Okay, so I started this story about a year and a half ago when I was curious as to how a story with this pairing would go and I couldn't find any. When I saw there wasn't at least one story with the pairing, well, I just had to write the first one. I can't say I'm really all that happy about how it turned out, but I don't have so much the time for it.
And yes, this is just a one-shot. Even if you like it, please, please, please don't ask me to continue it because I've got little time thanks to university and the exams which I'm just in the middle of and I've also got a lot of stories started that I need to update and I am definitely not abandoning any of them. That's without adding into the mix all those plot bunnies that suddenly jump at you from the darkest corners of your mind and force you to write about them and take your focus from your main stories… Those bunnies are the evillest thing in the universe, I swear.
That said, I hope you at least enjoy this one-shot a little bit. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think…
Roses do not mean love
Haymitch Abernathy was, as everyone knew, an alcoholic. He never tried to hide it and neither did he try to change it. What everyone also knew, was that he drunk to forget.
What all of them got wrong was exactly what he tried to forget.
They thought it was the Games and it wasn't an unfounded guess. He had been a tribute in the 50th Hunger Games, the second Quarter Quells when the Capitol had made the Districts send double the usual amount of tributes to the arena. It had been horrible, but he had lived. Just as he had promised he would.
But it hadn't been that which broke him. What really broke him was his return to District 12.
He had feigned enjoyment whilst on that farce of a Celebration Dinner whilst trying to, as inconspicuously as possible, find his family. Every resident of the District was supposed to attend, so he got a really bad feeling when he didn't see them anywhere.
For a moment, he thought they hadn't wanted to see him. That they were so horrified at what he had had to do to survive that they didn't want to have anything to do with him.
But those thoughts didn't last long.
The fact that some of the Peacekeepers couldn't even look at him and the evil smirk on the Head Peacekeeper's face did nothing to assuage his fears.
He went home for the night as soon as he could, though by that time he was already half drunk thanks to his friends. And, well, it was not really home. He went to his new house in the Victor's Village, where he had been told by someone his family awaited him.
He opened the door and stumbled through the threshold and into the main area of the house. There was a metallic almost coppery scent in the air, but he paid it no mind.
He would soon come to regret it.
Haymitch walked towards what he assumed to be the kitchen and turned the lights on, though he didn't really expect anyone to be there. Not with the whole house still bathed in darkness.
However, the sight that met him made wish he had never stepped foot in that house.
A mangled body laid on the floor. Her arms, because although the face was unrecognisable it was still obviously a woman's body, were twisted in unnatural angles and her probably once pretty dress was ripped.
Not that far from her, laid a much smaller body. It was a young boy with his eyes and mouth wide open in a last silent scream of horror. His chest was full of holes and one of his arms had a deep slash.
Haymitch had to lean onto the doorframe to hold himself up and swallow hard to stop the need to throw up.
The source of the coppery scent he had not a second ago dismissed painted the walls a deep blood red colour and made him feel even more light-headed.
He stumbled back, trying to flee from the horrible sight until his back finally met the main door and he slid to the floor in shock.
After who knew how long, he noticed some marks on the floor. It looked as if someone had dragged a bloodied body through the floor and the marks continued through another door.
As if in a daze, Haymitch got back up and followed the trail of blood to a bedroom. It was obvious it was the main bedroom, the one that was supposed to be his.
Days, weeks even, later, he would see his clothes in the closet, the few trinkets he had scattered around and the token he had taken with him to the Games sitting on his night table. But right then he could only see the body lying on the bed.
They had placed him face up, with his hair surrounding his head like a dark halo and his hands resting over his chest as if he were simply sleeping. He almost looked as if he was peacefully asleep.
But his still chest, disfigured face and bloodied form told a whole other story.
His knees shook and Haymitch fell to the floor. Feeling numb, he crawled over to the bed before managing to climb up on it and gathering the cold figure in his arms.
Something wet covered his hands and when he looked at them he realized it was blood. It was like the Games all over again except now he had no reason to keep living. Everything had been for naught.
He brushed a strand of black hair from the still body's unrecognisable face, staring with horror at what was left of the man he had fought so hard for and rocked them both in silence.
He was found like that the next day by a Peacekeeper. Months later, Haymitch would hear the other man had taken his own life, but he would not care.
The ceremony was brief and private. Haymitch and a couple of friends. No one else. Haymitch wouldn't allow it.
He refused his friends' offers to stay with one of their families for a few days. That's when his isolation began.
As soon as he got back from the funeral to that damned house he found a note on the kitchen table.
My most sincere condolences. It's a pity that such a beautiful flower had to be cut down so young.
In that moment, he knew.
It was his entire fault.
His mother, his younger brother, his lover… they were dead because of him. Snow had had them killed because of his defiance during the Games.
He had got them killed by sheer stupidity and arrogance.
He got a bottle of alcohol out and started to drink, hoping it would be enough to erase green eyes and beautiful smiles from his mind. Wishing it would make the pain go away.
So yes, most people got right that he drunk to forget, but they got wrong what he wanted to forget.
The girl on fire.
That was how they called her.
The first time he heard it, Haymitch laughed.
But later on, he would realise something. Her offence towards the Capitol had been worse than his, much worse, yet her family was still breathing.
She had power. Power she didn't know she had. And Haymitch decided right then that he would help her use it. He would help her destroy the Capitol, even if she didn't know that yet.
He wouldn't do it because of her, though. He would do it for the most selfish of desires. Revenge. After all, if she failed, what could he lose? His life? At this point, that would be more of a blessing than a punishment. The only reason he hadn't ended himself was he knew his family wouldn't have forgiven him for that. And that he knew he deserved to suffer for what he had brought upon them.
So he helped her in the Games, knowing he could only bring one of them back home.
It was a pity, really. Peeta was such a good boy. Too good. That was his flaw. No one so good could ever survive the Games. No one so good should ever survive the Games. So he turned his back on him, disregarding the pang of guilt he felt.
And in the end, they both came back to District 12, alive.
He? He went back to his drinking.
The Victory Tour was a disaster. Katniss, as he had known she would, failed to convince the Capitol of her love for Peeta.
When the third Quarter Quells came and it was announced the tributes would be chosen from the champions, he threw the bottle at the TV. He knew very well what Snow wanted.
He could only think back to the time when he had first been chosen. Well, not really chosen. What not many remembered was that Haymitch had been a volunteer.
His cocky attitude during the Games had kept people from wondering why he had done it and his clearly hostile attitude after the Games had kept people away enough that it had soon been forgotten. But he hadn't.
He still remembered clearly that heart stopping second when Harry's name had been called. He had been frozen in shock. That was never supposed to happen.
He also remembered the look on Harry's face when he volunteered; following the protocol so as to make sure he wouldn't be rejected.
He had gotten to say goodbye before being shipped to the Capitol. One of his deepest regrets was in fact that his last memory of Harry, because he refused to consider that fateful night as one, was of him crying and making him promise to come back to him.
Then Peeta came, forcing him to promise to save Katniss. Never before had Peeta's selflessness reminded him so much of his Harry.
And he agreed.
He agreed because he was not like Harry and Peeta. He was selfish and he wanted revenge against the Capitol. So he would lie to Katniss. And save her even at the cost of Peeta's own life.
This time, he knew that should the Games end, the two of them wouldn't come out alive, if any at all.
So he took his chances and helped put into motion the crazy plan of District 13. Although he had to admit Plutarch Heavensbee wasn't half bad at what he was doing. He would like the man more if the plan hadn't included from the beginning getting Katniss and the most useful tributes out and leaving the rest in the arena. Maybe. No.
So here he was. In District 13, where he wasn't allowed to drink alcohol because it would be a waste of the substance, putting up with people he didn't stand and surrounded by teenager angst.
Life certainly sucked for him.
Finally, the Mockinjay broke down. Peeta's absence was felt too keenly. When it was decided a rescue team would be sent out for Peeta and Annie and Boggs asked for volunteers, Haymitch lifted his hand.
He knew he wouldn't be chosen, but he would've liked to even though he knew he wouldn't have come back alive. He would have helped get the others out, of course, but after that he would have been free to have a go at the 'let's kill Snow' game.
