AN: Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor! This fic has been in the works for the past year and a half, and I decided to finally publish this in celebration of the release of Catching Fire. I normally don't write angst or OCs, but I always wanted to write about Haymitch's past. I really hope you enjoy my first ever Hunger Games fic :)
Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games, it is the brainchild of the brilliant Suzanne Collins. The title comes from Colbie Caillat's song Midnight Bottle, which served as my inspiration.
Gone. They're all gone.
When I was crowned victor of the Second Quarter Quell just two weeks ago, I was under the illusion I was safe again. Untouchable even. But what Victors don't tell everyone, is that the Capitol owns them. And that the Capitol does not like being shown up by a mere teenager.
A week after I returned, Aurelia's mother Amabel called me over to their house. This was the beginning of the end. I walked into Aurelia's room and almost collapsed at her bedside. Her dark hair was thin and matted, olive skin as pale as a ghost. Her breath was ragged and slow, but quickened slightly when I cried her name. How can she have gotten sick and deteriorated in the four days since I last saw her?
"Hey, 'Mitch." She croaks after opening her eyes, smiling slightly at her usual greeting. Her grey eyes didn't have the normal shine in them. Suddenly, she coughs and I notice the rag she holds has blood on it. This cannot happening. I wipe the blood from her soft lips before kissing them gently, like I'm afraid she'll turn to dust. The metallic taste of her blood almost makes me sick.
"I'll be back as soon as I can Rey." Walking out of her room, her mother stops me with tears in her eyes.
"Aida is coming in to see her tomorrow." I nod subtly, hoping that this apothecary can heal Aurelia.
"I'll cover the costs, Mrs. Brennan. Just tell Aurelia I'll be back in an hour." I run out of the small Seam house and start the walk back to my new home in the Victor's Village. I burst through the door, and my mother scolds me for being loud. I quickly pack an overnight bag, before plopping down at the dinner table.
"Haymitch, can I borrow your blue shirt for tomorrow? The one you got from the Capitol." Tiberius asks casually. For a little brother, he isn't so little anymore now that he's 14.
"Sure squirt. Trying to impress a girl?"
"N-no. It's none of your business."
"Fine then, Ty. Just teasing." I ruffle his dark hair and throw him a smirk. My mother sets down dinner, and I'm happy she doesn't bring up Aurelia. Our conversations float around school, unpacking our belongings and when I'm going to start working on my "talent". Mother is tense though, and Tiberius attempts at a joke. Finally, my mother brings it up carefully.
"Haymitch, what's going on with Aurelia?"
"She's sick." I say simply. "The apothecary is going to see her tomorrow. I'm going to stay with her tonight if that's fine with you."
"Sure." My mother sighs, giving me a sympathetic look and a hug. "We'll see you tomorrow, love you sweetie."
"Love you too mom. Good luck with that girl of yours squirt." I give him a wink and receive a shy smile in return. I leave the house, jogging back to my love's bedside.
I don't care if I get sick at this point, so I crawl in next to Aurelia. Her cool skin feels nice after running outside. She wakes briefly to look up at me, I kiss her forehead and nose.
"Go to sleep Rey." She mumbles something along the lines of "Thank you" before drifting off. I sleep on and off throughout the night, awakened by nightmares. That District 2 girl cutting open my stomach just two weeks ago. Maysilee looking at me with ghostly eyes, blood pouring out of her mouth and neck. The boy from 1 coming to strangle me like I did to him.
The apothecary arrives early the next morning, a short woman with fair hair. It takes a second before I realize that Margot Williams is standing quietly in the corner. She was inseparable from Maysilee and her twin sister Marabel before the reaping, I knew this from when I was still in school.
Margot doesn't look me in the eyes, but instead watches her mother assess Aurelia. I'm not surprised that most people can't look at me the same since I returned. Amabel and I were led out of the room while Margot talked quietly with Aurelia.
"It doesn't look too good Mrs. Brennan. I think it's a lung infection; we'll give her what we can and see. I'm sorry." She gives us a sympathetic look before gathering her bag and leaving with Margot on her heels. Before I turn back to Aurelia's room, I'm suddenly hugged by Amabel.
