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These Are The Names, Chapter 27 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
These Are The Names, Chapter 27
Okay, this is a long one, but there wasn't a good break point, and it's Ch. 27 anyway. Taking it full circle now -- after I have a little break (and a challenge call), Haymitch will pick it up and take it right back to where we started: the first book.


Chapter Twenty-Seven
I dream.

Sometimes the dreams are very clear. I am on Erastus's planet again, watching its mirror world closing in. The pull of the body's gravity makes me euphoric. I am in the crowd at the reaping, and I call my own name -- Euphemia Trinket. I try to say that I'm Effie, but no one listens. I am in the forest with Johanna, plague sores all over me, trying to explain to River that I’m dying, but he doesn't understand me. Johanna asks if I want her to speed it up, and promises that I can be buried in her fringed dress. And of course, there's Haymitch, always, in each dream. He holds me down against the gravitational pull of the planet above. He watches me from the reaping stage. He is sending me gifts in the arena. And of course, there are the other sorts of dreams, which don't mean much.

Mostly, though, I have drifting dreams. I am on a boat, then in the sky, then caught on a river. I see colors. I feel Haymitch's hands on me. I smell a field of fresh grass. I am lost in the smoke outside the mines. These dreams have no plot, no reason to them. I just feel.

After a while, I wake up.

I'm in a clean room with soft lighting and cheerful paintings on the wall. Sunlight catches little prisms that hang on the ceiling. There's a sitting area with a table set up. The television is on. It's playing a musical. I don't recognize it right away, but at the moment, a woman in a silver wig is dancing manically in City Center.

"Hello, Euphemia."

I turn my head.

There's a young man sitting beside my bed. He looks vaguely familiar. He has large hazel eyes, and curly, reddish brown hair, which he wears naturally, just like Mimi Meadowbrook used to. I blink. That's who he reminds me of. In fact, there's a picture of her on the nightstand on that side of the bed and looking between him and it, I can see a very pronounced resemblance. I think I talked to him once after her death, when I was trying to hold onto the house.

He smiles. "My name is Pertinax," he says. "Pertinax Meadowbrook."

I search my memories, and find Mimi's nickname for him. "Naxie?"

"Yeah. That's what my sister called me. But here, I'm Doctor Meadowbrook. It's not a big deal to me, but you know bosses… they like things a certain way."

"Dr. Meadowbrook," I try. "All right. Am I sick? I fell asleep in my bed and…" I am suddenly awake. "Where's my cat? There was something… poison…"

"Your cat's fine. She's right there, see?" He points to a bit of white fluff at the end of the bed. Sweetie looks up sleepily. "What were you using, Euphemia?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, there was obviously something airborne -- an incense, maybe? -- and both of you had passed out. It looks like it was some kind of mild sedative."

"I wasn't using anything. It came through my vents."

"Now, Euphemia, there was no one else there, and no one else in your building was sick. Were you having trouble sleeping?"

"Who found me? Was it Haymitch?"

"It was Caesar Flickerman. You missed an escorts' meeting, and he was concerned. He wanted to take you home, but when we examined your recent behavior -- in addition to this business -- we thought you might need more help than he's able to give you."

"Help…?"

Dr. Meadowbrook leans forward. "We think you may be ill, Euphemia. I watched my sister go through the same thing. We call it entafaistic syndrome -- it's from an old language called Greek. The word means 'interment' or 'burial'… it's a tendency to bury oneself in the needs of others. I can give you statistics and definitions if you want me to. It's more common among women, particularly those who've separated themselves from healthy adult relationships. They tend to attach themselves in inappropriate ways -- "

"You're talking about Haymitch, aren't you?"

"In a theoretical way," he says gently. "I know he's a fine man, in his way. He's certainly been concerned about you."

"Has he been to see me?"

"No." Dr. Meadowbrook sighs. "He's called every day, but we feel that, if you're going to get well, it's best if you don't see him until you're less vulnerable. You've even been excused from mandatory viewing for the closing events."

"Annie," I say. "Is Annie any better? Is she ready to do the events?"

"As I understand it, she's doing quite well, and will be viewing the final cut tomorrow afternoon. But that's not anything you need to worry about, Euphemia."

"It's Effie," I say.

"Because that's what Haymitch Abernathy calls you?"

"He calls me that because he knows my name."

"And yet, when you started your job, you had chosen another." I don't answer. He shakes his head. "Never mind. We'll let it go. Effie, if you like that better. The point is, you went to a former stylist three days ago and frantically asked her to create a look for you, then joined several district malcontents for what appeared to be a casual day of sightseeing. Why were you frantic?"

"Philippa talked to you?"

"The day after we brought you in, I retraced your steps. She seemed to think you might have been taking some sort of controlled substance. Given your friendship with a known addict --"

"I wasn't taking anything. I just realized that I was late, and I couldn't remember where we were meeting."

"And you ran out without even a wig? Emiliana told me once that she was actually concerned about your refusal to go without a wig. She thought something might have happened to you." He smiles fondly. "Of course, my sister never could resist getting caught up in other people's lives. We steered her to Capitol Dreams, so she could use that to help out without becoming too invested in any one person. She still seems to have been fond of you. I suppose that's why she left you this house." I must look surprised, because he smiles more broadly. "Yes, when you sold it, I wanted to buy it myself, of course, but I couldn't afford it any more than you could. I'm afraid neither of us has the resources of a well-regarded actress. But Capitol Dreams bought it. We've made it into a shelter for people who need help, like you do. I think my sister would like that." He looks out the window toward the garden where she died.

