yawn, or when you're surprised, or when you burn your tongue. I love the way you snuggle up to me when you're tired, and how you drape yourself over me when you've drank too much, or eaten too much, or don't feel well. I love your cute sleep-talking, and the way you wriggle up to me in the night for warmth. There's more, but we'll be here for years if I carry on."
She sniffs slightly, then hugs him close. "You're a sweetie," she whimpers, clinging to him. "I had no idea... Oh, squishy."
"Don't start the crying again, you soggy mess," he chuckles, clutching her to him. "I should tell you stuff like that more often if I'm going to get this kind of treatment for it."
"I love you," she sobs. "And I'm going to prove that."
"Oh, no," he groans.
"Yes. And you're going to love it," she mutters, yanking him down on top of her.
"Haymitch, Haymitch, Haymitch, Haymitch, Haymitch!" Effie squeals, the sound accompanied by her pattering little footsteps speeding to him. "Haymitch!"
Haymitch turns to find his fiancee bounding toward him, slightly bemused by her sudden enthusiasm. "What's all this, Effie?" he asks, catching her with one swift motion as she jumps on him.
"We're going away!" she squeals delightedly. "And not only that, we're going to go to a concert!"
"Let me guess, it's Morel Skyberry?" he asks, smirking at her.
"Yes!" she squeals.
"You and your adorable little crushes," he chuckles, although a part of him is irrationally jealous. "Isn't he a little young for you?"
"He's two years younger than me. By your standards here, you robbed the cradle with me," she giggles. "And I don't have a crush on him. I just really love his music."
"Sure you do. That's why you nearly faint on me whenever you see his face," Haymitch mocks, kissing her nose.
"Well, admittedly, he is quite attractive. Nowhere near as gorgeous as you, of course, but still nice," she says. "He definitely doesn't compare with you. Nothing compares with you."
Haymitch smirks and kisses her lips. "You're cute when you attempt to lie," he whispers. "It's okay. You can have your cute crushes on guys. As long as you remember that you're marrying me and are officially off the dating site, that is."
She laughs "I'm glad to have your permission, darling. I didn't need it. Look, if it means so much to you that we don't go, we'll find something better to do. Maybe in our bed in a hotel room?"
He kisses her lips, then says "No, Princess. You want to go to this concert, we're going."
She pouts. "Not if you're not into it. I want us to do something we both enjoy," she huffs.
"I may not like the guy's music, but I like seeing you enjoy things. We both get to do something we like. You get to see your musical crush live, and I get to watch my Princess be thrilled," he says. "Buy those tickets, beautiful Bug. Or I will."
She buys the tickets, a doubtful look on her face. "I don't know, Haymitch. I don't like the idea," she says softly.
"You'll love it, Bug," he dismisses, giving her a kiss. "You should be more worried with what you want to wear to the concert."
"Three more days until we go away, Eff, why aren't you going ballistic with your packing?" Haymitch asks.
Effie looks up from her tablet. "I've just been looking at something, that's all," she says, clearing her history and closing her tabs before locking her tablet. "I'll get on with the packing now."
"What's with the secrecy?" he asks, then drops down beside her to give her a cuddle. "Some mystery man I need to know about?"
"Don't be ridiculous," she sighs, winding her arms around him and burying her face on his chest. "I'll only ever want you. I love you more than life itself."
He chuckles, then kisses her head. "I was joking, beautiful," he murmurs. "You're up to something. Want to let me in on it?"
"Not yet," Effie hums, cuddling him. "I'm saving it for later. Now, I need to go and get everything packed up. I don't look gorgeous naturally, after all."
Haymitch starts to laugh, clutching her harder in response to his laughter. "You were born perfect, Trinket. You'll never be anything but," he splutters, trying to catch his breath between bouts of laughter. "I don't get you at all. You're stunning, how can you think you're not?"
"It's very difficult when you call me every variant of beautiful all the time," she giggles, then swings herself up onto his lap. "And I think you need to be kissed for laughing at me when I say perfectly normal things."
"You'll never hear me deny your kisses," he chuckles, then reaches up to pet her, admiring her.
"What's with that look? I'm finding it very hard to decide whether to give you sweet kisses or dirty ones, and that look on your face is confusing my little brain," she says, smiling and running her fingers through his hair. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Because you're you," he says, then smirks. "What about that kiss?"
She leans in and presses her lips to his, being as gentle as she can, and denying him the control over the kiss, keeping it slow, soft, and sweet. She breaks away with a small smile, then asks "Was that good enough?"
He laughs quietly, then kisses her again gently. "Perfect," he murmurs, cuddling her. "Now go get packed up, Princess, I don't want you panicking the night before like the procrastinator you are deep down."
She laughs and kisses him once more. "Fine, but I'm coming back for more kisses once I'm done," she says.