"I can't lose her Haymitch! Not after losing Harry last year. Her and Stephen are all I have." Stephen, Aurelia's younger brother, doesn't understand what's going on.
"Neither can I." I say steadily, my job is to be strong and hopeful. Because I remember hearing somewhere in the Capitol that hope is stronger than fear. I turn to her room and rush over to sit on her bed.
"I know." she croaks. In her grey eyes, she tells me she knows she's dying. As tears stream unashamedly down my cheeks, she's still looking into my eyes and holding onto my trembling hand.
"Haymitch." I hear my name being whispered, it's that girl from 2. She keeps saying my name and getting closer and closer. My eyes pop open suddenly and I see a pale face above my own. Aurelia. I breathe a sigh of relief, and notice it's early evening.
"My mom brought us food." She nods towards the bedside table. I help her eat a couple of spoonfuls before she turns away, I can't argue with her so I eat my portions quickly. Just as I finish, there's a knock at the door before Amabel walks in.
"Haymitch, someone is at the door for you." There's a catch in her voice, but her expression remains neutral. I plant a kiss on Aurelia's lips with a promise of quick return. Probably Ty coming to bring me home, but I freeze in the presence of two Peacekeepers.
"Please come with us Mr. Abernathy." Says one of them, his hazel eyes show nothing I can read. Was I in trouble? Are the press here for more interviews? My eyes still locked with his, I ask Amabel to tell Aurelia I'll be back when I'm done. Our eye contact breaks when he turns with his counterpart and heads in the direction of the Victor's Village.
I'm not surprised when I see a few motor vehicles parked outside, so I don't quicken my pace. I see a figure walking quickly from my front door, and my eyes focus on none other than my mentor Evren Sterling. But something from his face tells me something is wrong.
"Haymitch, come with me." And hearing the notes of pain in his voice sends my mind into a frenzy.
"Where are my mother and Ty?" He doesn't answer, just pulling me by the arm towards his house. Once inside, I stop and force him to look at me. My heart races, all I can think of is...
"I'm sorry Haymitch." The three words that break my world. "They're gone; we didn't get there in time. You were lucky you weren't there." I go numb, the thoughts and possibilities of how this could happen swirl viciously inside my broken head. Everything soon fades into a black nothingness.
"He's in shock. Just make sure he eats and drinks." Says a familiar voice, and the soft footsteps leave the room. I'm lying on an unfamiliar bed looking at Evren when my eyes reopen; I have to know how this happened. Did Snow send someone to attack them? Did he find a way to poison them? If he did, why aren't I dead?
"How?" I manage to croak. Sitting on my bed carefully like when I awoke in the Capitol hospital, he looks down at the sheets before talking.
"The Capitol officials just got here, but they think it's carbon monoxide poisoning. The investigation will be a week or two, so you have been arranged to stay here." He hands me a piece of bread, and when I don't take it he breaks chunks off and attempts to feed me. Frustrated after a few tries, he leaves the room before saying "I'm sorry Haymitch. I'm still your mentor though, here to get you through the hard parts." He's honestly one of the only people who understands what it's like losing your family. He was 6 when the Hunger Games started, and all he had left was his sister. Even before the Capitol took his life away in the 11th Hunger Games, most of his family was ripped away from him during the Dark Days.
Out of nowhere, I remember Aurelia needs me. She's all I have now, but death will claim her soon.
Checking to make sure Evren wasn't looking, I sprint out the door and over to my house next door. I don't want to see the bodies of my family, but I need to get what I need.
Darkness settled on the streets of District 12, I like this because nobody is stopping and trying to talk to me. When I open the door to the Brennan residence, I can see Amabel and most likely Aurelia knows what happened. I'm immediately embraced, and I welcome this comfort from Amabel. She's part of the only family I have left now.
"I'm so sorry Haymitch. Aurelia is waiting for you."
