Author: ellydash / magnicifent
Pairing: Haymitch Abernathy/Effie Trinket
Word count: 4,000
Summary: “After all, that’s why we have mentors, isn’t it, Haymitch? To make sure that everyone gets a fair chance.” While Katniss and Peeta prepare for the opening ceremonies of the 74th Hunger Games, Effie pays Haymitch a visit in his quarters.
He hasn't bothered to lock the door to his room. It’s as if he just doesn’t care who sees him like this, sprawled on the reclining couch, his face half pressed into a plump red cushion.
Effie doesn’t know why she’d expected to find anything different, even after that brief moment of lucidity on the train. It was foolish to hope he’d decided to pull himself together, and she fights the rising swell of disappointment, annoyed with herself. Not just foolish. Pointless.
“You’re letting in fresh air,” Haymitch mumbles into the thick fabric. “Don’t.”
“What a charming display,” Effie announces, one hand balanced on her hip in a way she knows makes her look intimidating. It would, anyway, if there was anyone around who’d bother to look at her.
“Effie,” Haymitch says, and then again, her full name, slow and muffled. “Effie. Trinket. Were you born with that name, or did you pay a branding consultant for it? Either way, bet it tested well.”
She closes the door behind her. “I see you’re drunk and disgusting. As usual.”
While this isn’t an entirely inaccurate statement, it’s not quite fair, either. Effie knows from years of experience that if Haymitch is capable of putting together a coherent, grammatically correct insult, he’s only slightly inebriated. Most of the bottles on the table next to the couch are unopened. And the room isn’t rank with his familiar perfume of vomit and sweat. At least it isn’t yet. The evening’s still relatively young, though, and she has no doubt he’ll live up to her expectations.
Haymitch turns his head in her direction. “And you came all the way over here just to tell me that. Flattered.”
“I came here to remind you,” she says, in between teeth that want to grind together, “for the millionth time, that you have a job to do. Now, I’m fully aware you couldn’t care less about that fact, but some of us here take our professional responsibilities seriously.”
He lifts a hand, waving it in the air, mocking her silently. At least he’s conscious. That isn’t something to take for granted.
But he’d been present on the train, actually present and engaging with those tributes, exhibiting the first sign of life she’s seen out of him in six Games. Maybe she can reach that part of him. Maybe he isn’t hopeless. Maybe –
“You owe it to those two to give them your best effort. After all, that’s why we have mentors, isn’t it, Haymitch? To make sure that everyone gets a fair chance. Don’t you want Katniss and Peeta to have a fair chance?”
Now his head lifts, slightly, and Haymitch looks at her, really looks at her for the first time since she’s entered his quarters. Effie preens, raising her chin a little. Somehow, she's made him listen.
“I said I’d help them, didn’t I? On the train. I said it, and I meant it.” He squints. “First kids in years with some fight. Hell, who knows, these two might even make it past the Cornucopia.”
For once, Effie agrees with Haymitch, thinking that what they’ve got to work with this year is comparatively promising. Last year’s tributes had been useless as a soaked fizz tablet from the start. A boy of thirteen with deep pockmarks and a tremor in his dirty hands, steady only when he was digging around his plate. He’d vomited up his first dinner after eating too much, too fast. A girl of fifteen, thin as string, her unwashed hair twisted in two braids, unable to meet Effie’s eyes or remember a single deportment instruction. Haymitch hadn’t spent two minutes with them on the train before stalking off to his compartment with a fresh bottle.
She isn’t unfeeling, certainly. Effie remembers her attempt to cheer them up in his absence with stories about the wonders of Capitol life, something these poor underprivileged children she escorts usually find fascinating. The boy had burst into tears, even though her topic – swoop racing – wasn’t upsetting in the least. Well, he’d been more sensitive than most of these children. If Haymitch had been conscious for more than five minutes during the Games, he might’ve played that boy’s sensitivity into something sympathetic, secured a few more sponsors for him. They’ll never know now, will they?
For pity’s sake, it isn’t as if Haymitch doesn’t know how to win. After all, he’s a victor. A Quarter Quell victor, no less. He knows. He just won’t try, for whatever reason.