Predictably, Boggs ignored him and chose a group of seven. One of them was Gale. And guess who the lucky man to give the news to their Mockinjay would be…
As soon as he heard from Beetee that the rescue team was back with the recovered prisoners and Katniss and Finnick were required in the hospital, he run to Special Defence where the two were waiting.
He followed after them when they made their way to the hospital, though he didn't fancy what was sure to be an emotive reunion full of tears.
Unfortunately, this time he wasn't right. Peeta tried to kill Katniss. Finnick had more luck. Annie was in his arms as soon as she saw him and Haymitch had to look away.
Later on, he heard they had rescued another prisoner besides the champions. Someone they all had thought to be already dead.
The man opened his eyes a slit and looked at him.
"Haymitch." nodded weakly the other.
The stylist looked horrible. One of his eyes was swollen shut, his lip split, he was obviously emaciated, he had various broken bones and, he was sure, a lot more things.
"I won't ask how you're feeling. It would be kind of a stupid question."
"Well, believe it or not, I'm not feeling that bad. The drugs they gave me… that's some strong stuff." he paused and drew a deep breath, or as deep as his wound allowed him. "It's still hard to think that I'm really alive and out of there."
"For what's worth, that's not so different from how all of us feel."
Cinna snorted. Apparently, his time as a prisoner had given him a new appreciation for Haymitch's dry humour.
"Yeah, I suppose that's true."
They stayed silent for a while, none of them knowing what to say.
"I need to ask you something."
"Ask away, but I reserve the right to answer."
Haymitch nodded once signalling he had heard before taking a deep breath. With all the bluntness he was known for, he started.
"The doctors said you've been flogged."
Cinna looked at him warily, but remained silent. It was a statement, not a question.
"What was it like?"
Cinna stared at him, deep in thought. Of all the questions he could have asked, that wasn't even in the top-ten list he had expected.
"Why do you want to know?"
The blond man looked away with a scowl and Cinna pursed his lips. He would have crossed his arms over his chest instead, but he didn't think he would really be able to.
"Haymitch, you're asking me a rather personal question. The least you could do is explaining why you want to know that."
The victor looked back at him and Cinna was sure that the stubborn man would refuse to answer but, surprisingly, the man sighed and nodded curtly. Suddenly, Haymitch looked more tired than ever as he sat heavily on the chair next to the bed and run a hand through his hair.
"As Katniss has proved, the existence of Victors is a threat to the Capitol. They must have known that when they first decided to introduce the Hunger Games, but they still took the risk. Before all of this, however, none of the champions would've thought of going against the Capitol. Snow made sure of that." Cinna nodded to show he was following him, but the other wasn't looking at him and didn't notice. "As I'm sure you already know, he threatened the families. No victor would go against him if it meant putting in danger the lives of his or her loved ones. But threats are forgotten if there is not proof that actions will really be taken."
The blond sighed again and rubbed his eyes with a hand before resting his elbows on his knees and looking up at the stylist.
"Do you know anything about the Second Quarter Quells?"
"Of course." Replied Cinna quietly.
He had been just a child himself when they took place, but it was hard to forget.
"The Districts had to send in double the amount of tributes. It's the year you were chosen and won by using the force field that surrounded the arena."
"Yeah. The Capitol wasn't happy with the way I won the Games. It made them look like fools when I used their own tools against them. The force field wasn't supposed to interfere with the way the Games went; it was there just to keep us inside. So they made an example out of me. From then on, no other victor —until Katniss and Peeta, that is— stepped a toe out of line. They knew if they did, they would end up like I did." sighed Haymitch. "The night I returned to District 12, I went home to find all my family dead."
Cinna's only visible reaction was to swallow. Maybe he had already known. Maybe he hadn't. Haymitch didn't ask.
"What had happened?" asked the stylist.
The victor looked at him in silence for a while. He wasn't sure if he should tell him everything. He had never talked with anyone about that. He decided to give it a try as he knew that, at least, Cinna wouldn't show him pity. The stylist wasn't that kind of man.
"I went to the house in the Victor's Village. I found my mother and my little brother in the kitchen. She took the worst of it. I think whoever Snow ordered to do the job wasn't really too… comfortable hurting a kid."
"How old was he?" inquired the other quietly.
Haymitch felt a pang of pain in his heart at that thought. His little brother had been so young; he had never really gotten to live. Not that what the Districts had could be called a life most days and they had been especially poor, but after his victory things would have been easier.
He cleared his throat as he shook his head to clear it of those thoughts. Dwelling on the 'what if's wasn't going to help him at all.
"That's not all, is it?"
"No, it isn't." Haymitch took a deep breath and kept talking. "My boyfriend's body was there too. His face was…" he had to pause to take another breath. This was too hard. He had spent the last twenty six years not talking to anyone about it and now... Cinna kept silent, not pressuring him to talk and simply waiting. "His face was a mess, disfigured. He was covered in blood, but they had left him lying in my bed as if he were asleep. I still remember the feeling of his blood on my hands." The blond man swallowed hard at the memory. "His back was… it had been torn to shreds. They had whipped him until every inch of skin was gone."
The man suddenly got up and turned around so he was facing the door and giving his back to Cinna. He was breathing deeply and slowly, trying to regain his composure.
"No wonder you're always a bastard to everyone." mused aloud the stylist.
Haymitch laughed dryly before finally turning back towards Cinna. His eyes were suspiciously glazed but there was no sight of tears. Cinna couldn't help but think that maybe the years and the alcohol had had something to do with drying them.
The victor waved a hand around in dismissal.
"I didn't tell you this so you would pity me."
"And I don't." answered Cinna. "You want to know what being flogged feels like, but why?"
"I need to know how much he suffered." answered the other man simply.
Cinna stared at him for a moment before it was his turn to take a deep breath.
"I suppose after you've told me all of that, I owe you to at least try to answer your question."
"I want the truth. Don't try to make it sound as if it hurt less than it did."
"Believe me, I won't." Cinna closed his eyes, or his not swollen eye, and contained a flinch at the memory. "It's bad. It's like your back's being set on fire. At first, you don't feel much pain, just something resembling an itch. Then, the itch starts to grow, getting stronger, until you can't tell where exactly they are hitting you. I was lucky, they didn't use the whip on me more than twice, but my cellmate… he was almost used to it by then. His back was full of scars; there wasn't a patch of skin left untouched. I asked how he could bear the pain and he said that if they kept doing it long enough, although you still felt the ache, the area became numb with pain. Afterwards, he would be in pain for weeks, even when his back didn't bleed. He said…" Cinna opened his eye to see the man looking at him with an unreadable face. "He said that was the worst. The pain after the whipping, when all your body hurt and you could only think that death would be a mercy."
Haymitch stood up abruptly.
"Thank you." The blond said walking towards the door, before pausing with a hand on the doorknob. "What happened to your cellmate?"
Cinna looked away in despair.
"He was taken before the rescue team came. I suppose they didn't want him to be released too. I… I owe him my life. He had been a prisoner far longer than I and if not for him, I would undoubtedly be dead."
Haymitch nodded and, without turning, opened the door and left the room.
They had taken the Capitol.
Haymitch didn't particularly care for that, though.
He had visited Katniss in the infirmary. He was sorry she had lost her sister and, in the process, Gale. He knew, thanks to Beetee, his trap had more than certainly been the one that killed the young girl. So, in the end, he had been the one there for her when her own mother wasn't.
Snow's execution was scheduled for two days later. He was hoping to get permission to talk to the man before that. And if he didn't, he would do it anyway. Somehow.
Cinna walked into the infirmary with slow quite steps. The man was looking much better than when he had been rescued from the Capitol and there was a lightness to his steps that hadn't been there for a while. Haymitch thought he had heard something about the man's cellmate having been found alive.
"How is she?"
The blond looked at the teenager lying asleep on the infirmary bed and sighed.
"As if she had gone through the Hunger Games for the third time."
Not that that was too far from the truth. The way to the Capitol had been like a giant arena, after all. Next to him, the stylist snorted.
They stayed in silence for a while, neither feeling the need to say anything for about a quarter of an hour.
"I better get going."
Haymitch arched an eyebrow in his direction and the black skinned man soon answered the unasked question.
"I don't know if you've heard, but we found my cellmate. I was on my way to visit him when I stopped by here." Cinna looked at the blond victor pensively for a second. "Why don't you come with me? It would be a nice change and Katniss won't wake for a while." added the stylist when Haymitch went to protest.
