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Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 20 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 20
Changed the interaction about the spile to get in a conversation with Ed, added some minor Haymitch/Effie commentary.

Chapter Twenty
Katniss screams just a fraction of a second before Peeta brings his knife down in an arc against the vines. A sound like a whip breaks through the air, and he is thrown backward like a rag doll, flying through the air and landing hard on the ground. Finnick and Mags are toppled over along with him.

"Peeta?" Katniss runs to him, grabs him. "Peeta!" She flutters her hands over his lips, her breathing becoming sharper and sharper, then presses her head against his chest. She sits up, gasping, shaking him. "PEETA! PEETA!" She slaps his face. He doesn't respond.

I want to yell, but my throat is frozen. I get to my feet. I can't look away. I never should have let him go into the arena. I should have forced him to let me go in.

On screen, Claudius is now taking up a corner, looking giddy. In the opposite corner, Ruth Everdeen, pale and shaky, says, "It's not too late. If someone knows how to start his heart, it's not too late..."

As if in answer, Finnick bends down beside Peeta and says, "Let me." He pinches Peeta's nostrils shut.

Katniss screams "No!", running at Finnick as she tried to run at the doctors on the hovercraft last year. He shoves her aside without even making an effort, then bends over Peeta and starts breathing into his mouth, pushing down on his chest in an even rhythm. Ruth is nodding in her corner, but not saying anything, so her feed is cut.

"Interesting!" Claudius says. "This is an old technique, sometimes still used in the districts. In District Four, where water accidents are common, it is taught at a young age. But why would Finnick Odair save a competitor?"

It's a question that I'm sure Snow must be belatedly asking himself. Bringing a competitor back to life outright is a somewhat different animal than the pragmatic alliances of most arenas.

Katniss sits at the base of a tree, shivering, an arrow pointed at Finnick's back. As I watch, the arrow droops and falls. Katniss leans forward, a kind of desperate hope on her face that I know is mirrored in mine. I've seen this technique before, but not often, and I've never seen it work.

With a choked sounding cough, Peeta stirs. I can't cheer -- I can barely breathe -- but Harris Greaves and Jack Anderson do. Toffy claps my shoulder. The strength goes out of my legs, and I sink down into my chair.

They show reactions on the streets and in the districts. In Twelve, Danny is gulping for breath while Mir puts a dainty hand to her face. Ruth is watching warily for any sign of continuing trouble. I see Delly Cartwright in the crowd, though the camera doesn't linger. Ed isn't nearby. She's sitting with a Seam girl, who's patting her back manically.

Katniss drops her weapons and runs to Peeta, brushing his hair with her fingers, crying. By the looks of it, as far as she's concerned, no one else exists in the world. "Peeta?"

"Careful," he says. "There's a forcefield up ahead."

There's a strange pause, then laughter sweeps through the viewing center. It is shaky and nervous, and a lot of the mentors not in on our little conspiracy look confused, but it's real. The Capitol attendants look uncomfortable. The mentors who have already lost their tributes seem like they can't quite believe the sounds coming out of their mouths. I can't hear the quiet conversation Peeta and Katniss are having. The camera focuses on Finnick, who is smiling slightly. He looks exhausted, but there is something else on his face -- recognition. It takes me a minute to understand, then I realize that he must have thought she was acting. He knew Peeta wasn't, but Katniss… Katniss isn't Annie. She doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve, and I guess some people find it hard to read her.

He's read her now.

And for the first time, I think he realizes that he's not just dealing with a victor, or even with the Mockingjay. He's dealing with a real girl who is really in love with this boy. Looking around the viewing center, I'm guessing that he's not the only one noticing it.

Which puts them a few steps ahead of Katniss, but she has time.

Katniss is crying uncontrollably. Mags hands her moss to clean her face. Finnick blames it on her fictional pregnancy hormones, and tells everyone that they need to keep going.

"No, he has to rest," Katniss says, stroking Peeta's face. Her eyes go down to a glint of gold on his chest. "Is this your token?"

"Yes. Do you mind that I used your mockingjay? I wanted us to match."

