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Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 13 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 13
I added a fairly lengthy scene with Danny, so, for balance, I'm moving part of this chapter into the next chapter (there may be another shift of this sort; I'll have to see).


Chapter Thirteen
I've barely gotten the bottle to my lips when my front door opens. There's no preliminary doorbell or knock, and I am half-expecting Peacekeepers, but it's Peeta.

"You owe me," he says. "You didn't send me anything, and you picked Katniss last year. You owe me."

"You want me to go into the arena," I guess. "So you can get Katniss out."

"No. I want you to let me go in with her. No matter who Effie draws."

"Are you crazy?" I ask him, and lead him to the kitchen. "You want to go back?"

"No. But I want to make sure Katniss gets home."

"And you think you're better at the arena than I am?"

"I think I'm in better shape with one leg than you are with two," he says, and that's hard to argue with. "Besides, like you said, I'm not prepared to be a mentor. She's going to need someone who knows how to work sponsors and has connections in the Capitol. Get her whatever she needs."

I sit down at the table and rub my head. "So, your idea of how to repay you for not sending you anything and choosing Katniss is to let you die in the arena while I don't send you anything and choose Katniss."

"It's what I want." He shakes his head. "No, it's not what I want. I want to grow up, marry Katniss, and grow old and have kids and grandkids. I want them all to dread visits from grumpy Uncle Haymitch, who gives them all the best presents. I want to watch my niece grow up. But that's not one of my choices. So, of the choices I have, I want to make sure Katniss lives."

"You could have all of it if you were the mentor." Except for grumpy Uncle Haymitch, of course, but he doesn't argue with me on that point.

"I need you mentoring. You're better at it than I am."

"And if I say no?"

He gives me a bitter smile, so at odds with the Peeta I'm used to that it throws me. "Do you think I never talked to the Careers last year? I know how to beat the volunteer system. If you try to volunteer for me, I can get around it. Do you know how to do it if I volunteer for you?"

I could lie, but I don't. Learning how to make the Gamemakers accept someone as a volunteer over other willing volunteers was never a skill I felt it necessary to have in Twelve. I shake my head.

My capitulating like this seems to take the furious energy out of Peeta. He sits down across from me, his head in his hands, and says, "It's better this way. If I'd died like I was supposed to last year, she wouldn't be in trouble in the first place. She never should have come back for me."

"She wouldn't be Katniss if she hadn't."

"That's another thing," he says. "I gave her this whole guilt-trip about how I was going to stay me, and not let anything change me. Self-righteous stuff, like I was so much better than she was. She knew she couldn't afford to do that. But I think she listened. I think she let me guilt her about it, and now that's why they're trying to kill her."

"That's what you were arguing about on the roof?"

He nods.

I put down the bottle. "Listen to me, Peeta. I mean this. What you told her, that's the most important thing you could have said. And I think it's why you're in better shape than either of us now. You know what it really means. You didn't break."

He looks up. "Then why do I feel broken, Haymitch?" He takes a deep and shaky breath and looks out the kitchen window, toward the garden. "I just want to do what's right. Get her through the arena, and then she can have the life she was supposed to have. I had no business twisting her life around my stupid fantasies. It wasn't fair."

"It saved her life," I remind him. I don't add, And yours, since in his current mood, he probably wouldn't think that was a benefit. "You want to know why the people loved her? It's because of what you did. I know that. I was out there, talking to them the whole time. She knows that. And she loves you. Why are you trying to die?"

"I'm not trying to die," he says, and I'm not sure even he realizes that he's lying. "And I know she cares about me--"

"Loves you."

"Cares about me. But she's got this whole other life. She's got her mom and Prim. She has Gale. She can marry Gale someday. They'll have kids. Maybe she'll name one after me. I'd like that. Though he'd probably end up in the arena, wouldn't he?"

"Peeta, you have people to live for, too. You've been getting along with your family..."