The older man glowered at him, but it seemed to have no effect on the rather calm man so he sighed, resigned. And maybe, just maybe, a bit curious despite himself.
Cinna directed him to a room of the mansion he had never been in and Haymitch was thankful when he didn't try to make idle chat. He hated that kind of people.
Haymitch stopped at the door, unsure of what to do, and surveyed the room. It was light thanks to the big windows that let the sun filter in, the ceiling was high and the walls were painted a soft cream colour.
In contrast, the furniture was dark wood and looked very expensive; personally, not something Haymitch would have ever chosen himself. He looked over the big closet, the fancy bureau, the dressing table with the carved mirror and the desk next to the window, but didn't really take much notice of it.
Cinna was too focused on walking to his friend's bedside, intent on seeing if he was asleep, to see the Victor's discomfort.
"Hey." said softly the stylist. "You up for a visit?" Haymitch didn't hear an answer, but Cinna smiled and kept talking. "I hope you don't mind, but I brought someone with me."
The dark-skinned man looked back at the blond still standing at the door and signalled for him to walk in. Haymitch did so and closed the door behind himself.
"We don't bite, Haymitch."
He hesitated before approaching the king-sized canopy bed, where he suddenly saw a pale hand move over the bedspread.
"This is Haymitch Abernathy. Haymitch, this is Hadrian."
As a pair of beautiful green eyes fell upon him, Haymitch froze.
His mind refused to believe what it was being told, but it was hard to deny when he had the living —living! —proof in the bed in front of him.
Wild inky black hair, pale skin, a petit frame that looked even smaller in that big bed, small delicate hands and even more delicate aristocratic features. He had a cute straight edged shaped nose, pink soft lips and long dark eyelashes that framed the most stunning pair of forest green eyes Haymitch ever remembered seeing. A scar in the shape of a lightning bolt could be seen in his forehead between his slightly parted fringe and the nightdress had slid down one of his shoulders, allowing his collarbone and the edge of another scar to peek out from under it.
"Haymitch?" the weak whisper coming from those slightly parted lips brought him back to reality.
"Harry." he muttered dazedly.
For a while, neither knew how long, they both simply drunk in the sight of each other, not knowing what to say or even if what they were seeing was real or if they had just finally lost it and were imagining everything.
"You know each other?" asked Cinna slowly, obviously not having expected that.
That seemed to snap Haymitch out of his trance as his brain finally accepted that he wasn't hallucinating and the Victor swallowed before slowly, almost in shock, walking towards them both.
Meanwhile Harry struggled with sitting up and Cinna tried to stop him before realizing it would be in vain and helping him.
By the time Haymitch was standing next to the bed, Harry was looking up at him with tears in his eyes and an expression of wonder that he was somehow sure mirrored his own. It took a while before any of them said anything; Haymitch and Harry not sure of how to begin and Cinna not wanting to interrupt the strange reencounter he was witnessing yet still not understanding.
"Haymitch, I'm… I'm so sorry. So sorry…" started the previous prisoner.
The victor looked at him, startled at the first words that left his lips after all this years.
"Your mother… and… I saw… and I couldn't…"
By this time, Harry was sobbing and babbling but Haymitch didn't care. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Harry was blaming himself for the fates that Haymitch's mother and brother had suffered.
He had never ever, even for a mere instant, believed Harry was at fault for any of that and he couldn't believe he had been blaming himself for twenty-six years.
It was then that he caught on what he had just thought.
Harry had been alive and a prisoner of the Capitol for twenty-six years. For some unknown reason —he refused to think back to what that thrice damned note had said— Snow had preferred to keep Harry alive and a prisoner of the Capitol than kill him as he had made Haymitch believe.
He shuddered to think of all the suffering he must have endured and wasn't sure he wanted to know the reason why Snow hadn't killed him and decided to instead keep him captive. Had he been planning on using him against Haymitch when the time was right?
Remembering what they had done to Peeta, his reaction to Katniss, he emitted a choked sound and feeling something wet on his hand, he looked down to find what resembled drops of water. It was then that he finally noticed he was crying.
"You-You blame yourself for that?" asked unbelievingly Haymitch, carefully sitting down onto the edge of the bed to hide the shaking of his legs.
"I was there. I-I could have…"
"You couldn't have done anything! I thought you were…"
Haymitch choked back a sob, unable to finish the sentence.
He had thought he would never see his lover again after holding his cold still body that fateful night. No, not his body. It obviously couldn't have been.
But the main point was that he had thought he would never see Harry again, get another chance to hold him and hear him laugh. That night, he had thought he had lost everything worth living for.
And now here Harry was, just in his reach, lying in a bed, hardly able to sit up without help and crying because he had blamed himself for the deaths of Haymitch's mother and brother for twenty-six years whilst suffering who knew what horrors.
And he knew it wasn't Harry's fault. Oh, he knew Harry was powerful, he had never doubted it. But he also knew, he always had known, there must have been a reason Harry hadn't been able to use his talent.
Over the years, he had made up and discarded thousands of theories. The most likely one suggested his mother and brother had been hostages and Harry had been threatened with their deaths if he didn't cooperate. After that, it would have been easy to knock him out. Although his system always managed to flush the drugs out of his system rather fast, the Capitol did have an endless supply of them and, more unlikely in his opinion, the resources to create a new drug able to keep even Harry unconscious for quite a while.
The victor leaned forward and cupped Harry's cheeks in his hands, distantly registering that his skin felt too cold. It brought horrible memories to his mind that he had tried to bury with alcohol for a long time now.
"But you're here. You're here now and that's all I care about."
"I've missed you." choked the black-haired man.
Haymitch felt more tears gather in his eyes and he leaned his forehead on Harry's, closing his eyes for just a second before opening them again and looking into those beautiful green eyes that had haunted his dreams for so long.
"I've missed you too." he whispered placing a soft feather light kiss on the man's brow.
A small sound brought their attention to Cinna, whom they had forgotten was in the room with them. He was looking at them with understanding in his eyes as he looked between them both, as if he had finally realized something. His eyes were a bit wider than usual and he didn't seem sure of what to do.
"You… He is…"
Haymitch simply raised an eyebrow at him, content to let the other work it out by himself, but Harry took pity on the poor man and smiled shakily.
"Haymitch and I, ah, we… we knew each other before I was taken as a prisoner."
Haymitch rolled his eyes at Harry's unsure voice, remembering with fondness and slight exasperation how insecure he had always been. He probably didn't want to assume anything as to what their relationship would be, but Haymitch had no trouble doing so for him.
There had never been anyone besides Harry for him and he knew there would never be.
"Harry's my boyfriend. I already told you about him; Snow made me believe he was dead."
The blond noticed the minute flinch of Harry's body at the soon to be dead president's name and clenched his jaw in anger.
"Oh." was the so eloquent answer of the stylist.
Harry looked down at the bedspread in a futile attempt to hide his nervousness and the beautiful blush that covered his cheeks. Haymitch's eyes softened upon finding this familiar sight and his heart jumped in his chest. Not all was lost; Snow hadn't managed to completely break his spirit.
Needing to be alone with Harry, to hold him in his arms once more and to reassure himself that he wasn't dreaming, the Victor directed a pointed look at the dark-skinned man.
Catching the indirect, the man gave a feeble excuse of having to be somewhere else and, with a promise of returning in the afternoon, left the room.
Once the door closed, Haymitch turned to Harry and cleaned the tears from his face before leaning in and placing soft kisses on his forehead, his cheeks, his nose, his eyes…
Slowly relaxing, Harry tilted his head upwards to meet his lips the next time with his own pink lips and Haymitch closed his eyes in bliss until he noticed the taste of tears.
The black-haired man sobbed quietly and buried his face in Haymitch's chest, refusing to look up.
Not knowing what else to do, the blond Victor wrapped his arms around Harry's weak petit form and rocked them slightly, closing his own eyes to stab off the tears that threatened to fall. In the silence that surrounded them, Harry's almost silent sobs and Haymitch's voice echoed off the room.
"What have they done to you, love?"
When Cinna returned, it was well into the afternoon and Harry was asleep. Haymitch sat on the bed next to him, carding his fingers through the younger's black hair. His pale cheeks were a bit red from when he had been crying, but he looked peaceful as he slept.