(She’d been eleven years old during his Games. Uploaded the official picture of him to her wall. Something about the way his half-smile looked like a scowl turned upside-down sent an illicit thrill up her spine.)
Effie walks gingerly over to the couch, making sure to stay at least several inches away from Haymitch’s head. It’s crucial to remain alert just in case he manages, sometime in the near future, to expel the day’s liquid binge all over her brand-new striped satin pumps.
“I have a good feeling,” she says, “that this is our year. District 12’s year.”
“You always say that.”
“And this year it might be true! You never know, do you?”
“Lucky numbers forty-nine and fifty,” he mutters. “Sure. Can’t see why that wouldn’t happen.”
She can feel one of her headaches coming on. It’s endlessly, utterly infuriating to be met with sarcasm and apathy when you’re trying your hardest to be in good spirits. “Well, it’s really no wonder 12 hasn’t had a winning tribute in twenty-four years, not with that despicable attitude of yours. If you cared enough to fulfill your responsibilities properly, then maybe there might be someone else to take over for you, and you wouldn’t even have to be here. Have you ever thought about that, Haymitch?”
Haymitch makes a long, loud noise. Out of someone else’s mouth, it might be laughter.
Her face heats, slapped with his obvious contempt, and she forces herself not to respond. Effie won’t rise to his bait, particularly when she doesn’t understand it.
“Have I ever thought about that,” he repeats, sitting up. “You’re a real piece of work, Effie.”
“And you’re a wreck,” she snaps, unable to keep quiet.
Haymitch presses the heel of his hand to his forehead. “Accurate,” he says, shortly.
“I just don’t understand you one bit! Do you know how many of those people in District 12 would want to have the opportunities and privileges you have? Fame, wealth, respect –”
That awful laugh again.
“Maybe not respect,” she concedes, while he rubs his eyes with his hands, still laughing. “That, of course, is no one’s fault but your own. Respect has to be earned through hard work and proper presentation, not by waving around bottles or vomiting, or – or unscripted public embraces.”
“Oh,” he says, leaning back against the couch cushions, and for the first time this evening, she sees real amusement from him. “All right. I get it. You’re ticked off about me knocking your wig off center on live television. Okay, Effie. I apologize heartily.”
“If you would just stop drinking –”
“Can’t,” he interrupts. “What would you lecture me about?”
“I’d find a reason,” she says. “I have a feeling sobriety wouldn’t much improve your manners. Or your basic grooming skills.”
“It’s nice of you to care.”
The comment should sound sarcastic, like most of what comes out of Haymitch’s mouth, but it doesn’t, somehow. It sounds a little true. Certainly there isn’t anyone else who might care, other than the Capitol, and they’re willing to let Haymitch rot in a sty of his own filth, just as long as he refrains from making any trouble.
She’s swept by a small wave of unexpected sadness. Poor Haymitch. Constantly by himself, no family or friends, accompanied only by his thoughts. What must that be like? Effie’s busied herself for so long with a flurry of galas and parties and dinner functions, wining and dining and networking. Why, she’s got a whole gaggle of friends, all of them attuned to the latest fashions and trends, willing to talk her ear off at the slightest provocation about colors or shading or cuts. And the best part is that she never tires of any of them! She sloughs off friends each season like old skins, always acquiring new ones as style dictates.
Not Haymitch. He seems to prefer solitude. The idea of being alone for more than the five minutes it takes Effie to fall asleep seems impossible. Even frightening, if she’s being honest. She always dreads those five minutes at the end of the day, though she doesn’t like to admit it. Thankfully, that isn’t the sort of topic that’s expected to be part of polite conversation.
From the looks of him, Haymitch doesn’t seem like he’s going to be sick tonight, and so Effie decides it’s safe to take a seat next to him on the couch without risking her outfit and hygiene. Her shoes aren’t particularly comfortable, and it’s been a long day. She can reward herself with a little relief.
“That girl,” he says, abruptly. “Last year’s tribute.”
While she’s busied herself feeling sorry for Haymitch, he’s apparently been thinking about something else altogether. “Yes?”