"Yeah. They're over at my house now. I was watching with them. I was holding Betony. My brothers are taking care of Dad. He's wrecked." This seems to derail him for a minute, and I almost jump in to push the point that it would kill Danny to lose him, but he forces himself back onto his original track before I can. "I have to tell them to go back to town. I can get them out of the crossfire. And that's not the stupid martyr act anymore. My brother Ed has taken lashes three times already -- not big ones like Gale took, but five or six at a time. I wasn't supposed to know, but Delly told me. They're going to push him out of his shop. And my parents are losing everything. They say they don't care, but... there's no reason for them to lose everything. Not anymore. Three or four months of getting along isn't worth wrecking the rest of their lives. Maybe by the time Betony's twelve, the Capitol will have forgotten about me. They leave Madge alone, pretty much, except when she's actually doing something."

"Peeta, stop it."

"I can't do anything else for them. But I can do this for Katniss. I can help her through the arena. We can. Will you help, Haymitch?"

"You're crazy."

"I fit right in around here."

"Not even close. You're a whole different level of crazy."

"Will you help me?"

"What you're talking about isn't helping you."

"It's helping me make my life mean something. I'm going to die either way, Haymitch. Will you help me make sure it counts for something?"

Something huge and terrible is swelling in my chest, closing off my throat, making my eyes burn. "Yeah," I say. "Yeah, fine. I'll help you die nobly so Katniss can live. Are you happy? Get out of here."

He nods solemnly, then stands up and leaves without another word.

I sit and wait for Katniss. Outside, I can hear Prim and Gale calling for her. I'm guessing she had some kind of major breakdown, but I know she'll be here soon. She'll be here before she goes back to them, to these people Peeta thinks she'd rather live for. Because I'm the grown-up who can make it all better. I can fix it all somehow. I look at the painting Peeta did of Katniss and me in District Eleven, the way she's looking at me in it.

I drink. I think about overthrowing the Capitol. We have to do it, now. We should have struck fast, last summer, before the Victory Tour. But it's gotten so easy to sit back and plan. And Plutarch was working his connections, most likely with Thirteen, though no one's been able to clarify much with me this year. We have to do it now, though. I fantasize for a few minutes about hopping a train to the Capitol and assassinating Snow, but, as much fun as it would be, I imagine he'd make it more difficult than I think. He'd execute me and, worse, make the kids pay in the arena.

Besides, the chances of me getting away now that I'm on a very short list of potential tributes are slim to none.

Prim comes to my door, frantic, asking me to help look for Katniss. I tell her someone needs to stay home with the light on. She tells me I'm drunk and runs off. I keep waiting. Katniss will show up -- and she'll show up here -- when she's good and ready to do it.

I know what she's going to ask, once she's gotten outside her head enough to realize that Peeta could die. I know it the same way I know that she'll be here. She'll tell me that she wants me to go into the arena, and when I tell her that Peeta won't allow it, she'll ask me to sacrifice her to save him.

I am right. She shows up an hour after he leaves, her hair coated with cobwebs. There are white marks on her face where she's been digging her fingers into it to keep from screaming. She makes exactly the request I expect from her. The only thing I don't anticipate is that she also asks for a drink. I give her one. I let her have the whole bottle. She needs it as much as I do. Ruth will be furious, but somehow, that doesn't strike me as a major problem right now.

I promise her that I'll let her die nobly, so that Peeta can live. I think about the rows of silent names in the cemetery, all the kids I've brought to the Capitol to die, and it occurs to me that, if the rebellion doesn't get its act together, I'll be keeping both promises.

When she leaves, I pick up the phone and call Cinna.

"Looks like you'll get to use your new fire technique after all," I say as soon as he says hello.

"Not funny." His voice is cold. "You're drunk."

"Not nearly drunk enough."

He's quiet for a long time, then says, "Haymitch, I'm sorry."

"Sorry?"

"What else is there to say? What would make it better?"

I can't think of a thing. It's not Cinna's fault, and he has no control over it.

There's someone who does, though. I mumble for a minute, trying to sound like I'm just griping, then say, "If I had a second alone with the Head Gamemaker..."

If Cinna picks up what I'm asking for, he obviously can't say anything about it. Instead, he tells me to stop drinking, or he'll send the medics out to District Twelve on the next train. "And just so you know, I'm not kidding," he says, then hangs up on me.

I don't stop drinking. No power on earth could make me stop drinking tonight. Eventually, I pass out, and my whole host of terrors visits me. All of them start out as different people -- Lacklen, my mother, Digger, Maysilee, Effie, Hazelle -- but all of them end up as Katniss and Peeta, dying no matter what I do, dissolving in my arms.