The stylist came accompanied by a man who introduced himself as Doctor Canter. After he had examined Harry —as much as he could without waking him, which Haymitch refused to let happen— and made sure his condition hadn't worsened, the Champion pulled him aside to talk.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't reveal confidential information about a patient's condition unless given express permission by him or his family."
"I am the nearest thing to family he has."
"I still can't reveal…"
"Look, we can spend all day arguing about this but, one way or another, in the end you're still going to end up telling me everything. Why don't we just make things easier instead of wasting your time and mine?"
The doctor closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. He then sighed and looked at him, then at his sleeping patient and back to Haymitch before sighing, his shoulders slumping.
"All the information is in this folder and it's confidential. I'm sorry, sir, but I really can't tell you. Look, I appreciate everything you have done, but I can't talk about this."
To Haymitch's frustration, the man strode to the door only to trip on his way. The folder fell to the floor and the pages flew everywhere.
Cinna, being nearer, helped him get everything back into the folder, but Haymitch didn't miss the look the doctor sent him before letting a sheet of paper slip under the table.
As soon as the doctor left the room, the blond was on his way to the table, but Cinna was faster.
"Give me that." growled Haymitch.
"Of course." answered smoothly the stylist. He made to give the paper, but when Haymitch reached for it he pulled it away. "With one condition."
Haymitch almost snarled at him.
"You won't read it here. I don't know all they did to him, but I know it wasn't good. I want you to read that elsewhere because if you flip, you'll wake Harry up."
Haymitch gritted his teeth and reached for the paper but Cinna moved it again.
"Cinna." growled the older man.
The blond shook his head but finally nodded. The stylist arched an eyebrow.
"Yes, I'll read it in my room. Now give me that damn thing."
Not without hesitation, Cinna did so and Haymitch folded the paper before putting it in one of his pockets.
Haymitch prowled through the corridors like a caged lion, everyone jumping out of his way as soon as he was within sight.
He had left Harry's room soon after the doctor did. He hadn't wanted to, but he knew he needed to know what had been done to Harry if he wanted to have any chance of helping him.
He had gone to his room after making Cinna promise to stay with the black-haired man and he had read the paper. It had been a medical assessment of Harry's state when he had been found.
As Cinna had predicted, Haymitch had gone crazy. By the time he fell to the floor in tears, the bedroom was in shambles. It had taken him around half an hour to get himself back under control and out of his room.
He found himself in front of a big oaken door which he opened without hesitation and strode into a spacious room with a big round table. Coin was there and he walked towards her ignoring everything else.
Coin looked up from the stack of papers in front of her and arched an eyebrow at him.
"I want to speak with Snow."
"Impossible." cut her immediately. "Nobody is allowed to have contact with him."
"I want to speak with him, Coin." he insisted.
"What for?" she asked barely looking up from some papers.
"That's none of your business."
"It is if you want me to give you permission to see him."
"With your permission or without it, I'll still find a way to do it."
Haymitch turned to leave, but Coin's voice at his back stopped him.
"Is this about the prisoner my men found? The stylist's friend? You've been in his room all the morning."
"You have soldiers watching Harry?"
"Is that his name?"
"Don't play with me and answer the damn question. Do you have your soldiers watching Harry?"
"He is an unknown."
"I don't fucking care what you think! You tell them to back the fuck off or I'll make sure they do."
She looked at him impassively and Haymitch reconsidered his approach.
"I don't think I'm asking for so much, Coin. I'm asking to speak with the man that has had my family and friends killed and for your men to keep away from a man that's important to me."
"He is a man we know nothing about. He could be dange-"
"He is not a danger." managed to press out the man.
Coin pursed her lips and stared at him for a few seconds.
"If he turns out to be, you'll be held responsible for his acts, Abernathy."
The man nodded once and she sighed.
"I'll reassign my men. But you still are not allowed to see Snow."
"I have a right…"
"Nobody will speak to him and that's the end of it."
"He is the man who sent me to the Games, me and all the other tributes. You cannot stop me on this, Coin. You have no right to stop me."
"As I see it, you have two choices: you let me see him and make sure I only speak to him or you don't let me, in which case I will find a way to do it anyway and maybe even slip a knife in that will ruin your dream of a public execution. I'm a Victor, Coin, and you won't be able to keep me caged. You already tried with Katniss. And look at how that turned out."
Haymitch's face was grim as the door to the greenhouse opened and the sugary scent of Snow's white roses invaded his senses. The guards had searched him thoroughly for weapons before letting him enter.
"Oh, a visit. Haymitch Abernathy. I can't say I am surprised. What can I do for you?"
Haymitch turned around at the sound of that accursed voice. A voice he had heard in nightmares many times. He looked the same as in them too. Haymitch hadn't realised how much he hated white until then. Everywhere he looked, he saw white.
"Well? Are you not going to answer? That's tremendously impolite." said the ex-president when the blond just stared at him.
Haymitch arched an eyebrow as he walked around a bush of roses.
"Well, if you aren't going to talk, what do you want?"
But Haymitch wasn't really paying him all that much attention. There was a particularly good bush of roses next to him and a pair of scissors on the table. He spared a thought towards the stupidity of the guards, leaving a weapon just a lying around. He wasn't complaining.
"Oh, yes, that bush is one of my favourites, although it's a bit old it still gives some of the prettiest flowers."
He grabbed the scissors and Snow arched his eyebrows, but he frowned when Haymitch didn't even look at him.
Instead, Haymitch started to cut the roses on the bush one by one until there were none left. Snow winced at the sound the scissors made with each cut.
"What a waste. I take it white roses aren't your favourites?"
Once finished, the Victor calmly set the scissors back on the table.
"How many what?"
"Don't play with me!" roared Haymitch, his calm façade shattering for a moment. "How many of your sickos partook in doing that to him?"
"Oh, so you've found him already." nodded slowly the man.
The white clad man tilted his head to the side before returning to his previous occupation of trimming the bushes. Haymitch decided that, as soon as he was dead, he was going to burn down the whole greenhouse.
"What part do you mean? The lashings or the…?"
"Well, I had a couple of my personal guards do the lashings. The rest of the entertainment was all mine."
He looked up from the roses to gauge his reaction.
"Sometimes I had him brought to my room. He was so entertaining in bed." the ex-president ignored the tightening of his fists. "Really feisty. Fought back with all he had. There are other times, though, that you only want someone to lay there and take it, especially when you are frustrated. All it took was having a sniper pointing at you head and he would be like clay in my hands. And I was really frustrated lately, what with our Mockingjay…"
Haymitch breathed deeply a couple of times, but it didn't work. He couldn't maintain his cool anymore.
"I'll kill you!" he shouted as he launched at the man.
The guards burst in from where they had been guarding the door and restrained him, not without difficulty.
"I'm already dead, Haymitch." laughed Snow as the blond was dragged out.
Once out, the guards allowed him to shake their arms off him. He didn't spare them a glance as he walked away.
Harry opened his eyes slowly and looked around. The room was darker than he remembered and he realised it was well into the afternoon.
"Hey, did you sleep well?"
He turned his head to the side to find Cinna's kind eyes watching him. Unwittingly, his eyes filled with tears and Cinna sat down on the bed, looking at him in concern.
"I had such a good dream…" gasped out the man closing his eyes to stab off the tears.
Cinna's eyes widened in surprise before he found himself smiling widely at his friend.
"Dream? Well, I must admit I appreciate the man's sense of humour, but calling Haymitch a dream is going a bit too far, don't you think?" jested the stylist.
Harry's eyes shot open and he looked at his friend with hope.
"So it wasn't a dream?"
"What wasn't a dream?" asked a rougher voice from the door.
Harry turned his head to beam at the blond standing at the threshold and managed to sit with Cinna's help. The Victor's eyes softened and he closed the door before approaching.
When he brought his left hand out from where it was hidden at his back to present him with a bouquet of tiger lilies and tulips, Harry was left breathless.
Slowly, the wizard extended his arm to touch the flowers with his fingertips, being as careful as if they were made of crystal before hesitantly looking up.
"They're for me?"
"Well, they're certainly not for Cinna."
The wonder at such a small gesture as bringing him flowers broke Haymitch's heart and he passed him the whole bouquet. The younger man brought it closer to his face, inhaling the sweet scent of the beautiful flowers.