“I knew her mother. She sat in front of me at school. Polly Skaggs. Had these two long brown braids. They’d dangle over my desk. I used to pull ‘em, and she’d turn around and I’d pretend like it wasn’t me. Wouldn’t be a lie to say I was sweet on her, I guess. Even though she never gave me the time of day.”
“Oh,” Effie breathes, crossing one calf over the other as she turns towards him. Haymitch never talks about himself or his life before the Games, not like this. “How perfectly lovely. What a dream of a story. I remember the tribute came to us wearing braids too, didn’t she? I wonder if your – if this Polly had anything to do with that. She would’ve known you’d be looking after her daughter, after all. Maybe it was a message to you! A romantic reminder of your schooldays.”
It’s really too bad he’d never said anything about this connection last year. The sponsors would eaten up a love affair between a mentor and a parent. Not to mention Caesar Flickerman.
Haymitch’s expression doesn’t change. He stares ahead. For a moment, Effie wonders if he’s heard her.
“That never occurred to me,” he says, finally.
“Well, I’d wager a week’s salary that’s exactly what it was. Have you spoken to Polly since the Games?”
“That’s right, I’d forgotten,” she says, perfectly cheerful. “Haymitch Abernathy doesn’t speak to anyone unless he has to. Frankly, I’m surprised you’re speaking to me right now.”
“Went to her house,” he continues, as if he hasn’t registered a word she’s said. His voice is rough. “Afterwards. So drunk I could barely stand. Wanted to – I don’t know. She wouldn’t see me. Her husband said she wasn’t seeing anyone. I’m sorry about that hug. It was a stupid stunt.”
It takes Effie a second to realize he’s changed topics, that he’s referring to his drunken embrace at the Reaping. “That’s quite all right,” she says, feeling generous, and on an impulse she reaches out, grabbing his hand, squeezing it. “I forgive you.”
He stiffens at her touch, but he doesn’t draw his hand away, and she lets hers stay in his for longer than she’d meant, her fingers curled around his warm palm, before she lets go. Usually when she touches other people, it’s for photo ops. Sometimes a hand on a tribute’s shoulder as she guides them towards their next appointment. This isn’t like that. It’s surprisingly comforting, somehow. It feels good.
She says, impulsively wanting to share some of that comfort, “We’re not so different, Haymitch, the two of us. Not really. Do you know what I think? I think that deep down inside of you, there’s a person who believes in the same things I believe in. Helping others. Doing your duty. Achieving the best self possible. It’s all there on the tapes! You were so impressive during your Games. I’ve always thought so. If you could just try to be that person again, I know things would – ”
“What do you dream about?” he interrupts.
“When you dream. What do you dream about?”
Her left leg is touching his right one. Not much, but enough so Effie can feel the heat of him through his pants, through her skirt.
No one’s ever asked her that question before. It’s a very personal query, with no real point to it. After all, the answers don’t get you anything important.
She’s going to give him what she wants him to hear, tell him she dreams about pretty things, happy things, but she says, in spite of herself, “I have – there’s one dream that I keep having. My timetable is missing, I can’t find it, and I’m late to something, I just know it, but no one will tell me what I’m late for. I think it’s the tributes, I think they’re about to go into the arena, but I haven’t had a chance to prepare them yet, and if they go without my help they won’t – And I can’t see anyone’s faces, and no one seems to know my name, even though that’s impossible. Imagine people not knowing my name!” She laughs a little, to show just how ridiculous all of this is. “It’s silly, I know.”
This time he’s the one who reaches over and takes her hand. If she weren’t already sitting down, Effie would have to find an excuse to do so, she’s that surprised. “I’m in the arena,” he says, hoarsely. “I’m back in the arena. And I realize I’ve never really left it.”
“In your dream, you mean.”
He hesitates. Nods.
Something’s loosening inside her, something tight and hard and hot, and they sit there together, hand in hand, while Effie wills herself not to cry because if she’s going to cry, there should be a damn good reason for it. Not because she’s remembering a bad dream or two. Everyone has bad dreams. This – the tightness in her throat – this is why nobody ever talks about them.