When Peeta wakes me up late the next afternoon, I embrace him. I don't think I've ever done that before. He takes it stoically, then hauls me up off the floor and sits me down on the couch. "Stay there," he says, looking oddly cold. "I have work to do."

He goes to the kitchen and starts shifting things around. I want to tell him that Hazelle will kill him, but it's Hazelle's day off, and somehow, I don't think Peeta would be all that upset about death threats from her at this point, anyway. He brews coffee and brings the pot out to the living room. He doesn't need to tell me that I'm to sober up. I see him take a large box upstairs, and wander out to the kitchen. He's taken down all my liquor bottles for something. Probably means to start rationing them again.

He's still scurrying around upstairs when Katniss shows up, looking like she's been run over by a train and then dragged a while for good measure. I think I probably looked the same the first time I tried white liquor. It takes some getting used to.

She has brought me broth. I drink it. We don't talk.

Peeta comes downstairs with his cardboard box, and I hear an ominous clinking noise. "There," he says. "It's done."

"What's done?" Katniss asks.

But it's obvious. The box contains at least twenty empty white liquor bottles. I know they haven't just been lying around, not with Hazelle in to clean. He's dumped it down the drain, and bribed Ripper not to sell me anymore.

For a minute, I forget that I spent the night having nightmares about his death. I forget that he's brought me bread almost every day. I forget that he's cleaned me up when I've fallen face first in my own puke, or that his father cleaned me up after worse.

I take a swing at him with my knife.

He ducks it easily. Child's play after fighting with Cato, I guess. He isn't looking at either of us, not really, and he has cloaked last night's tears with a kind of cold anger.

"What business is it of yours?" Katniss demands.

"It's completely my business. However it falls out, two of us are going to be in the arena again with the other as mentor. We can't afford any drunkards on this team. Especially not you, Katniss."

And of course, that's the point of the anger. I promised him I'd help keep her safe, and the first thing I did was get her drunk. Katniss offers to keep me supplied, but Peeta cuts off that thought as well, threatening to turn her in and let her do time in the stocks.

I am not sure I like this version of Peeta -- this Peeta is Mirrem's son.

"What's the point to this?" I ask.

"The point is that two of us are coming home from the Capitol," he says. "One mentor and one victor. Effie's sending me recordings of all the living victors. We're going to watch their Games and learn everything we can about how they fight. We're going to put on weight and get strong. We're going to start acting like Careers. And one of us is going to be a victor again whether you two like it or not." He storms out and slams the door, making my skull ring.

Katniss looks up, greenish, and says, "I don't like self-righteous people."

We both know that he intends for us to come home. I don't tell her that I promised him exactly that, any more than I'll tell him that I promised her the same thing.

A train arrives the next morning, and I see a delivery box arrive at Peeta's house. Probably the tapes he asked Effie for. I am not terribly interested. Hazelle has managed to sneak in a single bottle of liquor, but says that Ripper won't sell her any more, either. Peeta put the fear of the law in her.

"Nice kid," Hazelle says. "Does he know what it'll do to you to quit cold?"

"He has no idea. He thinks he does, but he doesn't."

She rolls her eyes and is reaching for a dish towel when there's a thundering knock on my door. There's no pause to wait for an answer when the door bursts open and Romulus Thread comes into my kitchen, trailed by two large lackeys.

"Need something?" I ask.

"You're wanted at the station," he says, his eyes glittering unpleasantly. "Right now."

"You could just ask," Hazelle says.

Thread looks at her with distaste. "You weren't addressed." He signals, and the two lackeys grab me and shove me out the door to a waiting car. They don't say a word all the way to the train station. Thread pulls me out of the car roughly and shoves me toward the door to a luxury cabin.

"I'll just wait right here," he says.

The door opens, and Plutarch Heavensbee comes out. "That won't be necessary, Officer Thread," he says. "Thank you for your diligence. I'll have a word with Mr. Abernathy, then I'm sure he can get home on his own."

Thread grimaces, but calls off his squad. After all, the Head Gamemaker outranks him.

"Get inside," Plutarch says.

I go. Fulvia is sitting at an ornate desk, going through files. She looks up, but doesn't smile.

"What do you want?" I ask.