The camera closes in. He is wearing a golden disk with the mockingjay design etched in it. Not hard to get in the Capitol, and I'm sure Effie didn't think twice when he asked for it. I don't know if Peeta really thought through the meaning of his token. I know Katniss told him about the District Eight women and their mockingjay bread, but Peeta's game has always been different. His narrative is about binding them together for the audience. He may not mean to encourage rebellion at all, at least not our kind of rebellion.

Snow will assume he does, though.

Finnick offers to set up camp where they are, but Peeta says he can go on, as long as it's slowly. Then Finnick points out something that I didn't notice at all, not in any meaningful way: "You knew that forcefield was there, didn't you? Right at the last second? You started to give a warning. How did you know?"

"Ah," Claudius says. "An astute observation from Finnick Odair. How did Katniss Everdeen sense the presence of the forcefield that marks the edge of the arena? It is invisible, to create the illusion of a continuous sky..."

He goes on to describe the properties of the forcefield, while Katniss makes up one of her more ridiculous lies, involving super hearing in the ear that was repaired last year. I look at the map of the arena, rewind my viewscreen a little to the point where Peeta hit it. It's a tight arc, and there is no gap between it and land's end, as there was in my arena.

My arena.

Of course.

For the Quell, they decided to pay me back for my insolence. I used the forcefield as a weapon. Now, they've weaponized it as well. This year, it's part of the Games.

I'm surprised they waited this long.

Since my little alliance has moved on to what the Capitol considers dull -- searching for drinkable water -- coverage on the big screen moves to the others. Sponsors for One and Two have been tapped to send them water, and they are now engaged in planning.

"Everdeen and Mellark went off with Odair," Gloss says, drawing a circle in the mud and making an arrow in the direction he seems to think they went.

"Let's go for them," Cashmere says. "They have Mags with them, too, and she'll slow them down. And those twelves that District Twelve got were a joke."

Enobaria shakes her head. "Maybe a joke to get perfect marks, but they're not weak."

Brutus snorts. "She's not. But I told Haymitch last year -- if she doesn't get that rock off her apron strings, he'll kill her."

"Yeah, I remember you saying that. Something about the Games being for 'real men.'" Enobaria counters. "But in case you didn't notice, it was the pair of them that got out of the arena last year, not your 'real man.'"

"No credit to Mellark on that."

"Yeah, right. She was totally frozen until he told her where to shoot."

"Which wouldn't have been a problem if Cato wasn't holding him hostage at the time. She'd have shot him in the head and gone home without freezing all night."

"I'm not into human shields," Gloss says, shifting the subject. "I'd rather just fight it out. But with Odair allied with them, they're strong. And if I know Mason -- which I do, in many ways -- she'll be trying to regroup with Odair. We should find her before she does."

For the first time in four hours, I feel like I have the luxury to tune out. Career conversations are always the same -- who should we kill first, who should we save to kill last, and, if they're feeling particularly chipper, which of them will kill which of the others of them and win the Games. I have no idea if Gloss is telling the truth about Johanna (he might well be; I try not to think about that), but it doesn’t matter. Neither one of them is likely to let it get in the way of trying to kill each other.

"What are we going to do about water?" Harris asks me, nodding at his screen, where Katniss has climbed yet another tree to have a look around. For some reason, she shoots an arrow into the sky.

"Do you want to send some?" I ask.

"Not if we can help it. Any idea where Plutarch's got it hidden?"

"Normally I wouldn't share," Toffy says from the District Eleven table, "but I'm under strict instructions from my tributes. Consider it a long-distance alliance." He turns his remaining viewscreen.

Chaff and Earl have been occupying themselves building a shelter. I'm not sure how they did it, but somehow, they managed to break one of the thinner trees. Water is bubbling up from the stump, and they are drinking from it as gratefully as they might drink from a fountain in the Capitol. As we watch, the source dries up. Toffy shrugs. "Well, that's where it is, anyway."

"But it won't last if they kill trees every time they're thirsty," I say. "So there's got to be another way."

I think about it as the Games play out on dozens of screens around me. I don't know how much time has passed.

My phone rings. I look over my shoulder and realize that Effie is still not back. I frown and pick up. It is Julian Day, the singer who's sponsoring Katniss and Peeta. He wants to know if I'm going to send them water. "I'll send a whole barrel, my friend," he says. "Just name the price."

"They'd be trapped by a barrel," I say. "But thanks. I'm trying to think of something else. Something they can take with them."