"You were close?"

He blinks, then looks back at me and smiles ruefully. "Yes. We were twins. Of course, the doctors told my mother that she should discontinue one of the fetuses -- it's not healthy to have children so close together that they have to compete for parental resources -- but she had a soft spot, just like Emiliana did. I suppose this sort of thing runs in the family. Emiliana almost… well, she found things difficult." He breaks his nostalgic mood and smiles. "But that's in the past. We're here to get you facing forward again! You've been feeling alone here in the Capitol, haven't you?"

"Sometimes…"

"But you're not. Effie, there are people here who love you… and wouldn't put you at risk for anything."

"Haymitch didn't -- "

"Oh, not deliberately, of course! He can't help it. Their lives are difficult in the districts, and I suppose he thinks it's normal to be miserable. I wish we could help all of them, too. I really do. If I could set up a clinic in every district to help people find peace, I would. But I'm only one man. So I'm going to settle for helping you now. Why don't you get dressed, then come downstairs with me? You'll find a lot of your friends, who've been very eager to see you again."

"I want to talk to Haymitch."

"Later, Effie. When you're stronger."

"He's my friend. He doesn't make me weak."

Dr. Meadowbrook smiles in an understanding way. "I think we both know that he's not just your friend, and that he very much makes you weak. Not deliberately, of course! But he's a thunderstorm of a person, Effie. I remember when Emiliana and I were little, our mother used to tell us to come in out of the rain before we caught our deaths of cold. Let's at least get you an umbrella before you go out in the storm again."

I don't cooperate with him the first day. I keep asking for Haymitch. I'm finally allowed to call him on the telephone, though not with a video feed. He sounds worried about me. They told him I passed out from exhaustion and stress. He asks where I am and says they haven't told him. Dr. Meadowbrook says, "We've been over this, Haymitch," and doesn’t give me a chance to answer. He hangs up.

The next day, the victors have to leave the Capitol, and there's no point to asking for Haymitch anymore. I still stay in my room. I ask for a book. They give me a new biography of Arcadia Givens, a model who did a tell-all interview about the men she's slept with. I ask for Erastus's book, but Dr. Meadowbrook says that I don't need to read something so dismaying. He asks me why I want it, and we talk about it for a while. I don't know why I want it. He's right -- it's a very strange kind of escapist fantasy, that doesn't even really give an escape. He suggests that I turn my eye back to the real world.

I can't at first. I still dream too vividly. They're concerned about it, and put me back on Pherolen. I start to feel better. Since I took Sweetie in from outside, Dr. Meadowbrook suggests that I might like to work in a Capitol Dreams animal shelter to get used to the world again. It's fulfilling work, and it's good to go in every day and take care of the poor, helpless little things. They're often starving and sick, and I help make them well, and get them cleaned up to find new homes if they can. I ask once what happens if no one takes them, but no one seems to know. It doesn't matter. I find homes for all of them that I can. Quite a few of our sponsors like the idea of having a companion.

There's a group session every day at the shelter. I am quiet at first as I listen to the troubles people have gotten themselves into. Pulcheria Downs was caught stealing from a grocer because she got tied up with a group of ne'er do wells who live near the railroad tracks. Lupicina Bickel nearly starved herself trying to hold onto her children, even though there were services happy to take care of them for her at no cost. Eudokia Laird made herself miserable trying to get her husband to renew a marriage contract that he had no interest in, and ended up screaming and weeping on the street outside his new house. There's one man in the group, Gratian Quick, who was a teacher in the practical school. One of his students had wanted to go to the university, and he got so involved in her fight that he ended up losing his job amid accusations of an inappropriate relationship with her. All of them have lost more than I did -- Dr. Meadowbrook even assures me that they're keeping up my apartment, and once I'm well, I'll be able to go back to work, provided Haymitch doesn't ask for a new escort.

"I'm sorry to say it," Dr. Meadowbrook tells me, "but he almost certainly will. It's your very sickness that made him consider you a valuable employee."

"No. Haymitch needs me."

"I hope you're right. Well, in some ways, I hope you're right. I don't want to see you hurt or disappointed in your friend. In other ways, though, I think the best thing he could do for you is show you to the door and never call you again. Until he did that for Emiliana, I think she continued to entertain the notion that she could wrap herself up in his life again. I imagine it's a comfortable place to be, always needed to take care of some crisis. But she never would have found herself, being so pulled into district pathologies."

Gratian organizes a birthday party for me, for what everyone calls the first of many twenty-ninth birthdays. There are balloons and cakes and, quite honestly, enough drinks to keep even Haymitch happy, though he really only goes for sweet cocktails if they're the only thing being served. There's a good amount of playful sex going on as well -- I'd forgotten how much of it there was at Capitol Dreams, after years of working only in one of the more prudish districts. I don't participate in it. I don't think I'm ready for that. At our session two days later, Dr. Meadowbrook tells me that he thinks I should have, and encourages me to start looking for adult companionship. "It's part of the problem," he says. "You've been spending time with someone who has a very unrealistic notion of sex, and you've forgotten what it's really about -- having fun! Go find someone to have fun with you."