"My personal compartment isn't bugged," Plutarch says. "There are advantages to my position. And I'm not the one who called this meeting."

"What?"

"Cinna said you wanted to see me."

I vaguely remember telling Cinna that I wanted a few minutes alone with the Head Gamemaker, but I don't remember what I meant to tell him. I cover for it. "When did you know?" I ask.

"The same time as the rest of Panem," he says. "I'm in charge of the Games, not the tributes."

"Then why were you waiting for the Quell? Why didn't we start things months ago?"

"Isn't that obvious?" Fulvia says waspishly. "When all of Panem is watching, we can make a definitive statement. We can declare war on the Capitol in a way that there's no better medium for. It will reach everyone. It will --"

I grab her arm and glare at her. "A statement?"

"Yes," Plutarch says, prying me off her. "A statement. Perhaps if we'd had the mockingjay all along, we could have made the statement in some other way."

I don't believe him. I believe that his intent was always to blow up his own Games.

I grab him and hurl him into the wall, pinning him against the rich velvet curtains. Fulvia is up and trying to dislodge me, but I ignore her.

"A statement," I say. "How many tributes were you going to let die for your statement? Were you just going to wait for the bloodbath? Or go through the whole thing and get a victor? Or were you planning on just killing them all? That'd be some statement."

"I hardly think that's a relevant question now. Most of the tributes will be our people, so -- "

"And that makes a difference to you?"

"Of course it does."

I give him a shake, then I say, "I remember what I wanted to say now. And you're going to listen to it. You really didn't need to come all the way here. It's pretty brief."

"I'm listening," he says.

"You had us put things off to make a statement at your Games. This didn't need to happen. And if either of my kids dies in your arena, I'm going to slit your damn throat. That's all." I let him go, shrug Fulvia off my back, and leave.

They don't come after me, or send the Peacekeepers.

It was probably not too smart to threaten people on my own side, but I feel better. I made promises to Katniss and Peeta -- both of them want to die. I intend to break both promises. They're going to live whether they want to or not.

I'm halfway through the square -- passing the whipping post -- when I realize several things, things I hadn't really considered before. My brief euphoria drops away, leaving an unfocused horror in its wake.

Things have been set in motion, and I can't stop them now.

I stand in the cold for a few minutes, blinking, then change direction. I go to the bakery.

There's no crowd. There's never much of a lunch crowd, and it's hours before the dinner rush. Danny is standing listlessly behind the counter, a sugar shaker in one hand, his eyes focused on a new painting on the wall since the last time I was here. It shows the family in the back, working on pastries together. Peeta and Danny are at the kneading table, laughing about something. Jonadab and Sarey are frosting cupcakes. Ed and Delly are rolling out dough. Mirrem is stirring something.

Danny glances at me with no recognition, then looks back at the painting.

I have no doubt that the bakery is bugged. I have to get him someplace else.

"Hey," I say.

He looks back at me, this time registering me more. "Hey."

I latch onto his clumsy bug act from the other night. "You said Chaff wrote to you. I think maybe I better get him those cookies."

Danny closes his eyes. "That's right. It's your friends, too."

This is another truth -- Chaff and Seeder will be in the arena, and Jo Mason, and Beetee and Wiress and Cecelia and Woof -- but I can't think about it yet. I have to give it time to sink in. "Yeah," I say.

"He likes hermits and chocolate, right? I'll get him some cream puffs, too. I think he'll like those. And it's my treat."

"He's got allergies," I say. "Got some paper? I'll make a list of what he can't have. And it's not your treat, it's mine."

He hands me a bit of packing paper and a pen. He's moving sluggishly, but I see him starting to wake up. I'm here. It must mean I'm going to fix things.

I pause with the pen over the paper, trying to think of someplace to tell him to meet me, someplace no one is likely to show up looking for me.

The image comes to me, and I grimace. There's a place that no one has seen me go for twenty-five years. I write, "Meet me home. Mother."

He frowns at it groggily -- I wonder if he dipped into the booze last night, too, but I don't think so; I think this is anticipatory grief -- then I see understanding in his eyes. He nods. "Okay. I'll get the order together. I'll see you in an hour or so."