Harry looked up at him, the flowers bringing with them buried memories of similar gestures when they had been younger, when things hadn't been perfect but undoubtedly easier and better.
"Thank you." He breathed out.
Haymitch leaned down and pressed a kiss to his brow.
"Have you had dinner?"
Harry shook his head.
"I just woke up. And I'm not hungry."
Haymitch frowned a bit down at him.
"You still need to eat. You're healing and your body needs all the nutrient it can gets." The blond raised a hand to stop him from voicing his protests. "You're eating something."
Cinna got up from the chair, intent on not giving Harry any chance to convince them otherwise.
"I'll send someone up with food for you both."
"Cinna…" called Harry.
"See you tomorrow."
Haymitch smirked at the stylist's unmoving attitude.
Haymitch awoke abruptly and sat up in the bed, his hand lashing out as if it held a knife. Looking around, he was confused when he found nothing wrong. What had woken him?
A sound. It had been a sound, he realised when he heard the same thing.
Looking down, he found himself extremely thankful for not having slept with a knife as he had done so many times before.
Harry, his sweet Harry, was sleeping next to him, an arm curled around Haymitch's waist. The wizard had fallen asleep that way and he hadn't wanted to move, reluctant to risk waking him up. He stayed with him, staring at his sleeping form and ended up falling asleep soon after.
He didn't have any time to think of what could have happened as Harry's head tossed to the side and a whimper left his lips.
Now he knew what had woken him.
Not wasting a second, the blond shook Harry's shoulder as gently as he could. He was surprised when he didn't immediately bolt upward, but insisted until emerald eyes opened and the raven's thin arms came up in a defensive pose.
Haymitch felt his chest clench in pain at the move, but showed none of his inner turmoil as he slowly lifted a hand and settled it on Harry's hands before tugging them between his and gently rubbing them.
The younger man looked at him with wide tearful eyes before a sob escaped his throat. His face was full of pain and self-deprecation and Haymitch once more felt rage taking over his rationality.
He tugged the raven towards himself before he could see his fury and felt him sink deeper into his embrace, his face burrowed into his shoulder.
One of the Victor's hands wound around his love's middle as the other found its way to his dark hair. Inhaling that smell of water and pine and the moon—if such things had a smell—, the older man felt himself calm slightly.
He felt helpless as he held Harry, not knowing what he could do or say that would make him feel better and not knowing if that was even possible.
So he told him the only thing he could be certain of, the only thing he knew was real and would never change.
"I love you."
The shaking increased and the grip on his shirt grew stronger, but another whisper broke the stillness of the room's darkness, leaving two hearts much lighter than the day had.
"I love you too."
The following week, a routine was established. The doctor would come in the morning to check up on Harry and Haymitch would leave then to get breakfast.
After breakfast, Harry and Haymitch would read for a while. Or more like Harry would read aloud for Haymitch whilst the Victor laid his head on his lap with his eyes closed and listening to his voice.
At midday, Cinna would bring them food from the kitchen and stay for most of the afternoon. Sometimes they just talked about things he had missed. Of course, they only approached the lighter topics. Other times they would sit in silent company, neither saying anything. There were times when Harry would be too tired and had to regretfully take a nap. And others, Harry's favourites, Haymitch would carefully pick him up and bring them to the garden.
The first time Haymitch and Cinna had taken him outside, he had cried. He had cried again when it was time to go back in, being too cold and dark outside for them to stay.
People stared at them every time they left his room, but it didn't matter to the young wizard. He had been kept inside for so long that he would endure anything so long as it meant staying under the sun with the wind ruffling his hair.
Late in the afternoon or at night, Cinna would leave. Haymitch would then pick Harry up and, ignoring his protests of being able to walk on his own, bring him to the bathroom and into the bathtub.
Later, they would have a light dinner before preparing for bed. Although Harry almost always fell asleep immediately, sometimes Haymitch would just stare at Harry, lost in thoughts and memories until sleep took him too.
Two weeks had passed since they had been reunited when Harry received a rather unwelcome visit. Haymitch had gone to fetch them breakfast and the doctor had left early because of an emergency with another patient, so Harry was by himself.
He was reclined on the sofa, trying to choose between two books, when there was a knock on the door.
Harry frowned. It couldn't be Haymitch, as he wouldn't have knocked before entering, and Cinna wasn't supposed to be coming that day as he was expected to attend some kind of meeting in the afternoon and he was also going to be visiting Katniss Everdeen.
He didn't have to wonder about his visitor for long as, without waiting to be invited in, two men and an old woman strode in.
The men were soldiers, from the way they walked to the uniform they wore and their stances at each side of the door. The woman, though, had that aura of control and overconfidence that Harry had always associated with politicians.
If his guess at her identity was right, that's exactly what she was.
She stopped to look at him for a few seconds, assessing him, before she marched in his direction and stood before him.
"Do you mind if I sit down?"
It was more of a demand than a question and the raven stared warily at her before nodding. It wasn't as if she was going to leave when asked to, taking into account the way she had barged in uninvited.
"So you are the man that survived twenty five years as a prisoner of the Capitol."
"And I guess you must be Coin, the woman who led District 13 and aspires to presidency."
They simply stared at each other. Harry refused to appear weak and show how uncomfortable he actually was; he wasn't going to be intimidated by an old woman with delusions of grandeur.
"You have given me a few headaches since we found you."
"I don't think I've done anything to that regard." said Harry arching an eyebrow.
"You may not think you have, but as soon as he found you again, Abernathy… Let's just say his priorities changed."
Harry swallowed. He didn't really see where this was going, but his instincts were telling him it was nothing good.
"And is that a bad thing?"
"Well, depends on how you look at it, I suppose. It's good for you, but not so much for the country. Haymitch Abernathy has been a figurehead in this war and now he has a duty towards this country. A duty that he refused as soon as you appeared."
"From what I know, Haymitch more than fulfilled his 'duty' to this country. He fought for the freedom of a country that had done nothing for him but send him to his death. He owes Panem nothing. In fact, I believe it is Panem that owes him now."
"No matter what you think, Abernathy still needs to attend to some matters that he chose to involve himself in. But since you appeared, he has failed to be present in at least three important meetings. One may wonder if your presence isn't doing more harm than good."
"Are you here to remove that supposed threat?"
"Oh, please, I am not Snow."
Harry looked at her a bit sceptical, but knew better than to comment.
"What are you here for, then?"
Coin stood up and looked down at him, her eyes cold as her lips twisted into some kind of smile.
"I was hoping for your help in encouraging 'Haymitch' to attend a meeting this afternoon. It is important he is present as this is the last opportunity for the Victors to meet and make a few choices before Snow's execution tomorrow."
With that, she turned to leave, but a whisper stopped her.
Coin turned slowly and looked at Harry with arched eyebrows.
"You didn't know?" Harry remained silent. "Tomorrow, Snow will be publicly executed. I would have thought Haymitch would have already told you."
Harry swallowed, but still said nothing.
"You know now. I expect to see you both there tomorrow; it'll be a great event and it wouldn't look good if a Victor wasn't present to show support to the gathered victims."
With that, Coin finally left, the two soldiers following behind her. Harry didn't move from his place on the sofa, the books forgotten on the table.
That's how Haymitch found him when he returned soon after. The man left a tray with their breakfast on a table and hurried to crouch before him.
"What was she doing here? I saw her leaving. Did she and her goons bother you? Because if that's why she came here-"
"No." cut him Harry in a shaky voice. "She said she came here to ask me to convince you of attending a meeting this afternoon."
"What was she really here for?" asked Haymitch narrowing his eyes.
"She also wanted to asses me. You've apparently been skipping meetings and she thinks it's somehow my fault, so she considers me a… bad influence, a complication."
Haymitch gritted his teeth in fury, but otherwise gave no outer reaction to Harry's words.
"Did she threaten you?"
"Not with so many words."
"'Not with so many words'?" echoed the blond. "What do you mean? What did she say?"
Harry didn't answer for a while, choosing instead to fiddle with a loose thread from the sofa.
"When were you planning on telling me about Snow's execution?" asked the raven in a soft low whisper.