I go out to the clubs with Eudokia a week later, and we let ourselves be picked up by a couple of men. I feel myself panicking, and I take an extra dose of Pherolen before we go back to their place. It levels me out, and we end up having some fun, though, as usual, the next day, I'm told that I need to loosen up more and try more adventurous things. I'm used to this. Dr. Meadowbrook shrugs it off and tells me that, given my condition, I was pretty adventurous to do it at all, and I shouldn't worry about morning-after reviews. I don't tell him about the extra pill, and a week later, I tell him that I dropped a few down the sink. He gives me an extra prescription without asking any more questions. I don't overdose on them. I just take them when I need a little extra courage.

I call Caesar Flickerman in December. He tells me that he hasn't heard anything from Haymitch since the end of the games, but will arrange for him to get passage to the Capitol in April, before the reaping, so we can all discuss it. Dr. Meadowbrook promises to get me strong enough to handle it by then. He also says he'd like to be there, but Caesar forbids it.

I'm not allowed to go to Annie Cresta's Victory Tour party. Dr. Meadowbrook still doesn't think I should be that close to the victors, even though I tell him that Finnick and I are old friends. I'm allowed to watch on television. Annie seems nervous, and clings to Finnick's arm. Finnick leans over and speaks to her softly. I wonder if they're in love, but I suppose I'm wrong -- he's out the next night with Jovian Manders, a good-looking man who sits on the president's council. I guess if Finnick is still playing around, there's nothing serious going on.

Not long after Annie leaves, people are allowed to come ask me questions. Some of the Games authorities ask me why I went running to Haymitch and the others. I try to answer, but it all starts to seem silly when I describe it. I suppose if they had been doing anything troublesome, they wouldn't have let me take them sightseeing, after all. I'm asked a lot of questions about what I might have overheard before I got there, though I'm not sure what that has to do with my entafaism. I've read a lot about it now, in Dr. Meadowbrook's books, one of which is dedicated to Mimi, who inspired him to learn everything he could about the disorder. He insists that the entafaistic's particular fixation -- a friend, a lover, a child, even a pet -- isn't important. I tell him that the authorities have been asking. He rolls his eyes and says that they don't understand the root of the problem, or they wouldn't assume I had any political knowledge. He talks to them, and they stop asking.

Finally, they ask me if I'm loyal to the Capitol or to Haymitch. After all, he's suspected to be a traitor, and treason is infectious. I assure them that I'm a Capitol woman. I remember Haymitch telling me that he'd get me out of the Capitol. I remember thinking about it, and imagining it. But I can't really connect to the state of mind I must have been in then. I decide not to mention it. I also tell them that Haymitch is a loyal citizen. He fought off the raiders who invaded the tribute train, and promised that he'd never let anyone hurt me.

Dr. Meadowbrook says that this was right to tell strangers, but reminds me that I need to keep in mind that Haymitch did threaten to send the children out, and that, as a district man, he'll never care as much about me as he does about politics. It's like a disease there. He's not really capable of putting a human being first. He tells me to remember Mimi.

I start spending time with other Games workers. Therinus is already working on costumes for next year. The escorts are planning a pre-reaping party, which Barnabas tells me they have every year, but they never thought I'd be interested before. I go with the other female escorts to this year's fashion show. Shiny is in this year, as is pink. We get our nails done together, and complain about our stylists (they've gotten quite pushy lately, and want to override escorts on costume choices). We speculate about the arena and what kinds of mutts there will be. It's like being in lower school. I feel like I'm a child again, getting ready for something exciting.

I try not to think about Dr. Meadowbrook's warning that Haymitch might not want me back, though I frequently dream that he fires me, and I lose my apartment and all of my things. Haymitch personally takes the cat in most of these dreams and tells me I'm not fit to take care of things when I'm like this. I beg him to tell me what he means, and he takes me to a mirror, where I see that I've become a circus clown.

I go back to my apartment in February, though I have to come to group four times a week to make sure I'm not sliding back into old habits. Friends from the shelter and the animal rescue and Capitol Dreams make a habit of dropping in on me. I fall into an affair with a veterinarian named Tiberius Hurd. Dr. Meadowbrook is glad to see me relating to another adult in a healthy way, and says he thinks I'm ready to see Haymitch again.

I am feeling immeasurably better by the time April comes. Haymitch arrives on a train, but I don't go to meet him. I have an appointment to get my nails done, and I have very strict instructions not to change my routine for him. My room back at the shelter is ready in case I have a relapse, but I'd prefer to stay in my apartment.

I go to Caesar's office.

I get there early, but apparently Caesar picked Haymitch up at the station, because I can hear them as I enter the outer office. I pause.

"…still the same woman who's been your good right hand in the Capitol for the last eleven years," Caesar is saying.

"Is she?" A chair is shoved -- I hear it scrape across the floor -- and I imagine Haymitch standing up, his fingers laced behind his neck. "Caesar, how bad is it? How badly have they broken her?"

"I don't think she's broken, Haymitch."

"Then how much did they empty out of her? What's left of Effie, Caesar? Is she like Mimi?"