I head out. I make a circle around the ruins of the Hob, talk to old Sae for a few minutes, pass the cemetery, and generally wander Twelve aimlessly until I'm sure no one is watching me.

Then I turn down on to the Seam. I greet some of the people Hazelle and I tried to help, and I get waves from a few of the older parents of my tributes (they are always good to me for some reason), and I try not to make my destination too obvious. Finally, I turn down the last street, the run of long-unoccupied houses that were damaged after a mine explosion shook them into varying states of disrepair. No one fixed them. No one fixed the last one on the lane, either, the one with the worst damage. I paid to have a high wooden fence put up, so no one would get hurt, but I've never cleared it away. There's some graffiti, but not much, and it's nothing particularly meaningful (other than a mockingjay that was probably drawn on last year). All I really glean from it is "Addree" is apparently taken with "River." Another scribbling suggests that a girl named Ivy might be engaged in a particularly ancient profession.

There's a lock, but it's a Capitol lock, which opens on my thumbprint. I open the gate and go inside.

The wreck of my childhood home is mostly decayed now, with ferns and moss growing up among the boards. The pine tree that kept us alive for a lot of winters is dead, blown down in some windstorm or other. It doesn’t look like it was very long ago. The tree I used to climb to check the roof is still standing; it's a sturdy old oak, and it takes more than a quarter of a century to kill it.

I follow the path to where the front door was. A bit of the frame is lying on the ground, crawling with bugs.

I sit down on a rock and don't really look at things. I just think about being a kid here, about the stench of the place, the ragged old furniture that was always creaking and cracking, the threadbare cloth with burn holes in it. Nothing was ever new, and everything had a kind of strange smell about it, partly from my parents' illness, partly from Daddy's liquor, partly from a kind of unnamable miasma of poverty that worked its way into everything we did own.

But it was also the place where my father taught me to read, sitting on his knee and watching his finger move under the words. It was where he regaled us with definitions of strange words, and where he tried his little experiments. It was where my mother sat with me on sleepless nights, and where she held Lacklen and me after Daddy died and promised us that she'd figure things out, that we'd be safe. It was where I held my baby brother on my lap, terrified that I was going to drop him on his head, but proud to be allowed to do such a very grown-up thing.

Lacklen would be thirty-seven this year. I want to know what my brother would have been like at thirty-seven. He'd have been a miner, no question about it -- victors' siblings don't get any special privileges once they've grown up. Maybe he'd have gotten married. Probably he would have, most do down here. Maybe there'd be nieces and nephews.

I press my hand against my head. I shouldn't have picked this place.

"Haymitch?"

I look up. I have no idea how long I've been woolgathering, but Danny's here now. I signal to him to close the door in the fence.

He closes the gate and comes further in, looking around in a vague way. Finally, he sits on a log beside me. "Remember the first time we got drunk together?" he asks out of nowhere.

I nod. "Yeah. My idea, your key to your dad's liquor cabinet."

He smiles. "I got in so much trouble."

"Me, too."

"I came down here to clean out your mom's oven. Atonement."

"She forgave you."

He locks his hands behind his head for a minute, pressing himself down, then looks up. "I do talk to my son, Haymitch. He says he's going to volunteer for you, and he knows how to stop you from volunteering for him. He says he wants you mentoring to get Katniss out of the arena."

"I --"

"It's not just Katniss, you know. Peeta wouldn't have let you go in there to die if he had a way to stop it. He's frustrated with your drinking, but he actually loves you. Do you know that?"

I shake my head.

"He does. He told me that you sat with him in the hospital after the Games. He told me that before the Games, you let him talk to you for hours. You made him feel loved, and I'm grateful for it."

"He's a great kid."

"I know you call him one of your kids. Along with Katniss. And there are a couple of others, too, aren't there?"

"I --"

"It's okay. Peeta's got an extra parent out of it, and I'm fine with that. I'm glad you're looking out for him."

"But he's still yours."

"Yeah." He waits a minute, then says, "So, what's the game plan? The real one."

I almost lie out of habit, but I don't. I didn't call him out here to lie to him. "I don't know," I say. "Not exactly. But we're getting as many out as we can. Especially the kids. I told Plutarch Heavensbee what the consequences would be if he let either of them die. But if I can get all twenty-four out of there -- even if Brutus is one of them -- I'll do it."