The Victor froze, staring at his love's shaky form, everything falling into place much quicker. Beautiful green eyes showing vulnerability in their depths pierced his own and Haymitch closed his eyes for just a few seconds.
"When it was over." he confessed. "I didn't want you to go. I don't want you to be in the presence of that… that… thing ever again."
Harry smiled tremulously and cupped one of the Victor's cheeks with his small hand.
"I don't want to go."
Haymitch let go of a breath he hadn't realised he was holding and covered the hand on his cheek with his own hand.
"Good. That's good."
That afternoon, Haymitch ended up leaving for the meeting after making sure Cinna stayed with Harry.
When he arrived, it was to find all the remaining Victors already there. He noticed they didn't look all that good, but he dismissed the thought.
"What the hell do you think you were doing this morning, Coin?"
"Haymitch, good to know you received my message. We were just about to begin. Take a seat."
Haymitch stared at her warily before sitting down at the table between Annie and Johanna.
"What's this all about?" asked Katniss.
"We don't know yet." said Beetee.
Everyone looked at Coin for an explanation as to why they were all gathered there.
"We've called you to solve a dispute. Tomorrow, Snow will be executed. In the last weeks, we've judged a lot of the higher charges in the Capitol and condemned them to death for their crimes against the Districts. Still, not everyone is happy with that and there has been unrest since the war was won. The citizens of the Districts are asking for the extermination of all the citizens of the Capitol. However, we cannot afford to kill off so many people if we want to keep our population stable."
Haymitch frowned. He didn't know what that had to do with them, but he had a bad feeling about it. He was beginning to regret attending this meeting.
"An alternative has been proposed and, as my colleagues and I cannot reach an agreement, it has been decided the Victors still alive will choose. A majority of four votes is needed for that and nobody will be allowed to abstain themselves. It has been proposed that, instead of eliminating the whole population of the Capitol, we celebrate a final symbolic edition of the Hunger Games with the children related to the higher charges of the Capitol."
"Are you joking?"
"No. I must also tell you that, if the Games are organised, it will be known it was with your authorisation. Though the exact votes will not be revealed, of course, for security reasons."
"Was it Plutarch's idea?" asked Haymitch blankly.
"No, it was mine. In order to maintain balance between the need for revenge and the least loss of lives possible. You can vote."
For a few seconds, there was only silence, until Peeta jumped up, anger clear on his tired fire-marked features.
"No! I vote not, of course! We can't have another Hunger Games!"
"Why not?" asked Johanna. "I think it's fair. And Snow's got a granddaughter. I vote yes."
"I do too." said Enobaria indifferently. "Let them reap what they sow."
"This is why we rebelled! Remember?" shouted Peeta looking at everyone. "Annie?"
"I vote not, like Peeta. And so would have Finnick if he were here."
"But he's not because Snow's monsters killed him." reminded her Johanna rather callously.
"No. It would set a precedent." disagreed Beetee. "It is essential for our survival that we all stop looking at each other as enemies. No."
"There's only Katniss and Haymitch left."
After almost a minute of silence, Katniss finally spoke up.
"I vote yes… for Prim."
"Haymitch, it all depends on you." said Coin.
Everyone turned towards the blond, who had stayed silent up until this point and was staring at the door with blank eyes.
Haymitch was torn.
If he said no, he would lose his chance to take revenge on behalf of Harry; he wouldn't be able to avenge what the Capitol had done to him. What Snow had done to him. And he would be taking revenge away from so many that had lost loved ones in this war.
If he said yes, he would be condemning children to die only to assuage the feelings of the Districts, not that they weren't justified, but still. They were talking about children. Could he live with the knowledge?
Worse yet: could Harry live with the knowledge that the man he loved had allowed the murder of children? How would he look at Haymitch when he discovered the truth?
The mere idea was horrible. He couldn't do that to Harry.
Besides, Snow would die either way. And his followers were already condemned. He didn't need to do this; he didn't need to get more blood on his hands.
He saw Katniss look at him strangely and Peeta breathe out in relief. Beetee nodded in gratitude and Johanna looked surprised. Enobaria didn't show any signs of caring either way whilst Annie looked lost.
But what Haymitch focused on was the widening of Coin's eyes. She looked both surprised and angry, but she masked it fast. Haymitch had seen it, though. And he was wary for it.
The next morning found a crowd of Capitol and District citizens looking up at the balcony of Snow's house.
Haymitch and Harry were there, the younger man leaning on his side and trying to appear as if he weren't shaking. Haymitch had an arm around his waist, his jaw set as he glared at Coin.
He had received a warning he wasn't about to ignore. Coin wanted them there and the woman was about to become the new president of New Panem so he had reluctantly and not without a lot of curses brought Harry to the execution. After all, no matter what she liked to think or say, Coin was no better than Snow.
He had already applied for their return to the Victor's Village in District 12, but until they left, they needed to be careful.
When Snow was brought out and tied to a post, Haymitch noticed Harry's grip on his shirt tighten almost painfully and his breath quicken as if he were about to panic. In return, Haymitch tightened his hold on the raven's waist and pressed a soft kiss to his sin.
His eyes strayed back to the ex-president only to see his eyes fixed on Harry already. The blond Victor gritted his teeth so hard he thought they would break.
Fortunately, the president's eyes went back to Katniss soon after when the girl readied her bow.
Harry turned around in his arms and buried his face on his chest, not wanting to look anymore. Haymitch let him, but didn't look away.
He wanted to enjoy it. He wanted to bask in this moment.
Yet he couldn't.
The shaking body in his arms was too firm a reminder of all that Snow had taken from him and Harry, of all they had lost, for him to enjoy it.
The threat of Coin hung in the future whilst Snow was just a sadistic old man with counted days, especially if what was told about his use of venoms was true.
Still, he wouldn't look away.
He may have been forced to attend in order to protect Harry and later he may have to worry about Coin, but he was still going to watch as the man that killed and harmed his loved ones was put down like a rabid dog.
And when Katniss shot Coin instead of Snow and the president was mobbed to death, he would never admit to the small smile he hid on Harry's hair.
They were free.
Haymitch breathed deeply in and let the air out slowly.
It was surreal, sitting here with Harry, the young wizard curled up in the sofa taking a nap with his head on Haymitch's lap.
The blond couldn't take his eyes off him. It had been like that since they had arrived at the Victor's Village. It was the only part of District 12 that had remained intact.
When they first arrived, Haymitch had had to force himself to take each step. The nearer he got to his old house, the higher strung he was.
In the end, they had just occupied one of the other houses. He hadn't been able to bring Harry to what was supposed to have been their home so long ago.
His raven shifted, bringing him out of his thoughts as those green eyes slowly blinked open, long black eyelashes fluttering.
"I'm here." he answered just as he did every time the younger man woke up from a nightmare. "I'm here."
The raven relaxed.
Harry looked down to find a big orange cat, with a squished face and half-an-ear missing rubbing its body against his legs.
"Hello, little one. Where did you come from?" asked the man gently crouching down and gingerly stretching a hand to pet the animal.
The cat sniffed his hand before lifting its head and rubbing it against his hand, as if encouraging him to pet him. Harry laughed softly and did so, finding the fur to be a bit greasy but soft.
Carefully, not wanting to scare the animal, he took it into his arms and entered the house, going straight for the kitchen intent on looking around for some leftovers that he could feed the poor starving darling.
Haymitch raised an eyebrow when he saw the cat and Harry explained how he had just found him outside the door.
"Do you think we could keep it?"
"I think I know it, but I'm not sure how it could have got here. It must have come walking all the way from District 13." mused Haymitch.
Harry looked down sadly at the cat.
"Does it belong to someone, then?"
The blond shook his head.
"It was Katniss' sister's, but she died… It must have come here looking for her."
"Oh. That's so sad."
"You are a loyal little thing, aren't you?" muttered Haymitch hesitantly bringing a hand near its head and scratching between its ears.
"What's its name?"
Harry nodded decisively.
"Well then, I suppose we'll be keeping Buttercup then."
"I didn't have a doubt since I watched you enter with him." teased Haymitch rolling his eyes fondly.
Harry laughed lowly before placing the cat on the floor and searching some food for him.
He woke up with a start, lurching up from the bed, his hand lashing out and panting harshly.
He looked around wildly, the darkness not helping calm him at all. Finally, his eyes got used to the darkness and he recognised the dark figure sitting near him, hands intertwined on his lap.