June Twenty First
"Effie, I swear, being pregnant is so not fun. Don't listen to the books, or the movies, or Haymitch. They have no idea," Katniss groans, rubbing her back. "This child will end me. I will have survived being a tribute twice, a victor twice, a symbol, literally battered half to death on multiple occasions, set alight, and losing my whole blood family just to be murdered by a child that isn't even out yet and weighs about three and a half pounds total. Do not ever get pregnant. If you love yourself in any way, don't do it."
Effie makes a face. "I don't know, Katniss, I'd rather that than have to bleed for a week every month. At least I'd get something other than my favourite panties ruined if I had a baby," she says. "Besides, your daughter's last ultrasound showed me how beautiful she is already. I'd love something like that."
Haymitch strolls in, wearing just his sweatpants, then smirks at Effie. "You'd better not be planning a baby Bug before we've got you down the aisle," he chuckles.
"If you love her enough, you won't ever let her get pregnant," Katniss tells him, clutching at her lower back. "She doesn't deserve to suffer."
"Well, Katniss, you only have something along the lines of seven weeks left, yes?" Effie asks, tilting her head slightly.
"Seven weeks too many," Katniss grumbles. "I'm ready for this child to get out of me already."
Haymitch winces. "Not on our sofa, sweetheart, it's older than you are," he says. "It doesn't need that sort of trauma."
Effie lifts an eyebrow at him, then smiles sweetly at Katniss. "How about I get you some tea? It's specially formulated to relax your muscles," she offers. "I use it a lot."
"It's not alcoholic," Haymitch adds in. "Effie's on a detox again."
"I want to look slim in my wedding gown, Haymitch, and as much as I hate to admit this, I am a little tubbier than I'd like," she says, preparing the tea for Katniss. "Now, my darling, be nice to Katniss while I focus. I'm not like you, I can't multitask."
Haymitch shrugs and studies Katniss, then asks "What's bugging you so much about being pregnant?"
"Aside from having a small human squirming inside my body and bouncing on my unnaturally bent spine?" Katniss asks grumpily.
"Yeah, aside from that," Haymitch says, trying his best not to laugh at her suffering.
Katniss sighs "The sleepless nights that I was told come after the birth, the morning sickness that I was told would probably go away, the constant exhaustion, the inability to hunt when I walk like a whale, the acne, the tense everything, my inability to stand up, the pain I get when I wear bras, everything doing weird things at every hour of the day and night, the intense gas that this child insists on giving to me, the heartburn, the cravings, the dizziness, and the fact that I can't sleep properly because this baby feels like it weighs thirty three and a half pounds, not just three and a half. That's what annoys me."
"That makes having a baby sound like a horror story," Effie murmurs. "I do hope it's not really that horrible."
"It's worse," Katniss groans. "I'm telling you, Trinket, bad idea."
Effie nods, but smiles slightly. "I think that when you hold her outside of you, you'll feel much better about going through the pregnancy," she says softly, stirring the tea. "And you will have us to babysit her."
"Doesn't do much now," Katniss mutters grouchily. "I'm too ready to have this baby, you have no idea."
"When she's screaming, you'll want to put her back in," Haymitch chuckles.
Effie walks over and places the tea in front of Katniss, then says "You should be more sensitive, Haymitch, she's suffering. You won't like it when someone is inevitably insensitive when it's me in that situation."
Haymitch rolls his eyes, and Katniss says "The three of us, as in Haymitch, Peeta, and me, we have an understanding that you'll even be pregnant in textbook propriety."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Effie asks, folding her arms.
"It means that you'll get a tiny bump, more up top, wider hips, even nicer hair, clear skin, and have no pain at all," Haymitch chuckles. "You'll be the kind of pregnant woman we see in those movies you two are so keen on."
"And you'll give every other mom in the District another reason to hate you," Katniss says.
"I'm sorry, but I'm not a movie star. I'm definitely not going to be that fortunate. I'll probably end up really disgusting," Effie chuckles. "More so than usual, I mean."
She gives Haymitch a glass of orange juice, then gets her own glass of water. "You're not disgusting," Haymitch says, looking annoyed and sulky.
"Are you actually pouting?" Katniss asks, smirking.
"No," Haymitch grumbles.
"You are!" Katniss exclaims, then bursts out laughing. "Wait until I tell Peeta! You'll never hear the end of this!"
"Effie," Haymitch says, giving her a helpless look.
"Be nice, Katniss, it's my fault he pouts now, he started doing it to mock me and make me laugh, and it's become a thing," Effie says. "It's my fault, blame me."
Katniss takes no notice, cackling loudly. "Why do we still let her in?" Haymitch asks loudly over Katniss's laughter.
June Twenty Second
Haymitch grins at Effie as he, Katniss, and Peeta lean back in their seats, full from their meal. "Who knew that a plate of grains and eggs was so good?" Haymitch chuckles, smirking at Effie. "That went really well with the ribs."