"Well, you know... whatever you need. I put what we talked about in your funds this morning, and if it costs more, just call. And tell Primrose Everdeen that I said hello."

I promise to do so, having no more intention of keeping it than I have of allowing Katniss and Peeta to die for each other. I check my funds. All of my arranged sponsors have come through. The question is what I need to buy.

"A saw, maybe?" Harris asks.

I check the sponsor gift list. "Nothing weapon-like. There's a note about special gifts. They won't send more weapons into the arena. I guess they don't want someone sending Finnick extra tridents."

"I think they put enough of those in the Cornucopia. Unfortunately, I don't think it'll help to spear a tree. Maybe Peeta could saw it with that knife?"

"No. If they have to knock a tree down every time they drink, it'll be pretty easy for One and Two to find them. There's got to be another way." My mind sticks on the idea of spearing the tree. Something about it is trying to come together in my head. An image of Digger in the woods comes to me. Digger with a hammer. Digger...

Harris is waiting. Finally he says, "Haymitch, come on. We have to think of something."

"I am thinking of something," I say. Digger in the snow. Laughing.

"What?"

"My girl."

"Right now? Really?"

I frown. "I'm trying to remember something about spearing trees."

"And this is about Effie?"

"About... what?"

"You said your girl."

He says this in such a casual tone that I realize he's made that assumption for years. The media may not believe it -- far too boring and predictable -- but I suddenly wonder exactly how many of the other victors have, at some point, glanced over at me the same way Finnick glanced at Katniss in the arena.

And I wonder if I've given them as good a reason to look at me that way. I don't think I have -- I mostly treat Effie like crap -- but then, Katniss thinks she doesn't have real feelings for Peeta at all.

I look at Effie's empty chair again. I want her back here, if only to glance in a mirror at us and see if I can see whatever Harris has been seeing.

"You watch too much television," I tell him in the meantime. It's none of his business anyway. I go back to thinking about trees, and Digger. Digger in the spring snow. Laughing because... because it was better than bakery sugar, and we didn't have to pay for it.

I put my hand on my forehead and grab the gift list again. What I need isn't prohibited, but it isn't there, which means it's going to cost time and a lot of money, but I think it's worth it.

I pick up the phone and jab the code for a district line. A robotic voice prompts me to enter the district number, which I do, then a live voice says, "What is your business in District Twelve?"

"It's Haymitch Abernathy," I say. "Games business." This is routine -- I have to say it every time I call home to tell parents that their children are dead. I'm usually so numb that I barely notice doing it. The only lines I can dial without it (something I never had reason to know before) are the other houses in Victors' Village.

"Mayor's office?" the voice asks.

"Mellark's Hardware." I feel foolish for a minute, since I’m not even sure Ed has a phone, but the voice confirms that a number exists and asks, again, what my business is. "Supplies for my tributes. I know that shop has what I need, and it's not standard supply."

"Hold please." The voice goes away, and I assume it is on another line, checking with the Gamemakers. If so, Plutarch must have my back, because the next thing I hear is the faraway sound of a phone ringing.

Ed doesn't have a video connection. He picks up on the second ring, sounding winded. "Mellark's Hardware."

"Ed, it's Haymitch."

"Is Peeta all right? I was watching in the basement and --"

"He's fine. But he's thirsty. You have spiles there, don't you? To tap maple trees?"

Something shuffles, and I imagine him bringing up a dusty old inventory book, flipping through the pages. "Yeah," he finally says. "Box of five hundred of the things. Old Fisher never sold many."

"I just need one."

"To get the water like Chaff just found?" Ed guesses. "You got it. No charge, at least on my end."

"There'll be a charge on this end, anyway, so you may as well charge them the regular price. If they haggle, you can drop it as low as you want."

"I'm not haggling for my brother!"

"You're being a businessman, not a tribute's brother," I remind him. "I want to make sure that it actually gets here."

"Oh." He pauses, and I can almost hear the gears turning in his head. Finally, he sighs. "Haymitch… I don't know how to ship to the Games."

"I'll take care of that. You just get one boxed up and go down to the production booth in about half an hour. I'll get word to them to expect you."

He doesn't hang up. "Haymitch…"

"What?"