There's a pause, then Caesar says, "When I've spoken to her, she's been alert and aware, and still devoted to helping District Twelve. Still kind."

"Kind," Haymitch echoes. He sounds like he's lost in the dark somewhere. I wish I could just get him some serious time with someone who could help.

"And I know she doesn't want to leave. Her job means a lot to her."

"Do the tributes still mean a lot to her? Or are they just game pieces now?" Haymitch laughs wildly then says, nonsensically, "Does she love Big Brother?"

"Who is Big Brother?" I ask, coming into the room. Haymitch looks up in surprise, then clear dismay. "Are you Big Brother?"

He laughs again. It's neither friendly nor cruel. It doesn't seem directed at me at all. It's a kind of raving, lunatic laugh. "Am I? I don't know. You tell me, Effie. Who am I to you right now?"

"You're my boss," I say. "At least you were before."

"Your boss," he says, and goes to the window. He presses his forehead and hands against the glass and looks out over the Capitol. "I'm your boss."

I bite my lip. "I'd like it to stay that way. I want to help make District Twelve into the champions I know they are."

On the window, his hands bend into claws, and he leans further forward, rocking his shoulders in and out, not looking at me. I don't know what someone's been telling him -- he looks like he's lost his last friend. "Champions. Oh, Effie."

"I know they have it in them. I want to be part of it. I'm still your friend. I can help you!"

He takes in several harsh, sharp breaths, but doesn't say anything. I don't understand why he's acting like this.

I look at Caesar. "All I did was get well. I was sick before! I haven't changed." I turn back to the window. "Haymitch, look at me! It's just Effie. Only well now. I wish I could help you be well, too."

He slams his fists against the window.

I go to him and touch his arm. He seems much further away than he does in my dreams. "Don't you understand? You could be happy."

He finally turns around. His face is contorted in grief, like I'm horribly dead instead of standing right in front of him. His eyes search mine, then close. He kisses my forehead, then holds me very tight.

I return his embrace. "You see, Haymitch? You could be happy. I could make you happy."

He pulls away and tries to look at me, but his eyes don't meet mine again. He moves me gently to one side and heads for the door.

"Haymitch," Caesar says.

He stops but doesn't turn around. "What?"

"You're doing what the Gamemakers want you to. You're letting them run you like a puppet."

"We all end up doing that."

"Haymitch, think." I open my mouth to speak, but Caesar holds his hand up and gives me a sharp look. He gets to his feet and speaks to Haymitch in quiet, even tones, so unlike his stage personality that it's hard to believe they're the same man. "What do you tell your tributes every year, Haymitch? What do you tell them about the temptations the Gamemakers put up?"

Haymitch is standing in the door. I can see his muscles twitching like he wants to leave, but he puts one hand on either side of the frame, holding himself physically in the room. "Don't try the Cornucopia," he says weakly.

"Exactly. And you're running at it full tilt right now. They're not trying to kill you, but they're damned well trying to destroy you. Trying to make you hurt yourself this time."

His hands grip the sides of the door, like something outside is pulling on him brutally.

Then he relaxes. It's a deliberate thing, almost going one muscle at a time. He takes deep, slow breaths. Finally, he lets go of the door. He stands without saying anything for what seems a long time, then turns toward me. His eyes flicker up briefly, but he doesn't really look at me.

"I heard -- " he starts, but his voice breaks. He forces himself under control. "I heard the stylists are making a power grab. Keep Therinus under wraps, okay, Effie? And I heard a rumor that Cinna Barrett is next in line if anyone retires. See if you can… if you can make friends with him. So he'll pick Twelve."

"I can stay then? I want to stay."

He closes his eyes and whispers, "I want you to stay." He turns and leaves, walking like someone has punched him in the gut. His hands even go to the spot where he had an axe wound so long ago. I try to follow, but Caesar holds me back.

He doesn't stop at the apartment or anywhere else I can find him. After a while, I realize that I'm verging on a relapse with all the searching. I take a pill and go to a club instead of looking any further. The next day at our group session, I get a round of applause for taking on the urge to bury myself and beating it in a fair fight.

Dr. Meadowbrook clears me to go back to work, just in time to really get started for the reaping. I'm determined to be the best escort in the field, so Haymitch knows he made the right choice. I gather up a lot of new sponsors, now that I'm better connected, and I tell Therinus that he simply must make a better impression at the parade. I visit Cinna and his new apprentice, the scholarship winner named Portia, who's doing strange experiments with fabrics. We have several very nice lunches together. He even finds some dresses in his repertoire that I don't feel uncomfortable wearing.

When I get to District Twelve for the Seventy-First reaping, Haymitch is drunk. He tries to throw his arms around me and kiss me, but he smells like he hasn't bathed in weeks and I push him away. He mutters something about remembering that I'm well now. He makes the word "well" sound like a deadly disease.

I call Hank MacCailin and Fancy Tantridge that year. Haymitch and I work together as well as ever getting them prepped, though he seems unable to stand the sight of me. None of it matters. They both fall at the Cornucopia, against his standing orders. It's actually merciful. The whole arena is an ice field, and most of the tributes slowly freeze to death. The inner district alliance huddles together until everyone else is dead, then they kill each other in a teeth-chattering melee, won by Otho Magro of District Two. No one is impressed with the Games, and during the year, the Head Gamemaker is replaced. A young man named Seneca Crane is appointed to the post.