Once sure he had been recognised and the blond was aware enough, the raven crawled towards him and enveloped the older man in a hug.
"Did I hurt you?" the Victor asked in a hoarse voice.
Harry shook his head and Haymitch took a shaky breath before returning his little love's embrace. His face buried itself in the wizard's hair as he almost choked on the air.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
This time it was Haymitch who shook his head.
"Alright. I love you."
It was too much. And the tears fell onto dark raven hair even though no sound left the older man's lips.
The next day, neither mentioned what had happened the night before.
They went about their morning as they had since they returned to the District. If Haymitch was more distracted than usual or Harry more attentive or both kept physical contact for longer, neither mentioned it.
In the afternoon, Harry sat on the sofa with a book in his hands and Haymitch's head laid down on his lap. Slowly, the hand on his hair and Harry's voice lulled the blond into a half-sleep.
A loud sound startled the older man so badly he almost fell to the floor, but he managed to right himself before that happened.
It took him a second to recognise the sound of the phone and catalogue it as something unharmful.
When he did, he lowered his eyes to hide his shame at his reaction from Harry, who hovered worried and unsure around him. Noticing Harry was contemplating simply not answering the phone, Haymitch insisted he go.
They both knew it was Cinna, who called once every week to speak with Harry.
When the dark-haired man finally left, Haymitch sat on the edge of the sofa and buried his head in his hands. Cinna should keep Harry busy for a while, which gave him the time he needed to put himself together before he returned.
Gritting his teeth at his perceived weakness, Haymitch got up and paced the length and width of the sitting room, trying to release all the pent-up energy from being startled.
Stopping next to the window when it was clear pacing was not helping any, the blond stared at the Victor's Village.
For a second, he wondered what they were doing there. Why had they returned to a place that brought them only horrible memories and even more sorrow?
His eyes stopped on a particular house; it had nothing to separate it from the others, yet Haymitch knew it was different.
An idea, probably idiotic and more trouble than it was worth, took form in his mind.
Not giving himself the time to think more about it, lest he back down, he left the house in a hurry.
It was just as he remembered it: dark and messy. And full of horrible memories.
He could almost smell the old dried blood that had once painted the white walls in a dark red colour.
The hall opened into a wide kitchen full of ghosts from his past, but he was facing another demon that day so it wasn't his destination. Instead, he turned left and walked the length of the corridor ignoring all doors but for the one at the end.
Stopping with his hand on the door's handle, he laid his head against the door and closed his eyes.
The first time he had entered that room he had just returned from winning the Hunger Games only to find his family dead. He had not entered that room again since Harry's funeral.
After hesitating for minutes and almost turning around and just leaving, Haymitch finally opened the door and stared at the innocent looking room.
It must have been the cleanest place in the house. It was full of dust, which made him cough in the beginning, but the floor was free of rubbish. It stunk as all closed places did, but the smell of alcohol and rotting things hadn't invaded it.
The blond entered the room slowly, his eyes taking in everything and comparing it to that horrible night he relived in his nightmares.
The biggest difference in his mind was the lack of blood and the empty bed. He hadn't used the room in all his years living in that house, so he had never paid much mind to the rest of the room.
He didn't know how long he stood there, staring at everything until finally he walked to the wardrobe and opened it.
More dust. He coughed.
The wardrobe was full of old moth-eaten clothes that he didn't even remember. Seeing nothing else, he closed the door.
The bureau's drawers were much the same, and he quickly turned to other things.
On top of the bed-side table something caught his attention.
Carefully picking it up, he noticed it was a slender yet sturdy cuff made of wood, with a small metal clasp and some rough engravings.
This seemingly crude piece of jewellery, he remembered well.
He could remember the first time he saw Harry, all alone, with no family or friends as he had just appeared out of nowhere. At that time, Haymitch's only worry had been providing for his mother and little brother to survive. Then, he met Harry and before he knew it, the other male had already stolen his heart and his world revolved around three people instead of two.
After finally accepting his new place in the little family, the young teen had worked on the bracelet until. One afternoon, he gifted it to Haymitch as a thank you for taking him in.
He had from then on worked even harder to provide for them all, not even hearing of it when Harry offered to have his name written more times at the harvest in exchange for some more rations.
But in the end, it was all for naught.
Harry's name was drawn out and Haymitch ended up taking part in the Hunger Games, where he brought that same bracelet as his personal token.
He had thought it destroyed or at the very least lost, but apparently it had been lying there gathering dust all along.
Gingerly stretching a hand, he picked up the cuff and stared at it long and hard before clasping it around his left wrist. Its weight and texture felt alien after so long, but he would get used to it in time.
Haymitch sat heavily on the edge of the bed, raising a cloud of dust that he ignored as he stared out through the window at the slowly darkening sky.
When Haymitch returned home, tired and covered in dust, it was long past dinner time and the only light in the house came from the kitchen. The blond swore in a low voice when he tripped on the doormat and almost fell.
"Haymitch?" called Harry from the kitchen's door.
His face was full of worry as he hurried to his side, wringing his hands together.
"Haymitch, are you alright? I was worried, you didn't say you were leaving. I thought something had happened to you…"
The younger man trailed off when he saw the fine layer of dust covering him and the shadows darkening his eyes.
Harry's small hands touched his wrist and he blinked before looking down at the familiar cuff that had not been there before.
Haymitch's hands shot off towards his shoulders in an abrupt movement that made the black-haired man flinch momentarily. At that, the other man's arms gentled, but didn't stop until the younger one was enveloped in a firm embrace, his face pressed against the older man's face and his arms limp at his sides.
"H-haymitch?" stuttered Harry starting to get a bit scared.
"It's nothing, Harry. Just…" Haymitch's voice was rough and thick with emotion, nothing like the smooth tone he usually employed. "It's nothing."
A few days later, Harry woke up in the middle of the bed, cold and alone. A small frown marring his brow, the man turned the bedside light on before standing and leaving the room.
The hallway was dark and he walked down the stairs grasping the railing and carefully checking each step to make sure he didn't fall. Once he reached the ground floor, he rubbed his eyes tiredly and looked around. The kitchen was empty, but he could see a strange shadow in the sitting room.
"Haymitch?" whispered Harry in a soft voice.
He received no answer. Turning the light on, he took a few cautious steps into the room.
The man sat hunched over the table, his head resting on one of his arms as the other held a bottle. He barely moved, not noticing him enter and trying to take another swing of the bottle.
"Haymitch." muttered the younger man placing a hand on his shoulder.
The Victor paused with the bottle halfway to his lips and looked up at him, his eyes glazed and unfocused.
"Harry?" he slurred.
"Haymitch, you need to get to bed."
"What… time is it?" hiccupped the blond.
"Late; it's really late." said Harry suddenly feeling a bit faint on top of cold. "Come on, you need some sleep, Haymitch."
The blond Victor shook his head.
"No, I'm not tired" he drawled as he tried to take another drink.
Harry stopped him by placing a hand on the bottle.
"I think you've drunk enough." The older man didn't seem convinced. "Please, Haymitch."
The Victor relented at his plea and released the alcohol, which Harry placed out of his reach on the other side of the table. He looked at it longingly, but didn't try to take it again.
"Come on, let's get you to bed."
Harry helped him stand and even took part of his weight when he stumbled. Slowly, they left the kitchen as Haymitch incoherently muttered about Harry and disappearing and many other things that he just couldn't understand in his inebriated state.
The blond didn't take long to fall asleep once he was in the bed, as soon as his head hit the pillow he was gone, and the black-haired man stared at him in concern for a few minutes, sitting next to him.
Haymitch needed to talk about what was eating at him, but the man was too stubborn for his own good. Drinking would not solve his problems and he needed to make him understand so.
But that would be the next day. For now, Harry was feeling too tired to do anything than curl up next to him and draw the blankets over them before falling asleep.
The next day, Haymitch woke up with a headache pounding behind his eyelids. He hadn't drunk so heavily in some time. Opening his eyes slowly, he sighed in relief at the darkness in the room. Harry must have draped the curtains over the windows last night.
Looking down at the younger man sleeping next to him, he smiled slightly at the sight of rosy cheeks and closed eyelids with long dark lashes. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to his forehead, frowning when he felt just how hot his forehead was.