"I…" He takes a deep breath, and it suddenly occurs to me that Danny has found a way to tell him that he's never going to see Peeta again, no matter what. I don't know what to say to him, especially on a bugged line. "Nothing."

"Yeah." He still doesn't hang up. I bite my lip. "Ed… once this is taken care of, will you go look after your dad? Let Delly watch the store for a while."

"She's worried, too. I'll get some friends to watch the damned shop. I don't suppose you could get a message in with the spile. We didn't get to say goodbye. If we could just tell him that we, you know, love him even if we… maybe especially Mom… aren't very good at it. We all love him."

"I wish I could, Ed. But --"

"Right. Games rules." He takes a deep breath and says, "I'll send the spile." Another pause. "Bye, Haymitch."

I turn to Harris and hand him the control key to my sponsor funds. "Keep an eye on my kids. Send them help if they get hurt. I have to talk to Plutarch."

He nods, and I run up to the Capitol control desk. "Meeting with the Gamemakers," I say. "Now."

This request must be honored. The attendant presses a button that rings somewhere up in the control room, then says, "Haymitch Abernathy of Twelve."

"Send him up," Plutarch says.

I take the elevator up to the penthouse, where the Games technicians work like the demented little ants they are, and the Gamemakers observe and direct.

When I get out of the elevator, Plutarch motions me over to the elevated platform where the Gamemakers are gathered around a miniature holographic projection of the arena. I can see the various dots of light that represent the tributes, all tagged with their district numbers and their genders. One of Plutarch's underlings taps the District Five Female and an order goes out to the techs to do something to keep her interesting.

"Was that necessary?" Plutarch asks.

The younger man shrugs. "She doesn't have any allies. No one to talk to. Kind of boring if nothing happens. Should I go for the one from Six, too?"

"Wait for the first one to work before you go for a second." Plutarch looks at me. "Newcomers. They need to learn."

"I need a spile," I say.

"A what?"

"A spile. The kind of thing you use to get sap out of trees to make syrup. I told Ed Mellark to grab one for me, so --"

Plutarch looks completely confused. "What kind of syrup?"

"What?"

"What syrup comes from trees?"

"Maple," I answer without thinking. "And it doesn't matter. I don't need syrup. I just need the tap for the trees. Ed should be on his way over to the production booth now. I need to get the money across."

"An imported specialty item that will need to be flown to the supply hovercraft will be quite expensive," another Gamemaker says.

"Money, I've got," I say. "All of my sponsors came through."

The young woman scans my sponsor list ostentatiously and says, "Well, this should about cover an item like that. Right Plutarch?"

Plutarch gives me a frustrated look -- I am not supposed to be ordering off script, but I have no idea how long he plans for this to go on -- then says, "Yes. We can do it for this. But it'll leave you broke."

"I'm usually broke," I say, and don't mention that I'm sure I'll get more calls, and I have a moody teenage boy with a crush on Prim waiting in the wings to send something else... not to mention Plutarch's fake funds for anything that's already up there.

"It'll also take a few hours."

"Hours, I may be short on."

Plutarch glowers at me, then says, "I need to confer with Mr. Abernathy about his request." He stands and gestures to a side room.

I go in ahead of him, and hear the door slam.

"You want me to go after toys from Twelve in the middle of this?" he says, loudly enough that I know the room is soundproof and unbugged.

"Dying of thirst isn't a game," I say. "At least not on my side of the aisle."

"I have water in the hovercraft."

"Which leaves bottles, which may as well be a trail of breadcrumbs for Brutus." I sit down at a table. "You knew what was in the arena. Why didn't you have tools ready?"

"Well, I... I assumed they would cut the trees."

"You honestly had no idea what a spile was until I told you, did you?"

"I still don't, Haymitch. Are we talking about something that could be a weapon?"

"If you get close enough to jab it in someone's eye, I guess, but they'd do better to snap a branch off a tree."

He narrows his eyes, then says, "Fine. But if you're passing messages, it's a pretty dangerous time for it."

"No messages. I'm just trying to get them water."

He looks at me suspiciously, then pulls a little handheld device out of his desk drawer and punches buttons in it, sending the purchase approval to Twelve. "Done," he says. "The site producer will take it from here. A hovercraft can get here in a few hours."

I nod. "One more thing."

He turns, and I see a flare of impatience in his eyes. "What?"