I turn thirty. My friends throw me a party at the lake shore that lasts three days. I wake up in bed with three other people at the end of it, and I'm not altogether sure how I got there, or if anything happened.

Being back with Capitol Dreams, I'm invited to the Victory Tour party. Otho is quite charming. I mention this to a woman named Vibia Lee, who sits on the security council. She tells me that if I talk to President Snow, I might be able to arrange to know him much better. She plans to. I gather that she doesn't intend to have an extended conversation with him. I decide that I'm not interested.

The next spring, I call Forrest Collet and Plonia Fisher for the Seventy-Second Games. They're both hostile to me from the moment I get on the train. Haymitch leaves me on my own for this, as he's drunk again. He's decided not to sober up until they actually get to the Capitol. He shuts the door of his sleeping car, and, though I know he talks to the tributes later because they mention it the next day (Plonia gripes that Haymitch is going to make them master my manners lessons), he doesn't talk to me. Despite Haymitch's instructions, neither one of them will listen to me, and they're caught on camera shoveling food into their mouths with their bare, dirty hands. We barely get them our usual sponsors, let alone anyone new. Forrest dies at the Cornucopia anyway.

Plonia makes it for a week, wending her way alone through the arena, which this year is earthquake prone. She's finally caught by the District Six tribute, Titus, and killed with a quick blow to the throat. Anything she did to disgust sponsors is quickly forgotten when Titus eats her fingers from her hand. He'd go further, but the hover craft blasts him away from the body. They finally have to bury him in a landslide to stop him from becoming a victor, and stop the entire viewing audience from losing its appetite. The boy from One, Ravish, wins after a fight with the boy from Nine.

I go to see Haymitch at the train. For some reason, he's bandaged up Plonia's hand, even though it's far too late for it to make any difference. He's been drunk since he finished the call to her parents, and is short-tempered with me. I ask Caesar about a transfer, but again, no one is leaving. He reminds me that I asked to stay. I don't remember why.

I make the cover of Capitol Couture twice, and am voted "Most Intriguing Hunger Games Personality." This gets me a lot of interviews. The most influential is in Game Sponsor Quarterly, since it goes out to the really heavy hitters. Unfortunately, they want to know why Twelve's tributes are always so uncouth, and I can't provide any answer, though I promise I'll try harder to teach the next pair.

Unfortunately, the next pair, for the Seventy-Third Games, is Teasel Hughes and Marigold Smore, and they can't even conceive of needing to learn to use silverware or a napkin. They wipe their hands on the tablecloth on the train and -- worse -- in the Training Center. I try to tell Haymitch that they need to learn. He's surly with me, and gripes that they're hungry and they don't care.

"The whole point is for them to win, so they'll actually have something to eat, like you do. Maybe not be hungry anymore! Is using a fork really too much to ask?" I roll my eyes. "Really, Haymitch, there's no reason not to have manners. Manners are free!"

He turns away from me, goes into his room, and slams the door. He must tell them later to listen, because Goldie gives me a canned apology and Teasel makes a good faith effort with a fish knife, but it's too late to do any good with the sponsors.

Before the interviews, Goldie uses the corner of a silk blouse to wipe her nose after sneezing. She goes out on stage with the mess perfectly visible, though Caesar stands carefully in front of her so it can't be seen during her spot. Teasel won't be talked out of his atrocious grammar, and actually swears on camera, causing his interview time to be cut short by nearly ten seconds.

The sponsors don't matter in the end, because they don't listen to Haymitch any more than they listened to me. They rush the Cornucopia, and die there. District Two gets another victory, with Livius Frango.

Haymitch leaves without saying goodbye to me.

I go on.

Cinna Barrett teaches a class on fashion history and I take it. He's a kind man, and he seems to love his work. I meet him at his studio a few times to talk about interesting topics he's brought up.

In December, Tigress is asked to leave the stylist pool. She has gone under the knife so often that she's become grotesque in her attempts to live up to her name. She's actually had them split her upper lip. No one wants to see her on camera anymore.

The stylist spot opens. I call Merle in Twelve, and he has Haymitch come into town to call me back. I'm to get Cinna, no matter what. I ask if he'll talk to me again if I do.

"It's not that," he says.

"What, then?"

"You haven't figured that out?" he slurs. I thought at first that he was sober, but it's becoming increasingly clear that he's not. "I'm an idiot," he tells me. "Come on, Effie. You know that."

I hang up, annoyed at him for reasons I can't even pin down. I go to Cinna and tell him that District Twelve is just brimming with untapped potential, and a brilliant stylist could finally catch people's eyes, since it's been so long since we've had a victor. He agrees. When he's named the new stylist, he shocks everyone by choosing us. I barely listen to the bidding afterward. Therinus, I think, ends up in District Six.

Haymitch is actually a little bit pleased with me when I call. He says, "That's my girl," anyway. Then he hangs up and doesn't call again.

I ask Caesar again about a transfer, since Haymitch doesn't seem to want me anymore, but there's still nowhere to go.