Drawing back, the man replaced his lips with the back of his hand. Shaking him slightly, feverish green eyes opened reluctantly and he felt his worry spike up.
Thinking back on the night before, his memories felt fuzzy but he seemed to remember half noticing how Harry hadn't seemed to be feeling all that well.
"Harry, how are you feeling? You have a fever."
"I'm fine." The younger muttered before closing his eyes again.
Haymitch blinked before his forehead creased in concern. He would take care of him and if he wasn't better by the afternoon, he would call Cinna to see if he could get him a doctor.
He tried everything he could think of to lower the fever, but he had nothing much for his rattling cough and building headache. Cinna had tried to send him a doctor, but apparently, they couldn't spare any in these difficult times. Haymitch sneered. The best Cinna had been able to do had been putting him in contact with Doctor Canter, who could tell him what to do.
His worry did not abate during the rest of the day. Or the night. Or the next three days and nights.
In the beginning, Harry was simply extremely tired.
Then, he wouldn't wake up and Haymitch started panicking.
And then he did wake up. Only for the hallucinations to start.
Making him eat became a pain as the black-haired man was convinced the food was drugged or poisoned, sleep came in short fitful burst and was full of nightmares that allowed no rest and sometimes he wouldn't recognise Haymitch ―or worst yet, recognise him but think it a trick― believing him to be an enemy.
Harry screamed and cried and fought as he was assaulted with vivid memories of his time both before and after he appeared in District 12. And Haymitch did all he could to soothe him, comfort him and stop him from hurting himself.
He didn't leave his side at all but to prepare food and relieve himself; he didn't sleep, didn't eat and definitely didn't leave.
He had failed Harry. He had failed him.
The man he loved had got sick and he hadn't even noticed because he had been too busy drinking himself into a stupor.
And Haymitch swore ―he swore then and there― that he was going to put himself together and provide for Harry. He wouldn't fail him again.
Haymitch looked up and leant on the shovel he was using to dig up the ground at the back of the house as he took a deep breath.
At his request, Cinna had made sure their next supply shipment from the Capitol had included a large assortment of seeds. Some were just pretty flowers for their front garden; he knew how much Harry enjoyed flowers. The rest were all edible plants that Haymitch intended to use to set up a kitchen-garden of their own, which would become their main provider of vegetables, thus setting them further apart from the Capitol's influence.
As the weeks passed, they settled into a new routine, which was not too different from their previous one but for the fact they each worked hard in the mornings to set up their own portion of the garden. The afternoons were spent curled up in the sofa as Harry read a book aloud and Haymitch made mocking comments about its characters.
Gardening seemed to be kind of therapeutic to Hyamitch and as he invested energy and time into their kitchen-garden, the blond man's nightmares started to ebb away until they almost disappeared.
They wouldn't ever go away completely, like Harry's wouldn't― they had both been through too much for that―, but at least they didn't bother him so often anymore.
Watching as Harry approached with a clear bottle of fresh water that the Victor accepted thankfully and took a long gulp from, he felt once again grateful and relieved that he had been able to put himself together enough to see the dark path he had started to tread in time to change course.
Leaning down, the blond pressed a kiss to his love's forehead only for the little imp to lean up and steal a quick peck of his lips before darting away, his laugh bright as Haymitch's hands made grabbing motions.
They didn't keep track of time so they didn't know how long it had been since they had left the Capitol when suddenly there was a new arrival at the Victor's Village of District 12.
Katniss Everdeen went back home.
It had been deeply uncomfortable.
Katniss blamed Haymitch for denying her revenge for his sister's death by not having supported her on the matter of celebrating one last edition of the Hunger Games with children from the Capitol. And Harry felt conflicted ―one the one side, she had just lost her little sister, whilst on the other, she behaved as if all of Haymitch's own suffering amounted to nothing compared to hers, never mind the fact she had only been under the Capitol's scrutiny for less than two years instead of the twenty-six Haymitch had― even though he behaved unfailingly politely towards her.
Haymitch, for his part, let her anger wash off his back. It was nothing to him; he had certainly had worse. He only interfered once, when he visited Katniss and made it clear that she still had something to lose and loose it she would if Harry ever caught wind of exactly what kind of revenge she had wished for in the name of her sister. Haymitch may had positioned himself against that particular bloodshed, but Harry would be upset that there were people in the Districts who would have ever condoned or even considered such a thing.
The tension levels lowered with a new arrival a couple months later: Peeta Mellark.
He had always thought Peeta was much better than Katniss and him. He was simply an all-around much better person than them. He was the kind of decent man that never survived the Hunger Games, except he had. The circumstances had allowed him to: Katniss had allowed him to.
His selflessness and his love for the Everdeen girl had reminded him of Harry from the very first second, so it was no wonder to him how Peeta and Harry seemed to get along so well.
Haymitch had simply shook his head when he had entered the kitchen one afternoon around a week after the younger blond arrived to find them both calmly talking as they drunk tea and shared some scones and pie that they had both prepared as an introductory gift only to find the other had had the same idea.
A few weeks later, Peeta insisted on them all gathering together for dinner. Harry had been reticent, while Haymitch and Katniss downright refused. Young Peeta only needed a few days to finally convince Harry and, together, they managed to persuade their respective partners.
It didn't end up well, unfortunately.
Katniss had been particularly cutting that night, and even though he had promised himself to try and behave to make sure Harry had a good time and Peeta had made a great effort to try and smooth things over when tension rose too high, Haymitch had lost patience with her when he saw his love's hidden pain at her painful remarks.
That night, Harry broke down.
Haymitch couldn't really say he hadn't been expecting it and so he did the only thing he really could.
He got ready to pick up the pieces and pull him back together, no matter what it took.
It was a few more weeks before a tenuous truce sprung up between the two couples thanks to the raven-haired man's metaphorical extended olive branch.
The man had noticed Katniss' frustration that no matter how much she tried, the primroses' she had planted in front of her house seemed to end up dying anyway. He had offered to take over in their care and she had reluctantly agreed only to find that he actually managed to keep the plants alive long enough for them to flower. In exchange, she decided to share the meat she got in her hunting trips with them.
They weren't friends, but at least Katniss was much more tolerable. And Haymitch felt the need to strangle her less often. Peeta was just glad to be able to meet up with Harry without her getting angry.
District 12 was slowly repopulated as people from other districts chose it as their new home and built back the town from scraps.
They didn't rebuild it where it had previously been. But right in the opposite direction from the Victor's Village. Nobody was really sure of how to go about cleaning the results of the bombings, including the bones that were all there was left of its previous inhabitants.
The Victor'sVillage, however, was left undisturbed, allowing for the much desired and deserved privacy of its dwellers.
It was months after the slow but constant trickle of people towards District 12 started when it was decided to host a small celebration in town. It also happened to be the first time Cinna visited them.
The man had managed to convince them all to attend the party, insisting it would be good for them to socialise for a little bit with some people other than themselves. Apparently, that and the occasional calls with the other surviving Victors were not considered enough.
Haymitch had been sullen at the mere idea, but he may have managed to have some fun in the end when a group of giggling children had cajoled Harry and Katniss into wearing some ridiculous flower crowns.
As Peeta somehow got Katniss to agree to a dance, Haymitch wrapped his hands around his younger love's waist where they sat near the fire and pressed his face into the other's shoulder. They were surrounded by people and noise, but they weren't crowded or bothered.
The blond Victor hummed lowly in question, wondering at the strange emotion in the black-haired man's voice.
"I love you."
Haymitch wasn't surprised at the abruptness of the statement; Harry had taken to saying that every time he felt like Haymitch needed reminding and the older man wasn't far off either.
"I love you too." he answered warmly.
But he felt Harry's head shake and frowned a little, confused.
"That's not what I meant." explained Harry turning to meet his eyes with a warm tender expression on his face, the flames bathing it in light and shadows and creating a mesmerising picture. "I love you. And I want you to love me. Tonight."
It took him a few seconds to understand what he meant, but when he did, Haymitch groaned and leaned down to claim his love's lips in an intimate passionate kiss before pressing their foreheads together with a small smile.
"Then why don't we leave the youngsters to their fun and go back home?"
His love's eyes glittered as he stood with a laugh, Haymitch right behind him.