"I believe you."

"I know." I take a deep breath, and brace myself to tell him what I realized in the square. Maybe it's something I should have realized a long time ago. "Danny, if I get them out, no matter what else happens… I won't be able to bring them home. I'm not going to be able to get them out on a technicality in the rules. It'll be a breakout, and they'll be fugitives."

"If Peeta's alive, I don't care if you fly him around the world and set up housekeeping in Antarctica."

"Yeah. But there's something else. If we do this, it's…"

"An act of war?" He raises his eyebrows. "I'm not stupid, Haymitch. If you break them out of the arena, you break the Treaty of the Treason. That's why no one's done it before. Snow will retaliate."

"That's a very clean word." I look into the ruins of my house -- one of Snow's tiniest retaliations. "He'll take it out on Twelve, Danny. He's blamed Katniss for all the uprisings. Because of the berries."

"He's right to blame her," Danny says. "She started something."

"Danny, listen to me. Whatever he does, it's not going to be trivial. There's going to be fighting in the streets. People are going to die. Maybe even your other sons, if they fight."

"Which they will. Both of them. And me." He smiles faintly. "If we get a chance. Some things are worth dying for. The Games aren't. But stopping the Games is."

I expected to dance up to this carefully, but of course he's already thought it through that far. I wonder how many of the other tributes' parents got this far in their reasoning about why we still let the Games happen.

"Whatever happens in the arena -- and I don't know what it will be, because I've had too much media around me this year for anyone to get much word to me -- it's going to happen fast. It'll have to. When you see, you'll know it. Get out. And get the others -- Kay, Merle, Hazelle… I'll have to talk to Hazelle, too, somehow…" I hear my words getting faster, and I slow down. "Be ready to go."

He frowns. "Go where?"

"Somewhere we can really fight from." I look around. What I'm about to do could compromise the rebellion if Danny doesn't play it right, but I have to try. "North," I say. "Plutarch… has an ally."

Danny's eyes widen. "Of course."

"But until something happens, you can't give a hint. You have to do what you did last year. You have to be a tribute's father. Do your bit with the cameras. Worry. Give interviews. Keep the bakery open. No signs."

"I get it."

"But be ready."

He nods. There's nothing else to say. After a few seconds, he says, "You're never going to be able to come back, either. And we both know Snow's idea of retaliation could be Thread walking over to me and putting a hole in my head before I have a chance to do anything or go anywhere."

"Danny --"

"If that happens… I trust you with my son, Haymitch. I don't say that to just anybody. You're a good, decent man. I don't think you know that."

I don't know how to answer that -- I'm not, really; I'm as guilty as Plutarch of just expecting the Quell to happen -- so I don't try. After a while, Danny asks if I remember Mr. Parton, the father of one of my first pair of tributes, who Danny sat with through the Games. Apparently, Parton sat with Danny last year when he was staying at the inn. He's ancient and sickly, but he came. Danny considers any old debt paid in full. We start to talk about other years, other friends. The afternoon gets late, but I don't really notice it until Danny says he needs to get back to the bakery for the suppertime rush, or Mir will kill him.

We walk back into town together, and I watch him disappear into the bakery.

I turn up the collar of my coat and head back to Victors' Village.

When I get back to my house, I am feeling better. Stronger. Hazelle asks what happened, and I tell her that I got in trouble with the Head Gamemaker.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine."

She nods. "That didn't take all this time, did it?"

"I went and saw some friends. With the Quell coming up, I might not have a lot more chances."

She hugs me.

The phone rings. Peeta has got the tapes, as I suspected. He's called Katniss, and she's over there (I imagine her sitting in his kitchen, glaring at him), and I need to come as well. We're going to watch the Seventh Hunger Games. Mags's games. I can't imagine that would help. If Mags is called, certainly one of the younger Careers in District Four will volunteer. But I agree to come over.

Peeta puts us through exercises before we sit down. I get winded easily, and both of the kids look disgusted with me.

Then we watch the tape.

I have never seen Mags as a young woman before, and I realize she was very beautiful once. Vicious, but beautiful. Even before her ally (the girl from Nine) is captured and abused for days, Mags is a force to be reckoned with. She fights her way to the Cornucopia and gets more weapons than she needs (though the supplies that year consist entirely of very primitive weapons), and after she makes her alliance, the two of them set up a fortress to live in. The ally is captured when she's out foraging.