"Besides," he tells me, "if Haymitch ever really didn't want you, he'd ask me to remove you. He hasn't done that, I promise."

"But he shuts me out. He slams doors on me."

Caesar stares at a pen in his hands, then says, "Effie, Haymitch knows who you are. The fact that he makes sure he never loses his temper at you, that he's keeping you with him -- that means a lot more than you're giving it credit for. Probably more than he gives it credit for. He's giving you the best he can. Please try to do the same."

I nod. I will, of course. It's my job. I expect that I'll keep giving Haymitch the best I can for as long as he'll let me, no matter how many doors he slams. I don't anticipate anything changing. He has his world, and I have mine.

As far as I know, those worlds will go on forever, circling each other like the binary planets in Erastus's book, locked in a tidal stare, with nothing short of a catastrophic asteroid hit to move them.

The next spring, I reap Primrose Everdeen.

The End
25 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 29th, 2014 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)

And they lived unhappily ever after

Well, so far as THIS story is concerned.

I _so_ hate the Capitol right now.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 29th, 2014 07:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: And they lived unhappily ever after

Yeah, me too. :(
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 29th, 2014 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh Fern...how do you manage to make even Child Protective Services seem sinister when coming from the Capitol? All those people in the support group with fairly healthy human emotions, and they're deemed deviants for it!

Fantastic chapter, as always. I can't wait for Haymitch's THG, and then I'm going to have to read TGM and TNP, in part so I can see how you let Effie recover. Are you considering going back and adding/changing anything from those stories after you finished the prequels?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 29th, 2014 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I try not to go back and change a lot, since they've already been out there and people have read them "as is." On the other hand, lots of stuff came up in the prequels that it seems unlikely Haymitch would never flash on at all. (Mimi comes to mind, in light of this one -- she ended up being much more important than I originally anticipated. Also, I know Jack better than I expected to, and Haymitch seems a little more clueful about what's going on... though he could have fried his brain significantly between here and there, I guess.)
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: July 29th, 2014 07:45 am (UTC) (Link)
*applause*

I've been avidly reading each installment as soon as it was posted - I'm sorry I stopped commenting.

It really never ceases to amaze me how deeply you develop a world and any character you touch, seemingly effortlessly. This story has been incredibly moving and pretty disturbing at times, and also really satisfying. I think I need to go back and read the end of Narrow Path now, though, just to cheer myself up. :p

I don't have time now to comment further, but I just wanted to give you a massive thumbs up for such an incredible journey. I'm so excited for the next part!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 29th, 2014 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. It really is disturbing to get into what the Capitol does to its own loyal citizens. Creepy.

Glad you dropped by!
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: July 29th, 2014 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I spent a bit of time on the Capitol's treatment of its own citizens myself earlier this year, creeping myself out (maybe one day I will actually manage to finish a story...)

The neat thing about what you've done here is that as far as I can tell, the Capitol Dreams people Effie meets have no sinister intentions at all - they really, truly believe that they're helping her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 12:23 am (UTC) (Link)
They absolutely believe it. There was a group on campus when I was in college who were bound and determined to convert me (not to mention a friend from home), and the most maddening thing was that I knew, with absolute certainty, that in their minds, they were saving my soul.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 29th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the image of Katniss-as-catastrophic-asteroid. Effie's POV has been fascinating--her arc as a basically decent (if willfully ignorant at times, as most Capitolites seem to have to be to stay sane) person directly involved with the games for so long has been another wonderful example of the things that most people don't even think about when reading the books but in your hands becomes a really compelling story.

So I guess this seems like a good time to say thanks for all of the amazing stories you have shared with us over the years--for the amount of lurking I have done over the years I really ought to say that more often. The character insights and side plots that you pick up on from the original books and flesh out in your stories make for some of the most well-written and interesting stories out there (published or not)--and certainly make re-reading the books far more interesting. I wasn't particularly motivated to read HG until Golden Mean drew me into the world, and I still have trouble explaining why I like the series so much because everything is so colored by your alternate POVs that I can't really tease out what I would have gotten from the original story. (Same goes for HP at this point--I recently realized the extent of how much of my Potterverse headcanon is Fern-canon when JKR published that short story and I couldn't get past how out of character it was for Ron to leave the Aurors).

So yeah, thanks for keeping us supplied with excellent reading material over the years! Looking forward to Haymitch's THG.

--Leah
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 29th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Same goes for HP at this point--I recently realized the extent of how much of my Potterverse headcanon is Fern-canon when JKR published that short story and I couldn't get past how out of character it was for Ron to leave the Aurors).

Heh. I think this is why original authors are so ambivalent about fanfic! :D

Katniss really is pretty catastrophic event in Panem, isn't she?
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 29th, 2014 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

First...

Everybody repeat after me: in 5-10 years, Haymitch and Effie are going to be together again, chemical-free, and have a lovely little girl.

In the meantime, of course, there's this.

I can only imagine the state that Haymitch is in, having already been through this with Mimi (nice job bringing back Pertinax, BTW). Ceasar absolutely rocks, both for trying to keep Effie out of the clutches of Capitol Dreams, and then for keeping Haymitch and Effie in each other's orbits. Because he's right; her basic kindness is still right there, and that's the most important thing. It's been said many times, but always bears repeating: he rocks.