"What happened to Cinna this morning?"

"What do you mean?" He shakes his head, genuinely confused. "What happened?"

"Portia said there was an accident, and he's dead. What happened?"

"I have no idea. And at the moment, I'm in pretty delicate negotiations with certain people, and I don't have time to find out. It'll have to wait until after."

"No one has done more than Cinna for this."

"And he'd be the last one to want us to pull back now!" Plutarch presses his thumb on a scanner in the table, and another drawer pops open. He pulls out a sketchbook. "Cinna gave me this before the interviews yesterday. He knew something might happen." He opens it to a picture of Katniss as the Mockingjay. It's stunning. "It's for her, when she takes over. And he wants me to make sure she has her preps. I have Fulvia on that now. He thought of a lot, Haymitch. And he wouldn't want us wasting time right now when there's no chance of changing anything."

I can't argue. I hate that I can't argue. "What the hell are we turning into, Plutarch?"

"An army," he answers. "Now get back to your tributes. I'll get them your little toy."

I know a dismissal when I hear one, even from my own side, and I walk out. I think about the sketchbook, of Katniss, standing proud in her uniform. I know she'll love it. And I hate all of us for turning her into this.

When I leave the elevator, the main broadcast has returned to Katniss, who's hunting for food and water both. She shoots an extremely ugly animal, then touches its nose and starts circling around its tree. Back at the camp that Finnick is building, Peeta and Mags are peeling some kind of nuts and trying to have a conversation. She has given up on trying to talk, because only Finnick understands her. Instead, she's gesturing to Peeta to continue a story he's telling about a party that his wrestling team had up in the park. He is describing the logs on the ground. Mags mimes a log with her hands, then looks up to see if she's hearing him right.

"Yeah," he says. "And of course, I'm an idiot. I go up and stand on it at the top of the hill, and of course it just rolls over..."

Mags makes a show of falling backward, then rolls her hands around each other to indicate falling down a hill. Peeta laughs and nods. She claps and laughs boisterously.

"I half want to sponsor him," Toffy says when I come down. "Nice kid."

Which about sums up Peeta's sponsors. None of them are gamblers. All of them are just like him.

"Is Effie back yet?" I ask, sitting down. Harris is on my phone with a sponsor.

"Haven't seen hide nor hair of her since she left," Toffy says. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"

I nod. Paperwork in the Capitol can take a long time, but I still don't like it. She doesn't carry a personal communication device, so I can't just call, and I can't leave. I have a vision of Effie being dragged in for questioning, or arrested for passing messages she never knew she had passed. Will they ask her what Cinna needed me to read on the train?

It's not a deep worry. I'm sure that Snow would have let me know by now. But I want her here. I don't want her anywhere that I can't reach her right now.

I go through my sponsor papers, and as soon as Harris is off the line, I dial Aurelian's number. He answers right away. "Yeah?"

"Haymitch Abernathy," I say. "I used your money. You won't see what they're getting until later, though. It'll take a little while to get there."

"That's great! Will it help them with water?"

"It'll get them what they need. Look, could I ask you a favor?"

"Me? Really?"

"I'm kind of trapped here," I say, trying to sound casual. "And I need to get in touch with Effie Trinket. She was supposed to be at the Justice Building, taking care of a few things. Could you find her and ask her to get back as soon as she can?"

Aurelian agrees right away, sounding thrilled to have a job. It's the best I can do right now.

The kids and Finnick and Mags have decided to use the forcefield to cook the rodent Katniss shot. I find this satisfying -- they can't be caught by surprise again, and have turned Plutarch's trick around on him.

The Gamemakers' trick, I remind myself. Seneca Crane probably had as much to do with it, and Plutarch's on our side.

I wonder about our side sometimes.

This goes on for about half an hour, even though it's not exactly fascinating. People want to see all they can of this group. Finally, coverage moves to Johanna's group, which is camping about halfway up the slope from the beach to the forcefield. Johanna, unknowingly mimicking Katniss (she would stop immediately if she knew), has climbed a tree, and is looking for water on the underside of a leaf. She pulls the leaf, stares at it like it might reveal its potential toxicity if she threatens it enough, then drops it and watches it float to the ground.

On the ground, Beetee has tied a band of fabric around his knife wound, and is trying to squeeze water out of mud. He's managed a thin trickle, which he gives to Wiress. Blight is sleeping.