The highlight reel is delicate about what happens to her after she's captured. The Capitol audience didn't care for it. But it is quite lovingly devoted to Mags's revenge -- the fire trap, and her systematic destruction of her enemies with a slingshot and a bag full of rocks. Honestly, I have a crazy desire to travel in time so I can sponsor her myself.

The kids have no idea what she's like now; they're watching a stranger. I'm not sure Katniss even understands what happened, given the pussyfooting around it that the tape did; in a lot of unexpected ways, she's very innocent. I wish I could keep her that way.

Peeta starts planning our training. I don't know if she is sincere or trying to exasperate Peeta as much as he's been exasperating her, but she suggests that we call Gale on Sundays to teach us all about snares. If she's not sincere, it backfires -- Peeta declares the idea brilliant and tells her to set it up.

I walk her home after Peeta gives us both a schedule. "Are you seriously going to bring Gale into this?" I ask her.

She shrugs. "May as well. He knows everything about snares."

"You're not bad yourself."

"I can get us from A to B. He can get us to Z."

We walk a little further. I watch her. She looks like she's walking on glass shards. I put my hand on her shoulder. "Why are you doing this?"

"Maybe if he trains enough, it'll be easier to keep him alive."

I nod. I doubt it'll make a difference. A few months of training won't be any counter to the years the Careers have. I doubt either of them really believes otherwise. But if it keeps them both sane to take control over the only thing they can take control of, I guess there's no harm in it. Ruth seems to understand this, and develops a diet regimen for us. She also slips me herbs to stop the shakes, and tells Peeta that I'm to be allowed beer. Not a lot of it, and she'll control the supply, but she says it won't do anyone any good if I have a heart attack.

Gale's visit on the first Sunday is about as awkward as I figured it would be. He's trying as hard as he can, and is obviously worried about Katniss, but he doesn't care at all about Peeta and me, and isn't good at pretending. Peeta takes the lessons very seriously, asks smart questions, and makes sure to address any issues of physical strength which might be a problem for Katniss. By the second Sunday, he's acquired a camera, and takes pictures that he says he means to study. Why he feels a need to study a picture of Gale and Katniss sharing a joke over lunch is sort of a mystery, but he doesn't explain himself to me, and I doubt they even noticed him snapping it.
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 14th, 2015 12:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow! This chapter just blew me away. Not sure what it was about it. The part at the ruins of his childhood home was particularly good. ~ Karen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 14th, 2015 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I realized that I never did have that come full circle, so I might as well do something about it. :D
From: queen_bellatrix Date: April 16th, 2015 06:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Some Catches, in hopes you haven't archived/verbose squee

He takes deep and shaky breath Just need an a before deep.

I think the rows of Think you're missing a word before the, though I can't tell if it's of or about.:)

you to like it or not Just need a two instead of to.

do this, it's… Just need a closing quote.

one Snow's tiniest retaliations Just need an of before Snow's.

Mags as young woman
Just missing an a before young.

call Gale on Sundays not sure if you need an in before the on, or if this's just Haymitch's syntax.:)

Guh, the edits and the prior events gave this chapter so much more weight; I'm incredibly impressed how skillfully you added so much emotional depth here.

Very random thoughts, because I'm still punch-drunk from the power of the Haymitch and Danny scene.

I love the spin I think you're giving to Peeta's initial plea in the beginning of this? Because with how often Haymitch told him he didn't have to pull the sacrifice play, and Haymitch reminding him in the beginning of GM that he wanted Haymitch to choose Katniss, his insistence on owing doesn't quite work here. And I get the sense that that's entirely intentional; hell, maybe even Peeta knows it doesn't really hold water. But he's got to hook Haymitch with something, and guilt's the only thing he's got, so he can finish his speech and use the fact that his life is already most likely forfeit to get Haymitch to agree, so he just...goes with the owing thing; a very Mere thing to do, which just highlights what he does later. I love that it's in moments of extreme desperation that his similarity to her appears.