“Well, you’re out,” she says, for lack of anything better, and without thinking about it, she pulls his hand toward her, towards her breast, holding it there. “You’re right here. And you have a job to do now.”
She means the tributes, of course she means the tributes, but when the words come out they sound altogether different than she’d intended, and she doesn’t correct herself. The only thing that’s waiting for her between Haymitch’s door and tomorrow is bedtime, and the five minutes of solitude prior, and maybe a dream or two. Right now the thought of what might come for her in those hours is too much.
And so she presses his hand flat against her, not daring to look at Haymitch. If he pulls back, if he laughs that awful laugh again –
He doesn’t. His fingers spread, and his hand slips down just a little, mapping the swell of her breast over the thin layers. There’s a small answering twinge between her legs, a response she hasn’t felt for longer than Effie cares to admit. She closes her eyes, and behind them sees the face on her poster, Haymitch young and defiant, grinning at her with radical determination.
They don’t leave his couch, by mutual unspoken agreement.
Despite what outward appearances would suggest (and Effie’s never thought about it before, why in the world would she?) Haymitch isn’t sloppy with her, not in the least. He kisses her with a careful focus she hadn’t believed possible from him, hands moving in her wig, looking to pull her closer. She says, breaking away, “Be careful, I haven’t insured this hair yet.”
“Just take it off.”
She shakes her head.
His clothes are stained. Effie tries not to notice or look too carefully while she’s unbuttoning his vest, but at least his skin seems relatively clean. There aren’t any noticeable odors other than the faint salt-smell of sweat. She realizes, suddenly dizzy with the thought, that she would like to taste him.
The bodice she’s wearing is unfortunately one of her more intricate ones. Haymitch isn't nimble or patient enough to successfully unlatch the claps and stays, and he swears in frustration, fumbling around her body instead. His hands stroke her through the fabric, grabbing for the curves of hip and breast and waist. It's so unlike the laconic detachment she's associated with Haymitch all these years, so urgent that Effie's body is humming, suddenly, with need for him. She's aching and wet, just like that.
“I’ll get these off,” she tells him, pushing away, standing up. “You take care of your own.”
They’re both focused on the same goal, for the first time in Effie’s memory. Haymitch lets go of her reluctantly, busying himself at working the buttons on his pants, quickly shucking off his shirt, shoes, stockings. By the time she’s removing her slip and thigh-highs, he’s long since finished, lying down on the couch again, watching her with appreciation on his face. She feels more on display than she has in an entire life filled with crowds.
It isn’t an altogether unpleasant feeling. Her nipples are tight, blown to hard points.
“Well, look at you, sweetheart,” he says, and she retorts, primly, “I’d appreciate it if you’d do a little less looking and a lot more touching.”
When he laughs this time, it sounds delightfully genuine.
Somehow, all that drinking hasn’t quite managed to turn his chest and stomach away from tautness into slack flesh, although he’s certainly far softer than he’d looked in her childhood. Underneath her fingers, Effie feels the phantom muscles she remembers seeing, ghosts that come back to life when she finds his straining cock with her other hand and strokes it firmly, making Haymitch seize and stiff with tension, hips canting up.
She reaches out and pulls him up to her as she kneels next to his half-prone body on the wide couch. Her free hand moving between her legs, she shows him, silent, how she likes to be touched. Quickly, his fingers follow hers, slipping between the slightly swollen folds, replacing her own against her soaked clit, and oh, her whole cunt is beating for him. Effie whimpers.
“You’ve been dosed, right?” Haymitch asks, roughly. His thumb edges inside her, crooking at her entrance, building gray around the edges of her vision as she continues stroking his cock, trying to keep her rhythm consistent. It isn't easy, when she's so distracted. “Me, I’m fixed. Permanently. Years ago.”
There’s a story in there somewhere, but she can’t bring herself to wonder about it now. She nods her assent – of course she was dosed, she’s nothing if not responsible, even if the times she actually needs the protection from it are few and far between – and he says, “Then straddle me." It sounds a little like pleading.