Peeta mutters "I didn't know you could fry eggs and grains together."
"It's been a very simple recipe since before the Dark Days," Effie says. "It's a common meal in the city. And the best bit about it is that it works all year around."
"Are you going to get it made for you on your holiday to the city, then?" Katniss asks lazily, almost asleep in her seat.
"No, I'll cook," Effie says. "I'm worried about leaving you both. Will you be okay without us?"
"We'll be fine, Effie, we lived for sixteen years without you two parenting us," Peeta chuckles.
"But you had actual adults then," Effie argues. "Are you sure you won't come with us? I can get you a room."
"No," Katniss says. "I'd rather not have to listen to you two... Wrestling... All night long. It's okay, we'll be fine. You two go, make your own little humans, don't bother about us."
Effie's lower lip wobbles. "But I don't like leaving you," she whimpers. "You two have had enough adults walk out of your lives..."
"Effie, relax," Haymitch says, grabbing her hand. "They know we'll come home. They're not six year olds who need Mommy at home. They're adults, they're living together, they have their own baby on the way. Calm down."
Peeta smiles at Effie. "It's okay, Effie. You'll only be gone for a week, and we'll call if there's an emergency," he says. "We'll give you daily text updates."
"See?" Haymitch says. "They're responsible, and they know to keep each other fed."
Effie looks sad, but nods. "Fine. But the instant you two change your minds, you tell me," she says. "I will bring you if you so choose."
Haymitch chuckles and shakes his head. The subject is dropped until after the younger couple have said goodnight and headed home, and he and Effie have gone to bed. He hears Effie's soft whimpers and asks "What's wrong?"
"I don't want to leave them," she sobs. "I want to put them in my suitcases and bring them along. I feel bad for leaving them."
"No, Trinket. We're not doing that," Haymitch murmurs, cuddling her. "They can live a few days without us. They might actually appreciate our presences when we get back if we don't drag them with us."
"But they might need us," Effie sobs. "I don't want to leave them, they're too young to be alone."
"They're twenty one, Eff. They're married, they're having their own baby, they're definitely old enough to live alone," he chuckles. "Besides, Sae will check in on them. She did it for me after I won, and didn't stop until we got engaged."
Effie sniffs, then cuddles up to him. "I don't want to leave them. They already have abandonment issues..." she sobs.
Haymitch kisses her gently and whispers "Effie, I think you're the one with separation anxiety and abandonment issues. Those kids are in the same ten years as you, age-wise, and you're young enough to be their sister. You need to relax."
"I can't! I've been looking after them for around four years now, give or take a few months, and now I don't know how to not!" she whimpers sadly. "They're my kids, for nearly every intent and purpose out there. I hate abandoning them."
"You're tired," he says, rubbing her stomach soothingly. "Sleep, Princess. You'll feel much better in the morning."
"I hope so," she sobs, wrapping herself around him.
June Twenty Third
"Don't get all sappy," Haymitch warns as they all arrive at the train station. "They want a break."
Effie nods, her face a cool mask of composure, her eyes swimming with tears. "All right. Are you sure you have everything you need?" Katniss asks. "I don't want to travel all the way to the city just to hand you two a plug extension."
"We have everything," Haymitch says, hugging Effie tightly to prevent her pouncing on the younger couple or kidnapping them.
"Why are you holding Effie like that?" Peeta asks.
Haymitch clutches her closer and says "Because that little twitch in her hand means she wants to hug you or kidnap you and bring you with us."
"She can hug," Katniss says. "Gently, though, Effie."
Haymitch lets go and Effie grabs both Katniss and Peeta and hugs them close. "I don't want to leave you," she whines. "Please come with us."
"No," Katniss says. "I'm not about to take a two day train ride. That'll kill my back off completely. No."
"And I need to be here," Peeta says. "I have a wife and a bakery. You two go and have fun."
"Effie, come on, you're not leaving forever," Haymitch sighs.
Effie whines, and it takes all three of them to prise her off. Haymitch holds her back as their luggage is loaded onto the train, then Peeta says "Have fun, you two. I have to run, I left the bakery unattended."
"And you have to help me up that slope before you go back," Katniss says.
"Don't kill each other," Haymitch says. "I hate telling Effie when she's right."
"Stay safe, my darlings," Effie whimpers, clearly trying her best not to cry.
Haymitch has to carry her onto the train, knowing exactly what she needs. She cries for a solid hour on his shoulder, then perks up when he puts headphones on her ears and plays her a few Morel Skyberry songs. "Better?" he mouths.
She nods, then starts loudly singing along, horribly off-key. Haymitch winces, but lets her do her thing, grateful that she's stopped crying now, and hopes that the train gets them to the city early.