I see the tears in Aurelia's eyes when I walk in, and only then I finally break down. We fall asleep crying in each other's arms. In my nightmares, Ty and mother join the dead.
Evren picks me up the next afternoon to meet the officials. Instead of becoming a ward of the state and going to a group home, I'm officially declared emancipated. But unofficially, they make Evren my guardian to watch over me. The bodies of my mother and brother have been released for burial and because I never spoke a word, Evren arranged for a funeral tomorrow.
I didn't get any sleep; I spent the whole night watching Aurelia sleep. I still can't bring myself to believe that she soon will be leaving me.
A handful of my mother and brother's friends come to say goodbye, Evren stands close to me. I give mother and Ty a silent farewell, thinking for a moment of my favorite memory of each of them. My mother walking in the door of our shack holding a small cake for my 11th birthday. I didn't think until a few years later how expensive that must have been, how long her and my father had been saving up. She kisses my forehead and I dig into a sweet piece, it was the best thing I have ever tasted until I was reaped just four weeks ago.
Ty and I had many fun memories, I loved this certain one that happened last year. We were walking home from school, when we met up with my friend Hutch. Wanting a little rush, we decided to play knock knock ginger. Knowing Emery wasn't home yet, we decided to go to his house. We knocked and ran as fast as we could, the old baker swung the door open and threw a piece of wood that just narrowly missed Ty's leg when he tripped. Yelling and shaking his fist, the mean old baker went as far as the street chasing us until he tripped on the cobblestone path and fell to the ground. Ty scrambles behind us, out of breath with laughter. We dared not to mention this to anyone, but somehow Emery knew it was us. He gave us a little thumbs up the next day at school.
Soon enough, they are under a couple feet of dirt. Mother wearing her reaping day dress, Ty wearing my blue shirt from the Capitol. I head straight back to Aurelia's bedside, not wanting to hear the condolences of the mourners. Her breathing is shallow and she can't talk much now, so I make up for it by telling her stories. From when we got caught together at the slag heap, to Saturdays at the Meadow with our friends.
After three more days, her breathing slows even more to the point where it stops on occasion. "Mom, 'Mitch." she says finally, knowing she doesn't have much time left. "You made my life worth it. Tell Stephen not to get into trouble. I love you both so much. Be strong for me."
Amabel places a kiss on her forehead, and it's my turn to give her one last kiss. Forehead, nose, lips. "I love you Aurelia." I whisper into her cool skin and breathed in her sweet scent one last time. Aurelia's hands manage to find ours; with a final sigh, her chest falls and her hand goes limp. One tear escapes my eyes onto our intertwined hands.
Amabel takes a few hours to mourn by herself; I choose not to mourn with her body. I want to remember her for when she was alive. The next day when she was buried, I showed up to support her mother and Stephen. Only after watching her small wooden box being covered in dirt, I realized that I'm alone. That the Capitol is winning, that they took everyone I love.
Later that night, I pace back and forth staring at the bottle of liquor sitting on my kitchen table. From what I barely remember at my Victory party, this should make me drunk enough to forget everything. Jameson, a vendor at the Hob, took pity on me and gave me three bottles for the price of one.
"Be strong for me." Her whisper echoes in my mind and I sigh angrily. Just once. Just this one night, I want to forget. Forget how lonely I am, that the Capitol took everything from me. In one month, I lost my family, Aurelia, my humanity, my privacy, my hope for a better future. I'm doomed to mentor poor children year after year; the Capitol will not release me until death. Why don't I just kill myself and end my suffering?
Because then the Capitol will have won over me. So I pick up the bottle and inspect it, it has a simple label saying "white liquor". I crack it open and take a swig, the alcohol a welcoming burn that soon swims through my blood.
Maybe it's only for tonight, this midnight bottle. Maybe it will take the time away from where we are.
A/N 2: Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it despite the angst. Do you recognize anyone from the book, ones with connections to the present day characters? They were fun to write. Go off and watch Catching Fire now!
I would absolutely love it if you gave me a review, it's the best possible affirmation for a writer. Again, thank you for reading my very first Hunger Games fic :)