And quite masterful, Fern, the way you blended the totally innocuous elements of Effie's "therapy" (the animal shelter, where she gets to what she does with the Tributes, but with far better odds -- that is, groom and save them via sponsors) and the gag-inducing stuff like her being back on Pherolen and told to have meaningless sex with strangers as a way to form more "mature" relationships. It makes you wonder sometimes how anyone in the Capitol manages to have any semblance of real relationships or marriage. Yet they do. There's this perfectly normalized "skin" on everything, which just adds to the creepiness. Brava.

I imagine that Effie's term in prison was completely non-chemical and helped her out of this little CD bubble?

Got my request ready to go when you say the word...

Sara Libby

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 12:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: First...

I was trying to come up with a doctor, then I remembered that it was exactly what Pertinax was studying, and that he has, to put it mildly, Haymitch-related issues.

There's a lot that could do her good. There's nothing wrong with finding something to make you happy even when things are legitimately wrong. The animal shelter is a totally legit thing to do (though I can imagine someone like Gale raging that she's worrying about kitties while the districts are oppressed). And yes, her relationship with Haymitch was sort of one-sided (through no fault of either of them, really; he's an endless pit of need, but he'd have been happy to help her with whatever she needed, if she'd ever needed anything). But guh. "You feel bad about living in a dystopia. You must be crazy!" (Hello, Soviet mental health system.)

Effie's time in prison was drug free, which may have helped her, but D13 put a lot of Capitolites on "anti-anxiety" medications, so she had to deal with that, too.

I'll probably do the request post tomorrow or Thursday. Fifteen, I think. Probably watch for it late tomorrow.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: July 29th, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not to sound completely paranoid, but Effie's diagnosis and treatment is like every horror story about psychiatry gone wrong ever. I mean, I thought Yellow Wallpaper was disturbing and scary, but this is right up there. The pathologizing of otherwise normal or healthy behaviors because they aren't what the society wants/needs has both a long and terrifying history and so much potential to be misused as it is here. I imagine Dr. Meadowbrook genuinely thinks entafaistic syndrome is a real and dangerous thing that he must help these people over come. Just like all those people who thought homosexuality was a form of mental illness and that reading made women hysterical.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah. Yellow wallpaper, gaslighting, love-bombing, you name it. All of it creeps me the hell out. And the people totally mean well. They think they've discovered just why you don't fit in and are so terribly miserable, and they're going to fix you up right as rain, by God, so it doesn't do any good to be angry at them, either -- being angry at them is just proof that they're right. It's a symptom of your disease that you can't recognize their inherent right-ness, and your own fear of change. (Honestly, the second I hear someone say that someone who disagrees with their notions "fears change," I go into full on paranoia about what exactly they're trying to do, if they find pathologizing disagreement the most logical argument.)

Edited at 2014-07-30 12:18 am (UTC)
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: July 29th, 2014 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
A great conclusion to another tremendous story. As with all your stuff, it adds layer upon layer to the canon, depth and texture and invention, to the point where it's hard to remember that the backstories here weren't (generally) in the books. (Even more pronounced with THG than HP as the canon is a lot shorter.)

The Capitol Dreams therapy was pitch perfect here -- taking behaviours that would be regarded as reasonable if borderline problematic nowadays, and then pathologising them into a general condition whose "cure" just happens to suit the Capitol atomisation ideology. BTW, congratulations on "entafaism" -- I Googled it out of curiosity and it's a Googlewhackblatt (only appears on this page :D).

Just great stuff, really looking forward to seeing the Haymitch take on THG!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
You're right that are some borderline problematic areas (the woman trying to prevent her divorce by screaming outside her ex's new house is not in a healthy place), but yes, mostly totally normal stuff.

I Googled it out of curiosity and it's a Googlewhackblatt

Yay. :D I worked on Google translate for good, syndrome-y sounding things in Greek or Latin for ages.
torturedbabycow From: torturedbabycow Date: July 29th, 2014 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
*flail*

So creepy. I have lost the ability to even. Halpppp.

I'm super excited about the Haymitch story!!

And it was really interesting how he was kind of holding on for so long to the routine of sobering up at the Reaping, so he could at least try to help the kids on the way to the capitol.. but "losing" Effie just flattened him even more to where he stopped even managing that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that's exactly what happened. He's an alcoholic; that's a given. But he's fought it with different degrees of success over the years, and now, he's hit the point of, "Why the hell would I bother? There's no one who'll care."
redlily From: redlily Date: July 30th, 2014 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I ask once what happens if no one takes them, but no one seems to know. It doesn't matter.

Buhhhhh. Reminds me of The Giver. The kitties were just Released, no worries!

Some safe casual sex is arguably healthier than pining after your alcoholic and PTSD-ridden boss. I hope that doesn't make me as bad as a Capitol psychotherapist.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the operative question there is whether or not it's what she wants. She basically seems to go along with it because it's expected, not because she's thinking, "You know, I just want to get a little, okay?" Left to her own agency, she wants something meaningful. The problem is that she's being told that not wanting meaningless encounters is a symptom of an illness -- which ultimately amounts to coercive, rather than casual, sex: If she doesn't do it, she's labeled as defective. Is consent even valid when that's in play?
From: queen_bellatrix Date: July 30th, 2014 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you; this was what I was trying to get at in my comment, but you expressed much more articulately than I could manage, Fern.:)
From: queen_bellatrix Date: July 30th, 2014 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Feedback/Some Catches

wanted to go university Think you're missing a to before university.