Johanna jumps down from one of the tree's lower branches and says, "I don't see anything but the saltwater. Can we desalinate?"

"Do we have anything plastic or waterproof? We could make a rudimentary still by digging a hole and letting the sun heat it to condense the water and--"

"That sounds like it'll take longer than we have," Johanna grumbles, and turns to Wiress. "Hey, Nuts, can you whip up something magical?"

Wiress shakes her head. She is staring out at the beach between the trees.

"Great," Johanna says. "Maybe Jack will send us something."

Beetee gives her an irritated look. The wound has left his movements stiff, but it doesn't seem to be causing a lot of distress as long as they stay still. "Or maybe Haymitch or Toffy will send something to their tributes. They're our allies, aren't they?"

"Yeah. But I have no idea where they are."

Of course, this is the occasion for Claudius to put up a graphic showing that they are only about a quarter of a mile away. He's smiling when they cut back to the studio. "It seems our alliances may join up. That would be half of the remaining tributes in an alliance. What will happen in the endgame? Let's hear predictions on the street!"

Again, the street interviews backfire. For twenty minutes, they try to gin up some kind of Games fever. Girls in fake braids are crying that Peeta almost died. A man who has two teenage daughters with him is just watching in shock. One of Enobaria's fans manages to come up with a hopeful start, that she's going to wipe out the other Careers and then hunt down everyone else, but he trails off, maybe realizing that she's badly outnumbered. A group of girls in short skirts and heavy make-up are wearing tee shirts with Finnick's face on them, and they seem excited that he saved Peeta and is helping Katniss, but when asked how he'll defeat them in the end, they just seem confused and sad. A solitary old man wants Mags to go in with her slingshot and "Kill that dirty bastard from District Two, just like you did those bad actors in your Games. I remember you, honey! You kick 'em where it hurts!"

"Oh, how nice for Mags!"

I look over my shoulder and see Effie. A wave of relief almost lifts me out of my chair. I have never been happier to have her in my line of vision. "Where the hell have you been?" I ask.

"Oh, it's terrible," she says. "I signed the papers, but they say Portia has to be quarantined for two days before I can bring her to her own apartment. It's ridiculous. But that nice young man said you needed me here."

"Well, yeah," I say. "I need you to stay." I catch sight of our reflection in a few dark screens. I look surly and she looks resigned. Whatever Harris has been seeing, I guess I'm missing it.

"I'll have to go home to sleep..."

"No. You won't. Stay here, Effie. You can sleep in the mentors' lounge."

She looks at me oddly, then sits down beside me and answers the ringing phone. I give her a pat on the shoulder and return my attention to the Games.

"Our tributes are certainly loved this year," Claudius says cheerfully when they cut back to him. "Let's see what's happening in the districts!"

The next hour of coverage is spent visiting the home districts of the remaining tributes. In District One, Gloss and Cashmere's mother looks shell-shocked, and their father is speaking in a quiet monotone when asked about their chances. Friends are interviewed. Gloss's weeping girlfriend says she can't do without either one of them.

In Two, there is the usual fierce gathering in the square, rooting for their tributes, or at least rooting against Katniss (they still hate her because of Clove and Cato). In Three, quiet groups of engineers are watching together, looking like people waiting to be executed. Not much is shown, and it isn't in the square, so I assume the rebels have taken the center of town.

The report from Four is actively claustrophobic, conducted inside a small house. I am disturbed to see Annie there. She should have been on a boat and headed away from the shore by now. She doesn't talk. The reporter claims that the explosions we hear outside are firecrackers being set off in celebration of Finnick and Mags. Five is grim, Six is... unsurprised. They couldn't have been holding out much hope for Paulin, and I doubt they're wasting much worry on Berenice, either. They report from a paper mill in Seven. There is no one left from Eight or Nine. In Ten, Earl's grandchildren are interviewed on a ranch. They are sad to have lost "Aunty Kate." In Eleven, they interview only the Peacekeepers. I wonder if they're really in Eleven at all.