He doesn't have to ask her twice. Effie wants it as much as he does. Maybe more.
When she takes him inside of her, sinking down, they both groan, Haymitch’s head falling back as she begins to fuck him into the couch cushions. She moves slowly, feeling wonderfully stretched.
“Faster,” he gasps. "Go faster."
This time, she shakes her head. He doesn't get to set the pace. They’re on her timetable.
The wig is slipping, unmoored from its pins as she moves on him. Effie reaches up to hold it down, and he says, staring at her, face glazed with need and something else she can’t place, “Let me, show me – ”
“No,” she manages, pressing the wig to her scalp.
“Please,” he says. “I need – want to see you. Please.”
No one's ever seen her without her wig, though, not for years, and Effie recoils from the thought. He’d tease her. He’d use it against her later. He'd know, and she can’t.
So she tells him, again, “No,” and because she can’t explain it she leans down against him, her breasts pressing into his chest, kissing his neck, his shoulder. It’s wonderful, being this close, and Effie tries to believe she’s nestled next to Haymitch purely for the pleasure of skin against skin. She can’t see his expression now.
His fingers press briefly at the back of her neck, just below her hairlines, edging against her scalp, under the wig. Taking what she'll give him.
Effie doesn’t let go of it.
Another minute of fucking and Haymitch comes with a low sound, straining and spilling inside her as she whispers words of encouragement against his skin. She’d thought she’d be able to come, too, she’s certainly aroused enough for it, but the distraction of her keeling wig is terrible, keeping her mind occupied and her body hostage.
“Lady’s turn,” Haymitch says, after a moment, his breathing still shallow. He slides his hand between her bodies, fingers navigating through the curled, trimmed patch of frosted hair she keeps impeccably neat. "I take it this is what you want?"
Sarcasm’s edged back into his voice, even as he finds her clit again, stroking, and it makes her hesitate. Effie has the nagging suspicion that something isn't right anymore, even if she doesn’t know what that thing might be.
She says as much to Haymitch as she extracts her body from his, carefully avoiding his touch. Her question sounds perfectly bright, cheerful, practiced.
“The eternal narcissist,” he says, not unkindly. “It isn’t you, Effie.”
“Oh.” She’s buoyed a little by this. “Well, I’m very glad to hear it.”
Whatever moment they’d had is over, though, the heat between her legs rapidly fading, and the need to clean herself up is quickly gaining priority over anything else her body might want. Haymitch isn’t reaching out for her, either. Not that Effie wants him to, exactly, but everything’s off again between them. It’s just like it was before she -- before all of this. Only different, somehow, in a way she can't explain.
They’re on opposite sides of the couch now. Effie’s flooded with the awful certainty that the minute she leaves, he’s going to grab for one of the unopened bottles on the side table.
She presses her thighs together, her skin sticking, and says, abruptly, “Euphemia.”
A pause. “That Capitol slang for something? I’m not exactly up on the latest trends.”
“When I came in, you asked me if Effie Trinket was my real name. It’s Euphemia. Effie, for short. My older brother couldn’t pronounce Euphemia. He – well. Euphemia Mallow Trinket.” She can’t help adding, “And yes, thank you, it tested very well.”
When she glances over at him, that half smile is pulling at the edges of his mouth, and for a brief dizzy second, she sees the Haymitch she remembers from her poster. “Euphemia,” he repeats. “It suits you.”
She isn’t sure if that’s an insult or a compliment or both. “It means ‘well-spoken.’”
The half-smile becomes, improbably, a whole one, and the tight pull of anxiety in Effie's stomach loosens slightly. She isn't sure why.
Before she lifts herself off the couch with as much grace as possible, considering her compromised position and the ablutions she still needs to perform, she adds, remembering why she'd come here in the first place, “You’re going to help those kids, Haymitch. If I have to empty all the liquor bottles in the Capitol and tie you to the sponsor tables and ventriloquize you myself, this year you’re going to do your job.”
He doesn’t answer her, but as Effie’s moving towards the lavatory, she hears the absence of glass against glass, and the good silence grows. Well, it’s a start.