Twelve in the champions Think you're missing a word before the.

day out our group Think maybe the out should be at; unless there was supposed to be more to the sentence that got lost in editing?

planets Erastus's book Think you're missing a word after planets.

This chapter is somehow almost more depressing than a character death. I think it's something about Effie's whole thematic arc being awakening/awareness, and now, she's back where she was at the beginning, and Haymitch can't pull her out of it. (I get like this every time I reread the end of Fellowship; even knowing they all come together at the end, there's something about ending a story with characters broken, rather than beginning it that way and seeing there recovery that always takes me on an emotional rollercoaster, in the very best of ways.)

This was phenomenal! I was so caught up in the story I was shrieking in rage at my computer. Especially just after the victors left; there was this glorious moment where I kept wanting Effie to fight, because you can still make Capitol-District calls, and then I realized Haymitch had torn the phone out of the wall and cursed a blue streak.

As so many others have mentioned, the mix of entirely problematic mental issues with Capitol maladies, and the way that entirely proper methods were interwoven so seamlessly with skin-crawlingly appalling ones was brilliant and profoundly horrifying; when I wasn't shrieking, my hands were shaking through the entire chapter. Especially over the way they broke down taboos around "adult companionship" Especially with those pills, which, in a lot of ways, made sex come far too close to being nonconsentual (I'm not saying the men wouldn't have stopped if she said no, but she was so disconnected, she didn't have the self-preservation/will power to say no)

And just how disconnected she was; especially how she'd forgotten things like what was happening to Finn was terrifying. I could visualize the scene in Caesar's office so clearly, and if I'm right in what I'm picturing, much of the horror would've come from the way she looked/was speaking. With that much of a drug in her system, I'd imagine her pupils were completely blown, and all the exclamation points reminded me of the way people sometimes get when they're high, almost shrieking when they want to put emphasis on something. And anyone whose smiling when their pupils were that wide would look terrifying. Gaaah, poor Effie must really have looked/sounded like a mockery of a circus clown *wants to hug her*

I'd be slamming doors if I were Haymitch, too. Especially because there were these awful glimpses of unbrainwashed Effie underneath it all; like when she was saying that if the kids won, they'd have enough to eat. She knows something is wrong! But then, she follows it up with that awful statement about manners being free (that was just eerie, especially in how it mirrored Maysilee's about education), and you're right back to square one; would've gotten closed then too if I were in his shoes.

But, I think the worst part is how she views the kids manners. Because she's always found their manners a bit coarse, but she's also always been able to empathise with them. There's never been that tone of disgust, the way there was over the blouse in the interviews. It made me think of how she found common ground/empathised with Butterfly; to see that empathy/attempt to reach out be lacking really showed how much things had changed. And then she used a nickname for one of the Tributes, and the old Effie shone through. I really can't imagine being Haymitch, especially because he knows that if he did wake her u[p, they'd just cause her more pain by sending her in for Round II.

Caesar was incredible. Especially in how he reached Haymitch, which I think could've been done by very few at that moment.<3

And Dr. Meadowbrook, if you actually believe you're doing a good thing in honor of your sister, I feel so sorry for you post-war.

Fern, this story was astounding; I was leary of an Effie pov starting out, and you made her such a rich, deep character and had me entirely invested in her fate. My hat is so far off I don't think I can find it again.






fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 30th, 2014 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback/Some Catches

Thanks again for all the quick proofreading! Everything looks so much better since you started doing that. :D Hope you've got an idea for the challenges, because I'm reserving the first for you again.

I think that, physically, you're right about what Haymitch sees when Effie walks in the door. Add that to the insane Capitol makeup, and you've got a cruel caricature who doesn't even know she's been made into a mockery of herself.

There's something to Effie's point that manners are free. Yes, you might not be able to practice with a fish knife, but it's free to teach a kid not to blow her nose on her clothes or offend everyone at a dinner table. What Effie doesn't realize is that it's a two-way street. Turning up her nose at the way things are done in the districts, expecting kids to know more esoteric points of etiquette (and care about it) is... well, rude.

Dr. Meadowbrook does, unfortunately, think he's doing a great work to honor his sister. I expect he doesn't survive Coin's purge... or, like Mimi, gets paranoid when he hears the rebels are coming, and punches his own ticket out.

I'm glad you found the issue with her observation of Finnick terrifying. She couldn't stop and analyze it, because the whole point is that she couldn't see clearly anymore.

I doubt anyone other than Caesar could have gotten through to Haymitch just then. The other victors have their own issues. The younger ones think of him as Team Dad, and the older ones as a little brother, but Caesar gets him and says the precisely one thing that will work.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: August 4th, 2014 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback/Some Catches

Do you think that's just Caesar's gift (that he can do that with everyone) or is it something unique to both being Quell victors?

Edited at 2014-08-04 09:05 pm (UTC)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 4th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback/Some Catches

I think he has a general gift for reading people -- that's how he does so well with the interviews -- but a particular fondness for Haymitch.
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