In Twelve, they've herded the Mellarks into Katniss's house, and they're being interviewed along with the Everdeens in the kitchen, sitting around the fireplace. Peeta's brothers aren't there. Jonadab isn't shown, but they do cut to Ed in his store. He doesn't mention the spile, though he did say that he was sorry to miss the family interview, since he had a "special order" to put together. They talk to Delly Cartwright, who is comfortably tucked up against Ed's side. She says she's glad Peeta and Katniss have such nice people around them as Finnick and Mags, and she hopes Johanna gets the others there soon. Ed shows the reporters a painting Peeta did of the three Mellark boys as children. "Jonadab and I were idiots," he says. "Don't know how Peeta turned out decent."

The reporters apologize profusely that they can't dig up Katniss's dear, handsome cousin, who is working in the mines, but they scare up Hazelle from somewhere. She is duly introduced as my "former housekeeper," though she is being interviewed in my extremely clean living room in front of a vase full of fresh flowers, and asked what she thinks I'm doing for them now.

"If I know Haymitch, it will be something very clever," she says. "And Katniss can figure out what to do until it comes through. We love her, and we want her back. Peeta, too," she adds quickly.

Effie looks at me during this, openly curious. I don't know what to tell her. Sitting here in the Capitol, Effie at my side, it seems inconceivable to me that I ever did sleep with Hazelle. She certainly never followed it up with requests for deep conversation and romantic dinners, either. I don't think I could answer Effie's unspoken questions about the arrangement if I tried.

Claudius returns, now with historical experts explaining why last year's dual victory cannot be allowed to happen again. There are dire warnings about forgetting the Dark Days, and ancient footage from the fall of the Green Tower. Then he brings on some gamblers. The tributes must not be doing anything interesting. On my screen, Katniss and Peeta are just eating and talking with Finnick and Mags, though their voices are pretty raspy. It looks like Chaff and Earl have found some stones, and are playing checkers.

They finally cut to the arena, where the tributes from Two have gotten a dinner big enough to share with their allies, apparently as a reward for slaughtering their friends at the Cornucopia.

Then the anthem begins, and we see the line of fallen tributes.

With so much happening, I'd set it aside, made myself play the Games. But now, they'll be shown for the last time. Paulin. Woof. Cecelia. Seeder.

I try to watch, but I can't.

I turn my chair around, and Effie puts her arm across my shoulders and says a lot of very comforting nothing. I squeeze her hand and wait for the music to end.

"Oh, Haymitch, they're back," she says. "And there's a parachute!"

I turn back to the screen. The parachute falls gently to the ground. Finnick suggests that Peeta can claim it, since he died earlier.

They find the spile.

Not one of them has the slightest idea what it is.
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 6th, 2015 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

typo...

"He's read her now.

and for the first time, I think he realizes..."

Looks like that used to be one sentence--capitalize And.

I hate to be all nitpicky when you've written such great stuff. This is amazing. I love it so much, especially Haymitch and Effie.

-Elizabeth
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2015 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: typo...

Exactly -- I split the sentence and forgot to capitalize!
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 6th, 2015 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
This dialogue is a little hard to follow, it seems like maybe a line from Haymitch got taken out between the to get the water line and the you got it line. Or that they should be in the same quotes, not separated.

Something shuffles, and I imagine him bringing up a dusty old inventory book, flipping through the pages. "Yeah," he finally says. "Box of five hundred of the things. Old Fisher never sold many."

"I just need one."

"To get the water like Chaff just found?"

"You got it. No charge, at least on my end."

"There'll be a charge on this end, anyway, so you may as well charge them the regular price. If they haggle, you can drop it as low as you want."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2015 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops... yes, that needed to be in the same string of dialogue.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: June 11th, 2015 07:02 am (UTC) (Link)

A Few More Catches/Review

nostrils shut Just missing a period.

of phone ringing Just a missing a.

Mag makes Just needs to be Mags.

since had a "special order" Just a missing he before had.

Aside from those few catches, I'm not seeing any continuity things, though I am, per usual, curious about some stuff.:)

So, from Haymitch's comment about Snow asking himself questions in this chapter when members of the alliance saved one another, I'm guessing Haymitch thinks Snow's game plan is something like: he knows they're planning something and is taking punitive action for rebellious past actions/plans, hence Cinna's "accident" and why he's worried about Effie. Am I wrong to think that in actual reality, Snow knows/suspects quite a bit more than Haymitch thinks, specifically that the plans center around the arena? I'm thinking he must, because of the peacekeepers in the viewing center that last night, but I'm wondering, at least as far as this verse is concerned, whether he suspects now or later in the Games.