I love how you're continuing to slip in these tiny bits of logistics; love the idea that while not having an district shipping license means that a victor can't order from the bakery, it would be entirely possible for Haymitch to get something and then ship it himself. A very clever bug ruse, and a very clever bit of world building to boot; he needs to send all his friends something. *sniffles* Seeder, and Cecelia, and Chaff; the quell in your verse is going to leave me a mess.

Everything with Danny and Haymitch's scene; if I tried to point out all the bits I loved, I'd just quote it all back to you. But it makes it better somehow, knowing that Danny had thought this stuff out, that he knew he could die, and that he told Haymitch in a way Haymitch can't ignore that he's a good, decent man; of course, Haymitch will ignore like crazy Danny's larger implication that he was glad to have shared in Haymitch's perils, to paraphrase a Hobbit phrase, but one can only expect so much.;p Although...House of Cards and reading everything about Danny's death is also going to leave me a mess; you've made all these throw-away characters so three-dimensional, which I know I say a lot, but the amount of expansion and detail you've given this verse is simply mind-boggling.

And all Haymitch's reminiscences about his home; all the little details there was never room for in any of the other stories; I loved them so, so much!

Plutarch; I really hate Plutarch right now. I know he's a good person, working for good ends, but he's so...disconnected from people, so focused on the big picture that he's completely emotionless most of the time; I completely agree with Haymitch, that while the statement may have been going to be clever, a huge chunk of it was just a desire to blow up his own games.

Two things, speaking of Plutarch: I'll slit your damn throat is still utterly perfect. And: Haymitch says that if the rebellion fails, he'll be keeping both his promises; what does he mean? Does he suspect that Snow will attempt to eliminate both Twelve victors the way he does with the scores?

In closing, I loved all the callbacks in this, from Peeta asking Haymitch to help his death mean something mirroring perfectly his make it hurt them in TLT to Peeta talking about Katniss naming her son after him mirroring the Haymitch/Digger thing. And the way he realized about the retaliation on Twelve was a perfect callback to his realization as a victor in the arena that retaliation was precisely the reason the games continued; you brought the theme he's been grappling with, off and on, from that moment in EOTW of people he cares about inevitably being in the firing line full circle brilliantly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 16th, 2015 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Some Catches, in hopes you haven't archived/verbose squee

Thanks (and no, I hadn't put in the edits yet, so very helpful catches!).

As to Haymitch's promises, as he views them, he's promised to let Katniss and Peeta die. For a euphoric moment, he thinks he'll be able to break that promise. Then he realizes that if the rebellion doesn't work, they're likely to die (hence, he'll be keeping his promise). The kids, of course, view the promise as the other one living, so they might be inclined to interpret it the other way.

Peeta definitely was reaching for straws. And Danny's quite right that he was also trying to save Haymitch, though Haymitch would not, of course, consider that as valid a reason.

Shipped baked goods not going on a commercial train might not be as tasty when they get there, but yeah -- nothing really stops Haymitch from sending a package that happens to contain cookies. It'll likely be searched more carefully, though, and the Peacekeepers could filch the tastiest ones.

I really wanted to at least have some kind of a scene between Haymitch and Danny. The EotW stories developed that relationship further than I thought they would when I started, and I think I'm going to be working with the fallout of Danny's death as I go into NP, too. I did like how the scene came out, though I wish they could have some kind of proper goodbye. Like Katniss, Haymitch has a lot of self-loathing, and Danny's view of him is a good corrective. If he'd, well, listen to it, anyway.

Plutarch... gar. Yes, Plutarch, try considering actual human things sometimes. It could help you.

Haymitch's guilt arises only because he's a decent person. That's the hell of using guilt as a tool. "Look at all the harm you caused by your actions, you vile creature" isn't going to make a dent in an actual vile creature.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: April 16th, 2015 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really liked this chapter both for the larger moments like Haymitch and Danny in his childhood home and the subtler moments like him being greeted by tributes parents and being surprised they like him. Seriously excellent additions/revisions to an already pretty awesome story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 17th, 2015 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I'm enjoying the chance to revisit. I haven't done much of it.

Haymitch has been so intimately involved in the Games that I think he doesn't realize that there's an experience he doesn't have: Parent to a tribute, with himself as the mentor -- he probably thinks Effie's more comforting to them, not realizing that they understand perfectly well that he's doing every possible thing for their kids, and that means something.
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