I love the whole thing about how, precisely, calls to and from the districts are fielded where games business is concerned, especially the bit about him being so numb in most years, which explains very neatly why it wasn't mentioned before; you've got a real knack for making very plausible edits and then finding excellent reasons for why they're coming up at the point they're placed in the narrative. My logistics brain is wondering: does it work the same way from the Districts, and Danny/Merl just made up a lot of fancy talk to contact Haymitch in TLT? (And does Merl's even count, for that matter, since he was contacting Haymitch at the training center; I know it's stated in the orientation booklet that the phones are reserved solely for games communication, but do you think it's as strictly monitored in the training center?)

Thank you so much for that Ed/Haymitch convo; as much as it won't provide real closure to Peeta, there'll at least be a tangible instance of the family expressing their love--especially Mere, which I think may be really crucial-- that Haymitch can draw on in NP. And I love how Twelve Haymitch is in that bit where Ed first says no charge, and then that he won't haggle for his brother: that whole idea of don't sacrifice your profit margins for sentimentality because you can't afford it, but also don't get ornery/stubborn if they push you because ultimately Peeta is most important is so quintessentially twelve (at least, if I'm following/reading that conversation correctly?)

Oh, Haymitch *headdesks at everything with his confusion over Effie; it's so damn reminiscent of everything with Gia and Mimi and...gaaah, I hate for his sake that he can't, so often, recognize love. It's this really good character trait in the sense that he was so mature for a kid, and he didn't have a lot of the absolutes that most sixteen-year-olds have, but love in the Abernathy household was always really clearly expressed, and he'd always had time to process his feelings. And so of course with love that blossoms quickly/is complicated, he's just kinda floundering. And then the reeducation doesn't help; the waters were already murky, Coriolanus, and no one required you to make them worse. (in rl, I tend to be more toward the pacifist end of the spectrum, but Snow and Glass; I'd totally go through the screen, get a means of time travel, and strangle those two in the cradle)

Speaking of Effie, I've really enjoyed seeing the toll that both the quell and spending so much time in Haymitch's company are having on her reeducation; just such an excellent reminder that as powerful as it may be, there's a reason the forces of compassion and decency and social interaction terrify Snow. This fandom lends itself to bleakness, and it's nice to finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, and especially knowing how everything's going to go to hell, seeing the good guys winning some subtle victories.

All the victor interactions, especially among Haymitch's friends are making me miserable. And oh God, Haymitch not being able to look; there is so little this man doesn't face when sober, and that was just really wrenching and well-played.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 12th, 2015 07:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: A Few More Catches/Review

Got 'em, thanks.

I think Snow would have to be an idiot not to realize, after the first fire costumes, that something's rotten in Denmark, so yeah, I think he's probably trying to figure out what it is before it goes down. The only thing that probably was totally invisible to him was that his head Gamemaker was in on the plan and actually could break everyone out of the arena. But, you know, didn't.

I was looking at that interaction over the spile, and it just seemed like a good chance for Haymitch to deal directly with Twelve, one last time before it gets bombed.

Haymitch and love... it's a weird relationship. He's still sixteen in his head, in a lot of ways. He never got out of his childhood. He expects to marry his childhood best friend, or to be swept away on the kind of infatuation that only kids are really capable of. Plus, he's terrified of what Snow will do, so somehow, he thinks if he doesn't "really" love someone, it will keep her safe. It's a weird kind of very cynical magical thinking, and despite the fact that Snow's already targeted Effie, he still seems to feel that somehow, everyone's missed that he's a bit more attached to her than his playacting would suggest.

Snow probably figured that he could hurt Haymitch more by leaving Effie in his employ, where he'd have to see the re-educated version all the time, but that's because Snow doesn't get the whole "human" thing. Human beings in close proximity have a tendency to stop looking at each other as "other," unless they have serious (and frightening) reinforcement on the subject. Since Snow doesn't really give Effie "booster shots" on the re-education, of course she's going to start leaning again on her connection to the one person who treats her with consistent respect for her abilities (despite his occasionally over the top teasing), shows her kindness from time to time, and desperately needs her in his life.
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